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The Lost Treasure of the Grand Canyon
The title of this movie sounds likes it's going to be a fun, spooky ride along the lines of tween-classics such as Wanda Nevada, Escape From Witch Mountain, The Watcher in the Woods, or even Stephen Sommers' Mummy movies. It is so not. (First clue: the DVD promo proudly announces the enclosed opus is "from the producers of Sands of Oblivion and The Fallen Ones"!)
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Although his books seem particularly difficult to adapt, several filmmakers have done fine work turning Brett Easton Ellis' stuff into feature films. As a matter of fact, I'd go as far as to say that ALL of the films based on Ellis' books are actually better than the source material. Certainly American Psycho, and maybe to a slightly lesser degree on Less Than Zero and The Rules of Attraction. But with the arrival of Gregor Jordan's nearly unwatchable The Informers, Ellis finally got the adaptation we haven't been waiting for.
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When a murderous rampage occurs involving a high school or college-age perpetrator, the initial spotlight shines upon the killer. The usual questions - notably "Why?" - are asked. Inevitably, others, especially the parents, will be pulled into the discussion. Speculation, often misrepresented as fact, will question the upbringing and family life of the murderer and the mother and father will be forced to cope not only with the death-by-suicide of their child but with the perception that they are unindicted co-conspirators. Beautiful Boy, although a fictional account, postulates how such a tragedy might impact the parents of a killer, who are assailed not only by grief but by an almost overpowering sense of guilt.
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Fun with Dick and Jane
Have you ever gone through the painful experience of watching someone who was once good at something try to recapture their past glory? It can be in sports, acting, writing, or any number of vocations. That's the dubious opportunity Fun with Dick and Jane offers viewers. Jim Carrey tries to turn back the clock and venture into Ace Ventura mode, without realizing that he's no longer the comedian he was a dozen years ago. In the interim, he has matured to the point where we no longer accept him in this kind of role. (Even Adam Sandler, Carrey's heir apparent, has moved into more serious pictures.) Stranger still, the film contains dark undercurrents and elements of melodrama that clash with Carrey's attempts to resurrect the zaniness and physicality of his past. Much of the film's comedy feels muted; Fun with Dick and Jane isn't a lot of fun.
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It's not hard to be enthusiastic about The Matador, an uncommon buddy film starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear. The movie has a nicely modulated mix of comedy and pathos, but succeeds as much because of the two lead performances as Richard Shepard's writing and directing. This is an audience-pleaser through-and-through, but one wonders whether the title (which is appropriate but not catchy) may fail to entice viewers. In fact, it may keep some sensitive animal-lovers away.
When a director can take a reprehensible monster and, over the course of a scant 90 minutes, turn audience reaction from distaste to sympathy, that's the mark of an adept filmmaker. This occurs in Tsotsi, an emotionally honest tale of redemption that never forgets there are consequences for bad acts, even when those acts are committed before the arrival of salvation. The film uses a degree of manipulation to make its point, but it is refreshingly light on sentimentality. While aspects of Tsotsi don't ring true, we are nevertheless left with an affecting character study that offers jolts to the system.
Nightmare Before Christmas
When I was a child, one of the reasons I enjoyed the Christmas season so much was the annual arrival of those endlessly-repeated television specials: Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Year Without a Santa Claus. Tim Burton must remember those programs too, because, in his own inimitable way, he has paid homage to them in this most twisted of holiday fairy tales, The Nightmare Before Christmas.
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The film opens in an amphitheater in Greece, with an appropriately-garbed Greek chorus chanting of the deeds of Achilles and Oedipus. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the masked men and women decide to switch to the tale of Lenny Weinrib (Woody Allen) -- definitely not a name known from mythology. And, as things go from slightly absurd to completely ridiculous, the Chorus, led by F. Murray Abraham, say things like "Oh cursed fate! Some thoughts are better left unthunk!" and breaking into verses of "When You're Smiling." And all this is accomplished with an appropriate level of pomposity.
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Ride with the Devil
Most Civil War films - and there have been quite a few over the years - have a tendency to skew their perspective towards the Northern viewpoint. It's not hard to understand why - the old South may have been North America's final refuge for a genteel people with courtly manners, but it was also the Western world's last major bastion of slavery. Films like Gone With the Wind can romanticize the old South by virtually ignoring this ugly, festering sore, but turning a blind eye doesn't negate the truth. In the '90s, only the balanced and historically accurate Gettysburg (arguably the best non-documentary Civil War movie ever made) has treated the South with some sympathy and dignity - until Ang Lee's Ride With the Devil.
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Friends with Benefits
Jamie (Mila Kunis) is an Executive Recruiter for a leading job agency in New York City and Dylan (Justin Timberlake) works as an art director for a small internet company in Los Angeles. Jamie has the task of trying to recruit Dylan to interview for a job with GQ magazine and begin working in New York City. Dylan comes to New York and after interviewing for the position learns from Jamie that he has been given an offer to work for GQ. At first Dylan is hesitant to accept and move from Los Angeles to New York, but in an effort to get Dylan to accept the job Jamie spends the evening taking him around the city trying to sell him on the opportunity and the city.
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The Parole Officer
Simon Garden is a well-meaning but ineffectual probation officer. At the beginning of the film, he is facing a tribunal after his entire department in Blackpool submit complaints against him, Garden having only had three successes in his career. He is therefore transferred to Manchester.
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Daltry Calhoun is a 2005 film, written and directed by Katrina Holden Bronson and starring Johnny Knoxville as the lead character Daltry Calhoun and Sophie Traub as his estranged daughter. Famed director Quentin Tarantino is one of the film's executive producers.
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The Dark Hours
Dr. Samantha Goodman, an attractive psychiatrist in her thirties, joins her husband and sister for a weekend at a winter cottage when an unexpected guest arrives. Harlan Pyne, a violent sexual offender, is convinced that Samantha conducted unethical experiments on him while she was his doctor. With the assistance of his troubled yet eager protege, Harlan forces Samantha and her family to participate in a series of nightmarish games. On this night of terror, escape is not an option, truth guarantees nothing, and revenge will not necessarily be sweet.
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The Last Kiss
Michael and his live-in girlfriend Jenna appear to be enjoying the perfect relationship: Jenna is pregnant prior to the opening of the film and her parents are pressuring the pair to get married. Jenna claims that Michael's work pressures and her own dissertation rendered it an inopportune time for marriage. The real
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Jack the Ripper
During the latter half of 1888 a notorious serial killer nicknamed Jack The Ripper terrorises the East End of London by murdering prostitutes in a terribly violent way. Public outrage follows. Inspector Frederick Abberline is assigned to the case but finds that it is not just a simple murder enquiry. Based on a real life event, this film claims to have had access to top secret Home Office files and believe that their ending is the correct solution to the age old mystery.
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In the mid-1990s, two inmates bury the burned bodies of two lifers at Mississippis infamous Parchman Farm a third old-timer relates their story. Theyd served 65 years for a murder they didnt commit, framed by a local sheriff while buying moonshine whiskey for a Manhattan club owner to whom they owed money. In flashbacks we see this odd couple thrown together (Ray is a fast-talking con man, and Claude is a serious man about to start work as a bank teller), the loss of Rays watch (sterling silver, from his daddy), the murder and trial, the hardships of Parchman, and the love-hate relationship of Claude and Ray as they spend 65 years bickering and looking for a way to escape.