Double Team (Action,Thriller)

America's top counter-terrorist usually works alone...this time he's got company.
They Don't Play by the Rules.
You're either on their side...or in their way.
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Having retiring from the CIA, where he was an anti-terrorist operative, Jack Paul Quinn spends his days poolside at his house in Nice, France with his pregnant wife Katherine Rose Quinn. But international terrorist Stavros, an old enemy of Quinn's, has resurfaced, and the CIA wants Quinn to come out of retirement, and go after Stavros. Quinn reluctantly accepts the assignment. Quinn goes to Antwerp, Belgium and hooks up with flamboyant arms dealer Yaz, who has the newest fully-automatic weapons. With Quinn's assembled delta-force, an ambush is set for Stavros at a local amusement park. Stavros arrives, and greets his girlfriend...and his son. Quinn finds himself unable to shoot Stavros with his son. This moment of hesitation is costly, and Quinn's entire team is killed off in a shoot-out with Stavros' men -- a shoot-out in which Stavros's son and girlfriend are both killed. Quinn chases Stavros into a nearby hospital, and they battle it out in a nursery full of newborn babies. Quinn is knocked out cold, and Stavros escapes, vowing revenge on Quinn for the deaths of his son and girlfriend, not knowing that Quinn was not the agent who killed them. When Quinn comes to, he finds himself in "The Colony," a place where "those who are too valuable to kill and too dangerous to set free" use their special skills around the world as "the last line of defense against global terrorism." Using virtual reality and mouseless-graphical-user-interfaces, they solve all the world's bombings, hijackings, and terrorist attacks. The only problem is that no one can ever leave The Colony. That's why Quinn's superiors tell Katherine that Quinn is dead. Not long after his arrival, Quinn finds evidence that Katherine is being targeted by Stavros, and so Quinn hatches an elaborate plan to escape from the Colony so he can protect Katherine. Once out of The Colony, Quinn hooks up with Yaz, and they learn that Stavros has kidnapped Katherine and taken her to Rome, planning to get revenge on Quinn through the baby, which Katherine has given birth to. Quinn and Yaz set out for Rome to rescue Katherine. It all comes to a head in a Roman coliseum in a showdown featuring a tiger, land mines...and the baby.
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Number One Girl, The (Action,Drama,Thriller)

In a duel to the death, the trophy is survival.
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Joey Scalini (Tony SCHIENA) is one of Hollywood's biggest action stars and the undefeated full-contact martial arts world champion. When his life-long friend and London mob godfather Dragos Molnar (Vinnie JONES) invites him to serve as a celebrity judge on the televised World Fashion & Cosmetics Beauty Pageant, hosted by Mr. Sakata (PAT MORITA), Joey finds himself falling for the most beautiful contestant Tatiana, (LISA McALLISTER). He is fully aware of Dragos' number one rule that his top four girls are always off-limit, so when he gets caught entwined with Tatiana the new Number One Girl, Dragos orders all doors to be locked and the nightclub stage to be turned into a fighting ring where Joey will have to fight his five bodyguards and Dragos himself for a fight to death. When the closest friends engage into the fiercest and bloodiest battle on live TV, there is much more at stake than the beautiful Tatiana.
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Dune (Action,Adventure,Fantasy,Sci-Fi)

A place beyond your dreams, A movie beyond your imagination.
A world beyond your experience, beyond your imagination.
The Motion Picture Event For 1984
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Set in a distant future where life in the universe and space travel is dependent upon a spice found only on the planet Dune, this film tracks the rise of young Paul Atreides, son of good Duke Lito, from the time of his father's betrayal and murder by a rival lord, Baron Harkonnen, to his discovery of the great secret behind the planet Dune and his own destiny, which is to free the planet and its denizens of the cruel rule of the Emperor.
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"It's like a dream," my friend from Hollywood was explaining. "It doesn't make any sense, and the special effects are straight from the dime store but if you give up trying to understand it, and just sit back and let it wash around in your mind, it's not bad." That was not exactly a rave review for a movie that someone paid $40 million to make, but it put me into a receptive frame of mind for DUNE, the epic based on the novels by Frank Herbert. I was even willing to forgive the special effects for not being great; after all, in an era when George Lucas's STAR WARS has turned movies into high tech, why not a film that looks like a throwback to FLASH GORDON. It might be kind of fun.It took DUNE about nine minutes to completely strip me of my anticipation. This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time. Even the color is no good; everything is seen through a sort of dusty yellow filter, as if the film was left out in the sun too long. Yes, you might say, but the action is, after all, on a desert planet where there isn't a drop of water, and there's sand everywhere. David Lean solved that problem in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, where he made the desert look beautiful and mysterious, not shabby and drab.The movie's plot will no doubt mean more to people who've read Herbert than to those who are walking in cold. It has to do with a young hero's personal quest. He leads his people against an evil baron and tries to destroy a galaxy-wide trade in spice, a drug produced on the desert planet. Spice allows you to live indefinitely while you discover you have less and less to think about. There are various theological overtones, which are best left unexplored.The movie has so many characters, so many unexplained or incomplete relationships, and so many parallel courses of action that it's sometimes a toss-up whether we're watching a story, or just an assembly of meditations on themes introduced by the novels (the movie is like a dream). Occasionally a striking image will swim into view: The alien brain floating in brine, for example, or our first glimpse of the giant sand worms plowing through the desert. If the first look is striking, however, the movie's special effects don't stand up to scrutiny. The heads of the sand worms begin to look more and more as if they came out of the same factory that produced Kermit the Frog (they have the same mouths). An evil baron floats through the air on trajectories all too obviously controlled by wires. The spaceships in the movie are so shabby, so lacking in detail or dimension, that they look almost like those student films where plastic models are shot against a tablecloth.Nobody looks very happy in this movie. Actors stand around in ridiculous costumes, mouthing dialogue that has little or no context. They're not even given scenes that work on a self-contained basis; portentious lines of pop profundity are allowed to hang in the air unanswered, while additional characters arrive or leave on unexplained errands. DUNE looks like a project that was seriously out of control from the start. Sets were constructed, actors were hired; no usable screenplay was ever written; everybody faked it as long as they could. Some shabby special effects were thrown into the pot, and the producers crossed their fingers and hoped that everybody who has read the books will want to see the movie. Not if the word gets out, they won't.Download here

Book of Swords, The (Action,Drama,Thriller)

Every generation has a legend...every legend has a hero...and every hero must fight!
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An Asian cop returns to Chicago to revenge his brother's death, only to come up against a psycho threesome on a killing spree.
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We Were Soldiers (Action,Drama,History,War)

400 U.S paratroopers. 4000 Vietnamese soldiers. 12 000 miles away from home. 1 man led them into battle.
Fathers, Brothers, Husbands & Sons.
We were... young, brave, husbands, wives, sons, mothers, daughters, soldiers.
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In a place soon to be known as The Valley of Death, in a small clearing called landing zone X-Ray, Lt. Colonel Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) and 400 young fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons, all troopers from an elite American combat division, were surrounded by 4,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. The ensuing battle was one of the most savage in U.S. history. We Were Soldiers Once...And Young is a tribute to the nobility of those men under fire, their common acts of uncommon valor, and their loyalty to and love for one another.
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'I wonder what Custer was thinking," Lt. Col. Hal Moore says, "when he realized he'd moved his men into slaughter." Sgt. Maj. Plumley, his right-hand man, replies, "Sir, Custer was a p----." There you have the two emotional poles of "We Were Soldiers," the story of the first major land battle in the Vietnam War, late in 1965. Moore (Mel Gibson) is a family man, and a Harvard graduate who studies international relations. Plumley (Sam Elliott) is an Army lifer, hard, brave, unsentimental. They are both about as good as battle leaders get. But by the end of that first battle, they realize they may be in the wrong war.The reference to Custer is not coincidence. Moore leads the First Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry, Custer's regiment. "We will ride into battle and this will be our horse," Moore says, standing in front of a helicopter. Some 400 of his men ride into battle in the Ia Drang Valley, known as the "Valley of Death," and are surrounded by some 2,000 North Vietnamese troops. Moore realizes it's an ambush, and indeed in the film's opening scenes he reads about just such a tactic used by the Vietnamese against the French a few years earlier."We Were Soldiers," like "Black Hawk Down," is a film in which the Americans do not automatically prevail in the style of traditional Hollywood war movies. Ia Drang cannot be called a defeat, since Moore's men fought bravely and well, suffering heavy casualties but killing even more Viet Cong. But it is not a victory; it's more the curtain-raiser of a war in which American troops were better trained and better equipped, but outnumbered, out maneuvered and finally outlasted.For much of its length, the movie consists of battle scenes. They are not as lucid and easy to follow as the events in "Black Hawk Down," but then the terrain is different, the canvas is larger, and there are no eyes in the sky to track troop movements. Director Randall Wallace (who wrote "Braveheart" and "Pearl Harbor") does make the situation clear from moment to moment, as Moore and his North Vietnamese counterpart try to outsmart each other with theory and instinct.Wallace cuts between the American troops, their wives back home on an Army base, and a tunnel bunker where Ahn (Don Duang), the Viet Cong commander, plans strategy on a map. Both men are smart and intuitive. The enemy knows the terrain and has the advantage of surprise, but is surprised itself at the way the Americans improvise and rise to the occasion."Black Hawk Down" was criticized because the characters seemed hard to tell apart. "We Were Soldiers" doesn't have that problem; in the Hollywood tradition it identifies a few key players, casts them with stars, and follows their stories. In addition to the Gibson and Elliott characters, there are Maj. Crandall (Greg Kinnear), a helicopter pilot who flies into danger; the gung-ho Lt. Geoghegan (Chris Klein), and Joe Galloway (Barry Pepper), a photojournalist and soldier's son, who hitches a ride into battle, and finds himself fighting at the side of the others to save his life.The key relationship is between Moore and Plumley, and Gibson and Elliott depict it with quiet authority. They're depicted as professional soldiers with experience from Korea. As they're preparing to ride into battle, Moore tells Plumley, "Better get yourself that M-16." The veteran replies: "By the time I need one, there'll be plenty of them lying on the ground." There are.Events on the Army base center around the lives of the soldiers' wives, including Julie Moore (Madeleine Stowe), who looks after their five children and is the de facto leader of the other spouses. We also meet Barbara Geoghegan (Keri Russell), who, because she is singled out, gives the audience a strong hint that the prognosis for her husband is not good.Telegrams announcing deaths in battle are delivered by a Yellow Cab driver. Was the Army so insensitive that even on a base they couldn't find an officer to deliver the news? That sets up a shameless scene later, when a Yellow Cab pulls up in front of a house and of course the wife inside assumes her husband is dead, only to find him in the cab. This scene is a reminder of "Pearl Harbor," in which the Ben Affleck character is reported shot down over the English Channel and makes a surprise return to Hawaii without calling ahead. Call me a romantic, but when your loved one thinks you're dead, give them a ring."We Were Soldiers" and "Black Hawk Down" both seem to replace patriotism with professionalism. This movie waves the flag more than the other (even the Viet Cong's Ahn looks at the stars and stripes with enigmatic thoughtfulness), but the narration tells us, "In the end, they fought for each other." This is an echo of the "Black Hawk Down" line, "It's about the men next to you. That's all it is." Some will object, as they did with the earlier film, that the battle scenes consist of Americans with killing waves of faceless, non-white enemies. There is an attempt to give a face and a mind to the Viet Cong in the character of Ahn, but significantly, he is not listed in the major credits and I had to call the studio to find out his name and the name of the actor who played him. Yet almost all war movies identify with one side or the other, and it's remarkable that "We Were Soldiers" includes a dedication not only to the Americans who fell at Ia Drang, but also to "the members of the People's Army of North Vietnam who died in that place." I was reminded of an experience 15 years ago at the Hawaii Film Festival, when a delegation of North Vietnamese directors arrived with a group of their films about the war. An audience member noticed that the enemy was not only faceless, but was not even named: At no point did the movies refer to Americans. "That is true," said one of the directors. "We have been at war so long, first with the Chinese, then the French, then the Americans, that we just think in terms of the enemy."Download here

Ring Around the Rosie (Horror,Thriller)

There Is Something To Fear!
They all fall dead.
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When the grandmother of the publicist Karin (Gina Phillips) dies, she inherits her property in the fields. She travels with her boyfriend Jeff (Randall Batinkoff) for the weekend, but she decides to stay along the week cleaning up the place and packing the stuffs. Karin has horrible nightmares and visions of ghosts of her past, while she stays in the house with the creepy housekeeper Pierce (Tom Sizemore) and her younger sister Wendy (Jenny Mollen).
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Who's Harry Crumb? (Comedy)

Nerves of steel. Body of iron. Brain of stone.
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Harry is the latest generation of the Crumbs, famous and extremely talented detectives. Unfortunately, talent seems to have skipped a generation, and Harry is reduced to "gumshoe" work at a remote branch of the Crumb detective agency. Back at headquarters, Crumb executive Elliot Draison hatches an evil plan, which requires the inclusion of an incompotent detective. With Harry Crumb on the case, Draison thinks everything will run fine for him. Despite his best efforts, Crumb actually makes some headway in the case...
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Be Cool (Comedy,Crime,Music)

Everyone is looking for the next big hit
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Streetwise mobster-turned-movie producer Chili Palmer is back, but this time Chili has abandoned the fickle movie industry and veered into the music business, tangling with Russian mobsters and gangsta rappers and taking a talented, feisty young singer named Linda Moon under his wing. From the recording studio to an Aerosmith concert to the MTV Music Awards, he manipulates events to watch them play out the Chili way, using his signature blend of wiseguy skills and negotiation tactics. It's a dangerous business, and everyone's looking for their next big hit.
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John Travolta became a movie star by playing a Brooklyn kid who wins a dance contest in "Saturday Night Fever" (1977). He revived his career by dancing with Uma Thurman in "Pulp Fiction" (1994). In "Be Cool," Uma Thurman asks if he dances. "I'm from Brooklyn," he says, and then they dance. So we get it: "Brooklyn" connects with "Fever," Thurman connects with "Pulp." That's the easy part. The hard part is, what do we do with it?

"Be Cool" is a movie that knows it is a movie. It knows it is a sequel and contains disparaging references to sequels. All very cute at the screenplay stage, where everybody can sit around at story conferences and assume that a scene will work because the scene it refers to worked. But that's the case only when the new scene is also good as itself, apart from what it refers to.

Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" knew that Travolta won the disco contest in "Saturday Night Fever." But Tarantino's scene didn't depend on that; it built from it. Travolta was graceful beyond compare in "Fever," but in "Pulp Fiction" he's dancing with a gangster's wife on orders from the gangster, and part of the point of the scene is that both Travolta and Thurman look like they're dancing not out of joy, but out of duty. So we remember "Fever" and then we forget it, because the new scene is working on its own.

Now look at the dance scene in "Be Cool." Travolta and Thurman dance in a perfectly competent way that is neither good nor bad. Emotionally they are neither happy or sad. The scene is not necessary to the story. The filmmakers have put them on the dance floor without a safety net. And so we watch them dancing and we think, yeah, "Saturday Night Fever" and "Pulp Fiction," and when that thought has been exhausted, they're still dancing.

The whole movie has the same problem. It is a sequel to "Get Shorty" (1995), which was based on a novel by Elmore Leonard just as this is based on a sequel to that novel. Travolta once again plays Chili Palmer, onetime Miami loan shark, who in the first novel traveled to Los Angeles to collect a debt from a movie producer, and ended up pitching him on a movie based on the story of why he was in the producer's living room in the middle of the night threatening his life. This time Chili has moved into the music business, which is less convincing, because while Chili was plausibly a fan of the producer's sleazy movies, he cannot be expected, 10 years down the road, to know or care much about music. Funnier if he had advanced to the front ranks of movie producers and was making a movie with A-list stars when his past catches up with him.

Instead, he tries to take over the contract of a singer named Linda Moon (Christina Milian), whose agent, Raji (Vince Vaughn), acts as if he is black. He is not black, and that's the joke, I guess. But where do you go with it? Maybe by sinking him so deeply into dialect that he cannot make himself understood, and has to write notes. Raji has a bodyguard named Elliot Wilhelm, played by The Rock. I pause here long enough to note that Elliott Wilhelm is the name of a friend of mine who runs the Detroit Film Theater, and that Elmore Leonard undoubtedly knows this because he also lives in Detroit. It's the kind of in-joke that doesn't hurt a movie unless you happen to know Elliott Wilhelm, in which case you can think of nothing else every second The Rock is on the screen.

The deal with The Rock's character is that he is manifestly gay, although he doesn't seem to realize it. He makes dire threats against Chili Palmer, who disarms him with flattery, telling him in the middle of a confrontation that he has all the right elements to be a movie star. Just as the sleazy producer in "Get Shorty" saved his own life by listening to Chili's pitch, now Chili saves his life by pitching The Rock.

There are other casting decisions that are intended to be hilarious. Sin LaSalle has a chief of staff played by Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000 of OutKast), who is a famous music type, although I did not know that and neither, in my opinion, would Chili. There is also a gag involving Steven Tyler turning up as himself.

"Be Cool" becomes a classic species of bore: a self-referential movie with no self to refer to. One character after another, one scene after another, one cute line of dialogue after another, refers to another movie, a similar character, a contrasting image, or whatever. The movie is like a bureaucrat who keeps sending you to another office.

It doesn't take the in-joke satire to an additional level that might skew it funny. To have The Rock play a gay narcissist is not funny because all we can think about is that The Rock is not a gay narcissist. But if they had cast someone who was also not The Rock, but someone removed from The Rock at right angles, like Steve Buscemi or John Malkovich, then that might have worked, and The Rock could have played another character at right angles to himself -- for example, the character played here by Harvey Keitel as your basic Harvey Keitel character. Think what The Rock could do with a Harvey Keitel character.

In other words, (1) come up with an actual story, and (2) if you must have satire and self-reference, rotate it 90 degrees off the horizontal instead of making it ground level. Also (3) go easy on the material that requires a familiarity with the earlier movie, as in the scenes with Danny DeVito, who can be the funniest man in a movie, but not when it has to be another movie than the one he is appearing in.Download here

What Women Want (Comedy,Fantasy,Romance)

He has the power to hear everything women are thinking. Finally... a man is listening.
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Nick, a somewhat chauvanistic advertising exec hot shot, has his life turned haywire when a fluke accident enables him to hear what women think. At first all he wants to do is rid himself of this curse, until a wacky psycologist (played to perfection by Bette Midler) shows him that this could be used to his advantage! His first target is Darcy McGuire, the very woman that got the promotion he wanted. But just as his plan is beginning to work, love gets in the way...
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What women want is very simple: A man willing to listen when they're speaking to him. They also want a lot of other things, but that will do for starters. This we learn from "What Women Want," a comedy about a man who is jolted by electricity and develops the ability to read women's minds.You would assume that this ability would make him the world's greatest lover, since he would know precisely what to do and when to do it, and indeed the movie's hero does triumph in that area, although not without early discouragements. (Extreme detumescence can result when a man discovers that during the throes of passion his lover is asking herself, "Is Britney Spears on Leno tonight?") Mel Gibson stars as Nick Marshall, an ad executive who thinks he's next in line for a top job at his Chicago agency. But his boss (Alan Alda) passes him over for Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt), a hot steal from another agency. Nick declares war at about the same time he develops the ability to read women's minds. His knack of stealing Darcy's best ideas is a dirty trick, but he's ambitious and shameless.He is also a man who needs to listen to women more. We learn he was reared in Las Vegas as the pampered child of a showgirl, and has been doted on by admiring females ever since--including, recently, the sexy Lola (Marisa Tomei), who works in the coffee store he patronizes. At work, two assistants (Valerie Perrine and Delta Burke) approve categorically of everything he does, but mind-reading reveals they never think about this. Many of the other women in the office, he is horrified to learn, pretend to like him but don't.Because he feels chastened, and because he wants to win a valuable advertising account, Nick starts a crash program to research being a woman. This leads him to experiment with lip gloss, eye shadow, pantyhose and defoliation, in scenes positioned somewhere between "Tootsie" and Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Junior." Amazingly, given the opportunities, Gibson, who's the king of the tush scenes, keeps his netherlands out of view during these adventures.It's clear that Nick and Darcy will sooner or later fall in love, I suppose, and that's a cinematic first: Although Gibson has been voted the World's Sexiest Man in one of those meaningless magazine polls, this is his first romantic comedy since "Bird on a Wire" (1990). He and Hunt are not a match made in heaven, but that's one of the appeals as they edge closer together. Less appealing is the way he dumps poor Lola (Tomei), who really deserves better.The movie, written and directed by Nancy Meyers, doesn't flow so much as leap from one good scene to another over the crevices of flat scenes in between. The movie is considerably slowed down by the unnecessary character of a suicidal file clerk, who does nothing of any interest until late in the movie, when Nick befriends her in a scene that serves no purpose, except to delay us on our way to the happy climax, which can be seen signaling eagerly from the next reel.If the movie is imperfect, it's not boring and is often very funny, as in a solo dance that Nick does in his apartment, to Frank Sinatra singing "I Won't Dance." This is, we imagine, the way the Tom Cruise character in "Risky Business" might have ended some of his evenings if he had grown up to be Nick Marshall. I also liked the way Gibson handled the sex scene, where his look of joy and complete self-satisfaction at the end is equaled only by Jack Nicholson's famous Triumph T-shirt moment in "Five Easy Pieces." Note: The look and feel of the movie is just right. The set for the ad agency's office is inviting and seems lived-in. Inspired by Chicago's 19th century Monadnock Building, it looks plausible as an ad agency headquarters and allows sight lines that are important to the action. Great work by production designer Jon Hutman, set decorator Rosemary Brandenburg and art directors Gae Buckley and Tony Fanning, and if you wonder why I list their names, you'll know when you see their work.Download here

Feast (Action,Comedy,Horror,Thriller)

They're Hungry. You're Dinner.
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Patrons locked inside of a bar are forced to fight monsters.
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By Roger EbertMorgan Freeman returns in "Feast of Love" as a wise counselor of the troubled and heartsick. Apart from his great films, of which there are many, this is almost his standard role, although he also seems to spend a lot of time playing God. Most of his insights seem not merely handed down the mountain, but arriving as a successful forward pass. At the beginning of the film, he gives us the ground rules: "They say that when the Greek gods were bored, they invented humans. Still bored, they invented love. That wasn't boring, so they tried it themselves. And then they invented laughter -- so they could stand it."

The Greek gods had one thing going for them. They were immutable. Zeus was always Zeus and Hera was always Hera, and they were always in character, always Zeuslike and Heraesque. In "Feast of Love," however, Freeman plays a professor named Harry Scott, forced to contend with confused lovers who don't know, or can't reveal, their own hearts.

He lives in Portland, in a long and happy marriage with Esther (Jane Alexander). Spare hours are spent in Jitters coffee shop, where his coffee cup is an omnipresent prop and useful timing device; sips punctuate his wisdom. The shop is owned by Bradley (Greg Kinnear), who thinks he is in love with his wife Kathryn (Selma Blair). But he is living in a fool's paradise, as Harry easily sees one evening when they all go to a bar after a women's softball game.

"I saw two women fall in love with one another tonight," he tells Esther when he gets home. Yes, he watched as Jenny (Stana Katic), a shortstop on the opposing team, put a quarter in the jukebox, a hand on Kathryn's leg and whispered, "from now on, that will be our song." Harry is bemused: "Bradley was sitting right there, and he didn't see a thing."

Bradley has blindness when it comes to women. He brings home a dog for Kathryn's birthday present, although she has told him time and again that she hates and fears dogs. Maybe there is a clue to their incompatibility when, during a forced visit to the animal shelter, she named this particular dog "Bradley."

This Bradley, he's a pushover. Next he falls in love with a real estate agent named Diana (Radha Mitchell), who walks into his shop on a rainy day. She smokes organic cigarettes. Those are the ones that kill you but don't support Big Tobacco. She's having a heartless, purely physical affair with the studly David (Billy Burke), who she has not quite broken up with. Bradley doesn't see this.

Meanwhile, Oscar (Toby Hemingway), the counterman in the coffee shop, falls in love with a girl who walks in one day and makes her love for him clear. This is Chloe (Alexa Davalos), who is good and true, but David has problems of his own. he lives with Bat (Fred Ward), his father, a drunk who staggers around so comically he looks like he thinks he's in a silent comedy, and lurks in the bushes brandishing a knife. No movie can be very good that contains Fred Ward's worst performance (it's the fault of the character, to be sure).

Have I left out any combinations? Only the doctor (Sherilyn Lawson) who bandages Bradley's finger after he cuts himself as punishment for losing Diana. All of these scenarios unwind under the thoughtful gaze of Harry, who returns with his nightly reports to Esther. They have had a wounding personal loss: an esteemed son, dead of an overdose. But Esther seems content to sit at home alone until such intervals as Harry can free himself from his coffee shop, park bench and other counseling stations.

There are some good things in the movie. Some scenes play well as self-contained episodes. The city of Portland is beautifully evoked. Jane Alexander and Morgan Freeman make a couple we love. Greg Kinnear raises fecklessness to an art. And there is a lot more nudity than you'd expect, if you like that sort of thing.

All of these stories are woven into a tapestry by director Robert Benton, working from a screenplay written by Allison Burnett, which is based on the novel by Charles Baxter. Benton has made better movies about doomed marriages ("Kramer vs. Kramer"), but this one has no organic reality, because it depends on three artifices: (1) the clockwork success and failure of relationships, (2) the need for Harry as a witness, (3) the lickety-split time span that compresses the action so much it loses emotional weight. Harry is always looking on as if he already knows how every story will turn out. We're looking on in exactly the same way.Download here

Hellraiser (Fantasy,Horror)

Demon to some. Angel to others.
He'll tear your soul apart.
It will tear your soul apart.
Satan's done waitin'.
There are no limits.
We have such sights to show you
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Clive Barker's feature directing debut graphically depicts the tale of a man and wife who move into an old house and discover a hideous creature - the man's half-brother, who is also the woman's former lover - hiding upstairs. Having lost his earthly body to a trio of S&M demons, the Cenobites, he is brought back into existence by a drop of blood on the floor. He soon forces his former mistress to bring him his necessary human sacrifices to complete his body... but the Cenobites won't be happy about this.
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"I have seen the future of the horror genre, and his name is Clive Barker." - Stephen KingNow there's a blurb Stephen King should have written under one of his pen names. He may have seen the future of the horror genre, but he has almost certainly not seen "Hellraiser," which is as dreary a piece of goods as has masqueraded as horror in many a long, cold night. This is one of those movies you sit through with mounting dread, as the fear grows inside of you that it will indeed turn out to be feature length.The story begins with the plight of Frank, a hapless explorer into unknown realms of existence, who buys a magic box from a magician. After the sides of the box are manipulated just so, Frank is hurtled into the sphere of the Cenobites, strange creatures who introduce him to unbearable pleasure and unspeakable pain. Then Frank apparently is reduced to some kind of residue in the flooring of an old house.The house is purchased by the Cottons, Larry and Julia, who move in with their daughter, Kirsty. This is some house. The kitchen sink is full of maggots devouring rotting flesh. Isn't the real estate agent supposed to tidy up details like that? But the Cottons buy the house anyway, maybe because there is no love in their marriage, and so this cheerless house seems like the ideal venue for decades of silent suffering and wordless blame.Then Larry cuts himself and his blood soaks into the floorboards, awakening the creature that awaits there. The creature turns out to be his brother, who once had an affair with Julia and hopes to have another just as soon as he can cannibalize enough innocent victims to put flesh back on his bones, which look like the handicraft of a special effects designer, as indeed they are.Frank sends Julia out to singles bars to pick up victims, so she can lure them upstairs and kill them and Frank can suck up their flesh and blood. He gradually fills out into a fairly plump creature, something like Page 3 of those transparent plastic body-part sheets they used to stitch into high school biology textbooks.Meanwhile, Larry and Kirsty eventually, after a long, long, long time, realize there is something amiss in the upstairs room. It is not such a large house that a whole room could easily be forgotten, especially when it contains a flesh-devouring incubus, but I have seen the future of implausible plotting, and his name is Clive Barker.Who goes to see movies like this? What do they get out of them? I like good horror movies because I enjoy being surprised (and sometimes even moved), but there are no surprises in "Hellraiser," only a dreary series of scenes that repeat each other. What fun is it watching the movie mark time until the characters discover the obvious? This is a movie without wit, style or reason, and the true horror is that actors were made to portray, and technicians to realize, its bankruptcy of imagination. Maybe Stephen King was thinking of a different Clive Barker.Download here

Whole Ten Yards, The (Comedy,Crime,Thriller)

They missed each other. This time, their aim is better.
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Thanks to falsified dental records supplied by his former neighbor Nicholas Oz Oseransky, retired hitman Jimmy The Tulip Tudeski now spends his days compulsively cleaning his house and perfecting his culinary skills with his wife, Jill, a purported assassin who has yet to pull off a clean hit. Suddenly, an uninvited and unwelcome connection to their past unexpectedly shows up on Jimmy and Jill's doorstep: it's Oz, and he's begging them to help him rescue his wife from the Hungarian mob. To complicate matters even further, the men, who are out to get Oz, are led by Lazlo Gogolak, a childhood rival of Jimmy's and another notorious hitman. Oz, Jimmy and Jill will have to go the whole nine yards—and then some—to manage the mounting Mafioso mayhem.
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Double Jeopardy (Crime,Drama,Mystery,Thriller)

Murder isn't always a crime.
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When Nick Parsons appears to be murdered his wife Libby is tried and convicted. Six years later Libby is paroled and with the help of Travis Lehman (her parole officer) she sets out to find her son and the truth behind the "murder".
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Some jerk sent me an e-mail revealing the secret of "Double Jeopardy." It's a secret the movie's publicity is also at pains to reveal. I know it's an academic question, but I'll ask it, anyway: Why go to the trouble of constructing a screenplay that conceals information if you reveal it in the ads? Once tipped off, are we expected to enjoy how the film tells us what we already know? If through some miracle you have managed to avoid learning anything about "Double Jeopardy," you might want to stop reading after my next sentence. This is the sentence, and it advises you: not a successful thriller, but with some nice dramatic scenes along with the dumb mystery and contrived conclusion; not the best film opening this weekend (that would be "American Beauty," or "Mumford," or, what the hell, give yourself a treat and go see "Genghis Blues").Now that the idealists have bailed out, the rest of us can consider "Double Jeopardy," which stars Ashley Judd as a woman named Libby, who thinks she is happily married until, and I quote from the first sentence of the Paramount press release, she is "framed for the murder of her husband." This is, come to think of it, not such a surprise anyway, considering that Judd is pure-faced and clear-eyed, and her husband is played as a weasel. When they go sailing and the Coast Guard finds her in a blood-soaked nightgown on a blood-smeared deck with a knife in her hand, we make an intuitive leap that she isn't a slasher. (The movie's trailer provides a helpful hint: "Libby Parsons is in prison for a crime she didn't commit!") The whole business of how she was framed, and how she tries to find her husband and regain custody of her child, is basically just red meat the director throws to the carnivores in the audience. You know and I know and anyone over the age of 10 knows that the movie is not going to end without that kid back in Libby's arms, probably with some heart-rending music. What makes the film interesting isn't the story, but a prison sequence and a relationship.Libby in prison is befriended by a couple of women prisoners, who killed their husbands, but are otherwise the salt of the earth. They create a nice dynamic. Not as realistic and evolved as Sigourney Weaver's startling jail scenes in the forthcoming "A Map of the Heart," but not bad for a genre picture. One of the prisoners gives her an interesting piece of legal advice: Since she has already been tried and convicted for the murder of her husband, she cannot be tried for the same crime twice. Therefore, "You can walk right up to him in Times Square and pull the [I must have missed a word here] trigger and there's nothing anybody can do about it." Caution, convicted killers: I am not sure this is sound legal advice. I believe the constitutional protection against double jeopardy has a couple of footnotes, and I urge you to seek legal advice before reopening fire. It's good enough for Libby, however, and when she gets out of prison, she determines to find her betraying louse of an ex-husband and their child.She's assigned to a halfway house, where her parole officer is a hard-bitten man of few and succinct words, played by Tommy Lee Jones. And their scenes together are good ones. When she feeds him the same heartfelt lines that worked with the parole board, he barks, as only Tommy Lee Jones can bark, "I'm not interested in your contrition. I'm interested in your behavior. Get out of here and behave yourself." How Jones and Judd find themselves underwater is a little unlikely, but so what. As you know from the ads, at one point she's handcuffed to a sinking car. At another point, a terrifying thing happens to her in a New Orleans cemetery. And there is a charity auction of society bachelors at which she makes some Hitchcockian moves. Someday you may have to rent the video and play it at slo-mo to figure out how everything happens in the big climax, but by then the movie is basically just housekeeping, anyway."Double Jeopardy" was directed by Bruce Beresford. He and Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones have all been involved in wonderful films in the past--films that expand and inspire, like "Tender Mercies" and "Driving Miss Daisy" (Beresford); "Ruby in Paradise" and "Normal Life" (Judd), and "The Executioner's Song" and "JFK" (Jones). This movie was made primarily in the hopes that it would gross millions and millions of dollars, which probably explains most of the things that are wrong with it.Download here

Steel Dawn (Action,Sci-Fi)

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Sleeper, The (Sci-Fi,Thriller)

One man must stop the ultimate assassin capable of entering peoples minds and killing them from within.
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In the 1990's, the CIA develops a small group of spies, referred to by the CIA as Sleepers, gifted with the ability to connect with other people in their dreams. This clandestine espionage group was used by the CIA to gather intelligence that would be otherwise impossible to obtain. The Sleeper Agents could enter the minds of world leaders in what is called the Dreamlink. The existence of this experimental program is known only to an elite few and was used only for espionage, until now. Someone within the NSA has learned of the Sleeper Program and has trained its own Sleeper Agent to be the ultimate untraceable assassin. No politician, scientist or business leader is safe.
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In a year when the Academy Award nominations are more diverse and international than ever before, it's anyone's guess who will win best picture. "Dreamgirls" garnered more nominations than any other movie, but was passed over for both picture and director.

But there are four categories that can be predicted with certainty -- best actress: Helen Mirren; supporting actress: Jennifer Hudson; best actor: Forest Whitaker, and supporting actor: Eddie Murphy. They have won almost every award, including the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Golden Globes. If any one of them doesn't snag the Oscar at the Feb. 25 ceremony, it will be an upset.


The world of the Academy Awards seems universally convinced that Forest Whitaker will take home an Oscar for "The Last King of Scotland." It would be well deserved, not only because Whitaker has a solid body of good acting behind him over the years, but because Oscar voters love it when actors remove themselves from the typecasting game and play a totally original character. Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator in "The Last King of Scotland," is such a character. Whitaker's performance somehow combines Amin's blend of cruelty and jovial good fellowship in the portrait of an extroverted madman.

Whitaker will win the Oscar, although there are strong contenders, including Will Smith in an affecting role as a homeless dad determined to raise his son in "The Pursuit of Happyness"; Ryan Gosling as a crack-smoking but well-meaning junior high school teacher in "Half Nelson," and Leonardo DiCaprio as a mercenary Rhodesian diamond smuggler in "Blood Diamond."

Oh, and I left for last the sentimental favorite: Peter O'Toole in "Venus." What a one-of-a-kind performance from this actor, whose work always finds a new place to start from. Playing an aging, decrepit, broken-down actor relegated to mostly corpse roles, his character stumbles into an unlikely love affair with a troubled young woman, and finds it is too much a test for his frayed libido. In generous close-ups and sad, weary monologues, he shares with her what he knows about life, which he has apparently found mostly in barrooms and Shakespeare. O'Toole is such an interesting actor, who seems to know so much more than he tells, or dares to tell. He got an honorary Oscar in 2003, but has never won a "real" one.

Still, it is Whitaker's performance that will bring home the Oscar gold. I have especially great affection for O'Toole's work here, so I'll split my ballet, with affection on both sides.

Prediction: Forest Whitaker
Preference: Peter O'Toole


The classic path to a Hollywood comeback is for a fading major star to find a great supporting role and work it for all it's worth. I predict that formula will win an Oscar for Eddie Murphy. Not many years after standing atop the box-office charts, Murphy became the victim of too many ego-generated projects and the enterprises of cronies.

Now, in Bill Condon's "Dreamgirls," Murphy forces Hollywood to take another long look at him. Bursting with what seems like fresh new talent, he plays James "Thunder" Early, a Motown star as a combination of James Brown and Jackie Wilson. Early gives a soul trio (think the Supremes) its start in show biz while fighting to preserve his own career. He's slick, extroverted, brimming with an inner joy (even in the sad scenes) because both he and his character know how good they are.

It would be an upset if anyone else wins this category. Yes, all four are worthy nominees -- (the most fun comes from veteran actor Alan Arkin as the earthy, foul-mouthed grandfather of a dysfunctional family in "Little Miss Sunshine"). Mark Wahlberg is compulsively watchable as a motormouth cop in the Scorsese film "The Departed." Jackie Earle Haley ventures far from earlier roles to play a pedophile in "Little Children" -- one of the least likable characters in recent movies. And Djimon Hounsou's portrayal of a proud, small-town fisherman in "Blood Diamond" is genuinely moving as he fights to regain his son from the reaches of a corrupt regime.

But Eddie Murphy wins the category, deserves to, and will be back in starring roles unless he continues to choose unfunny comedies done just for the money.

Prediction: Eddie Murphy
Preference: Eddie Murphy


In movies where a famous character is being portrayed, there is always the dramatic "reveal" moment when we see ... why, that's Warren Beatty! This moment will inspire reams of disposable prose about how much the performer playing the famous character does or does not resemble its real-life counterpart. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't, and most of the time it makes no difference to the success of the film."The Queen" is a movie in which Helen Mirren, a British actress of limitless skills, often seen as a very ordinary person, plays the Queen of England. The "reveal" is boldly stunning -- not a coy glance over a shoulder, but a straight-on head shot. She levels a steady gaze at the camera. It contains a vast self-confidence that she truly and deeply takes very seriously her role and responsibilities. It is the best performance by any actress this year and deserves the Academy Award. It embodies all of the ways in which she tells us who this queen is, and why she is so stubborn about holding the line against a state funeral for Princess Diana.There are four other notable nominated performances by actresses this year. Penelope Cruz embodied joy and fancy as a high-spirited woman who inherits the ghost of her own mother in "Volver." Judi Dench always great, doesn't disappoint as the ruthless and sly schoolmistress who discovers a new colleague is having an affair with a young boy -- and uses that information to advance her own erotic ambitions -- in "Notes on a Scandal." Meryl Streep was superb as a fashion editor of great ego and heartless ambition, whose career depends on cutthroat rivalry in "The Devil Wears Prada." And Kate Winslet gives an erotic performance as one of a group of suburbanites whose lives are played out in the playgrounds and bedrooms of their less than satisfied existences in "Little Children."All good movies, powerfully acted. One of the strongest actress categories in years. All deserving of the Oscar. But I will not soon forget Mirren's sober conviction that she and no one else is the Queen of England, and don't you forget it!Prediction: Helen MirrenPreference: Helen Mirren


It's not often that a movie audience breaks into spontaneous applause, but you're likely to hear it after Jennifer Hudson's solo in "Dreamgirls," and there's no doubt the audience is sincere. Jamie Foxx plays a music impresario loosely based on Berry Gordy Jr., explaining to Hudson's character, Effie White, why they are breaking up personally and professionally. Effie sees this not as a matter of business but of the heart. "And I'm telling you ... I'm not going!" she sings, in a broadside of talent and feeling and emotion. That moment isn't the only reason she'll win as best supporting actress, but it's a good one.Hudson's story is the kind beloved by movie audiences -- how she was voted off "American Idol" and now seems on the brink of an Oscar. And it's the kind of performance movies like this need to anchor its show-biz familiarities.Also nominated: Cate Blanchett, ethereal in her role of a teacher having an affair with her young student; Abigail Breslin as a smart, irrepressible offspring of a dysfunctional family in "Little Miss Sunshine" (she has her emotional hooks into everybody); Rinko Kikuchi, as a deaf grieving teenager in "Babel" whose life becomes a target in her world, and Adriana Barraza as the Mexican maid who becomes the victim of a border guard while returning from her son's wedding in "Babel." These latter two characters symbolize the way no one in "Babel" really seems to communicate. Hudson's character doesn't communicate very well with the others in her rags-to-riches story of three girls who become overnight singing stars in the 1960s. Maybe that's because she speaks with honesty and openness, and doesn't understand their lingo of ambition and career shortcuts. Not since Barbra Streisand's show-stopper "Don't Rain on My Parade" in "Funny Girl" has an actress brought a movie to a sudden, shuddering halt of emotion and applause. But Hudson does, showing the kind of talent she must have been born with.Prediction: Jennifer HudsonPreference: Jennifer Hudson


I've seen four of the five foreign film nominations this year and they are so gloriously diverse, hold such promise for the future that you could do worse than starting your Oscar viewing here. I'm predicting that Mexico's submission, Guillermo del Toro's brilliant "Pan's Labyrinth" will win this category -- not least because it is probably the most widely seen. The political fable of a young girl drifting between emotional times at home and a scary forest wonderland amidst the backdrop of Spanish fascism and war, it crosses the visual fancies of comic books, video games and graphic novels, combining them in a work stirred up from the depths of his soul.Consider also the other nominees, including Algeria's "Days of Glory" by Rachid Bouchareb. It involves young North Africans, mostly Algerians, who are required to leave home and family and fight for their French "homeland." After the war, their sacrifice is completely forgotten. Consider, too, Canada's submission, Deepa Mehta's "Water," the heartbreaking story of young brides, already widows, who are expected to live the remainder of their lives in solitude and involuntary labor. And also nominated from Germany is "The Lives of Others" by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Using long-secret files of the Stasi, the East German secret police, it shows lives being methodically destroyed by a sadistic bureaucracy.All four of the films I've seen (I have not seen "After the Wedding" from Denmark) are serious, focused, take their mission seriously. Any of them would be a worthy nominee. To choose one is not to choose against the others. But "Pan's Labyrinth" is fresh and innovative, and was rumored to be in the running for a best picture nomination. It is the one to beat.Prediction: "Pan's Labyrinth"Preference: "Pan's Labyrinth"


A dark, scary, visually inventive sleeper named "Monster House" came out of nowhere to become an artistic success. But it has no chance to win the Oscar ahead of "Cars," a bright and cheery story with a little something profound lurking around the edges. This Disney/Pixar production is smart in the way that its 1951 Hudson Hornet manages to look simultaneously like itself and Paul Newman. And I suspect the academy voters will agree with the picture's nostalgic look at the simplicity of the "good old days."Neither will "Monster House" win over another real sleeper, the unexpected "Happy Feet," which audiences loved for its heart and sentiment, not to mention its music and dancing penguins. Nevertheless, I don't predict these little penguins will waddle right up to the Oscar like "March of the Penguins" last year. I predict that the more mellow "Cars" will take home the gold. But I wish more people had seen "Monster House," the story of a group of children mesmerized by a seemingly intelligent haunted house.Prediction: "Cars"Preference: "Monster House"


Screenplays are the mysterious engines that lurk beneath a movie, often much edited, sometimes rewritten beyond recognition. But the general rule is, if it ain't on the page, it ain't on the screen. I haven't read one of the actual screenplays of any of the nominees, but how many Oscar voters will have? Nonetheless, that doesn't prevent me from predicting that Guillermo Arriaga's work for "Babel" will win this category. It will win in part because it generated the best movie, and in part because its great complexity and ingenuity takes on a dread fascination.Of the other nominees, isn't it a shame that the Academy Awards make no distinction between drama and comedy? Michael Arndt's work on "Little Miss Sunshine" uses inspired casting and Arndt's rapid-fire dialogue to create a comic gem. It's a story of a dysfunctional family driving cross-country to enter its beloved daughter in a beauty pageant. It has a lot of heart and soul, and is very funny. It deserves to compete in a separate category. Peter Morgan's "The Queen" not so much creates but evokes a convincing Queen Elizabeth. Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" is one of the most original fantasies since Grimm's Fairy Tales. Iris Yamashita's "Letters From Iwo Jima" hauntingly humanizes the Japanese soldiers fighting in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II and shows the chilling realism of that war.But the academy will honor "Babel," not only because of its complex achievement, but also because of the thought and care that went into it.Prediction: "Babel"Preference: "Babel"


I reviewed Martin Scorsese's first film in 1968, something I never tire of reminding patient readers. In the review, I predicted, essentially, that he would stand astride the film world in, oh, say, 10 years. And so he did. But where is the recognition? Where is the Oscar after 39 years?America's greatest director has been passed over time and again for the Academy Award. This time, with his popular "The Departed," I have a feeling he will finally win his golden trophy. It is only a feeling, an instinct, but let's see if I'm right. The movie returns to Scorsese's favorite subject, gangsters in America, and once again stars some of the most colorful of American actors, led by Jack Nicholson. And in its story of double identities, it is surprisingly entertaining. I admired all the other nominees, not least Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel." The mercurial young director moves far outside genre to portray a world where terrorism criss-crosses with crime and ordinary lives. I also admired Stephen Frears' "The Queen," with Helen Mirren's haunting portrait of Queen Elizabeth; Paul Greengrass' uncanny realism in "United 93 (which deserved the comparisons with a documentary), and Clint Eastwood's visionary, incredibly ambitious war drama, "Letters From Iwo Jima," which considered the bloody struggle from the Japanese point of view.But Eastwood has won twice in recent years, the others are less familiar to Oscar voters, and Scorsese's time has come around at last. And, to cement this, he recently won the Director's Guild Award. Prediction: Martin ScorsesePreference: For reasons of tact, I prefer not to reveal my preference.


Five films more different in style, subject and form would be hard to imagine, but here they are, the nominees for best picture. The daring, original "Babel" is thought to be the frontrunner, and I think deserves to be, but each of these movies is excellent in its own way. Rumor has it that "Little Miss Sunshine" is poised to be an upset winner, and in fact it won an ensemble SAG Award.Martin Scorsese has made better films than "The Departed," but then he has never made a bad film. The prospect of a great young director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, winning his first Oscar is matched by the possibility that Scorsese will win a much-delayed one. With the loss of Robert Altman, is any active director more senior and better than Clint Eastwood? And what a pure, stark war movie he has made in "Letters From Iwo Jima." His conception is so original -- two movies (the other is "Flags of Our Fathers"), one in English, one in Japanese. Both considering the same battle, both detached, low-key, lacking in action cliches. No movie is harder to make, in a technical sense, than a comedy. But what a priceless one Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have made in "Little Miss Sunshine." It has this combination of the transgressive and the risk-taking of this particular American genre, with Alan Arkin leading the parade as a vulgar but family-loving grandpa.And what an achievement from Stephen Frears in "The Queen," where Helen Mirren bares everything in an original closeup that asserts she "is" the Queen, not an imitator, but an embodiment.And yet Oscar voters often prefer serious, big-themed subjects of the kind seen in "Babel," a powerful group of international stories in which the secret human connections only gradually unfold. But the big upset could be "Little Miss Sunshine" because it touched something deep in the American psyche, and had people identifying with this odd family who pulls together when it matters the most.Prediction: "Babel"Preference: "Babel"


I have only once in my almost 40 years as a film critic written these words: "You owe it to yourself to see this film." That was the power of Al Gore's movie about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth." My review was divorced from politics or political leanings. It reflected the truth as I understood it, that global warming is real, and is partly caused by human activity. That view has just been ratified in a recent meeting of scientists. But aside from the content, the movie is well done cinematically. The other nominees: "Deliver Us From Evil," "Iraq in Fragments," "Jesus Camp" and "My Country, My Country."Download here

Ocean's Eleven (Comedy,Crime,Thriller)

3 Casinos. 11 Guys. 150 Million Bucks. Ready To Win Big?
Are You In Or Out?
Place your bets
They're Having So Much Fun It's Illegal.
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A gangster by the name of Danny Ocean (George Clooney) rounds up a gang of associates to stage heists of three major Las Vegas casino's (Bellagio, The Mirage, and the MGM Grand) simultaneously during a popular boxing event.
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Serious pianists sometimes pound out a little honky-tonk, just for fun. That's like what Steven Soderbergh is doing in "Ocean's Eleven." This is a standard genre picture, a remake of the 1960 Frank Sinatra caper, and Soderbergh, who usually aims higher, does it as a sort of lark. It's slick, all right: directors this good don't usually handle material this routine. It has yearnings above its natural level, as if hoping to redeem itself and metamorphose into a really good movie.The movie stars George Clooney, who can be powerfully impassive better than almost anybody, as Danny Ocean, fresh out of prison and eager for a new job. He's a smooth operator who, his parole board notes, figured in a dozen investigations where he was never charged. He contacts his old sidekick Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) with a scheme to steal millions from not one but three Las Vegas casinos. Amazingly, the movie specifies and shoots in real casinos (the Mirage, the MGM Grand and the Bellagio) and incorporates the destruction of the Desert Inn.Casing the job, Rusty sees the casino owner (Andy Garcia) with a woman he recognizes: Tess Ocean (Julia Roberts), Danny's ex-wife. "Tell me it isn't about her," Rusty begs Danny. Of course it is. Ocean wants to steal from his ex-wife's current lover and get her back again. They assemble a team, including Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Casey Affleck. I suppose there are 11 in all, although even during a long tracking shot I forgot to count.The outlines of a caper movie are long and well established: the scary external shot of the impenetrable targets; the inside information; the voice-over as we see guards going about their work, and the plan with the split-second timing. "Ocean's Eleven" even includes an elaborate full-scale mock-up of the strong room used by the three casinos, leading to such practical questions as, (1) Why does it need to be this elaborate? (2) How much did it cost? and (3) Who contracted it for them, or did they knock it together themselves overnight? The movie excels in its delivery of dialogue. The screenplay by Ted Griffin is elegantly epigrammatic, with dialogue that sounds like a cross between Noel Coward and a 1940s noir thriller.Roberts: "You're a thief and a liar." Clooney: "I only lied about being a thief." R: "You don't do that anymore?" C: "Steal?" R: "Lie." They do this so well I was reminded of the classic exchanges between Bogart and Bacall. And notice, too, the conversation involving Clooney, Roberts and Garcia, when the casino boss finds the ex-husband at Tess' table in the dining room. The two men of course despise one another, but are so smooth and cool we note it only in the precision of their timing and word choices, leading up to a final exchange in which Danny, leaving the table, says "Terry" in a way that uses the first name with inappropriate familiarity, and Terry responds "Danny" on precisely the same note.Brad Pitt has a nice dialogue passage, too, when he's briefing the Matt Damon character. The jargon is all about strategy and entirely in modern terms, but listen to the music instead of the words and you realize it's a riff on Hamlet's instructions to the players.As movie capers go, the specifics in "Ocean's Eleven" are not necessarily state of the art. I can think of more ingeniously executed plans, most recently in "The Score," but then this is not a movie about suspense but about suavity. Clooney and Roberts deliberately evoke the elegance of stars like Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, Garcia is as smooth, groomed, polished and tailored as George Raft, and the movie blessedly ends not with a shootout but with a complicated plot finesse. I enjoyed it. It didn't shake me up and I wasn't much involved, but I liked it as a five-finger exercise. Now it's time for Soderbergh to get back to work.[News] [Sports] [Business] [Showcase] [Classifieds] [Columnists] [Feedback] [Home] Copyright 2001, Digital Chicago Inc. Terms of Use & Privacy PolicyDownload here

Judge Dredd (Action,Crime,Sci-Fi)

In the future, one man is the law.
One man is Judge, Jury, AND Executioner.
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In a dystopic future, where urban areas have grown into megacities that cover entire coastal regions, the justice system has evolved to a single person invested with the power of police, judge, jury, and executioner: the Judge. Among the Judges of Mega-City One, Judge Dredd is one of the best, and a particular favorite of the Head of the Council, Judge Fargo. But there are evil forces at work in the Justice Dept: block riots and the escape of Rico, a homicidal maniac, are only steps in a plan that ultimately lead to the sentencing of Dredd for a murder he didn't commit. And Dredd must discover the secrets of his own past and survive to stop the evildoers.
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The first voice we hear in "Judge Dredd" belongs to James Earl (Darth Vader) Jones, reading the words that crawl up the screen, describing a future world in which most of the Earth is a wasteland, and humans huddle in closed, violent megacities. Jones' voice, along with the words crawling up the screen, are reminders of "Star Wars." The fact that he has to read them is a reminder that in 1977, when "Star Wars" came out, audiences didn't need to have them read. We are getting closer to the wasteland every day.The movie is based on a comic book series about that future time, when anarchy reigns, and the citizens massacre one another in "Block Wars," using machineguns to fight violent battles just for the fun of it, I guess, since the movie never really provides their motivation. The only force for law and order are the Judges - heavily armed and armored cops who double as judge and jury, and often execute criminals right on the spot.Dredd is played by Sylvester Stallone, who is ideal for a role like this because he's smart and funny enough to pull it off. The screenplay gives him little help, however, with a love interest (Diane Lane) who never really connects, a comic sidekick named Fergie (Rob Schneider) who seems badly out of tune, and a tag line ("I knew you'd say that") that doesn't exactly rank with "Make my day" or even "I'll be back." The special effects are messy and cluttered, but atmospheric; they show us a Megacity that looks like a cross between the cities in "Blade Runner" and "Total Recall," with buildings towering into the sky and gangs rumbling in the streets and helpful neon signs that say things like "Store." Judge Dredd and his partner Judge Hershey (Lane) patrol the streets and shoot it out with bad guys, and Dredd arrests Fergie for being in the apartment of some outlaws Dredd has just killed."But I had only been there five minutes!" Fergie cries."You could have jumped out of the window." "Forty floors up? That would be suicide!" "But it's legal," says Dredd, who is an unbending law enforcer until he, himself, is convicted of the murder of a TV newsman. How do they know he did it? Well, the guns of the future imprint each bullet with the DNA of the person who fired it, and so Dredd is shipped to Aspen Prison Colony. Then we learn from Senior Judge (Max von Sydow) that Dredd was cloned, and has an identical brother (Armand Assante) who could have supplied the same DNA. This is an angle the Simpson defense team shouldn't overlook.The movie cheerfully borrows from everywhere. Besides the movies already mentioned, it lifts bits of "Mad Max" and "The Hills Have Eyes" in a subplot involving the Angel family, who live in a cave in the hinterlands and barbecue their human victims. One of the Angel brothers has a dial implanted in his forehead, so his anger level can be adjusted. Nice touch. His IQ seems set on Defrost."Judge Dredd" never slows down enough to make much sense; it's a "Blade Runner" for audiences with Attention Deficit Disorder.Stallone survives it, but his supporting cast, also including an uninvolved Joan Chen and a tremendously intense Jurgen Prochnow, isn't well used. Only Assante, as the rogue Judge who frames his brother, holds up under the material, although the movie doesn't exploit the brother angle, maybe because that would have involved dialogue of more than one sentence at a time.Download here

Federal Protection (Action,Drama,Thriller)

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"Chop Chop" Frankie Carbone (Armand Assante) has made a career out of stealing cars for the mob in Chicago. An attempted assassination by a mob boss goes badly and Frankie retaliates, only to wind up in the hands of the Feds. Frankie agrees to testify against the mobsters and his life is suddenly worthless - unless he submits to going into federal protection. The FBI gives him a new name - Howard Akers - and relocates him to a sleepy middle-class suburb in Little Rock, AR. Howard catches the attention of his lovely neighbor, Leigh (Angela Featherstone), a bored fund-raiser for a non-profit zoo whose husband, Dennis (David Lipper), is having an affair - and she knows it, but she doesn't know it's with her hot-blooded sister, Bootsie (Dina Meyer). Leigh becomes friends with the enigmatic Howard, but Dennis and Bootsie see an opportunity to earn the million-dollar bounty the mob has put on his head by turning him in to the mob.
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Fatal Blade (Crime,Drama)

Law And Order Will Never Be The Same....
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East meets West as the Japanese Yakuza battle drug lords and the LAPD in the streets of Los Angeles...
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Cast Away (Adventure,Drama)

At the edge of the world, his journey begins.
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Hanks stars as Chuck Noland, a FedEx systems engineer whose personal and professional life are ruled by the clock. His fast-paced career takes him, often at a moment's notice, to far-flung locales - and away from his girlfriend Kelly, played by Helen Hunt. Chuck's manic existence abruptly ends when, after a plane crash, he becomes isolated on a remote island - cast away into the most desolate environment imaginable. Stripped of the conveniences of everyday life, he first must meet the basic needs of survival, including water, food and shelter. Chuck, the consummate problem solver, eventually figures out how to sustain himself physically. But then what? Chuck begins his true personal journey. After four years, fate gives Chuck a chance to fight his way back to civilization, only to find an unexpected emotional challenge greater than all the earlier physical ones. His ability to persevere and to hope are a product of his life-changing experience.
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Tom Hanks does a superb job of carrying "Cast Away" all by himself for about two-thirds of its running time, but isn't much helped by additional characters in the opening and closing sequences. Here is a strong and simple story surrounded by needless complications, and flawed by a last act that first disappoints us and then ends on a note of forced whimsy.Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a time-obsessed Federal Express executive who troubleshoots all over the world, arranging hurry-up package transfers in Moscow before flying off to solve problems in Asia. Helen Hunt plays his fiancee, Kelly Frears, who tries her best to accept a man ruled by a beeper. She comes from clock-watching stock, and for Christmas gives Chuck her grandfather's railroad watch.Noland hitches a ride on a FedEx flight across the Pacific, which is blown off course before crashing after an onboard explosion. That seems like two catastrophes when one would have done, but director Bob Zemeckis uses the storm for scenes of in-flight fear, wisely following Alfred Hitchcock's observation that from a suspense point of view, an explosion is over before you get your money's worth.Spoiler alert: If you have not seen ads for the movie, read no further.Noland survives the crash, and floats in a life raft to a deserted island. And . . . am I telling too much of the story? I doubt it, since the trailers and commercials for this movie single-mindedly reveal as much of the plot as they can, spoiling any possible suspense. Not only do they tell you he gets off the island, they tell you what happens then. What am I to do? Pretend you haven't seen the ad, or discuss what we all know happens? The early scenes are essentially busy work. Exotic locales like Moscow add a little interest to details about Noland's job. An airport farewell to the fiancee is obligatory, including the inevitable reassurances about how Chuck will be right back and they'll have a wonderful New Year's Eve. Then the crash.The movie's power and effect center on the island. Chuck, the time-and-motion man, finds himself in a world without clocks, schedules, or much of a future. There's something wonderfully pathetic about the way he shouts "Hello? Anybody?" at the sand and trees. Those are his last words for a time, as he tries to remember childhood lessons about firemaking and shelter construction. Then there's a four-year flash-forward and we see the formerly plump Chuck as a gaunt, skinny survivor. (Zemeckis shut down the movie while Hanks lost weight.) I find it fascinating when a movie just watches somebody doing something. Actual work is more interesting than most plots. Chuck splits coconuts, traps fish, builds fires, and makes use of the contents of several FedEx boxes that washed up with him (too bad nobody was mailing K-rations). And he paints a face on a volleyball and names it Wilson--a device which, not incidentally, gives him an excuse for talking out loud.Hanks proves here again what an effective actor he is, never straining for an effect, always persuasive even in this unlikely situation, winning our sympathy with his eyes and his body language when there's no one else on the screen.I liked every scene on the island and wanted more of them. There's a lovely moment when he squats on the ground, contemplating a crate that has washed up, and the shot is composed as homage to "2001: A Space Odyssey," Hanks' favorite film. I also liked the details of his escape. A shot of the giant bow of an ocean tanker, looming over his raft, could have been the setup for the movie to end. But no. As the trailers incredibly reveal, he returns home, where. . . .Well, I can't bring myself to say, just on the chance you're still reading and don't know. Let's say that the resolution of an earlier story strand is meant to be poignant and touching, but comes across flat and anticlimactic. And that the smile at the end of the film seems a little forced.I would have preferred knowing much less about "Cast Away" on my way into the theater. Noland's survival should be an open question as far as the audience is concerned. You might assume that the 20th Century Fox marketing department gave away the secrets over the dead body of director Zemeckis, but no: Zemeckis apparently prefers to reveal his surprises in the trailers. He got a lot of flak earlier this year when the ads for his previous film, "What Lies Beneath," let you know Harrison Ford was the bad guy, there was a ghost, etc. At that time he was quoted in David Poland's Web column: "We know from studying the marketing of movies, people really want to know exactly every thing that they are going to see before they go see the movie. It's just one of those things. To me, being a movie lover and film student and a film scholar and a director, I don't. What I relate it to is McDonald's. The reason McDonald's is a tremendous success is that you don't have any surprises. You know exactly what it is going to taste like. Everybody knows the menu." A strange statement, implying as it does that Zemeckis is a movie lover, student and scholar but that he doesn't market his movies for people like himself. This is all the more depressing since he usually makes good ones.Download here

Dreamcatcher (Drama,Fantasy,Horror,Sci-Fi,Thriller)

A circle of friendship. A web of mystery. A pattern of fear.
Catch The Nightmare.
Das Böse findet einen Weg (The evil finds a way)
Evil Slips Through
Four friends hung a dreamcatcher in their cabin. It's about to catch something it cannot stop.
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Four friends sruggling with life meet in the Maine woods for their annual hunting trip. When a stranger stumbles in to their camp disoriented mumbling things about lights in the sky the four friends put in a struggle with a psychotic army colonel and a being that has taken control of one of their minds.
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"Dreamcatcher" begins as the intriguing story of friends who share a telepathic gift, and ends as a monster movie of stunning awfulness. What went wrong? How could director Lawrence Kasdan and writer William Goldman be responsible for a film that goes so awesomely wrong? How could even Morgan Freeman, an actor all but impervious to bad material, be brought down by the awfulness? Goldman, who has written insightfully about the screenwriters' trade, may get a long, sad book out of this one.The movie is based on a novel by Stephen King, unread by me, apparently much altered for the screen version, especially in the appalling closing sequences. I have just finished the audiobook of King's From a Buick 8 , was a fan of his Hearts in Atlantis , and like the way his heart tugs him away from horror ingredients and into the human element in his stories.Here the story begins so promisingly that I hoped, or assumed, it would continue on the same track: Childhood friends, united in a form of telepathy by a mentally retarded kid they protect, grow up to share psychic gifts and to deal with the consequences. The problem of really being telepathic is a favorite science-fiction theme; if you could read minds, would you be undone by the despair and anguish being broadcast all around you? This is unfortunately not the problem explored by "Dreamcatcher." The movie does have a visualization of the memory process that is brilliant filmmaking; after the character Gary "Jonesy" Jones (Damian Lewis) has his mind occupied by an alien intelligence, he is able to survive hidden within it by concealing his presence inside a vast Memory Warehouse, visualized by Kasdan as an infinitely unfolding series of rooms containing Jonesy's memories. This idea is like a smaller, personal version of Jorge Luis Borges' "Library of Babel," the imaginary library which contains all possible editions of all possible books. I can imagine many scenes set in the Warehouse--it's such a good idea it could support an entire movie--but the film proceeds relentlessly to abandon this earlier inspirations in its quest for the barfable.But let me back up. We meet at the outset childhood friends: Henry Devlin, Joe (Beaver) Clarendon, Jonesy Jones and Pete Moore. They happen upon Douglas "Duddits" Cavell, a retarded boy being bullied by older kids, and they defend him with wit and imagination. He's grateful, and in some way he serves as a nexus for all of them to form a precognitive and psychic network. It isn't high-level or controllable, but it's there.Then we meet them as adults, played by (in order) Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Lewis and Timothy Olyphant (Duddits is now Donnie Wahlberg). When Jonesy has an accident of startling suddenness, that serves as the catalyst for a trip to the woods, where the hunters turn into the hunted as alien beings attack.It would be well not to linger on plot details, since if you are going to see the movie, you will want them to be surprises. Let me just say that the aliens, who look like a cross between the creature in "Alien" and the things that crawled out of the drains in that David Cronenberg movie, exhibit the same problem I often have with such beings: How can an alien that consists primarily of teeth and an appetite, that apparently has no limbs, tools or language, travel to Earth in the first place? Are they little clone creatures for a superior race? Perhaps; an alien nicknamed Mr. Gray turns up, who looks and behaves quite differently, for a while.For these aliens, space travel is a prologue for trips taking them where few have gone before; they explode from the business end of the intestinal track, through that orifice we would be least willing to lend them for their activities. The movie, perhaps as a result, has as many farts as the worst teenage comedy--which is to say, too many farts for a movie that keeps insisting, with mounting implausibility, that it is intended to be good. These creatures are given a name by the characters that translates into a family newspaper as Crap Weasels.When Morgan Freeman turns up belatedly in a movie, that is usually a good sign, because no matter what has gone before, he is likely to import more wit and interest. Not this time. He plays Col. Abraham Kurtz, hard-line military man dedicated to doing what the military always does in alien movies, which is to blast the aliens to pieces and ask questions later. This is infinitely less interesting than a scene in King's Buick 8 where a curious state trooper dissects a bat-like thing that seems to have popped through a portal from another world. King's description of the autopsy of weird alien organs is scarier than all the gnashings and disembowelments in "Dreamcatcher." When the filmmakers are capable of the first half of "Dreamcatcher," what came over them in the second half? What inspired their descent into the absurd? On the evidence here, we can say what we already knew: Lawrence Kasdan is a wonderful director of personal dramas ("Grand Canyon," "The Accidental Tourist," "Mumford"). When it comes to Crap Weasels, his heart just doesn't seem to be in it.Download here

Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (Action,Comedy)

Detective Joe Bomowski's mom is in town for a visit. She did the laundry, washed the windows and scrubbed the floors. Now, she's gonna clean up the streets.
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A tough detective's mother comes to visit him, and promptly starts trying to fix up his life, much to his embarrassment. For his birthday she buys him a machine gun out of the back of a van, and begins to further interfere with his job and love life, eventually helping him with a case he's on.
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EuroTrip (Adventure,Comedy)

No actual Europeans were harmed in the making of this film.
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When Scotty's German online pen pal suggests they meet, he initially freaks out. But then he discovers that she's gorgeous, and heads out with three friends after graduation to meet her. As they travel across Europe, the four friends have comical misadventures.
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Q. Not so much a question, but a statement from someone on the other side of the counter. I'm a manager at a "chain" theater. I can no longer count on my fingers and toes the number of times that I and my employees have been berated by parents, because we would not sell their under-17 children tickets to "Kill Bill" or "Eurotrip" or "The Punisher" or some other movie that the parents don't want to "have to watch." Some parents just don't care if their kids watch R-rated movies. Some even create their own R-rated dialogue at the theater over the inconvenience of having to buy their children's tickets and escort them to the auditorium.I realize that the R-card is really just symbolic, because kids without it will still just try to sneak in like they do now. It will, however, give that theater's employees an alternative to give to some of their unhappy customers.Name withheld, Oregon

A. I got a lot of mail from readers unhappy with my comments about the "R card," which a theater chain in Downstate Illinois is introducing. Parents can sign a form authorizing their under-17 children to see R-rated movies, and then the kids are issued an ID with their photo on it. "The worst idea I've ever heard," ratings czar Jack Valenti told me."Isn't the R-card the same as what Blockbuster and Hollywood video do?" asks Christopher Roberts of Dayton, Ohio. "When you have your children put on your card, you can approve them to see anything they want or exclude them from R-rated rentals. Certain R-rated movies should be seen by teens ("Blue Car," for example). The R rating seems almost arbitrary anyway, since the MPAA doesn't have a usable adults-only rating and any kid can purchase a PG-13 ticket and walk into an R-rated movie."

And Jeffrey Perkins of Chicago writes: "I am the father of a very mature 16-year-old, and there are plenty of R-rated movies that I think he should be permitted to see, but I simply do not have the time to take him to all the ones he desires to view. The R-card is a great way for us to be able to parent our kids without the oppressive rules of the MPAA."Download here

Dead Calm (Horror,Thriller)

A Voyage Into Fear.
High Seas. Deep Terror.
In the middle of nowhere there is nowhere to hide.
Try To Stay Calm.
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A married couple sail the Pacific Ocean to forget a tragic accident. After a month at sea, they sight a mysterious yacht and are boarded by its lone surviving crew member. When the husband discovers the yacht's terrible secret, the crewman goes wild, kidnapping his wife and taking his ship. Terror on the high seas is center stage as the husband fights to keep the mystery yacht afloat and his wife battles the psychotic who's assumed control of their ship.
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The key image of "Dead Calm" is of two ships drawing near each other in the middle of a vast, empty expanse of ocean. The emotions generated by this shot, near the beginning of the film, underlie everything that follows, making us acutely aware that help is not going to arrive from anywhere, that the built-in protections of civilization are irrelevant and that the characters will have to settle their own destinies.On board a sailing yacht are a married couple who hope that the cruise will help them deal with the death of their son. On board the other ship - a sinking schooner - is a young man who seems to be the only survivor from a tragic incident of food poisoning. He jumps into a lifeboat and rows for his life toward the yacht, where he is taken aboard. The husband, curious, goes to inspect the schooner, leaving his wife alone with the castaway, who of course turns out to be a homicidal killer.Almost the entire movie involves these three characters in a violent game of psychological strategy. Sam Neill stars as the husband, who is stranded on the sinking ship when the killer sails away. Nicole Kidman is the wife, who has to outsmart and outfight the madman. And Billy Zane is the killer, wild-eyed and off-balance. The plot splits into two for most of the movie, with the woman on board the yacht with the killer, while her husband finds himself trapped in the hold of the sinking ship with the water rapidly rising above nose level. The counterpoint is effective.A plot like this is probably impossible without two ancient movie traditions, the Talking Killer and the Undead Dead. Time and again in the movie, the story would be over if someone - anyone - simply pulled the trigger. There is a moment when the wife temporarily has the upper hand against this madman who has assaulted and beaten her and left her husband to drown, and what does she do? She ties him up! And with the knot in front, too - where he can get at it. Later in the film, after he appears to be dead, he reappears, of course, and has to be fought a second time.And yet "Dead Calm" generates genuine tension, because the story is so simple and the performances are so straightforward. This is not a gimmick film (unless you count the husband's method of escaping from the sinking ship), and Kidman and Zane do generate real, palpable hatred in their scenes together.Note: The film is based on a 1963 novel by Charles Williams, which inspired an ill-fated Orson Welles project that was suspended in 1970 and then abandoned in 1973 with the death of his leading man, Laurence Harvey. I haven't read the novel, but the story is worthy of a robust craftsman like John D. MacDonald - all except for the unnecessary prologue in the hospital, which he would have junked.Download here

Rat Race (Adventure,Comedy)

563 miles. 9 people. $2 million. 1001 problems!
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A group of billionaires led by a Las Vegas casino owner (John Cleese) search for things to bet on. They decide to pull a group of six strangers together to race from Vegas to Silver City, New Mexico to retrieve $2 million hidden in a locker. First one there gets all of the money. The first team are two addled brothers (Seth Green and Vince Vieluf, who talks indecipherably because of a newly pierced tongue). When they cannot catch a plane, they plot to destroy an airport control tower in a very funny sequence. Their antics carry them into a hot air balloon chase that catches a cow with a dangling rope and into a monster truck competition. The second team is an estranged mother (Whoopi Goldberg) reunited with her daughter (Lanai Chapman), who is struggling to start a business. They face an insane squirrel-selling woman (Kathy Bates) and steal a rocket car scheduled for a land speed record attempt. A hated NFL referee (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is stranded in the desert by an irate cabbie (Paul Rodriguez) and hijacks a busload of Lucille Ball look-alikes on the way to a convention. The Jewish family man (Jon Lovitz) on a family vacation joins the race without telling his wife (Kathy Najimy) why they are rushing across the country. When his daughter insists on stopping at a Barbie museum, it is without realization that it is the Klaus Barbie Nazi Museum. The escape from that location involves the theft of Hitler's personal touring car and culminates with Lovitz having his tongue burned and accidentally crashing into a WWII Veteran's convention. A narcoleptic Italian (Rowan Atkinson in his best Mr. Bean-like manner) gets a ride with an ambulance driver (Wayne Knight), who is carting a human heart for a transplant. Through various ineptitude, the heart ends up flying out of the truck's window and the two have to recover it from a playful dog. The final race member (Breckin Meyer) is a straight-laced future lawyer who at first declines to participate in the race, but re-thinks his position after he meets a smart, beautiful woman (Amy Smart) who is flying a helicopter to New Mexico. He quickly finds out that she is unbalanced after she flies over her boy friend's house and starts an attack on the boy friend when she sees him in the pool with an ex-girl friend. An air pursuit results in the crash of the helicopter. Dave Thomas also appears as Cleese's humorless attorney.
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Teresa works as a frozen-chicken packer, wrapping the giblets in plastic and shoving them back where they came from. Elaine is out of work. They hang out together in the working-class pubs down by the docks of Liverpool, and although they are not exactly criminals, they aren't above sweet-talking a drunken businessman until they can finger his wallet. On weekends, they look for a break in the monotony. And one night, while drinking up Teresa's earnings from the chicken factory, they pick up a couple of Russian sailors.One of them, Sergei, is interested in one thing only - sex - and that's what Teresa's looking for, too. Teresa is a faded blond with a big personality and a certain desperation. The other sailor, Peter, seems different: quieter, somehow, and more sincere. That appeals to Elaine. After a night of pub-crawling, Teresa pays for rooms in a waterfront hotel, and while she and Sergei party in their room, Elaine and Peter talk all night long. Something unexpected has happened: They have fallen in love.And that is the premise of "Letter to Brezhnev," another one of those small-scale, intensely human movies that have come out of England in the last few years. Like "Mona Lisa," it was financed by Channel 4, the British TV operation that is open to unusual projects such as this.The movie doesn't have big stars, it doesn't have an earthshaking story to tell and it's not ashamed of its Liverpool accents; in fact, it's proud of them.The relationship between Elaine and Peter is one of those all-night moments of truth that we all have, from time to time, when we are suddenly seized with the conviction that the person we have just met is the one person in all the world who can understand us the best.Talk becomes more important than anything else; the most passionate hunger is not for sex but for understanding. Giant truths are exchanged about the stars, about time, about the nature of life. The two personalities line up side by side and face all of the rest of the world, united by truth.Alas, few of these moments of instant communication last very long. It is always easier to agree about the nature of the galaxies than about everyday matters. But Elaine and Peter believe they will be different, and in the cold light of morning they pledge to love each other forever and, someday, to get married. Then Peter gets back on his ship and sails back to Russia and Elaine waits for word about their wedding plans.If this were an ordinary story, that would be that. Peter would never be heard from again, Elaine's memories would quietly fade and life would go on. But Elaine is more stubborn than that. Her life has been changed by the meeting with Peter, and she remains faithful to the spirit of that night. When no word comes, she takes matters into her own hands and writes a letter to Leonid Brezhnev, then the Soviet leader, asking to be reunited with the man she loves. The response (somewhat improbable, I agree) is a ticket to Moscow.Should she go? Can she be happy in Russia where she will always be an outsider and where Peter's work will keep him at sea for long periods of time? Does it matter if she will be happy? She has nothing now, she says, and if she does not take a chance, she will never have anything. This is as far as her thinking goes, but it is far enough."Letter to Brezhnev" is strong because it is simple. It is not really about romance at all. It is about how idealism can be a way of escaping from the rat race. It is about a young woman with the courage to try something dramatic to break out of the trap she's in. It is also about a brave new tradition in British filmmaking, in which the heroes are ordinary people, seen with love.Download here

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