Ninja Assassin

Ninja Assassin
If nothing else, Ninja Assassin is true to its title. There are ninjas, and yes, they assassinate the hell out of people. And if that's all that you're looking for in this stylized action flick, then certainly the film will deliver on the promise of its title. But if you're looking for anything resembling an actual movie -- with a story, a plot, performances, nuance, etc. -- you'll likely find yourself at least mildly disappointed once the blood begins to dry.

The film opens with a bang, kicking off in a Yakuza nightclub where an envelope containing only black sand is delivered to the gangster in charge. After a long monologue by an old tattoo artist about the violence that erupted the last time he saw such an envelope, the ninja strikes, emerging from the shadows to slice and dice his way through an army of gun-shooting henchmen. There is, of course, much beheading and vivisecting and fake CGI blood, and at least in this opening sequence -- as over-acted as it all may be -- there's a fair amount of martial arts awesomeness, as well. It's only in the next sequence, when this over-long action set piece attempts to be an actual movie, that things go so horribly awry.

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Let it Rain

Let it Rain
Let it Rain, a French film that has taken two years to reach North American theaters (a testimony to how poor the market is these days even for well-made, high-profile foreign fare), makes the case that simplicity in a motion picture can be a good thing. The director, co-writer, and co-star of Let it Rain is Agnès Jaoui, who has been a presence in French film since the mid-1980s as an actress, the early 1990s as a screenwriter, and 2000 as a director. This is her third film, following The Taste of Others and Look at Me. Jaoui has a distinct style: small, almost inconsequential narratives; well-defined characters; oblique, subtle social commentary; and enough humor to make one wonder whether the movie is better classified as a "drama" or a "comedy" (not that such labels would mean much to the filmmaker). Let it Rain fits in well with Jaoui's other efforts (both as a writer and as a director).

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Center Stage

Center Stage
Center Stage proves that all the sports movie cliches can be as successfully applied to ballet as to baseball, basketball, football, boxing, ice skating, skateboarding, karate, etc. With a plot that is constructed entirely out of formula situations and familiar plot elements, Center Stage feels like a rerun of Flashdance grafted onto The Cutting Edge. The only thing that differentiates this movie from anything to come before it is the meticulous attention to detail when it comes to the dance sequences, which are impeccably choreographed and presented in their entirety, with minimal cut-aways and other camera tricks. Of course, for those viewers who are hopelessly bored by ballet (a group which includes a majority of men and a percentage of women), this will be seen as a negative characteristic used only to pad out the running time (which, without these sequences, would have been a half-hour shorter).

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Bee Season

Bee Season
It would be unfair and inaccurate to refer to Bee Season as "another dysfunctional family drama," although, in essence, that's what it is. Adapting from Myla Goldberg's novel, co-directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel (The Deep End) have fashioned a film that traverses an unusual path through the minefield of a splintering family. In addition to spelling bees (which the title alludes to), Bee Season explores Jewish mysticism, mental illness, and the Hare Krishna religion (which may be making its first screen appearance since Airplane!). In the end, it all seems too much for one small movie to contain. Parts of Bee Season work better than others, but I left the theater feeling more like I had watched the outline of a movie than been immersed in a fully realized motion picture.

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Hills Have Eyes II

Hills Have Eyes II
The Hills Have Eyes II is a sequel to a remake but not a remake of a sequel. Curiously, Horrormeister Wes Craven has been involved in all four movies featuring the words "hills" and "eyes" in the title. He wrote and directed the 1977 original and its 1985 sequel. He produced the 2006 remake and now he has added writer/producer credits for this movie to his resume. However, whatever optimism I may have had for the movie considering Craven's involvement evaporated quickly once in the theater. Whatever contribution Craven made to the screenplay must have occurred in the middle of the night while he was blindfolded. The hills might have eyes but this is one of those times I wish I didn't; then I could have been spared the headache and boredom inducing experience of sitting through this.

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Notes on a Scandal

Notes on a Scandal
Notes on a Scandal is an attempt to make a Fatal Attraction type thriller for the art house crowd. With a cast that features two of today's best actresses - Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett - and a screenplay of uncommon literacy, the movie nearly achieves its aim. However, in order to propel circumstances to a conclusion, Notes on a Scandal relies upon a contrivance so ugly and obvious that it's impossible to ignore. This single glaring fault, which is even more evident considering how well constructed the rest of the movie is, damages the film's narrative flow and credibility.

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When Harry Met Sally

When Harry Met Sally
When Harry Met Sally, probably Rob Reiner's most popular film to date (the other likely candidate for that title would be A Few Good Men), made the studios aware that, even during the cynical '90s, the romantic comedy could be a profitable genre. Released during the summer of 1989 as a form of "counter-programming" for those tired of the season's action blockbusters (Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), When Harry Met Sally surprised everyone (Columbia Pictures included) by amassing a gross approaching $100 million. Before this movie, dozens of years had passed since the adult romantic comedy was in vogue (primarily because of poor scripts and a lack of chemistry between leads), but When Harry Met Sally changed the trend. Due in large part to the success of Harry and the following year's Pretty Woman, the '90s have had more high-profile romantic comedies than any decade since the '50s.

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The Thirteenth Floor

The Thirteenth Floor
In late 1990s Los Angeles, Hannon Fuller (Armin Mueller-Stahl) owns a multi-billion-dollar computer enterprise, and is the inventor of a newly-completed virtual reality (VR) simulation of 1937 Los Angeles. When Fuller is murdered, just as he begins premature testing of the VR system, his friend and protégé, Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko), becomes the primary suspect, and begins to doubt his own innocence.

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Winning London

Winning London
Chloe Lawrence (Mary-Kate Olsen) is a very driven teenager and leader of her high school's Model United Nations team. After performing particularly well in a competition, the team is selected to attend the international Model UN competition in London, United Kingdom. One of the team members, Randall, is unable to attend. Chloe's twin sister, Riley (Ashley Olsen), steps in to fill the gap to get closer to Chloe's attractive teammate, Brian, more than anything else. When the group arrives in London, they discover that someone is already representing their usual country: China. Undaunted, they improvise and end up representing the UK. Plenty of sight-seeing and shopping ensues, while Chloe takes a fancy to James Browning, the son of an English noble, Lord Browning, who is pressuring his son to achieve more. As the competition progresses, Chloe's over-competitive nature stalls her budding romance, Riley tries to get closer to Brian, and the team earns both admiration and anger for their unconventional methods. Nevertheless, tribulations are weathered and lessons learned about sportsmanship, overlooked friends, and learning to enjoy one's youth.

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Girl Fever aka 100 Women

Girl Fever aka 100 Women
The film starts out with a man surrounded by a large number of angry looking women in a theater. He tells his story and narrates it throughout the film.

Sam, an art student who describes himself as "accidentally funny", is having the worst day of his life: he loses his girlfriend, fails art school, and is put down by his favorite professor. Finally, his art portfolio falls open and his drawings scatter. A girl comes up with one drawing (a smiling face) and say that he has "lost his smile". The girl is Hope, a bubbly bombshell with a drive to make Sam smile again. She eventually does, and they kiss in the rain. She gives Sam her number, then is picked up by a friend. Unfortunately for Sam, the rain washes the number off of his hand.

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Blazing Saddles

Blazing Saddles
The Ultimate Western Spoof. A town where everyone seems to be named Johnson is in the way of the railroad. In order to grab their land, Hedley Lemar, a politically connected nasty person, sends in his henchmen to make the town unlivable. After the sheriff is killed, the town demands a new sheriff from the Governor. Hedley convinces him to send the town the first Black sheriff in the west. Bart is a sophisticated urbanite who will have some difficulty winning over the townspeople.

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Murphy's War

Murphy's War
Murphy is the sole survivor of his crew, that has been massacred by a German U-Boat in the closing days of World War II. He lands on a forgotten island and begins to plot his vengeance. He wishes to sink the U-Boat that has floated up by means of any method imaginable to him, and sets about to make the courageous attempt, assisted by Louie, the islands Government Administrator.

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Our Day Will Come

Our Day Will Come
The film tells the story of a young man Remy. He has no friends except the aging analyst. At school he shpynyayut and his family hates him. When Remy is full of patience and his friend for the last money to buy a sports car, good clothes and go to Ireland in search of understanding. But what begins as a search of the ideal fast sinking into a violent rage and self-destruction.

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B.T.K.

B.T.K.
Inspired by the real-life serial Killer, B.T.K is the gruesome story of Dennis L. Rader, a murderer who systematically tortured and killed his victims for over two decades while evading the police for over 30 years. Living a seemingly normal life as a husband, father, security officer and church president, Raders unquenchable thirst for blood ultimately led him to commit the most horrific crimes imaginable. Shocking and full of suspense, B.T.K is a grisly journey into the nightmarish world of a deranged killer.

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In the Cut

In the Cut
Following the gruesome murder of a young woman in her neighborhood, a self-determined woman living in New York City--as if to test the limits of her own safety--propels herself into an impossibly risky sexual liaison. Soon she grows increasingly wary about the motives of every man with whom she has contact--and about her own.

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Left Behind III: World at War

Left Behind III: World at War
Its been eighteen months since Nicolae Carpathias rise to power, and has been captivating the whole world, including President Fitzhugh. There are some far away, who suspect hes something more, the prophesied Antichrist. After a failed attempt on the Presidents life, Fitzhugh must call on Buck and Carolyn Miller to uncover the mystery. Meanwhile, the rest of the Trib Force group Rayford Steele, daughter (and now Bucks wife) Chloe, Pastor Bruce Barnes and the newest member Amanda White to uncover the mystery. Soon the lives of President Fitzhugh and the Tribulation Force will be connected in ways they couldnt have imagined.

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