Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Starring: Cole Hauser, James Cromwell & Laurence Fishburne
Director: Nolan Lebovitz

An FBI agent in the midst of a crucial undercover investigation resorts to extreme measures in order to prove himself in this crime thriller starring Cole Hauser, James Cromwell, andLaurence Fishburne. FBI agent Kevin Cole (Hauser) is under direct orders from powerful crime boss Ziggy to track down millions in stolen cash. As he begins to turn the screws on the shady mob accountant (Fishburne) who may just have all the answers, Agent Cole realizes that the is slowly slipping though his fingers. The mind games have begun, and in a world where ruthlessness is essential to survival, your most recent lie could well be your last. Emmanuelle Chriqui co-stars.

A complex but convoluted FBI crime-drama that will leave you tired and hanging on what's really happening. (107 mins.)

My Rating: **


Starring: Max Von Sydow, Ingrid Tullin, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Naima Wifstrand, Bibi Andersson & Erland Josephson.
Director: Ingmar Bergman

An early Ingmar Bergman-directed film that will tingle your spine and stimulate your brain. The supernatural, comic, mystical and the human mingle in this imaginative tale of a magician and his troupe who are detained in a small Swedish community when their magical powers are disbelieved. Visually rich, gothic atmosphere.

Complex, provocative account of Albert Emmanuel Vogler (Von Sydow), a 19th-century hypnotist-magician who has studied with Mesmer but finds himself debt-ridden and charged with blasphemy. A thoughtful (and too-long underrated) portrait of a man who is part-faker, part-genius. (102 mins.)

My Rating: ***

TORMENT (1944)

Starring: Mai Zetterling, Stig Jarrel, Alf Kjellin, Olof Winnerstrand.
Director: Alf Sjoberg

Schoolboy (Kjellin) and girl he falls in love with (Zetterling) are hounded by sadistic teacher (Jarrel).

Moody and evocative, with a script by Ingmar Bergman. Also known as FRENZY. (100 mins.)

My Rating: ***

TOOTSIE (1982)

Starring: Dustin Hoffman
Director: Sydney Pollack

It's been a long time since we've had such an uproarious comedy and such a wonderful, poignant drama. Dustin Hoffman's portrayal is no in-drag impersonation but a subtle, well-conceived comedy coup.

He plays Michael Dorsey, an actor who knows he's terrific but can't get a job. When his agent, played with great comic flair by the film's director, Sydney Pollack, tells him he is unemployable, Hoffman dresses as a woman and gets a job playing a tough, liberation-minded administrator of a hospital in a television soap opera.

Screenwriters Larry Gelbert, Murray Schisgal, and uncredited Elaine May, have penned a yarn that is tasteful, insightful, and hilarious.

Jessica Lang won Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Bill Murray appears unbilled. Film debut of Geena Davis. (116 mins.).

My Rating: ****

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Starring: Barry Fitzgerald & Don Taylor
Director: Jules Dassin

Detailed story of a police investigation into the murder of a model takes the backseat to the star of this movie--New York City. Pace-setting location filming helps this interesting crime-drama that was the basis for the superior and long-running TV series. Producer-narrator Mark Hollinger died shortly before the premier showing.

Fitzgerald is still first-rate, cast against type as the detective in charge, and the cast is peppered with soon-to-be familiar character actors (Arthur O'Connell, Paul Ford, James Gregory, Celia Adler, et al.). Cinematographer William Daniels and editor Paul Weatherwax won Oscars for their work. Screenplay by Albert Maltz and Malvin Wald. (96 mins.)

My Rating: ***

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Starring: Monica Vitti & Gabriele Ferzetti
Director: Michaelangelo Antonioni

Director Michaelangelo Antonioni's studied, enormously perceptive film about empty relationships in an unfeeling world. Story superficially concerns the disappearance of a girl, and the search for her by her lover and her best friend. The slow pace of the film contributes to its overall impact.

Subtle, incisive allegory of spiritual and moral decay makes for demanding viewing. Antonioni's first international success was also the first of a trilogy (followed by LA NOTTE and L 'ECLISSE).

Winner of the Special Jury Award at Cannes. Italian with English subtitles. (145 mins.)

My Rating: ***


Starring: Michel Bouquet & Francois Perier
Director: Claude Chabrol

Claude Chabrol, the French filmmaker known for his masterful explorations of crime, suspense, and the darker sides of human nature, directed this drama about a man forced to come to terms with his double life. Charles Masson (Michel Bouquet) is a successful ad man with a loving wife, Helene (Stephane Audran), two children, and a close friendship with his next-door neighbor Francois Tellier (Francois Perier), an architect who designed both of their houses. However, Charles has a secret -- he's been having an affair with Francois's wife Laura (Anna Douking). Charles and Laura share an enthusiasm for sadomasochism, and one night while mock-strangling her during lovemaking, Charles goes too far and kills Laura. At first, Charles seems to get away Scot free -- he's not considered a suspect, and while someone did see him leave the scene of the crime, that person declines to inform the police. But Charles cannot escape his conscience, and he eventually feels compelled to tell both Helene and Francois, neither of whom react with any particular shock or dismay. Juste Avant La Nuit was adapted by Chabrol from a novel of the same name by Edouard Atiyah. (100 mins.)

My Rating: ***

SHUTTER (2008)

Starring: Joshua Jackson
Director: Masayuki Ochiai

Ghostly images appearing in pictures are nothing new. Neither are long-haired, sepulchral Japanese women dressed in white, moving slowly and looking ominous (see The Grudge). Yet Masayuki Ochiai's Shutter repackages these tired horror tropes into something effectively chilling, despite the fact that it isn't the least bit new or inventive. Shutter feels like the latest in a trend that's been bled dry, namely, Hollywood remaking Japanese horror movies -- yet it's actually an update of a Thai film, directed by a Japanese director, set in Japan and featuring American actors. This idiom is certainly familiar enough, but settingShutter apart is its relatively clean and straightforward script. Neither huge logical leaps nor clarifications of who's who/what's happening, are necessary to wade through its brisk 85 minutes, which leaves Ochiai free to concentrate on his eerie set pieces. Jaded viewers may find themselves embarrassed to be producing such a reaction, considering Shutter's massive debt to other films, but the fact remains -- these fleeting images in the "spirit photos" do leave a viewer feeling disquieted, and sometimes downright spooked. When the spirit, a lonely girl who stalked her unrequited love (Joshua Jackson), manifests herself physically, it's a bit more clearly recognizable as a hackneyed theft from the Grudge andRing movies. But even if he isn't reinventing the wheel, Ochiai utilizes his familiar images as well as possible given our familiarity with them -- and thereby underscores what made them unsettling in the first place. Shutter will never be confused for anything more than an anonymous genre film with a generic title, but it's slightly less anonymous and generic than it could have been, which makes it worth recommending on some level -- especially relative to the other anonymous and generic options out there. (85 mins.)

My Rating: BOMB


Starring: Joaquin Phoenix & Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: James Gray

A depressed young man moves back in with his parents and finds his life turned upside down as he struggles to choose between the beautiful daughter of a close family friend and the scintillating but volatile next-door neighbor whose passion helps to reignite his lust for life. The third screen outing for writer/director James Gray and actor Joaquin Phoenix following We Own the Night and The Yards.

Directing a movie is all about establishing and maintaining a consistent tone. When the editing, art direction, and cinematography all complement each other -- and when the actors understand how subtly they need to play each scene -- that's when a filmmaker has greatness within reach. James Gray achieves just that with Two Lovers because he tells a story of emotionally operatic proportion in the tone of a gentle whisper.

Phoenix drives the movie with a remarkable performance as a simple man who's as torn apart by his passions as he is compelled to act on them. Taking advantage of the nuances in the script, Phoenix plays all of these internal struggles without resorting to James Dean-inspired brooding. Phoenix reveals the depth of Leonard's pain in the character's everyday conversations.

The entire story practically begs for scenes with huge cathartic upheavals -- the kind of scenes that make their way into Oscar highlight reels -- but instead Gray plays everything close to the vest because he knows that's exactly what his characters would do. (110 mins.)

My Rating: ***

Friday, September 18, 2009


Starring: David Bowie & Rip Torn
Director: Nicolas Roeg

A moody, cerebral science-fiction thriller about an alien (David Bowie) who becomes trapped on our planet. Its occasional ambiguities are overpowered by sheer mind-tugging bizarreness and directorial brilliance.

Title character ostensibly heads world conglomerate, but is actually here to find water for his planet. Highly original, fabulously photographed adaptation of Walter Tevis' classic fantasy novel is riveting for the first two-thirds, goes downhill toward the end. Still tops of its kind. (140 mins.)

My Rating: ***1/2


Starring & Director: Laurence Olivier

Elaborate if stagy version of Shakespeare's chronicle of ambitious 15th century British king and his court intrigues.

Once again, as in Henry V and Hamlet, England's foremost player displays his near-matchless acting and directing skills in bringing Shakespeare to life on film. His royal crookback usurper is beautifully malevolent, a completely intriguing, smiling villain. This film fascinates from first to last. (161 mins.)

My Rating: ***1/2

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Starring: Charlton Heston
Director: Boris Sagal

Visually striking but unsatisfying second filming of Richard Matheson's sci-fi thriller I Am Legend. Heston is under siege by a race of zombies spawned by apocalyptic germ warfare. Heston is superior to Vincent Price (who had role in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH).

Heston does a last-man-on-Earth number in this free adaptation. The novel's vampirism has been toned down, but Chuck still is holed up in his high-rise mansion by night, and killing robed (and sleeping) zombies by day. Although this is no more faithful to Matheson's work than 1964's The Last Man On Earth, it has enough throat-grabbing suspense to keep it moving. (98 mins.)

My Rating: ***

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Starring: Burt Lancaster
Director: Sydney Pollack

Offbeat, well-produced WWII story set in a Belgian castle where a great many art treasures are kept. Lancaster is the major who has to hold off a German attack from the castle, and he comes to grips with the Count of the castle, who can't stand by and see the priceless art be destroyed.

Pretentious adaptation of William Eastlake's novel about eight soldiers on French border. Good cast, but film has no coherency. (105 mins.)

My Rating: *