District B13

What’s even more impressive is that 90% of the acrobatics were performed without the aid of wires, CGI, or any other special effects, adding a bone-crunching element of realism to some astonishing chop-socky moments. Mix in a thumping techno soundtrack and you’ve got yourself an eye-popping, pulse-pounding adrenaline fest timing in at a brisk 85 minutes.

Crank

Jason Statham’s new action pic Crank wasn’t made available to critics prior to its release. Big shock. After enduring all 87 excruciating minutes of this mean-spirited, blood-drenched Mountain Dew commercial masquerading as a motion picture, I wished that the studio had the courage to do the right thing, and not make it available to audiences either. In fact, if you had the choice of doing “crank” or seeing the film Crank, I’d strongly suggest the former as a more productive use of your time.

Keeping Mum

A black comedy with very little bite, Niall Johnson’s Keeping Mum boasts a charming cast and a devilish premise that never quite delivers anything more than the occasional chuckle. For all the talent involved, the end result is but a trifle, an unassuming little folly as quaint as the idyllic English countryside in which it’s set. Plagued by languid pacing and a script too timid for its subject matter, the film tries to be subversive but just ends up being cute, and that’s its kiss of death.

Kicking and Screaming

Fans of Kicking and Screaming will be elated to know that it’s finally available on DVD in a striking new digital transfer from the Criterion Collection. And no, this isn’t the Will Ferrell/Robert Duvall soccer misfire. I’m talking about Noah Baumbach’s wryly funny, quietly affecting directorial debut about postgraduate angst and romantic uncertainty among a tight-knit group of college friends.

Double Indemnity

To say that Double Indemnity had an influence on subsequent crime films of the ‘40s and ‘50s would be a gross understatement – it is the mother of all film noir, giving birth to a litter of unholy offspring, none of whom ever quite achieve its fiendish perfection. To be fair, the genre produced a wealth of great films, including two more from Wilder himself (The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard), but this is the one by which all others are measured.

Akeelah and the Bee

This is the dog-eat-dog world of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a nerve-wracking endurance test of a brave and brilliant group of youngsters, made newly popular by ESPN telecasts and the riveting 2002 documentary Spellbound. Doug Atchison’s triumphant Akeelah and the Bee captures the inherent drama of the competition from a fresh new perspective, one that will have you wanting to stand up and cheer by story’s end.

Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector

Faced with the daunting task of finding just the right material for the man who cursed the world with maybe the single most annoying catchphrase of all time, the filmmakers stunningly achieve new comedy lows with Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, now available on DVD. What were you expecting - Larry the Cable Guy: Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist?

The Descent

Never has my bucket of popcorn looked more interesting than in the last grueling half of Neil Marshall’s unbearably tense and bloody The Descent, a nasty piece of horror filmmaking from across the pond that will do for cave exploration what Jaws did for ocean bathing. An all-female spelunking trip in Appalachia soon goes horribly awry as six friends discover to their dismay that they’re not alone in the murky depths of a previously uncharted cave.

The Ant Bully

Hey kids! Raise your hands if you’ve been dying to see yet another computer-animated depiction of anthropomorphized insects crawl across the big screen. Anyone? Anyone? Not interested? Didn’t think so. Just in case A Bug’s Life and Antz hadn’t exhausted all the available material that could be mined from the world of creepy-crawlies, Warner Brothers and Tom Hanks bring us the adequate but unremarkable The Ant Bully, based on the book by John Nickle. Even the considerable voice talents of a veritable murderers’ row of Oscar winners and nominees do little to elevate this midsummer retread above the ranks of straight-to-video fare.

Tsotsi

I really wanted to like this morality tale of redemption and self-discovery set in the slums of Johannesburg, South Africa, but for a variety of reasons it failed to resonate. The Academy loves a socially conscious film like this with its recognizable character arcs and gritty depiction of Third World squalor, so it’s no surprise that it took home the prize.

A Scanner Darkly

Is it: a nightmarish Orwellian vision of the not-so-distant future where privacy is a cherished relic of the past? A harrowing tale of addiction and its consequences that rises above the typical cautionary tale? A collection of deep philosophical discussions about the nature of identity and reality wrapped inside a noir-ish mystery plot? A gut-busting comedy filled with the drug-addled digressions and bumbling antics of Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson? An animation marvel that produces a living, breathing graphic novel (in some ways more successfully than Sin City) in which we experience firsthand the hallucinatory visions of the hopeless addict? If you answered “All of the above”, you’d be correct.

Marie Antoinette

This follow-up to the widely acclaimed Lost in Translation stars Kirsten Dunst in a role she was born to play as the Austrian princess whisked off to Versailles at the tender age of 14 to marry Louis XVI, played with off-kilter charm by the always interesting Jason Schwartzman. The film had quite a polarizing effect on critics after its premiere in France, eliciting a mixture of boos and wild applause, and will likely produce a similar result when it opens in the States on Oct. 13.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story

In the mood for a fiendishly clever and frequently hilarious film-within-a-film that breaks all conventional cinematic boundaries? Try Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story. Faced with the daunting task of adapting Laurence Sterne’s “unfilmable” comic novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Winterbottom simply opts not to. What appears to be an 18th century comedy of manners quickly morphs into an insider’s account of the making of the film...

Chromophobia

With the exception of Jennifer Aniston’s film career, is there anything more painful to watch than a high-minded, “serious” film that just doesn’t quite measure up to its lofty goals? Martha Fiennes’ latest offering, Chromophobia, which closed this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is one such example of well-intentioned social commentary that aims for the profound but arrives at the pretentious. Even a stellar ensemble of Britain’s finest actors can’t rise above a contrived screenplay that’s eerily reminiscent of 2005’s vastly overrated Crash.

Delicatessen

When you enter the world of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it becomes apparent very quickly that this place is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before and most likely will ever see again. The French director of such seminal films as Amelie and A Very Long Engagement takes quirky to the next level with his surrealist vision of life’s happy accidents. His tales rely on painfully elaborate set designs, outlandish characters with exaggerated features (and personalities), and a penchant for Chaplinesque slapstick to weave their strange magic.

Aeon Flux

I always cringe a little when Hollywood, that bastion of creativity and original thought, tosses another beloved icon from days past into its gargantuan recycling bin in the hopes of finding the next X-Men or Spiderman franchise. So when I heard that Peter Chung’s wildly inventive animated MTV short “Aeon Flux” was next in line, I didn’t bother getting too excited.

Mrs. Henderson Presents

Modest ambitions typically yield modest results, and such is the case with the pleasantly amusing but slight Mrs. Henderson Presents . In the tradition of The Full Monty and Calendar Girls , we’re treated to the comic sight of uptight Brits doffing their undies, although thankfully this usually involves lovely and obviously talented young ladies.

Revisiting The Original Office

This surge in popularity for an intelligent comedy like "The Office" is refreshing, especially in a year that saw "Arrested Development", arguably the funniest show in recent memory, finally get the ax from Fox after continued low ratings. As happy as I am to see the gang at Dunder Mifflin find their way into the hearts of the American public, the feeling is a tad bittersweet. I worry that people will forget or may never even know about this series’ origins in the depressing English town of Slough

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