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Paul Verhoeven is a filmmaker who takes no prisoners. He wants nothing more than to fracture reality through his particularly pulpy cinematic lens and to project this grotesque image in front of as many spectators as possible. He makes no excuses for his excesses and this is one of the reasons why he has been marginalized by much of the mainstream media. They have comfortably divided his career into two convenient phases: on the one hand, he is the Dutch art filmmaker who received worldwide acclaim for his “complex” films such as “Turkish Delight”, “Soldier of Orange” and “The Fourth Man”. On the other, he is the tabloid Hollywood sensationalist who glorified sleazy sex and extreme violence in such films as “RoboCop”, “Total Recall”, “Basic Instinct” and his American albatross, “Showgirls”. The division is merely convenient and nothing more than an illusion. All of the films mentioned, Dutch and American, are the work of a singular, brilliant filmmaker whose work has not changed at all from Holland to Hollywood and back.
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When a Stranger Calls
When a Stranger Calls is a minimum effort horror movie. It does just enough to scare easily unnerved thirteen-year-old girls, and not much else. Luckily for Sony Screen Gems (but perhaps not so lucky for those of us who wish they'd stop making this sort of movie), there's plenty of underage would-be babysitters willing to pile in theaters and pay for overpriced tickets.
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Water for Elephants
Who can resist a nice elderly gentleman reminiscing about the good old days? Some of the sappiest, most memorable films are kick started by an old person with a story. The Notebook, Titanic, Atonement, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption… love them or hate them, there’s something fascinating about the good old days. In Water for Elephants, that old man is Jacob, played by the Hal Holbrook. We meet 90-year-old Jacob in the rain outside of a circus. He looks lost until he sees an old picture of a beautiful woman on an elephant. As tears begin to well up in his eyes, we know we’re in for a good story.
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Why Sony waited eight years to make a sequel to the 2003 hit S.W.A.T. is beyond me. It's not like fans have been crying or creating letter writing campaigns, begging for a follow-up for the past decade. Naturally, though, a DTV sequel isn't a bad move for Sony. The original was a pretty solid rental hit, warranting some kind of sequel. But again, why wait so long?
Perhaps producers were simply waiting for a decent script to come their way. Or perhaps it's because the DTV market is booming right now. The budgets are getting bigger, the production design is getting better, the casts are stronger, and the stories seem to actually be trying new routes or heading in original directions. Not every DTV sequel works, but the market is improving and evolving.
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It's a pleasant thing to encounter occasionally a movie in which people are portrayed as decent (if flawed) individuals. In The Visitor, there are no human villains. No one wears a black hat. The antagonist is The System - the nameless, faceless arm of a bureaucracy that flexes its muscles and crushes whoever happens to be in its grip at the time. In this case, it's the Immigration Department, but it might be any of thousands of government and private organizations where the "human element" has been eliminated in favor of procedures. However, while the struggle against The System forms an important aspect of The Visitor, this is much more about the growth of one man who discovers that the island of solitude is a cold and lonely place.
We all know Richard Jenkins even if we don't recognize the name. He's a character actor who has appeared in supporting roles with increasing regularity since the early '80s. The Visitor, written and directed by The Station Agent's Thomas McCarthy, gives Jenkins a rare lead part and he brings to it a mixture of pathos and wit. The chief pleasure of The Visitor is in watching Jenkins' character, Walter Vale, grow. Jenkins never overplays the role, opting for a low-key approach that makes the one scene where Walter boils over all the more effective. A lot of heart goes into the performance; when Walter encounters something that gives him a brief flurry of happiness, we smile with him.
Whatever its flaws, one can certainly not accuse Prozac Nation of avoiding risks. The movie, directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg (the original Insomnia) and adapted from the book by Elizabeth Wurtzel, doesn't exactly go out on a tightrope, but it frequently veers away from safe ground, in large part due to a riveting performance by Christina Ricci.
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It's a genuine pleasure to come across a motion picture like The Last Samurai - a rousing tale that combines high adventure with emotional effectiveness. This movie works because it never loses sight of the characters no matter how epic the scope becomes. With its grand, sweeping battle sequences, lush cinematography, and gripping storyline, The Last Samurai already has a spot reserved on my end-of-the-year Top 10 list. In one category or another, it is also likely to catch the Academy's interest this winter.
Director Edward Zwick may be one of the most underrated filmmakers currently working within the Hollywood system. Over the course of a roughly two-decade career, he has helmed a masterpiece (Glory) and two near-masterpieces (Courage Under Fire and this one), as well as several lesser but still compelling movies. Zwick has also been a big name in television, sharing responsibility with his producing partner, Marshall Herskovitz, for the critically-acclaimed series "thirtysomething" and "Once and Again." That kind of resume alone makes one optimistic about any project with which Zwick has involvement.
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The first thing to notice about John Duigan's Lawn Dogs is the astounding performance of newcomer Mischa Barton, who plays Devon, the 10-year old protagonist. Barton is a natural actress, and manages to convey the perfect blend of maturity and innocence necessary for us to accept her character as something more vital than the construct of an uneven plot. Amongst all the weeds of Lawn Dogs, she represents one of the few true blades of grass.
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Dumb and Dumber
Sometimes, a movie just can't live up to its advertising campaign (or its name, for that matter). Dumb and Dumber is one such case. Take the newspaper ad, for example, filled with all those fake, witty quotes. That's rather clever (although not original). Unfortunately, the same kind of humorists weren't involved in writing the script. "Dumb" actually overestimates the film's intelligence.
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The Lawn Boy
A heart-warming, delightfully funny romantic comedy about a lawn boy who catches the eye of an upscale career woman. Together they must endure the pressures from their friends and family which include his home-boys, his Cheaters watching sister, her snooty girlfriends, and her cocktail drinking, snobbish mother an father. Will their love carry them through it all?
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Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, EARTHLINGS chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.
A hyper-vigilant agent of the Department of Public Safety Erroll Babbage (Richard Gere) checks on registered sex offenders. Burnt out after a long career, he has become frustrated with the system of sex offender monitoring. With little faith in humanity left he takes on one last job to find a missing girl (Kristina Sisco).
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The family goes on a quest for "The Griswold Family Christmas Tree." With his usual over-enthusiasm, Clark has planned a "good, old-fashioned family Christmas." His family is wary of his plans but Clark is oblivious. He has nostalgic moments of Christmas past when he is accidentally locked in the attic. Clark outdoes himself with 25,000 lights on the roof, but he can't get the power on. Eventually the lights turn on and they are spectacular, blinding the neighbors and causing a power drain at the local nuclear power plant. In addition to the usual family get together, the Griswolds have some unexpected visitors. Eddie and Catherine show up. In spite of all the good intentions and careful planning, Christmas plans go awry.
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A Murder Is Announced
A murder is announced in the Chipping Cleghorne Gazette to take place on October 5th, 7 PM at Little Paddocks cottage. The people living there, retired secretary Miss Blacklock, her companion Miss Bunner, Miss Blacklocks two distant cousins, Patrick and Julia and Mrs.Haymes, a gardener, have no idea what the ad is about. Several villagers arrive at the house under the false pretenses of just walking by or Was in the neighborhood. At exactly 7 PM, the lights go out, and a man enters the room, and shines a flashlight in everyones face. Then shots are heard. As the lights come back on, they find the man who entered the room has been shot. Miss Marple must unmask the killer but soon more murders turn up.
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District Attorney Tom Logan is set for higher office, at least until he becomes involved with defence lawyer Laura Kelly and her unpredictable client Chelsea Deardon. It seems the least of Chelseas crimes is the theft of a very valuable painting, but as the women persuade Logan to investigate further and to cut some official corners, a much more sinister scenario starts to emerge.
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Men at Work
Carl and James are two pleasant but unambitious garbage men. Carl has a telescope with which he observes his neighbors. One evening he sees a man giving a female neighbor a hard time. As she leaves he shoots the man with a pellet gun. Hiding, he and James miss two men strangling the man and leaving with the body. When he appears in a can on their route they are afraid and hide the body, fearing that they may be implicated in the death. Trying to crack the case, they spy on the woman, join up with a slightly to majorly crazed vietnam vet, kidnap a pizza man and help to protect the ecology.
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