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The knives had been out and sharpened long before M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie, “The Happening,” opened on Friday. A fine craftsman with aspirations to the canon, this would-be auteur has, in the last few years, experienced a sensational fall from critical and commercial grace, partly through his own doing — by making bad movies and then, even after those movies failed, by continuing to feed his ego publicly — and partly through the entertainment media that, once they smell weakness, will always bite the hand they once slathered in drool.
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I'm as open to cinematic experimentation as the next person, but I often find that "offbeat" movies come across as more successful in concept than execution. So it goes with Three Times, a feature that arrived at last year's 2005 Toronto Film Festival riding the crest of a wave of positive critical buzz. And, while it's impossible to deny that the film is interesting and unique, it's not the kind of motion picture that will cause the average viewer to run out and urge his friends to make a trip to one of the obscure art houses where it's playing.
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Longing is such a potent element of the human experience that it has formed the fabric of numerous stirring motion pictures. Brokeback Mountain is one such movie - a tale of love and loss, of unrealized dreams, and of lives wasted by denying passion and accepting convention. The primary difference between Brokeback Mountain and say, for example, Clint Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County, is that in Ang Lee's picture, the central relationship is between two men. And this isn't a platonic friendship. These men are as intimately involved as two lovers can be.
Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) meet in the summer of 1963 when both are hired by Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) to be sheepherders on Wyoming's Brokeback Mountain. Their job: keep the sheep moving and make sure as many as possible make it home. Gradually, a friendship forms between the two men, although neither is a master of words. And, one chilly night, the relationship turns physical. They agree that what happens on Brokeback Mountain stays on Brokeback Mountain, and when the summer is over, they have every expectation of never seeing each other again. Ennis is off to marry Alma (Michelle Williams), and Jack meets rodeo queen Lureen (Anne Hathaway). But, deep down, neither can forget their summer together, and Jack eventually decides to break the silence and make contact.
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Meet the Fockers
I am not a fan of Meet the Parents, the 2000 film that introduced Ben Stiller to the joys of having an ex-CIA agent as a potential father-in-law. The movie is too much like a sit-com, although, as a counterbalance, it offers several big laughs. Meet the Fockers, the 2004 follow-up, plays much like the original, but with less effective humor. In the nearly two-hour running length, there are maybe five or six solid chuckles, resulting in a movie experience that is more tedious than entertaining. The problem lies in the screenplay (credited to John Hamburg and Jim Herzfeld, who also wrote installment #1), which latches on to the few clever and/or funny elements in the film and runs them into the ground via repetition.
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There's no sophomore jinx for the Wachowski Brothers. Andy and Larry, a pair of obviously talented film makers, have returned to theaters with The Matrix, a science fiction thriller that is every bit the match of their debut effort, Bound, for tension, excitement, and intelligence. In an era when movie scripts (especially those pigeonholed into the science fiction genre) are becoming increasingly more stupid and special effects reliant, the Wachowskis prove that style and substance do not have to be mutually exclusive.
I Am Love
I Am Love falls into the select category of films that are easier to admire than like. Director Luca Guadagnino's arm's length approach to the story creates a buffer between the audience and the main character - something that works well during the first half but fails to create the emotional resonance to provide the second hour with its full power. For I Am Love to succeed on all levels, one needs to empathize with Tilda Swinton's Emma, but the stylistic choices made by Guadagnino keep the viewer in the position of a detached observer. As good as Swinton's performance is, and it's very good, it is difficult to connect with Emma. In many ways, I Am Love becomes an exercise in studying technique and, while that's something scholars and film students may appreciate, it's not the most fulfilling way to approach a production for the average movie-goer.
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Chaplin is Sir Richard Attenborough's account of the life and times of film great Charlie Chaplin. The story picks up in 1894, when Charlie is five, and lasts until 1972, five years before his death in 1977. Along the way, Attenborough gives us glimpses of Hollywood in its infancy, the filmmaking process, and McCarthyism. Above all, however, Chaplin shows the life - both on and off-screen - of a motion picture pioneer.
Hard As Nails
A new boss of the American Yakuza, ruthless young Takura (Matt Westmore) achieves power in a fraudulent and murderous way. Knowing that he can rely only on his cunning and mercilessness in the world of big money and steel nerves, he annihilates his rival gangsters and former friends without hesitation. Having made a great deal with the Russian mafia, Takura is determined to kill the weapon purchasers so as to be an indisputable crime lord. However, he is unaware that an intrepid cop working under the shelter of the Russian mafia is intent to ruin his plans
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The alien is the result of the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) program. Earth's scientists sent out transmissions with information about Earth and its inhabitants, DNA structure, etc., in hopes of finding life beyond Earth. They then receive transmissions from an alien source on how to create endless fuel effortlessly. Therefore, the scientists assume that this is a friendly alien species. But from a second alien transmission, the scientists receive information about an alien DNA along with instructions on how to splice it with human DNA. A government team led by Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) goes forward with the genetic experiment hoping to induce a female with "more docile and controllable" traits. One of the hundred experimental ova produces a girl named Sil, who looks like a normal human but develops into a 12-year old in 3 months.
Missing in America
Jake (played by Danny Glover), a reclusive Vietnam War veteran, has lived in a cabin in the woods of the Pacific Northwest for 35 years, plagued with guilt over the loss of men under his command. His only interaction with other people is when he drives into town to sell firewood and buy supplies from Kate (played by Hamilton). His life is changed when he is visited by Henry, an ex-platoon member (played by Strathairn). Henry is dying of lung cancer caused by the exposure to Agent Orange, and entrusts the care of his half-Vietnamese daughter Lenny to Jake.
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Ordinary Decent Criminal
Michael Lynch is one of Dublin's most notorious criminals. He has two wives, Christine and Lisa (they are also sisters), as well as many children. When he isn't spending time with his family, he is plotting heists with his gang. His actions make him an iconic figure, and he has a rapport with the general public despite being a criminal.
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The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
CW Briggs (Woody Allen) is an insurance investigator who is highly successful, owing to his many connections and ability to think like a criminal. His work does not impress Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), an efficiency expert who butts heads with Briggs over his old-fashioned views. Her advice is usually followed however, because she secretly is in a relationship with her boss, Chris Magruder (Dan Aykroyd), who constantly reassures her that they will be free to pursue their relationship in public once he finalizes his divorce with his wife.
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The Year of Getting to Know Us
Christopher Rocket is a man devoted to his work but unable to commit to his girlfriend Anne or anything else in his personal life. He returns to his hometown after his estranged father Tom Rocket suffers a stroke. Jane Rocket, his mother, is a central figure in his dysfunctional past.
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In 1999, a British mine clearance engineer working for the Taliban government in Afghanistan must flee the country when he becomes embroiled in a deadly game of intrigue and betrayal.
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My Dog Skip
A shy boy is unable to make friends in Yazoo City, Mississippi in 1942, until his parents give him a terrier puppy for his ninth birthday. The dog, which he names Skip, becomes well known and loved throughout the community and enriches the life of the boy, Willie, as he grows into manhood. Based on the best-selling Mississippi memoir by the late Willie Morris.
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Mind the Gap
Five seemingly unrelated people decide to take huge risks in their personal lives in an effort to find happiness.
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