The Spy Next Door

The Spy Next Door
It's sad to see legends get old. As this generation of geeks raised on 1980's action movies advances in years, so do the actors we used to idolize. Some embrace it while others drop gracefully out of the spotlight. Others still refuse to let go, appearing in second-rate reality TV programs or direct-to-DVD action retreads. Some even run for public office. But when The Spy Next Door opens with a credit sequence filled with some of Jackie Chan's finest stunts from past films – all set to "Secret Agent Man," no less – it's hard not to compare the young, agile martial artist with the much older, much slower figure who appears on-screen directly after.

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Alien vs. Ninja

Alien vs. Ninja
Once upon a time in Japan, there was a band of great Iga Ninja warriors. One day, they witnessed a strange flash in the sky, followed by a roaring giant fireball crashing into the distant forest.

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Man on Wire

Man on Wire
Man on Wire is a fascinating time capsule: a combination of talking-head interviews, actual footage, and re-creations that evokes a kinder, gentler world and provides insight into one of the most audacious stunts of the 20th century. Pieced together with some of the rhythms and beats of a heist movie, James Marsh's examination of Philippe Petit's 1974 high wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center explores every aspect of the feat, from the detailed planning to the execution. Petit's action remains as head shakingly, jaw droppingly improbable today is it did on the morning of August 7, 1974.

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Yellow Handkerchief,

Yellow Handkerchief,
Sluggish. Torpid. Boring. Those three words (and more) can describe The Yellow Handkerchief, a stultifying road trip movie whose inept screenplay is only partially counterbalanced by a trio of nice performances. There's only so much a talented actor can do with a poor script, and this represents an extreme case. The movie clocks in with a running length of 102 minutes but it feels like it lasts as long as the gestation period for a human baby.

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After.Life

After.Life
I admire filmmakers who take chances and defy expectations. Admittedly, that sort of thing doesn't always work, and there are flaws aplenty in After.Life, but the criss-crossing between drama, thriller, and horror is nothing if not arresting. It is also unsettling. In the end, no matter how you look at it, the whole thing doesn't quite come together. There are gaps when the film fails to play by the rules of its own internal logic, and this will frustrate some viewers. Yet the echoes of After.Life linger in the memory long after the impressions of countless safe cookie-cutter productions have faded.

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City of Ember

City of Ember
City of Ember has almost anything one could want from a science fiction-based family adventure film: likeable characters, an imaginative setting, and a fast pace. The third item on that list is notable. Recognizing that children often have limited attention spans, the filmmakers have endeavored to keep City of Ember moving. Exposition, when needed, is delivered briskly and with a minimum of irrelevant information. Dialogue rarely accomplishes anything beyond advancing the plot. The almost complete absence of transition scenes results in a flow that is occasionally choppy. Overall, however, City of Ember will find favor with older children and their parents.

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Greatest Game Ever Played

Greatest Game Ever Played
When it comes to this sort of true-life sports story, Disney has cornered the market. In the past few years, the studio has released four fact-based tales of triumph, each centered on a different kind of game people play. First, there was Remember the Titans (football). That was followed by The Rookie (baseball) and Miracle (hockey). Now, we have The Greatest Game Ever Played (golf). Undoubtedly, Disney would have tried a basketball movie if Hoosiers hadn't set the bar so high. (Apparently, there is one in the pipeline.)

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Married Life

Married Life
In the immortal words of Strother Martin, "What we've got here is… failure to communicate." The truth of that statement lies at the heart of Ira Sachs' Married Life, a movie about how people in a marriage communicate or, just as often, fail to do so. Or, as the narrator puts it: When you go to bed at night, how much do you know about what the person lying next to you is thinking? A good question to be pondered by all, especially those who live in a state of certainty that they know their spouse. The film may be set in 1948 but these issues are not period constrained.

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Xanadu

Xanadu
How, one might ask, does one begin to defend Xanadu? To start with, by looking at it without any pretensions and seeing it for what it is. Conventional wisdom decrees that Xanadu is a horrible film. In a sense, conventional wisdom may be correct, but it ignores one key ingredient: viewed in the right frame of mind, this movie can be a lot of fun. Age has done for Xanadu what it has done for many critically reviled motion pictures that time has not forgotten: allowed us to look at it a little more kindly and appreciate it for its glorious badness. The film is too energetic, too jaw-droppingly campy, and too silly not to be enjoyed and celebrated on some level. "Cheesy" doesn't even begin to describe it, yet that's at the heart of its perverse charm. Now, that's entertainment!

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Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting
In essence, Good Will Hunting is an ordinary story told well. Taken as a whole, there's little that's special about this tale -- it follows a traditional narrative path, leaves the audience with a warm, fuzzy feeling, and never really challenges or surprises us. But it's intelligently written (with dialogue that is occasionally brilliant), strongly directed, and nicely acted. So, while Good Will Hunting is far from a late-year masterpiece, it's a worthwhile sample of entertainment.

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When a Man Loves a Woman

When a Man Loves a Woman
The previews for When a Man Loves a Woman do this film an injustice. Heavy on poorly-edited melodramatic sequences, they give little inkling of the level of emotional honesty attained. Luis Mandoki's film succeeds not because it tackles alcoholism, but because it faces up to the trauma that eats away at the lives of the non-alcoholics in the family.

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Street Warrior

Street Warrior
Street Warriors starts off with a hard rock fight montage during which the cast is introduced in a 1970s role call style, which ultimately sets the tone of the entire film, lowbrow fighting and nudity to fill an hour and a half of screen time.

Street Warriors is about a man named Jack Campbell (Max Martini) who has just been dishonorably discharged from the military after spending some time in the military prison for beating his commanding officer during the Iraqi war. Upon his return, Jack suddenly finds that his talents as a close combat fighter when he helps to save an old friend from a group of gangsters. He makes short order of the thugs but finds that the local police do not seem to like him much.

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Grace Is Gone

Grace Is Gone
Stan Philippss wife Grace is a sergeant with the U.S. Army. While shes posted to Iraq, the earnest Stan is home in Minnesota with their daughters, Heidi, 12, and Dawn, 8. He manages a home supply store. After morning visitors bring Stan news, he takes the girls for a car ride that turns into a spontaneous trip to Dawns favorite place, a Florida amusement park. On the way, they stop at Stans mothers house, where his brother is staying. Heidi is an insomniac, who tries to fathom her fathers uncharacteristic behavior. Dawn is cheerfully unreflective. They have fun at the park. Stan summons his courage.

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Ice Princess

Ice Princess
17-year-old physics whiz Casey Carlyle is urged by her physics teacher to work on a physics project over the summer for presentation to Harvard. As a skater, Casey decides on a project that shows the elements of physics applied in competitive figure skating. To start, she visits a skating club run by former professional skater Tina Harwood. Casey eventually finds that in order to better understand the principles shes using, she will have to become her own test subject, and joins the skating school. The more she gets involved, the more she falls in love with figure skating....and must ultimately make a choice Will it be Harvard - which her mother and Casey have both dreamed of, or will it be her new dream - as a competitive figure skater?

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Mo' Better Blues

Mo' Better Blues
Opens with Bleek as a child learning to play the trumpet, his friends want him to come out and play but mother insists he finish his lessons. Bleek grows into adulthood and forms his own band - The Bleek Gilliam Quartet. The story of Bleeks and Shadows friendly rivalry on stage which spills into their professional relationship and threatens to tear apart the quartet.

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Mega Man

Mega Man
A brave android volunteers to combat the robotic minions of a mad scientist bent on world domination.

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