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Director Edgar Wright coined an apt term for Shaun of the Dead's genre – Romantic Zombie Comedy, or affectionately, 'rom-zom-com'. In doing so, he opened the door for a few me-too films out there who dared to lay their cards on the table - but none have been able to measure up to the British comedy flick thus far.
Happily then, we can give Zombieland a deserving nod – an American take on the rom-zom-com, deftly juggling extreme gore with genuine laughs and a terrific cameos from one of Hollywood's finest. It falls into the pratfalls of predictability, but even the saccharine moments barely detract from this good-natured comedy.
Closed for Winter
FOR a supposedly outward-looking people, Australians produce an inordinate number of introspective films and books. In James Bogle's new film adapted from Georgia Blain's novel Closed For Winter the person doing the brooding is pop star Natalie Imbruglia and it doesn't much matter what she's thinking about.
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For a while, Chloe looks like the long-awaited return to form by Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, whose early films (Exotica, The Adjuster, Speaking Parts) were often absorbing character studies cloaked in the guise of a thriller and spiked with sexual tension. Unfortunately, the wait continues. This remake of the French-language hit Nathalie... eventually becomes the sort of risibly naughty picture you'd normally find on late-night Cinemax - complete with a gratuitous girl-on-girl sex scene - only infinitely better acted.
Requiem for a Dream
Every year, there seems to be one film that kicks you in the stomach and leaves your head reeling. In 1999, it was Tim Roth's profoundly disturbing, unforgettable The War Zone. This year, it's Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, one of the most forceful anti-drug narratives ever to be committed to celluloid. To call this movie a cautionary tale would be to apply a label that is too tame -- Requiem for a Dream presents the darkest take imaginable on a story of hopes and dreams shattered by drug addiction. There's no preaching or sermonizing here, just an almost-clinical depiction of lives laid to waste. This is not a film for the weak of mind or soul. Even in the midst of the whirlwind of a film festival, when I was seeing four films a day and the tendency was for everything to blur into a continuum, this one stuck out, demanding attention and rumination. It is a force to be reckoned with.
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Towards the end of Double Jeopardy, one individual threatens another, "I'm gonna have you arrested for stupidity." I wish someone had made a similar pronouncement to director Bruce Beresford and writers David Weisberg & Douglas Cook. In most cases, I'm willing to give a film a fair amount of latitude (especially a mystery/thriller, which, by its nature, is likely to have a convoluted plot) provided that three criteria are met. First, the characters must be interesting. Secondly, the story must maintain a minimum level of credibility. Finally, and most importantly, the screenplay must not insult my intelligence. Double Jeopardy manages to fail in two of these three areas. The only point it meets is the "interesting character" one, and that's in large part because Ashley Judd is a good enough actress to be able to bring something to an on-screen personality that isn't in the script.
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Little Indian, Big City
Little Indian, Big City, the American name given to Herve Palud's 1995 French fish-out-of-water comedy, L'Indian dans la Ville, is easily one of the most tedious viewing experiences of 1996. I came as close to walking out of this movie as anything I have ever watched. No one, no matter how desperate they are for family entertainment, should be subjected to the indignity of sitting through this ninety-minute excuse for a motion picture.
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Perceptive is the best single word I can come up with to describe The Ice Storm, Ang Lee's near-masterpiece that deconstructs the American family. For, although the film is provocative, entertaining, and impeccably crafted, its greatest strength is its ability to convey truths that lie deep beneath the surface. The Ice Storm is perceptive about people, relationships, and human nature, and there's not a single moment in the entire 112 minute running length that rings false.
Back in the early '90s, the Taiwan-born Lee had a pair of art house hits, The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman, that brought him international acclaim. Then, in 1994, Lee was selected to helm Emma Thompson's adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. The film, which was released in 1995, earned multiple Academy Award nominations and ensured that Lee would never again be relegated to obscurity. For his followup to Sense, Lee chose The Ice Storm, and the accomplished result points to a director who has matured in every way.
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In the Company of Men
In the Company of Men is one of those rarest of rare breeds -- a movie that doesn't just ignore Hollywood conventions, but openly flouts them. The film, which premiered to great critical acclaim at 1997's Sundance Film Festival, initially had trouble obtaining a U.S. distributor (for the record, Sony picked it up). The reason is simple: because of its brutally-direct depiction of certain aspects of the current North American social climate, In the Company of Men is anything but entertaining. It's virtually impossible to sit through this film without suffering bouts of intense discomfort, and therein lies its power.
The picture begins as something much different than what it concludes as, and the metamorphosis occurs so gradually that it only becomes apparent in retrospect. Shortly after In the Company of Men opens, the intent appears to be to center on the conflict between the sexes. Ultimately, however, this only a small piece of the much larger pie into which Neil LaBute's directorial debut slices. In the Company of Men widens its focus to encompass the falseness and gamesmanship that underlies many aspects of everyday human interaction. It's a cynical perspective that's all the more disturbing because it's grounded so deeply in reality. The characters here aren't cardboard cut-out stereotypes -- they're the kind of people you can find anywhere inside or outside of the workplace.
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The Last Castle
Much of the potential dramatic juice has been drained out of "The Last Castle," a disappointingly pedestrian prison meller that falls between stools artistically and politically.
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Force 10 from Navarone
After the successful Navarone mission, Commander Jensen (Philip Latham) tells Mallory (Robert Shaw) and Miller (Edward Fox) to identify and kill a spy known as "Nicolai", who is now thought to be disguised among the Yugoslav Partisans as a Captain Lescovar (Franco Nero). (In The Guns of Navarone, the character Nicolai was the laundry boy suspected of listening to Mallory's conversations.)
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That Was Then... This Is Now
Emilio Estevez adapted S.E. Hinton's teen coming-of-age novel for the screen in this film adaptation directed by Christopher Cain. Estevez also takes the lead role of Mark Jennings, a troubled teenager who has been living with his best friend Byron Douglas (Craig Sheffer) and his mother (Barbara Babcock) ever since his father went to prison for murdering his mother.
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In a near-empty Northfork orphanage, Father Harlan gently tends to Irwin, an eight-year-old who lies between a dream state and death. As orphanage caretaker Harlan reads aloud about Northforks years-ago forced evacuation to make way for a hydro-electric dam, Irwins imagination takes flight. While a team of six men evacuate the last remaining citizens of the town, Irwin, too, invents a cast of characters to prepare himself for his own evacuation. (the above states the caretaker - who is actually the priest - is reading about a years-ago evacuation. In the movie, the evacuation is taking place as the boy lays dying!)
Flirting with Forty
Jackie Laurens (Heather Locklear) is a recently divorced, 40-year-old and mother of two pre-teen kids who takes a vacation alone to Hawaii where, against her better judgment, she meets and hooks up with a hunky, much younger resident surf instructor named Kyle Hamilton (Robert Buckley). But what began as a one-night stand turns into love as when her vacation is done, she flies to Hawaii every chance she gets to meet with her latest love interest, which soon gets disapproval from her ex-husband, her teenage kids, and even her close friends. As time and the pressure from everyone around her to break it off with Kyle pushes Jackie to her breaking point, it will only take her beau Kyle to teach her how to cope before life passes her by.
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Fifteen year-old Emma Evans has an argument with her mother Lucy since she wants to go to a concert in London with her friends Rose and Alex. Emma immediately has a convulsion and her family takes her to the hospital, but the doctors do not find any physical problem. Then her father John tries to convince his wife to send Emma to school, instead of homeschooling, but she prefers to keep Emma in the family-based education. Lucy sends her daughter to the psychoanalyst believing that she has psychological problems and Emma asks her friend Rose to record her session of hypnosis though the cellular but the doctor dies during the session. When Emma listens to the tape, she believes she is possessed by the devil and asks her parents to be submitted to an exorcism with her uncle, Priest Christopher Taylor. However her skeptical mother is against the ritual and recalls that Chris was responsible for the death of a teenager...
Jack Goes Boating
A limo drivers blind date sparks a tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and grace centered around two working-class New York City couples.
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Chronicles Jack Harris, one of the pioneers of internet commerce, as he wrestles with his morals and struggles not to drown in a sea of conmen, mobsters, drug addicts, and pornstars.
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