When a Stranger Calls

When a Stranger Calls
When a Stranger Calls is a minimum effort horror movie. It does just enough to scare easily unnerved thirteen-year-old girls, and not much else. Luckily for Sony Screen Gems (but perhaps not so lucky for those of us who wish they'd stop making this sort of movie), there's plenty of underage would-be babysitters willing to pile in theaters and pay for overpriced tickets.

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Poseidon

Poseidon
“There’s nothing fair about who lives and who dies.” It’s the only explanation Robert Ramsey can offer his band of struggling survivors. Whatever consolation the group may take from those words, they’re not worth much for the audience watching the ragged bunch trying to escape from a capsized ocean luxury liner. Regardless of who makes it off the ship alive, it’s unfair to have to watch the struggle for survival reduced to such a shallow, high budget stunt show.

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Wackness

Wackness
The Wackness is a period piece drama that takes viewers back to the summer of 1994 in New York City. It's three months in the life of a drug dealer as he traverses the road from high school graduation to the start of college. This is basically a coming-of-age story with the narrative concentrating almost exclusively on the boy's friendship with his aging hippy psychiatrist and his flirtation with the shrink's step-daughter. Movies about drug dealers are often dark and, while The Wackness is shot using techniques that desaturate color, this is as much a black comedy as it is a drama, and there's no hint of the violence that often permeates films about drugs.

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Wah-Wah

Wah-Wah
As coming of age stories go, Wah-Wah does little to distinguish itself. Based on the memories of actor-turned-director/writer Richard E. Grant, the bland film loses its focus early during the proceedings and never gets it back. With the late 1960s independence of Swaziland from Great Britain forming the political backdrop, Wah-Wah takes us through the adolescent struggles of Ralph Compton (played by Zachary Fox at first, then by Nicholas Hoult): his battles with his alcoholic father, Harry (Gabriel Byrne); his love/hate relationship with his absent mother, Lauren (Miranda Richardson); his warming interaction with his American step-mother, Ruby (Emily Watson); and his infatuation with a local girl (Olivia Grant). The problem with so much going on is that nothing gets the development it deserves. Wah-Wah comes across as derivative and perfunctory - a painless but forgettable journey across familiar cinematic territory.

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City of God

City of God
The irony of calling this movie City of God will not be lost on the viewer, since the location in question – the slums (or favelas) of Rio de Janeiro – is, at the best of times, purgatory, and, at the worst of times, hell. God is nowhere to be found. Poverty is the way of life. Greed, drugs, and violence rule these streets. The latter is so pervasive that, when a gang war erupts, prepubescent children arm themselves with guns and join in the fray. The ability to use a firearm is a more important, and prevalent, trait than the ability to read and write.

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Sin City

Sin City
Sin City is the most visually inventive comic book adaptation to make its way to a movie screen. While other directors have attempted to remain faithful to the look and "feel" of their source material, Robert Rodriguez has taken things a step further, by using Frank Miller's graphic novels as storyboards and immersing the audience neck-deep in the noir currents of Miller's den of iniquity. It's easy to get lost in Sin City. There's something to appreciate around every corner - the gritty characters, the uncompromising story, and, most of all, visuals to astound and amaze. "Eye candy" doesn't even begin to describe what Rodriguez has accomplished.

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Mafia!

Mafia!
Perhaps the most intriguing question associated with this movie is what to call it. Originally, the film bore the moniker of Jane Austen's Mafia, but, when test audiences were confused by the title (an inexcusable 90% of Americans claim not to know who Jane Austen is), Touchstone Pictures rushed out new posters that cite the movie as Mafia! However, they neglected to change the title in the opening credits, which still reads Jane Austen's Mafia. I actually prefer the original name, because it shows some evidence of wit, a quality that this film is lacking in.

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Burnt by the Sun

Burnt by the Sun
Burnt by the Sun, the winner of 1995's Best Foreign Film Oscar, attempts, with only limited success, to combine two segments of radically different pacing and temperament. The movie's resolution represents forty-five minutes of taut, arresting drama. The setup, which weighs in at an overlong ninety minutes, has a tendency to meander. The overall effect is to limit the impact of the picture, primarily because half the audience may be asleep by the time the climax arrives.

The film takes place in 1936 Russia, nineteen years after the Communist Revolution and well into Stalin's reign of terror. We are introduced to Colonel Serguei Kotov (Nikita Mikhalkov), hero of the Revolution, and his family: young wife Maroussia (Ingeborga Dapkounaite) and six-year old daughter Nadia (Nadia Mikhalkov). They are spending a happy, peaceful summer at a rural retreat. Into this idyllic setting comes Dimitri (Oleg Menchikov), an old lover of Moroussia's who was once in exile and whose current occupation is unknown. His appearance irrevocably alters the loving relationship between Kotov and his wife as secrets, both new and old, come to light, and buried jealousy bubbles to the surface.

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Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown

Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown
I must admit I was a bit dubious about this new special for it was the 1st one without the great and late Bill Melendez. It seems Lee Mendelson was not involved either, but Schulz' son was. This one stood out from all the other post-Schulz era specials for its '60s style. As a comic-strip fan I appreciate attention to detail. The "classic" effect obtained through the retro animation worked out pretty well, bringing some nostalgia. The story development was somewhat modern, deeper, beyond previous attempts, and yet kept all the action faithful to the Peanuts world and spirit. The gags were delightfully funny, they cracked me up quite a few times. I simply loved the use of one of the most famous Beethoven symphonies, but I won't spoil it for you. Not only the music, but the way they managed to create a matching animated treat, was indeed a creative highlight.

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Out Cold

Out Cold
The story covers the lives of snowboarding buddies Rick (Jason London), Luke (Zach Galifianakis), Anthony (Flex Alexander), and Pig Pen (Derek Hamilton), who are living large in their beloved hometown of Bull Mountain in Alaska. Partying hard, looking for girls, and doing just about anything to have a good time is what life on Bull Mountain is all about, but that all looks to have a quick end when town founder Papa Muntz dies, and his son Ted (Willie Garson) decides to sell the mountain to slick Colorado businessman John Majors (Lee Majors). Nobody supports his plans to turn the mountain into an "espresso-and-tofu" ski resort, and it's up to Luke, Pig Pen, Anthony, Jenny (played by A. J. Cook), Rick and the others to keep Bull Mountain yuppie-free. Once they realize John's purchase will change the town drastically, they enlist the aid of Major's beautiful, rebellious daughters, Inga (Victoria Silvstedt) and Anna (Caroline Dhavernas), to sabotage the purchase. The film also features a cameo by snowboarding professional Todd Richards as Barry the Doctor.

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Let It Ride

Let It Ride
Jay Trotter drives a cab. His friend Looney does likewise and has a secret microphone in the taxi to record his passenger conversations.

Looney has a tape of two men talking about a horse race and how one of the horses, due to some unethical practice by its owner, is a sure thing to win big. Trotter realizes the potential value of knowledge of a fixed horse race and goes to the track to make a bet -- despite the fact that the day before, he told his wife Pam that he would quit betting and would be home to, "start their marriage over" at noon. Before going to the track, he heads to the bar next door. He goes into a stall in the bathroom and starts praying. He says to God, "Just one day, that's all I'm asking for, one day, I'm due." A man exiting the bathrooms says "Ya? So's Jesus. Let it ride."

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Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas (1974)
Its time for Christmas break, and the sorority sisters make plans for the holiday, but the strange anonymous phone calls are beginning to put them on edge. When Clare disappears, they contact the police, who dont express much concern. Meanwhile Jess is planning to get an abortion, but boyfriend Peter is very much against it. The police finally begin to get concerned when a 13-year-old girl is found dead in the park. They set up a wiretap to the sorority house, but will they be in time to prevent a sorority girl attrition problem?

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The Octagon

The Octagon
Scotts life is plagued by two kinds of flashbacks. First are the childhood memories of the rigorous training he and a friend endured under a martial arts master. The second is of a mission Scott went on that ended with him watching his friend get murdered. Scott later becomes drawn closer to a vicious crime ring known as The Octagon. As he gets closer to the truth, Scott learns that these may be the men that murdered his friend so long ago.

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All Hat

All Hat
An ex-con returns to his rural Ontario roots and outwits a corrupt and wealthy thoroughbred owner trying to take over a slew of local farms. Ray Dokes, a charming ex-ballplayer, returns from jail to discover the rural landscape of his childhood transformed by urban development. Determined to stay out of trouble, Ray heads to the farm of his old friend Pete Culpepper, a crusty Texas cowboy who trains losing racehorses and whose debts are growing faster than his corn. Sonny Stanton, gambling addict and spoiled heir to a thoroughbred dynasty, is in the process of buying up an entire concession of farmland to build a casino and golfing resort, and the only one brave enough to stand in the way of Sonny is Etta Parr, Rays old flame, who might be willing to forgive Ray if it wasnt for her pride and common sense. The situation is a minefield, one Ray is determined to avoid. He hooks up with Chrissie, a sexy, sassy and talented jockey and steers clear of Sonny. But when a ten-million-dollar thoroughbred goes missing from the Stanton Stables, Sonny pushes things too far and forces the sale of the communitys remaining farms. Ray reacts by coming up with a plan to stop Sonny in his tracks and right a few wrongs in the process. The scheme is unlikely and audacious the players are as unpredictable as nitroglycerin. One false move and Ray will land back in jail. And the smart money is against him.

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Good Neighbours

Good Neighbours
Takes place in 1995, the year of the second referendum on the separation of Quebec. In the dead of winter, a serial killer is on the loose in the small Montreal neighborhood of Notre Dame de Grace. The tenants of an old apartment house must figure out who they can trust and who they cant.

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Kaboom

Kaboom
Smiths everyday life in the dorm - hanging out with his arty, sarcastic best friend Stella, hooking up with a beautiful free spirit named London, lusting for his gorgeous but dim surfer roommate Thor - all gets turned upside-down after one fateful, terrifying night.

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