Merry Madagascar

Merry Madagascar
The holiday season heralds the return of the "Madagascar" gang in "Merry Madagascar," a television special looking to produce a pinch of Christmas cheer to fans, admirers, and all of their patient parents.

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American Teen

American Teen
American Teen, which has captured audience awards and drawn standing ovations at film festivals from coast-to-coast, is the latest example of a growing genre called "DINO" (Documentaries In Name Only). Combining candid footage with staged events, DINO directors assemble everything in the editing room, freely scrambling the chronology and cutting as they see fit. The goal is less to provide a slice of reality than it is to approximate a fictionalized version of that reality. DINOs are the motion picture equivalent of reality television, and American Teen is among the most accomplished to come along yet. In fact, it's so adeptly assembled that it has been picked up by a major distributor (Paramount) with an eye toward opening it in more than just art houses. The target audience isn't the usual "stodgy" crowd but the MTV post-music video generation. This is The Real World on a more ambitious scale.

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Winter Passing

Winter Passing
Winter Passing is a classic example of a pedestrian motion picture being lifted out of mediocrity by an arresting lead performance. Zooey Deschanel doesn't just elevate Winter Passing; she carries it. There are other things to be said in favor of Adam Rapp's debut feature - the tone is suitably melancholy and he does a nice job writing Deschanel's character - but this film belongs to the actress. This is only her second time to step out of a supporting role (she was the co-lead in All the Real Girls), and it proves that she's ready for the "big time." As she has shown in the past, and continues to display here, versatility is among her strengths.

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Choke
Sometimes, the conversion of a novel into a movie can result in a loss or diminution of the author's tone or the book's characters. With Choke, director Clark Gregg has maintained writer Chuck Palahniuk's voice but the men and women populating the film come across as the half-finished constructs of a filmmaker's imagination. It's as if there are scenes missing - not critical scenes that impact the plot or change the narrative's trajectory, but little scenes that get us to accept the protagonists as more than people with a quick wit and a cynical point-of-view.

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Raising Helen

Raising Helen
Critique:
Helen Harris (Kate Hudson) has it all. Great looks, a dream job working at a top modeling agency in New York, a sexy boyfriend, and a great family
outside of the city. Her life changes dramatically when her oldest sister dies in an auto accident and leaves Helen custody of her three children.

"Raising Helen" is a multi-level coming of age movie. Helen might seem to have it all, but she is missing the satisfaction of having a family of her own. At the same time, her sisters children are overcoming the death of their parents. Helen's transition from fashion agent to mommy of three, while at times rocky, is often funny and a pleasure to watch.

Technically, the movie is solid. There are few effects, and the ones that are used are seamless. The score is well integrated into the film and never gets in the way of the dialog.

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This Is England

This Is England
This Is England, the semi-autobiographical tale of writer/director Shaun Meadows, turns back the clock a quarter century and looks at the slow progression of a boy from a lonely outsider to a member of a racist gang. Despite a somewhat rushed ending, the movie does an excellent job not only illustrating how easily hatred can be fostered in the young but chronicling the transformation of skinheads from a reggae-loving nationalistic cult to the military arm of neo-Nazi groups.

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Time
Haunting and disturbing, Time is the kind of motion picture that gets under your skin and doesn't let go. It lingers long after the final credits have rolled and, for those who see it with friends, it will provoke endless post-movie discussions. A meditation on identity and how our physical appearance relates to who we are, Time is the product of the fertile creative mind of controversial (some love him, some despise him) South Korean director Kim Ki-duk. Like Kim's previously seen international efforts (Spring Summer Fall Winter...and Spring, 3-Iron), this one takes a seemingly straightforward storyline and twists it to devastating effect during the final act. The result is a production of intellectual and emotional power. It's nowhere close to conventional and aptly fits the term "challenging."

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How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
One could easily make the argument that How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is a perfectly acceptable diversion. Kate Hudson's Andie Anderson and Matthew McConaughey's Ben Barry are both affable individuals and, when the script allows it, there are fitful sparks between them. Yet I can't bring myself to recommend the movie. Why? What's missing? Simple: the romance. This movie is so intent upon getting cheap laughs and putting the protagonists in uncomfortable situations that it forgets they're supposed to be falling in love. Even though they don't know it, we should be able to sense it. But it's not there. So when, in the dwindling minutes, the filmmakers recognize that a happy ending is needed, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days lets loose with a belated avalanche of hearts and flowers that radiates artificiality.

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Crime Fiction

Crime Fiction
Will you kill for a good story? If you are James Cooper, a 28 year old copy editor with dreams of literary stardom, you will. After all, your girlfriend was just crowned the voice of a new America by the New York literati, and you waste your days editing third-rate textbooks in a dreary Chicago basement. Your first book got panned. Your agent just dumped you. You have no future. But when your girlfriends corpse ends up sprawled beneath your bedroom window, you finally know what to write about. Crime Fiction is the story of murder, betrayal and outrageous artistic fortune.

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The Salton Sea

The Salton Sea
While playing the trumpet in a burning room, the protagonist's voice is heard in narration. His story begins with him posing as "Danny Parker", a speed freak addicted to methamphetamine, who hangs out with friends while indulging in drugs. He also moonlights as an informant for two corrupt cops, Gus Morgan (Doug Hutchison) and Al Garcetti (Anthony LaPaglia). He is trying to set up a large meth score with notorious drug dealer Pooh Bear (D'Onofrio), an eccentric psychopath who lost his nose to excessive snorting of "Gack" (meth), while also attempting to set up a sting operation for Morgan and Garcetti.

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Angels Fall

Angels Fall
A chef moves to a small town in Wyoming after her Botson restaurant is shut down because of a fatal shooting.

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Gallipoli

Gallipoli
The story of a group of young Australian men who leave their various backgrounds behind and sign up to join the ANZACs in World War I. They are sent to Gallipoli, where they encounter the might of the Turkish army.

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Julie Walking Home aka The Healer

Julie Walking Home aka The Healer
Her son dying of cancer and her marriage falling apart, Julie flees to Poland in search of a man who can heal using his hands. Julie finds not only a magical cure for her son, but also comes across a love so pure it begins to heal the aching in her heart.

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Kisses

Kisses
Two kids, Dylan and Kylie, run away from home at Christmas and spend a night of magic and terror on the streets of inner-city Dublin.

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Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee

Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee
An improvised comedy, shot over five days by Shane Meadows, devised with and starring Paddy Considine. Rock roadie and failed musician, Le Donk has lived, loved and learned. Along the way hes lost a girlfriend but he has found a new sidekick in up-and-coming rap prodigy Scor-zay-zee. With Meadows fly-on-the-wall crew in tow, Donk sets out to make Scor-zay-zee a star...with a little help from the Arctic Monkeys... This low-budget rockumentary follows Le Donk and Scorz on their journey of a lifetime its an unpredictable, irrepressible ode to spontaneous filmmaking - and to a burgeoning UK rap talent.

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Nothing to Lose

Nothing to Lose
Nick Beams life couldnt get any worse. He discovers he has been living a lie and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. So when T. Paul, a carjacker, attempts to rob him, it is the last straw for Nick. With everything to gain and nothing to lose, he kidnaps T. Paul and attempts to put his life back together.

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