Arsène Lupin

Arsène Lupin
Arsène Lupin’s harmonious childhood ends abruptly with the brutal death of his father, a notorious crook. Twenty years later, Lupin has established himself as a gentleman thief; he relieves the rich of the burden of some of their wealth, without ever resorting to violence. He also has an eye for the ladies and one day he falls under the spell of the mysterious Countess Joséphine. She lures him into recovering three crucifixes which will reveal the whereabouts of a lost royal treasure. This is to be Arsène Lupin’s greatest adventure, played for the highest stakes..

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Doubt
It's one of life's bitter ironies that one of the first things lost to moral certainty is the capacity for compassion. Righteousness is a cold, hard position, and an unshakeable one. It allows no room for one of the most basic tenants of human existence: doubt. Faith exists not in counterpoint to certainty but to doubt. And those in religious institutions who wish to commune with their fellows must never lose sight of the fact that doubt defines and binds us. Few of us have the capacity to defend a position of uncompromising certainty.

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Tale of Despereaux

Tale of Despereaux
As animated films go, The Tale of Despereaux represents adequate family entertainment. The quality is nowhere near the level we have come to expect from Pixar but, since there are no Pixar films in theaters this time of year, The Tale of Despereaux makes an acceptable substitution. It's on par, or perhaps a little better, than Dreamworks' cash-grab, Madagascar 2. Nevertheless, this is not top-flight animation. While the voice acting is fine and the story is nicely paced, the visuals are disappointing. The Tale of Despereaux looks like it was made about 10 years ago and, at a time when even mediocre animated films can generally boast a stunning look, this movie's uninspired animation is a source of disappointment.

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Chandni Chowk to China

Chandni Chowk to China
To Western audiences, Chandni Chowk to China will seem much like any Bollywood movie would seem: a rather astonishing mess. Like the cinematic equivalent of someone appearing on Mr. Blackwell's Ten Worst-Dressed list, the movie is a garish mix of conflicting styles and genres, cross-pollinating overproduced musical numbers, cheesy melodrama, and kung-fu. The film is too long by at least 30 minutes and drags noticeably during the second half but, in large part because of its "kitchen sink" approach, it offers its share of bizarrely entertaining moments, although one suspects that the average American movie-goer who has never before experienced the unique flavor of a Bollywood production won't know what to make of Chandni Chowk to China.

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THE TUNNEL

THE TUNNEL
An Australian entry into the "found footage" genre of horror movies like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and [REC], The Tunnel has mostly gotten press so far for its distribution model - with producers raising money by encouraging people to buy a frame of the movie for $1 and releasing it for free on torrent sites, in addition to having a physical DVD release - rather than it's actual content. Make no mistake though, although the way it's been marketed and distributed is clever, the movie itself has some tricks up its sleeve too, even if it is a bit derivative of the films mentioned above.

The story goes like this: In order to combat the city's water shortage problem, government officials planned to use the vast collection of abandoned railway tunnels below Sydney to build a water recycling facility, even though this would disrupt the population of homeless who supposedly live down there. Suddenly, the project is dropped and there are rumors of homeless people disappearing in the tunnels, even though the government continues to deny that there even are homeless people down there. Investigative journalist Natasha Warner (Bel Delia) decides to go into the tunnels herself to find out what's really going on, but when she's unable to get a permit, she sneaks in along with fellow journalist Peter (Andy Rodoreda), cameraman Steve (Steve Davis) and soundman 'Tangles' (Luke Arnold). They soon discover that there IS something down there, but it may or may not be human. What's worse, it's dark in those old tunnels, and they're running out of light...

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Wah-Wah

Wah-Wah
As coming of age stories go, Wah-Wah does little to distinguish itself. Based on the memories of actor-turned-director/writer Richard E. Grant, the bland film loses its focus early during the proceedings and never gets it back. With the late 1960s independence of Swaziland from Great Britain forming the political backdrop, Wah-Wah takes us through the adolescent struggles of Ralph Compton (played by Zachary Fox at first, then by Nicholas Hoult): his battles with his alcoholic father, Harry (Gabriel Byrne); his love/hate relationship with his absent mother, Lauren (Miranda Richardson); his warming interaction with his American step-mother, Ruby (Emily Watson); and his infatuation with a local girl (Olivia Grant). The problem with so much going on is that nothing gets the development it deserves. Wah-Wah comes across as derivative and perfunctory - a painless but forgettable journey across familiar cinematic territory.

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Touching the Void

Touching the Void
Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction… and also potentially more nail-biting and harder to believe. Touching the Void is an extreme example of this - a man versus nature epic so amazing that, if it was presented in a strictly narrative format, viewers would doubt its veracity. To capture this story in a way that would do it justice, British filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (the documentarian responsible for One Day in September, about the terrorist attack on the 1972 Israeli Olympic team in Munich) has blended elements of docudrama and documentary into a satisfying whole that will keep even the most stoic movie-goer gripping the armrest throughout.

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Abyss
James Cameron is widely viewed as being one of the most difficult and demanding directors, due in large part to the powerful streak of perfectionism that defines his filmmaking. Cameron's most difficult and contentious shoot to date has been The Abyss - a logistically nightmarish experience that frayed the nerves and tempers of cast and crew alike. Cameron completed The Abyss behind schedule and over budget, and the theatrical version is generally regarded as the weakest and most disappointing of the director's six major efforts (the other five: The Terminator, Aliens, T2, True Lies, Titanic). Had the 140-minute cut released into multiplexes on August 9, 1989 been the final word, The Abyss would be a mostly forgotten footnote on Cameron's resume. However, some three years after The Abyss made its debut, the director was provided with the wherewithal to produce an Extended Edition. Incorporating about a half-hour of deleted material, the Extended Edition repaired many (although not all) of the theatrical cut's glaring problems, resulting in a greatly enhanced viewing experience. Today, although both versions are available, I don't know anyone who would choose to watch the theatrical release over the expanded home video one.

Although the neutering of the climax played a part in the movie's initial lukewarm reception, that was not the only issue. Expectations were also a factor. Cameron's two previous features, The Terminator and Aliens, had been high octane thrillers with technologically advanced villains and rousing climaxes. Although there's plenty of action in The Abyss, coupled with a fair share of tension, the "bad guy" is nothing more frightening than a psychotic Navy SEAL (played by Michael Biehn). The aliens are largely decoupled with the action and, when they make an appearance at the end, it seems to be almost an afterthought, and their introduction recalls E.T. and Close Encounters. (This is fixed in the Extended Edition, but more about that later.) The film made about $54 million - a total that was ultimately profitable but disappointing (Star Trek V, released the same summer, made just a fraction less). Compared to Batman, The Abyss was the black hole its title implies.

The Abyss begins with the kind of opening scene guaranteed to capture an audience's attention. The nuclear sub USS Montana encounters unexpected trouble while patrolling near the Cayman Trough and becomes disabled. The military, facing rising tensions with the Soviet Union, are anxious to mount a search-and-rescue mission before the U.S.S.R. can go looking. The best and quickest option is to use Deepcore, a privately owned oil platform resting on the ocean floor near the abyssal trench, as the base for the operation. This is not well received by the captain of the platform, Bud Brigman (Ed Harris), but he is overruled by management. A team of Navy SEALS, commanded by Lt. Coffey (Michael Biehn), dive down to Deepcore, accompanied by Lindsey Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), the designer of the station and Bud's estranged wife.

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
One thing is certain about Clint Eastwood: he doesn't play it safe. Two years ago, he surprised just about everyone (and gave his fans a collective apoplexy) by directing and starring in an ultra-sensitive tearjerker called The Bridges of Madison County. Now, following a romp through more familiar territory in Absolute Power, Eastwood the director is back with this slow, moody adaptation of John Berendt's novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It's a compelling but meandering tale of lust, murder, sex, voodoo, and betrayal. Despite the presence of so many titillating elements, the film's nearly somnambulant pace makes it easy for a viewer to lose his or her concentration.

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Crash
It has been called brave, rousing, and shocking. At the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, where it received its world premiere, it was both hailed and booed, and received a special jury prize for "originality, daring, and audacity." Ted Turner, who owns Fine Line Features, labeled it "really weird." Britain's Evening Standard called it "beyond the bounds of depravity." Yet for all the opinions floating around about how ground-breaking and controversial Crash is, I found it to be something of a letdown.

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Le Mans

Le Mans
Fans of motor racing will appreciate this semi-documentary film based on the legendary 24-hour French road race. The film is set during a period in motor sports just prior to its almost total usurpation by corporate culture, in this case 1970, when there was still a tolerable balance between sponsorship and the particular form of nobility that pervaded racing. As a film, LeMans is remarkable for a sense of restraint that is so unwavering that even the incomparable Steve McQueen seems almost normal inside its cool envelope. No movie on the subject has ever equaled its transparency and authenticity. Motor sports have become so sophisticated and big-time that if you cut the average driver with a knife he might bleed only contact cleaner, or Mello Yello. Modern drivers are still courageous and skilled, but something essential has been lost to the hype and the inevitability of high technology. In LeMans, you can almost smell the 100 octane Supershell and the hot Castrol. People look at one another, not at computer displays. They converse directly over the rasp of tightly-wound 12-cylinder engines, not through headsets and mikes. It's a human thing. Overwrought genre siblings like Days of Thunder are ludicrous and crass compared to LeMans' pure, almost ascetic spirit. Tom Cruise's Cole Trickle could not buy a pit pass into its world.

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Love and a Bullet

Love and a Bullet
While staking out his next assignment--the innocent girlfriend of his notorious boss--contract killer Malik reflects on the dark path hes chosen but cannot escape. Torn between his sense of duty and his newfound sense of humanity, he finds that the only way out is a perilous showdown with men who are every bit as cold-blooded as he is.

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The Rage

The Rage
A mad scientist named Dr. Viktor Vasilienko (Andrew Divoff) is disillusioned with capitalist society and creates a virus that is designed to make people rage with anger. In his hidden laboratory in the woods, he begins testing the virus on innocents. His experiments don't go as planned and his infected victims escape into the wilderness. There, the infection spreads as vultures eat the remains of the test subjects and become out of control with the compulsion to eat human flesh.

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What We Do Is Secret

What We Do Is Secret
Jan Paul Beahm (Shane West) grows up in Los Angeles through a troubled childhood: He does not know his biological father, his mother is an alcoholic, and his older brother dies from a heroin overdose. He is an avid reader and develops into a "frighteningly intelligent" student at University High School, where his antisocial behavior leads the administration to give him straight A's if he agrees not to return to school. In December 1975, at age 17, he proposes to his friend Georg Ruthenberg (Rick Gonzalez) that they start a band, showing him song lyrics he has written and claiming to have a "five year plan" inspired by the David Bowie song "Five Years". They put up a flyer soliciting "2 untalented girls who don't know how to play their instruments", attracting Terri Ryan (Bijou Phillips), Belinda Carlisle (Lauren German), and Becky Barton (Amy Halloran). They con money from Becky's grandmother to buy instruments and Jan Paul comes up with the name Germs, representing the germination of an idea. He becomes the singer while Georg plays guitar, Terri plays bass guitar, and Becky plays drums.

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Careless

Careless
An offbeat comedy in the style of Bottle Rocket and After Hours. Wiley Roth finds a severed human finger in his kitchen one night. Understandably freaked out, Wiley and his best friend Mitch try to figure out the mystery of the finger, in a search across Los Angeles that brings them in contact with psychics, ineffectual police, crooked taxidermists, mysterious neighbors who might be on drugs, and a nine-fingered woman named Cheryl who might, improbably, end up being the girl of his dreams.

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Beer Money

Beer Money
Three guys find a space alien in the woods and attempt to sell it to a tabloid TV show, with disastrous results.

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