Stick it

Stick it
It must be hard to make movies like Stick It - or rather, to make movies like Stick It well. This film is so formulaic that the main character actually points out the formula roughly one-third of the way through the movie, and yet, writer/director Jessica Bendinger (Bring it On ) brings an inventiveness and spirit to the process which rises above form. It's the saltwater taffy of movies: sweet, airy, and light enough to make you forget that sugars will rot your teeth. And if it leaves little aftertaste, well, some movies, like some candies, are best enjoyed in the moment anyway.

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In the Electric Mist

In the Electric Mist
In the world of movies that have gone straight to DVD, In the Electric Mist was a surprise. Typically a movie of this caliber would have at least had a limited release before a DVD release. Unfortunately, the only place this one was seen prior to its DVD debut was at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2009.

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Black Death

Black Death
Christopher Smith's fourth feature sees the director sticking broadly to the horror genre that made his name with 2004's Creep. A medieval Dirty Dozen (by Smith's own confession) set to the backdrop of the bubonic plague, Black Death moves into ground covered by The Wicker Man mid way through, making for an intriguing mix that never quite delivers on its juicy premise.

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The Way

The Way
Tom is an American doctor who goes to France following the death of his adult son, killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, also known as The Way of St. James. Tom's purpose is initially to retrieve his son's body. However, in a combination of grief and homage to his son, Tom decides to walk the same ancient spiritual trail where his son died in order to understand his son better. While walking The Camino, Tom meets others from around the world (three in particular), all broken and looking for greater meaning in their lives. During his travels, Tom discovers the meaning of one of the last things his son said (in a flashback) to his father: that there is a difference between "the life we live and the life we choose."

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Premonition

Premonition
Time travel movies meddle with paradoxes and causality - these things lie at the core of their essential fascination. The difference between a good time travel movie and a bad one often rests with one simple quality: Having established a set of "rules" by which the paradoxes are governed, does the film remain constrained by them or does it mutate them to fit the circumstances? Unfortunately, Premonition is plagued by inconsistencies. There's some interesting material in the film about pre-destination and questions about whether it's possible to change fate, but the movie is less interested in the philosophical implications of this than it is in developing a mystery and seeding red herrings.

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In the Bedroom

In the Bedroom
In the Bedroom is arguably one of the year's most anticipated independent releases - a movie whose incessant buzz at Sundance carried it at the crest of a wave to Toronto, then placed it in theaters before the end of the year. For those unable to catch it at a festival, the mainstream release is unquestionably worth the wait.

The feature debut of Todd Field, In the Bedroom deals with issues that are rarely approached with this degree of sensitivity on film. The movie, which transpires in Maine, stars Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek as Matt and Ruth Fowler, a seemingly perfect middle-aged couple. Their only son, Frank (Nick Stahl), is spending the summer on a boat lobstering before going off to an Ivy League school in the fall. His latest girlfriend, Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei), is a much older woman with two young children. These characters are bound together when a criminal act results in a tragedy.

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Saving Silverman

Saving Silverman
The dumb, raunchy comedy is not a new genre - in one form or another, it's far older than cinema. (What else would one call Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales?) However, as far as the modern incarnation is concerned, its genesis can be traced back to the early '80s, when films like Porky's inexplicably packed theaters. A half-generation later, this kind of motion picture is bigger than ever, with seemingly every other weekend offering another opportunity for movie-goers to laugh at the antics of stupid characters doing gross and moronic things.

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Legend of Zorro

Legend of Zorro
Some sequels are made too soon, while others are made too late. The Legend of Zorro, Martin Campbell's follow-up to his well-received 1998 feature, The Mask of Zorro, falls into the latter category. It's difficult to say whether the film would have been better had it gone before cameras three or four years ago but, by 2005, it feels creaky and out-of-date. The production is suffused by an almost desperate attempt to recapture the mood of its predecessor, but the tone is forced rather than natural, and the resultant production is bloated, contrived, and not very entertaining. The Mask of Zorro worked because of its engaging mix of action, romance, and comedy. The Legend of Zorro goes 0-for-3, striking out as it tries (and fails) to recapture the pleasure offered by the earlier story of the swashbuckling superhero.

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Sound of Thunder

Sound of Thunder
A Sound of Thunder takes a thought-provoking science fiction short story by Ray Bradbury and turns it into a noisy, messy Hollywood action/adventure extravaganza. This approach isn't unique or inherently bad (it worked, for example, with Blade Runner and I, Robot), but its success relies heavily upon execution and how the screenwriters choose to adapt the source material. The effectiveness of A Sound of Thunder is spotty. It begins and ends strongly, but the narrative gives way to video game plotting in the middle. This protracted segment serves no purpose beyond giving the characters something to do for 30 minutes so that the movie doesn't clock in at an unacceptably short 70 minutes.

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Kill Bill (Volume 1)

Kill Bill (Volume 1)
Quentin Tarantino fans have been waiting six long years for the release of the director's follow-up to Jackie Brown. So what do they get for their patience? An incomplete movie, artlessly cleft in the middle. Cinema interruptus. A film whose editing and inelegant structure have been severely compromised by the avarice of the Miramax head honchos, who believe they can wring more money from viewers by splitting Kill Bill into two pieces and double-charging everyone.

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Go
Go is the latest piece of high-octane eye candy aimed squarely at members of the infamous Generation X. Fast-paced and often witty, but ultimately vapid, Go borrows heavily both in rhythm and approach from Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. And, since the 1994 crime movie invested most of its originality into the way it put the pieces together, Go, by following a similar path, cannot claim to be breaking new ground. The 103 minute motion picture features drug dealers, addicts, con men, gamblers, and assorted low lifes; is characterized by a non-linear plot that adds to rather than detracts from the narrative; offers several tangential conversations on strange issues (Tantric sex, the Family Circus, etc.); and attempts a few violently surprising things along the way. Ultimately, however, it lacks Pulp Fiction's edge and the climax is a letdown.

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Godfather Part III

Godfather Part III
Eighteen years after the first screenings of The Godfather, the long-awaited third and final chapter reached theaters. That it proved unable to fulfill expectations was a predictable - if somewhat disheartening - result, given the sixteen year buildupThe Godfather Part III is a good movie, with moments of rare power, but it is not a great one - a reason why many fans of the series have voiced their disappointment. Oscar nominations for this film were probably based more on the Godfather name and reputation than on the particular merits of this production. Part III became the first Godfather not to take best picture and, despite a deserving performance, Al Pacino's efforts were not acknowledged. The lack of awards enthusiasm perhaps reflected a general opinion.

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Duma
Set in the country of South Africa, the story begins with a cheetah cub being orphaned after his mother was killed by lions. The cub is found on the side of the road by a young boy named Xan (Alexander Michaeletos) and his father Peter (Campbell Scott). Initially reluctant to take in a wild animal, Peter agrees to let Xan take care of the cub. They name him “Duma”, the Swahili name for “cheetah”. Over the years, Duma becomes a part of the family, being closely raised by Xan. As he nears adulthood, Peter and Xan decide to teach Duma how to run by having him chase alongside Peter’s motorcycle, which can barely keep up with him. But with Duma almost fully grown, to Xan’s dismay, his father tells him that it is time to take his friend to his real home before he grows too old to survive in his native habitat. His father says to Xan, “Duma has to live the life he was born to – or he’ll never be fully alive.”

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Surfer, Dude

Surfer, Dude
Surfer, Dude is the story of Steve Addington, a soul-searching surfer who experiences an existential crisis when no waves come for over a month, whilst at the same time a virtual reality game is created emulating surfing, that completely freaks him out, and he refuses sponsorship.

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Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
The adventures of supernatural private eye, Dylan Dog, who seeks out the monsters of the Louisiana bayou in his signature red shirt, black jacket, and blue jeans.

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Justice Be Damned

Justice Be Damned
A U.S. Marshal tries to bring to court a man wanted for the murder of two women in the 1860s. They are confronted by the ghosts of the women the man has killed and the marshal tries to get his prisoner out of the town for trial.

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