Shrink

Shrink
Like smog settling over Los Angeles, a creeping sense of anomie haunts the Hollywood power players and parasites sidling nervously through “Shrink,” a portrait of a disenchanted therapist to the stars and his clientele. Directed by Jonas Pate from a screenplay by Thomas Moffett, based on a story by Henry Rearden, this dissection of a soul-sick community of self-medicating actors, writers and agents would like to think of itself as a contemporary “Play It as It Lays,” only kinder and gentler.

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Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night

Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night
Here’s something you don’t see too often: a Japanese adaptation of an American horror franchise. Usually it’s the other way around, and most of these wonky creations aren’t worth the time it takes to roll your eyes at them. Writer/director Toshikazu Nagae’s 2010 chiller “Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night” is essentially the same as its American counterparts — unsuspecting individuals endure increasingly violent attacks from a mysterious supernatural entity that has taken up residence in their home — and offers little in terms of originality and imagination. However, given that the “Paranormal Activity” series wasn’t designed as a cerebral experience, I suppose you could say that “Tokyo Night” is a resounding success. If this is what you’re looking for, then chances are you’re going to walk away with a smile on your face and a shiver down your spine.

Specifically, the film follows the exploits of a young Japanese couple as their lives begin to slowly unravel. Haruka (Noriko Aoyama) has just returned from a visit to the United States, a holiday that resulted in two broken legs. Since her father is away on business, she is left in the care for her 19 year-old brother Koichi (Aoi Nakamura), who, as luck would have it, is always carrying around his video camera. Almost as soon as she gets settled in, Haruka begins to notice a few strange things around the house. For starters, her wheelchair keeps moving on its own accord, despite the fact that the brakes are locked. Convinced that there’s some sort of supernatural entity lurking in his sister’s bedroom, Koichi secretly videotapes a pile of sea salt he sprinkled on the floor. The salt, of course, is menaced by this mysterious force. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long for this situation to escalate.

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One Hour Photo

One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo is an actor's triumph - a fitting destination for Robin Williams to reach after essaying increasingly darker and more dysfunctional characters in films like Death to Smoochy and Insomnia. The actor, who once was known almost exclusively for his comedic roles, has painstakingly reworked his image over the past few years, following in the footsteps of other funny men who have displayed impressive dramatic ability and range. Any lingering doubts about Williams' ability to play a role completely straight (and there shouldn't be any after Good Will Hunting and Insomnia) are erased by One Hour Photo. The film has its share of flaws, but none of them are related to the lead actor's powerful and haunting portrayal. Williams nails it.

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Fall
Pretty pictures - that what The Fall has to offer. It's impossible to debate director Tarsem Singh's (or the single-monikered "Tarsem," as he prefers to be called) flair for the visual, and his four-year odyssey across more than two-dozen countries pays dividends in the way the movie looks. It's too bad there's not much to go along with all those arresting images. The way in which the story unfolds evokes The Wizard of Oz and The Princess Bride, but the synthesis of the elements marks The Fall as vastly inferior to either. Sometimes, looking good isn't enough.

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W.
It would be grossly unfair to criticize W. as a hatchet job - it's too clumsy for such a description to apply. This movie frequently feels like the shotgun marriage of Nightline and Saturday Night Live. Superficial, uninformative, and inert, this two hour snoozefest isn't even inflammatory enough to stoke a righteous anti-Bush brushfire. W. does for recent history what Oliver Stone's epic Alexander did for ancient times.

W. uses pop psychology to "analyze" the 43d U.S. President and "uncover" his motives. Stone's thesis is that all George W. Bush does is with the goal of earning the love and respect of his father, two things that have been withheld from him. Or, to put it another way, he has Daddy issues. This is the only potential insight offered by W. and it is hammered home with a relentless lack of subtlety and sophistication. Putting aside the buffoonery that characterizes Josh Brolin's over-the-top mimicry of the title character, this is Bush's sole personality trait. Instead of taking this opportunity to provide viewers with a compelling portrait of one of the worst Presidents in this country's short history, Stone has taken the easy way out. W. is a newspaper op-ed cartoon come to life - a broad, unambiguous picture of a dunce. One expects controversy from Stone; one does not expect something this shallow and insubstantial.

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Santa Clause

Santa Clause
This is what happens when someone takes what might have been a moderately-entertaining television Christmas special and tries to adapt it for the big screen. The Santa Clause isn't an unmitigated disaster, but it's also a whole lot less impressive than it could be. The release date -- six weeks in advance of the actual holiday -- should be reason enough for skepticism. Was this perhaps an attempt to beat John Hughes' Miracle on 34th Street to the theaters?

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Control Factor

Control Factor
When the Government finally decide to use their top secret mind control technology on each and every one of us, there will be only one way to fight back: the wearing of silly hats. THAT’S how the people will rise and win the day. Not by developing counter-technology of our own, not by storming the halls of authority and reclaiming power, and certainly not by waiting until the next election and hoping to vote in some folks who are a bit more reasonable. Hats are the answer.

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A Day Without a Mexican

A Day Without a Mexican
This film takes a satirical look at the range of effects on the (non-Mexican, mostly White) Californians who remain if California's Mexican (both U.S. citizens and immigrants) population suddenly disappeared. The disappearance coincides with a "pink fog" which surrounds California

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Beyond Re-Animator

Beyond Re-Animator
For the past 13 years, Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) has been serving his prison sentence for his role in the death of a teenage girl at the hands of one of his zombies. With what scant supplies he has on hand in the prison medical center, Dr. West has been capable of performing only extremely basic experiments on rats. However, his lack of supplies does not prevent him from uncovering a key element in his re-animation process. When a young doctor named Howard Phillips (Jason Barry) comes to work at the prison, he teams up with West to help him attain the supplies and tools needed to bring his experiments to the next level. Phillips is the younger brother of the teenage girl who was killed (he's shown watching West being taken away by the cops) and came to the prison for the explicit purpose of working with West. In the meantime, Phillips gets a girlfriend, the journalist Laura Olney.

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The Fabulous Baker Boys

The Fabulous Baker Boys
Frank and Jack Baker are professional musicians who play small clubs. They play smaltzy music and have never needed a day job. Times are changing and dates are becoming more difficult to get so they interview female singers. They finally decide on Susie Diamond, a former escort who needs some refinement, but the act begins to take off again. While the act is now successful, both Frank and Jack have problems with their life on the road. Susie becomes the agent that makes them re-evaluate where they are going, and how honest they have been with each other.

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Straw Dogs

Straw Dogs
Dustin Hoffman plays a regular American mathematician, who gets into some trouble with local bullies. He is made fun of and then his wife is raped. When they attack his home, he fights back. His outbreak of violence is extreme.

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In My Father's Den

In My Father's Den
Paul, a prize-winning war journalist, returns to his remote New Zealand hometown due to the death of his father, battle-scarred and world-weary. For the discontented sixteen-year-old Celia he opens up a world she has only dreamed of. She actively pursues a friendship with him, fascinated by his cynicism and experience of the world beyond her small-town existence. But many, including the members of both their families, frown upon the friendship and when Celia goes missing, Paul becomes the increasingly loathed and persecuted prime suspect in her disappearance. As the violent and urgent truth gradually emerges, Paul is forced to confront the family tragedy and betrayal that he ran from as a youth, and to face the grievous consequences of silence and secrecy that has surrounded his entire adult life.

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Killer Mountain

Killer Mountain
KILLER MOUNTAIN re-teams BATTLESTAR GALACTICA alumni Aaron Douglas and Paul Campbell as expert climbers assembled by a rich, eccentric man to rescue the last group of climbers he sent up the same mountain who disappeared after sending out one last disturbing radio message. Ward Donovan (Douglas) is the expert climber with a scarred past (of course) that is hand-chosen to lead the new expedition. Donovan is a likable enough character, but I find it hard to believe that hes an expert climber considering hes about 60 pounds overweight. Im just saying.

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Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing
John Smith is an amoral gunslinger in the days of Prohibition. On the lam from his latest (unspecified) exploits, he happens upon the town of Jericho, Texas. Actually, calling Jericho a town would be too generous--it has become more like a ghost town, since two warring gangs have driven off all the decent folk. Smith sees this as an opportunity to play both sides off against each other, earning himself a nice piece of change as a hired gun. Despite his strictly avowed mercenary intentions, he finds himself risking his life for his, albeit skewed, sense of honor....

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Maskhead

Maskhead
The films best character is the Cowboy, a sociopath who spends the majority of his time hitting on women in bars by telling horrible stories about slaughterhouses that somehow actually work. Cowboy is pretty hilarious, despite his, uh, amorous exploits with the mentally disabled, which he uses as another pickup line. And it works. Watching him pick up chicks is so awkward, especially since the viewer knows itll end terribly for the women...

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My Fake Fiance

My Fake Fiance
Jennifer and Vince, virtual strangers, find themselves strapped for cash and decide to stage a fake engagement and wedding just for the gifts.

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