Severance

The production notes for the horror film, Severance, are a mutual asskissfest, outrageous even by Industry standards. The principals, director/co-writer Christopher Smith and collaborator James Moran, high-concept (and high-five) the film as "'The Office' meets Deliverance". Catchy, but no cigarillo. I've never watched 'The Office', but mentioning Deliverance in the same sentence as this clumsy mix of dry British humor and bloody gore insults the fine 1972 film that made Appalachia a must-visit place for urban business types.

Black Book

Black Book is director Paul Verhoeven’s first Dutch film since 1977, when he left Holland for Hollywood and directed films ranging from the highly entertaining Robocop to the embarrassing Showgirls, which Janet Maslin of the New York Times memorably described as a “bare-butted bore”. Verhoeven hasn’t had a critically successful film since 1997.

Factory Girl

Lou Reed, who was generous enough to sell the rights to the use of his music for a reported $300,000, nonetheless referred to the script as garbage and the participants as whores. I wouldn’t go that far with the whores thing, but the script is extremely poorly written. The film strives for a semidocumentary quality, with an attempt to portray the atmosphere at Warhol’s studio, The Factory, populated as it was with a glorious mosaic of so-called superstars, assorted wannabes, druggies, hustlers, and hangers-on.

Edmond

Edmond, featuring the incomparable William H. Macy in the title role, is an epic centered around yet another dullish, middle-aged suit who decides to take a walk on the wild side. So what do we know about Edmond at the outset? He's a middle manager at some company who looks like he's dead on the inside. He gazes wistfully at young lovers in the street, visits a fortune teller who's not where he's meant to be, heads home, and gives his wife some bad news.

Loverboy

Loverboy is a vanity project to the extreme. Not only does it star Mr. Bacon's wife, Kyra Sedgwick, but it features most of their immediate family, including (no kidding) the dog, and several well-known names (friends of Bacon?) in cameos. Based upon the award-winning novel by Victoria Redel, a poet, the film tells the disturbing story of Emily Stoll, (Sedgwick). Emily is the daughter of Marty (Bacon) and Sybil (Marisa Tomei), a couple so absorbed in each other and distant from their child that she later decides that she doesn't want a husband.

Napoleon Dynamite - Like, the Best Special Edition Ever!

Napoleon Dynamite, set in a small town in Idaho, could very well take place in an alternate universe populated by some of the most unique and memorable eccentrics one could imagine. The title character, a mouth-breathing high school nerd who sports parachute pants, moon boots, and a peculiar stoicism in the face of humiliation and failure, has the rare capacity to annoy, exasperate, and ultimately touch those he shares his strange world with. His journey, fraught with pitfalls many of us have encountered in our teen years, is well worth hitching our star to.

District B13

District B13, the newly-released 2004 French action flick, covers familiar ground, but with speed, style, and parkour. What the heck's parkour? It's the art of navigating urban spaces fast and gracefully, by running, jumping, and climbing, in order to overcome physical obstacles in the quickest and most direct manner. It was developed by David Belle, the stuntman/actor who plays Leito, an anti-drug vigilante who lives in District B13.

Capote

Capote, starring Best Actor Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, tells the story of the writing of In Cold Blood, Truman Capote's most famous and successful work, a "nonfiction novel" that gave birth to New Journalism. His research and writing took six years and the book made Capote the most famous writer in the world.

The Proposition

It's clear to me that a lot of thought and care went into the making of The Proposition. Unfortunately, the film doesn't quite work as drama, since the conflict is between people whose horrific behavior is not explained or tempered by any knowledge of their personalities or backgrounds. If you're going to sell me on the concept of honor among thieves and cold-blooded murderers, you're going to have to do a lot better than this.

Winter Passing

Legendary producer Sam Goldwyn supposedly said, in reference to movies with a message, "If you want to send a message, call Western Union". The writer-director of Winter Passing, playwright Adam Rapp, might well have heeded that warning. Take the film's poster: "Sometimes you go looking for what you want and find what you need." Next, check out the trailer: "Sometimes the hardest journey you can take is the one that takes you"... "Sometimes the people you need the most are the ones you know the least." Get the message?"

In Her Shoes

Someone once said that a giraffe looks like it was designed by a committee. In Her Shoes, the latest film from director Curtis Hanson, is a cinematic giraffe: its parts don't fit together, it's awkward, and it overreaches. It's the story of two very different Philadelphia sisters. Rose Feller, played by Australian Toni Collette , is a successful, somewhat frumpy and overweight lawyer whose yearning for a relationship is evidenced by her compensatory indulgence in ice cream and shoes.

Curious George

Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! The makers of Curious George, the new animated film based on the classic children’s books by H.A. Rey, have pulled it off. Unlike so many similar efforts, it enhanced, rather than spoiled, my memories of those funny, colorful books first published in 1941 and still immensely popular today.

Why We Fight

The creators of Why We Fight make an effort to be even-handed. Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, sometimes known as "the velociraptor", and Dick Cheney speak up for the right, Gore Vidal for the elitist left. I couldn't help thinking that when he grandiloquently stated that Americans forget history and can't remember anything before Monday morning, that Vidal might have been referring to a personal weekend tete a tete with a fine vintage.

Hostel

Hostel, the new horror film directed by Eli Roth and "presented" (read flacked) by Roth's mentor/gray eminence Quentin Tarantino, is likely to do for Slovakia what Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat character did for Kazakhstan: provoke diplomatic outrage. Slovak men are portrayed as either Crayola-necked geeks or massive brutes, "wild and crazy guys" who say things like, "I am king of the swing" and "Chill out, man, you're on wacation".

The Producers (2005)

Robin Williams once said, “When in doubt, go for the dick joke”. The Producers, the film remake of the play based on the 1968 Mel Brooks classic, contains six dick jokes and six good laughs. The advance hoopla for the film generated great expectations, but Producers amounts, in the end, to mucho doo-doo about nothing.

Memoirs of a Geisha

The characters are poorly developed and the story suffers for it. Against a backdrop of majestic scenery struts a cavalcade of cliches. Hearts die a slow death, hope is shed like leaves, and now, please stop me before I go into sugar coma! As an additional treat, we're fed the samurai-lite point of view. Nobu (Koji Yakusho), the danna (sugar daddy) of geishas, intones, "Three things matter in life: sumo, business, and war. Understand one and you know them all." Substitute football for sumo, and I'm right there with you, man!

Wolf Creek

The red earth, the wide-open skies, a drop of dew that could just as well be the sweat of three terrified travelers, a road sign shot-through by a bullet. Objects, like a dead-looking hand that still harbors life, are not what they seem, and, of course, neither is Mick Taylor. He proves to be a psychopath for whom mutilation and murder, triggered by a desire for intimacy with people's blood and guts, have a quasi-sexual attraction.

The Edukators

Berliners Jan (Daniel Bruhl of Goodbye Lenin) and Peter (Croatian-born Stipe Erceg) have been friends for fifteen years. Now in their twenties, they spend their nights cruising the city in a van packed with surveillance gear. Their brand of political action is to scope out the residences of the rich and break into them. They are the "Edukators", and they aim to make their victims very, very uncomfortable: not by stealing from them, but by scaring them out of their fat-cat complacency. Harmless fun? Wait and see.

The Dukes of Hazzard

Jessica Simpson, as Daisy, doesn't come off as just stupid. She comes off as super duper stupid, Six Flags over stupid. Now, you might be thinking, so what, the Daisy character is supposed to be stupid. Okay, but to play stupid convincingly you have to be able to act. Oops! When given a few lines of dialogue between jiggles, Simpson jerks her head spastically while grinning like a giant smile button. Wait: I've seen this Tourettes-like thing before. Jessica's been taking acting lessons from J-Lo!

Pulse (Kairo)

The film has an overall coldness to it. We learn next to nothing about the characters, so there's nobody to root for. Visually, the film is interesting. Kurosawa makes good use of dim lighting, shadows, and even an opaque shower curtain to enhance the sense of alienation, separateness, and strangeness that the film, in its better moments, conveys. The director has said that, at the time the film was made, the internet was much younger and less familiar. That, perhaps, makes the use of computers and the net as conduits for the supernatural a bit old-hat today, and lowers the scariness quotient to about two boos on a scale of five.

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