Different people react to the murder of Krista (Brittany Murphy) including her mother, Melora (Marcia Gay Harden), Ruth (Mary Beth Hurt), a mother who discovers evidence that her son killed Krista, and Arden (Toni Collette) who discovers Krista's body. Despite strong performances from Marcia Gay Harden, Toni Collete and Mary Beth Hurt, the script doesn't flesh out any of the characters enough for you to care about them. The shifts in chronology after each vignette causes confusion and it's rather disappointing that the different characters don't actually come together, as if they were each in their own separate movies. If you're looking for a truly haunting, well-written film which also deals with how people react to the discovery of a dead girl's body, rent the underrated River's Edge. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low. Released by First Look Pictures. Opens at the Angelika Film Center. Please check out the following interviews:
The Tiger and the Snow- Directed by Roberto Benigni.
Attilio (Benigni), a poet, travels to war-torn Iraq to rescue the woman he loves, Vittoria (Nicoletta Braschi). Too many scenes feel unfocused with awkwardly stilted dialogue. As usual, Benigni also casts his real wife, the radiant Nicoletta Braschi. The intentionally surreal scenes come across as rather silly and cheesy. Jean Reno doesn't have much to do in the role of Faud, an Arabic poet who Vittoria interviews in Iraq. Unfortunately, much of the film lacks the charm, humor and wit of Begigni's classic Life is Beautiful, which he also wrote/directed and starred in. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: Low. Released by Strand Releasing. Opens at the Quad Cinema.
December 27th, 2006
Notes on a Scandal- Directed by Richard Eyre.
Sheba (Cate Blanchett), a high school teacher, confides in Barbara (Judi Dench), a colleague and neighbor who witnesses her secret affair with one of her students, Steven (Andrew Simpson). Mesmerizing! A superbly-crafted film. Thoroughly absorbing and grips you from the start. The musical score by Phillip Glass adds even more tension. Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett give Oscar-worthy performances. Based on the novel by Zoe Heller. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Please check out the following interviews with the cast and crew:
During the 18th Century, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), a young man with a strong sense of smell, murders women to collect their odor and create the world's most powerful fragrance with Giuseppi Baldini (Dustin Hoffman) as his mentor. Antoine Richis (Alan Rickman) investigates the serial killings to prevent his daughter (Rachel Hurd-Wood) from being the next victim. Based on the novel by Patrick Suskind. A dark, creepy film which occasionally feels tedious, unfocused and somewhat lacks suspense given that the audience knows who the killer is from the very beginning. Yet, it's mildly compelling with lush cinematography and terrific set/costume design. Dustin Hoffman's brief scenes are quite refreshing. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by Paramount Pictures. Please check out the following interviews:
In the year 2027, when procreation is strictly prohibited, Theo (Owen), a peace activist, embarks on a mission to save Kee (Ashitey), a pregnant black woman. A provocative and fascinating premise, but none of the characters are truly memorable because of a weak script by 5 different writers including Alfonso Cuar?n. The screenplay simply doesn't allow for any of the actors to truly shine, even Michael Caine and Julianne Moore who have small roles. Cuar?n does a decent job of creating a grim, dull futuristic world, but it's not as imaginative as it could have been. But why must all of the characters be dull as well? Much of the film is reminiscent of the underrated film Equilibrium, but with less surprises. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by Universal Pictures.
When the plane carrying the Marshall University football team, coaches and fans crashes, Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) tries to keep the program alive. Despite the opening title card of "This is a true story", the plot feels to contrived and the characters too clich?d and cardboard for you to truly care about them. Only football fans familiar with that event in 1970 will be engrossed and, perhaps, brought to tears by some scenes. Everyone else, unfortunately, will be bored, especially after sitting through the lengthy running time of 2 hours and 4 minutes. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by Warner Brothers Pictures.
The Good Shepherd-Directed by Robert De Niro.
When Edward (Matt Damon) joins a secret society, Skull and Bones, as well as the OSS which threatens his marriage to Clover (Angelina Jolie). This is supposed to be the story of how the CIA's origins, but that doesn't help to make it entertaining. Perhaps director Robert De Niro was drunk while he filmed this movie because the camera changes angles so many times that it feels nauseating. Moreover, the plot jumps back and forth between so many different time periods without aging the characters well at all. The performance range from bland to unintentionally funny?such as Edward's young son who gives evil glances as if her were the kid from The Omen. With silly drama, barely any action and a running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes, this is a very disappointing film given its potential. Entertainment Value: Low, Spiritual Value: None. Released by Universal Pictures.
December 21st, 2006
Venus- Directed by Roger Michell.
Peter O'Toole shines in an Oscar-worthy performance as Maurice, an aging actor who develops a special friendship with Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), a beautiful young girl. Screenwriter Hanif Kureishi deftly combines drama with a little hint of comedy which makes for a very absorbing and poignant film. Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Griffiths are terrific in supporting roles. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by Miramax Films. Opens at City Cinemas 1,2,3 and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. Interview with writer Hanif Kureishi
Curse of the Golden Flower- Directed by Zhang Yimou.
In Mandarin with subtitles. During the Tang Dynasty, Empress Phoenix (Gong Li) has an affair with her step-son (Liu Ye) who wants to run off with Chan (Li Man) while the Emperor (Chow Yun Fat) hires Chan's father (Ni Dahong) to poisen the Empress. Those who expect exhilirating visuals like in Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers or a moving story like in his recent film, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, will be very disappointed. The set and costume design look colorful and beautiful, but the few action scenes are headache-inducing and the dramatic scenes feel dull and contrived. It overstays its welcome at a running time of 118 minutes. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: None. Released by Sony Pictures Classics. Opens at AMC Empire 25, Sony Lincoln Square, AMC/Loews 72nd St. and Regal Union Square.