Christina Ricci turns in another stellar performance in her latest film, Penelope.
Centuries ago, a servant girl for the aristocratic Wilherns was wronged by a male family member, prompting the girl’s witch mother to put a curse on them: The next daughter born to the Wilherns would have the face of a pig and the only way to break this curse would be for the girl to find true love with “one of her own kind.” There are no daughters born to the Wilherns for five generations … until Penelope (Christina Ricci). Sporting a pig-like snout, the otherwise cute Penelope is hidden away by her parents (Catherine O’Hara and Richard E. Grant) after they fake her death.
Penelope lives a sheltered life within her parents’ urban mansion (the film was shot in London, but its setting suggests a fairy tale version of New York). When she finally comes of age, Penelope’s parents arrange for a series of blue-blooded suitors to come courting in the hopes of finally breaking the curse. The suitors must sign confidentiality agreements before they can meet the concealed heiress and they always flee in horror once Penelope finally reveals her face. One such suitor, Edward Vanderman (Simon Woods), escapes the Wilhern estate without signing a confidentiality agreement and runs straight to the press with exaggerated tales of a horrible pig-faced succubus.
Lemmon (Peter Dinklage), a hard-bitten reporter who has a long-standing grudge against the Wilherns, believes Edward and devises a plan to capture a photo of Penelope. They key to their scheme is Max (James McAvoy), a scruffy blue blood who will pose as a suitor but who ends up becoming genuinely infatuated with Penelope. She eventually makes her way into the real world, where she encounters the Vespa-riding free spirit Annie (Reese Witherspoon, who also produced) and gets her proverbial 15 minutes of fame. Will Penelope ever find true love with “one of her own kind”? Or will she just have to learn to accept herself instead?
Funny Games, must be one kick-ass movie, because it received 10 out 10 stars from IGN.
Watching a great movie in a genre you are tired of feels a bit like Al Pacino’s infamous line from The Godfather: Part III: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Despite a wealth of articles to the contrary, including IGN’s own well-researched look at the phenomenon, “torture porn” never really evolved into anything more than a collection of movies disguising gratuitous violence as halfhearted social commentary. Subsequently, the remakes and films series that rose to commercial success essentially brought about the subgenre’s downfall by being unrelenting, crude and just plain unentertaining. Meanwhile, even vaguely similar films failed, albeit in the case of examples like last summer’s designated punching bag Hostel Part II, the primary reason was its unenviable release date (it was sandwiched between Knocked Up, Ocean’s Thirteen, Surf’s Up and Fantastic Four), not its unfairly-dismissed content.
The fact that Michael Haneke’s Funny Games was first made 10 years ago in Austria precludes its inclusion in the torture porn canon, since at that time (not to mention in that country) the term hadn’t yet been invented. But newly remade for U.S. audiences by Haneke himself, and debuting in the somewhat fortunately-timed wake of the genre’s so-called commercial demise, his film takes on greater artistic proportions than likely the director or the film’s distributor, Warner Independent, ever intended. In fact, it’s safe to say that in creating a film that effectively takes all of the hallmarks of torture porn and turns them on their (severed) ear, Haneke has not only made a gripping and terrifying work of art, but one that effectively revives the horror genre as a whole by completely deconstructing it.
Funny Games stars Naomi Watts as Anna and Tim Roth as George, an affluent husband and wife who retire with their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) for the weekend at their lake house, only to be intercepted by two unfailingly polite young men named Peter (Brady Corbet) and Paul (Michael Pitt). Initially dropping in only to request some eggs for a neighbor’s breakfast, Peter and Paul soon insinuate themselves into the house, disable George and hold the family hostage. As Peter and Paul engage the family in an escalating series of dangerous and dehumanizing games, Anna, George and Georgie quickly discover that the horrors of monster movies are nothing in comparison to the deadly reality of two bored young men exercising their disturbed imaginations.
During this savage civil war, all efforts to end Jacen Solo’s tyranny of the Galactic Alliance have failed. Now with Jacen approaching the height of his dark powers, no one-not even the Solos and the Skywalkers-knows if anything can stop the Sith Lord before his plan to save the galaxy ends up destroying it.
Jacen Solo’s shadow of influence has threatened many, especially those closest to him. Jaina Solo is determined to bring her brother in, but in order to track him down, she must first learn unfamiliar skills from a man she finds ruthless, repellent, and dangerous. Meanwhile, Ben Skywalker, still haunted by suspicions that Jacen killed his mother, Mara, decides he must know the truth, even if it costs him his life. And as Luke Skywalker contemplates once unthinkable strategies to dethrone his nephew, the hour of reckoning for those on both sides draws near. The galaxy becomes a battlefield where all must face their true nature and darkest secrets, and live-or die-with the consequences.
Melding the rebellious charm of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with the social commentary of The Graduate, Charlie Bartlett sneaks into the marketplace amidst a sea of particularly dismal first-quarter duds, following a series of postponed release dates. That’s probably a good thing for this film, though, since there’s less competition for an audience at the moment, and the time of year more closely fits with its manic-depressive tone than the originally planned early August debut.
Despite its unsubtle message about the unnecessary overmedication of today’s youth, Charlie Bartlett sets a higher bar for itself in attempting to present characters on both sides of the generation gap as realistically flawed human beings. The story centers on the titular character (Anton Yelchin), a rich and lonely high-school student who has been kicked out of a series of private schools, not for rowdy or anti-social behavior, but for more subversive schemes, like selling fake IDs. Charlie’s loving but slightly loopy mother (Hope Davis) doesn’t know what to do with him, and doesn’t seem to have the heart to discipline him, so she sends him to the only place left that will take him: public high school.
Unequipped and unprepared to deal with the social hazards that await him, Charlie shows up on his first day in full private-school mode, complete with embroidered jacket and tie. His attempts to be polite and friendly to everyone, even the special-ed kids, earn him a dunking in a toilet stall and eventually a beating from the school bully, Murphy (Tyler Hilton). Noticing Charlie’s emotional turmoil, his mother sends him to her psychiatrist, who promptly prescribes Ritalin as the answer to his problems.
Beowulf (Action/Adventure) – In a time of heroes, the mighty warrior Beowulf slays the demon Grendel and incurs the wrath of its monstrous yet seductive mother, in a conflict that transforms a king into a legend.
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn, Ray Winstone, Crispin Glover, John Malkovich; Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
The Darjeeling Limited (Comedy) – “The Darjeeling Limited” starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman is an emotional comedy about three brothers re-forging family bonds. The eldest, played by Wilson, hopes to reconnect with his two younger siblings by taking them on a train trip across the vibrant and sensual landscape of India.
Cast: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Natalie Portman, Anjelica Huston; Directed by: Wes Anderson
30 Days of Night (Horror/Thriller) – Based on the Steve Niles graphic novel. In a sleepy, secluded Alaska town called Barrow, the sun sets and doesn’t rise for over thirty consecutive days and nights. From the darkness, across the frozen wasteland, an evil will come that will bring the residents of Barrow to their kness. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff and Deputy, a husband and wife who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love.
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Ben Foster, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Craig Hall, Kate O’Rourke; Directed by: David Slade
Release date: March 7th, 2008 (NY, LA; top 10: Mar. 14; expands: Mar. 21) Director: David Gordon Green Screenwriter: David Gordon Green Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Griffin Dunne, Michael Angarano, Jeanetta Arnette Studio: Warner Independent Pictures Genre: Drama Official Site:snow-angels.com Rating:R for language, some violent content, brief sexuality and drug use Running time: 106 minutes Available Poster Art:Snow Angels movie posters
Some will fall. Some will fly.
“Snow Angels,” adapted from the novel of the same title by Stewart O’Nan, is two stories of love and loss converging. One is of a recently separated couple attempting to pick up the threads of a future when faced with tragedy. The second is about an awkward young man, currently in the throes of discovering his first romance, forced to deal with the separation and subsequent strife of his parents’ relationship.
Release date: Wednesday July 2, 2008 Genre: Comedy Director: Peter Berg Studio: Columbia Pictures Producer(s): Akiva Goldsman, James Lassiter, Michael Mann, Will Smith Screenplay: Vy Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan Cast: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Eddie Marsan Official Site:sonypictures.com Rating: This film has not yet been rated Available Poster Art:Hancock movie posters
There are heroes. There are superheroes. And then there’s…
There are heroes… there are superheroes… and then there’s Hancock (Will Smith). With great power comes great responsibility – everyone knows that – everyone, that is, but Hancock. Edgy, conflicted, sarcastic, and misunderstood, Hancock’s well-intentioned heroics might get the job done and save countless lives, but always seem to leave jaw-dropping damage in their wake. The public has finally had enough – as grateful as they are to have their local hero, the good citizens of Los Angeles are wondering what they ever did to deserve this guy. Hancock isn’t the kind of man who cares what other people think – until the day that he saves the life of PR executive Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), and the sardonic superhero begins to realize that he may have a vulnerable side after all. Facing that will be Hancock’s greatest challenge yet – and a task that may prove impossible as Ray’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), insists that he’s a lost cause.
Release date: Friday May 30, 2008 Genre: Comedy Director: Michael Patrick King Studio: New Line Cinema, HBO Films Producer(s): Darren Star, Eric M. Cyphers, John P. Melfi, Michael Patrick King, Sarah Jessica Parker Screenplay: Michael Patrick King Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Christopher Noth, Jason Lewis, Jennifer Hudson Official Site:sexandthecitythemovie.com Rating: This film has not yet been rated Available Poster Art:Sex and the City the Movie movie posters
Synopsis: The movie version of the long-running HBO series featuring the further exploits of Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones, Charlotte York and Miranda Hobbes. The series was originally based on autobiographical columns written by Candace Bushnell.
Release date: Friday April 11, 2008 Genre: Horror/Thriller Director: Nelson McCormick Studio: Alliance Films Producer(s): Neal H. Moritz, Toby Jaffe Screenplay: J.S. Cardone Cast: Brittany Snow, Scott Porter, Jessica Stroup, Dana Davis, Collins Pennie, Kelly Blatz, James Ransone, Brianne Davis, Johnathon Schaech, Idris Elba Official Site: anighttodiefor.com Rating:PG-13 for violence and terror, some sexual material, underage drinking, and language Available Poster Art:Prom Night movie posters
It’s Midnight Everyone’s Ready To Go Home…But Someone Has Other Plans.
Donna’s senior prom is supposed to be the best night of her life, one of magic, beauty, and love. Surrounded by her best friends, she should be safe from the horrors of her past. But when the night turns from magic to murder there is only one man who could be responsible… the man she thought was gone forever. Now, Donna and her friends must find a way to escape the sadistic rampage of an obsessed killer, and survive their Prom Night.
Release date: Friday April 18, 2008 Genre: Action Director: Rob Minkoff Studio: Lionsgate Producer(s): Casey Silver Screenplay: John Fusco Cast: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano, Crystal Liu, Collin Chou, Li Bing Bing, Ye Xiaokeng, Morgan Benoit, Alexis Bridges, Wang De Shun Official Site:theforbiddenkingdom.com Rating:PG-13 for sequences of martial arts action and some violence Available poster art:The Forbidden Kingdom movie posters
Synopsis: In “Forbidden Kingdom,” American teenager Jason (Michael Angarano), who is obsessed with Hong Kong cinema and kungfu classics, finds an antique Chinese staff in a pawn shop: the legendary stick weapon of the Chinese sage and warrior, the Monkey King (Jet Li). With the lost relic in hand, Jason unexpectedly finds himself transported back to ancient China.
There, he meets the drunken kungfu master, Lu Yan (Jackie Chan); an enigmatic and skillful Silent Monk (Jet Li); and a vengeance-bent kungfu beauty, Golden Sparrow (Crystal Liu Yi Fei), who lead him on his quest to return the staff to its rightful owner, the Monkey King – imprisoned in stone by the evil Jade Warlord (Collin Chou) for five hundred years. Along the way, while attempting to outmaneuver scores of Jade Warriors, Cult Killers and the deadly White Hair Demoness, Ni Chang (Li Bing Bing), Jason learns about honor, loyalty and friendship, and the true meaning of kungfu, and thus frees himself.