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If you're going to see one Julia Roberts movie this year…
Well, it should be this one. Not that Roberts necessarily has a bunch of other pictures on her slate for 2009, but let's face it: The actress, once the darling of Hollywood who burst onto the scene with the charmer Mystic Pizza some 21 years ago, has gotten a little long in the tooth in recent times. Maybe it was that grueling Oscar acceptance speech for Erin Brockovich, or perhaps it was just a case of audiences getting too much of a good thing, but for some of us the once and future Pretty Woman hasn't been as welcome a sight lately as she once was.
'2:22' has been sitting on the shelf for a while. After making rounds on the festival circuit, the film finds itself settling down on DVD and Blu-ray to find an audience. It is a heist/thriller that centers around four thieves and their plan to rob a hotel on New Year's Eve. Lead by Gulliver Mercer (Mick Rossi), the men quickly realize that the graveyard shift has a few unexpected surprises that alter their plans, and their lives, in ways that nobody anticipated. The relative unknown leads are supported by minor appearances from Val Kilmer and an uncredited Gabriel Byrne.
There is a lot of jittery cigarette smoking and sloshed-down booze in “Revolutionary Road,” a waxworks edition of the corrosive, furiously unsentimental novel by Richard Yates about an unhappy marriage. Set in the lonely-crowd milieu of 1955, though published in 1961, the novel tracks the unraveling of Frank and April Wheeler, a handsome young couple who have been trying and failing to keep disappointment at bay by pretending that, despite their suburban address — despite a life calibrated to the commuter rail schedule, their two small children, well-stocked bar and picture window that looks over a front lawn as manicured as a cemetery — they are not like everyone else.
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The first 40 minutes or so of “Wall-E” — in which barely any dialogue is spoken, and almost no human figures appear on screen — is a cinematic poem of such wit and beauty that its darker implications may take a while to sink in. The scene is an intricately rendered city, bristling with skyscrapers but bereft of any inhabitants apart from a battered, industrious robot and his loyal cockroach sidekick. Hazy, dust-filtered sunlight illuminates a landscape of eerie, post-apocalyptic silence. This is a world without people, you might say without animation, though it teems with evidence of past life.
Most parents, on at least a subconscious level, would be happy if their children, when grown, followed in their footsteps. Such a career choice by one's offspring, is, after all, a kind of validation of one's own decisions. So it must be with some degree of pride that Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Sissy Spacek, and Lawrence Kasdan view Orange County, because all of them have a son or daughter involved in the production. Sadly, however, while the movie may represent a showcase of second-generation talent, that's about all it really works as. In fact, were it not for the high profile names of "Hanks" and "Kasdan", this would be a perfect candidate for a direct-to-video release.
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Mr. and Mrs. Smith
The problem with Mr. and Mrs. Smith is that it's really two movies in one. The first is a sly comedy/thriller worthy of Hitchcock, and the other is a big, noisy summer action flick. The marriage of these two, like that of the title characters, is tempestuous, with each side in a constant struggle for dominance. When Mr. and Mrs. Smith is smart and sassy, it's a lot of fun. But when it's loud and dumb (which is too often for my taste), it's mindless and a little tedious. This is mediocre, forgettable entertainment. It doesn't really satisfy, but you probably won't exit the theater feeling gypped.
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It has been said that one of the greatest fears expressed by human beings is to be suddenly struck blind - plunged into a blankness into which sound but no light can penetrate. Imagine this happening not to one person but to an entire population. Those who are blind from birth or lose their sight over time develop means of coping. In a case where vision is suddenly stripped away en masse, the result would be widespread panic. The degree to which society would crumble and fall into oblivion is a matter of individual interpretation, but this is the underlying premise of director Fernando Meirelles' Blindness, a dark, intellectually challenging adaptation of the novel by Jose Saramago. A meditation on isolation and primal urges, Blindness could loosely be classified as a post-apocalyptic story, but the "event" that occurs in this scenario isn't something as prosaic as a nuclear holocaust or a lethal plague. Instead, it's a sickness that renders everyone in the world blind except one woman. To quote Erasmus, "In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."
When I first heard the title of this movie, I thought it was a great ploy to release it around Christmas. Then I realized it was "Tenenbaums", not "Tannenbaums"... so much for that idea. Actually, Touchstone has elected a year-end release because they believe this movie, the third feature from critics' darling Wes Anderson (Rushmore), might have a shot at an Oscar or two. Despite the high profile cast, which features Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen & Luke Wilson, Danny Glover, and Bill Murray, the movie probably has limited box office potential - it's a little too quirky for mainstream America. But the mercurial Academy may feel differently about the production than the multiplex masses - at least that's the distributor's hope.
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Set It Off
Rob a bank? Sure, why not. Each of the four L.A. housing-project girlfriends who get into the heist business in Set It Off has been messed up by the system, and none have anything to lose. Frankie (Vivica Fox) was recently fired from her bank-teller job. Tisean (Kimberly Elise), a single mother, has lost her toddler son to child welfare until she can come up with the money she needs to pay for child care while she cleans offices. Cleo (Queen Latifah), a raucous, pot-smoking lesbian, is always up for messing around.
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She Hate Me
John Henry "Jack" Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a financially successful and upwardly mobile executive at a biotechnology firm who, following the suicide of a colleague, Dr. Herman Schiller, is falsely accused of securities fraud by his superior, Leland Powell (Woody Harrelson). Armstrong's assets are frozen, and he finds himself unable to maintain his quality of life.
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Youth Without Youth
The film opens in 1938, introducing Dominic Matei (Tim Roth), a 70-year old professor of linguistics. On the eve of World War II, Dominic attempts to visit the Café Select but is denied access due to wearing his pyjamas. Dominic realises that he is getting no younger, and has essentially failed his aim in life – to fully discover the origin of human language. His tireless labours have condemned him to a solitary existence, often spent pining after Laura (Alexandra Maria Lara), the love of his youth. Intent on committing suicide, Dominic travels to Bucharest, the city where he and Laura met at university. He is struck by lightning. In hospital, he is initially diagnosed by Professor Stanciulescu (Bruno Ganz) to be dying of his burns. However, Stanciulescu is startled when his patient regenerates into a much younger man. The Professor helps Dominic out of the hospital so as to continue studying him. Shortly afterwards, Romania is occupied by the Nazis, whose interests are aroused by Stanciulescu’s miracle patient.
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The film opens with Mr. McFarland (Timothy Bottoms) driving erratically down a residential street on the way to drop off his son, John (John Robinson). John notices damage to the car and realizes that his father is drunk, so John instructs him to move to the passenger seat and let him drive.
The camera then follows students as they walk down the hallways, talk to friends, and go to class. Many characters are shown in long tracking shots that do not turn away. Alex (Alex Frost) and Eric (Eric Deulen) are shown being bullied at school by the so-called jocks, one of whom diverts a teacher and then throws a spitball at Alex during science class. Later, Alex and Eric are shown at home ordering weapons from a website and receiving a rifle in the mail. While Alex is taking a shower, Eric gets in with him. He claims that he has never kissed anyone before, and the two kiss. The two are later shown formulating an attack plan. The next day, Alex and Eric prepare for the shooting, then make their way to school in silence in Alex's car.
A few miles off EXIT 33, lies IKES LAST CHANCE GAS. A secluded sleepy hideaway where Ike prepares a special jerky for customers, and a terrifying secret. Ike and his son are controlled by a mysterious ghost, whose bidding lead Ike to abduct and torture beautiful women travelers. But, there is more to this story than meets the eye... literally!
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A man is abducted from the streets of London and transported via secret flights to an unknown country. Held in solitary confinement and cut off from the outside world, he is plunged into a lawless nightmare of detention without trial, interrogation and torture. Returned without explanation to the UK many months later, he is left to pick up the pieces of a shattered life in a world he no longer recognises.
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Henry Matthews is an exceptionally talented young RB singer whose happy family life is disrupted when his father, a marine, is re-deployed to Afghanistan. Despite all the obstacles including losing the family home and being forced to move in with his grandfather who hates his music, Henry is inspired to enter a teen singing competition in the hopes of winning and escaping a world that is falling apart.
Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee
Mary Crow Dog, daughter of a desperately poor Indian family in South Dakota, is swept up in the protests of the 1960s and becomes sensitized to the injustices that society inflicts on her people. She aids the Lakota in their struggle for their rights a struggle that culminates in an armed standoff with US government forces at the site of an 1890 massacre.
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