While this low-key thriller is strikingly well shot and acted, it never seems like it digs very far beneath the surface. So while we're intrigued by its twisty plot, we can't quite figure out what the point is or why we should care. Still, director Chun shows real skill at capturing a rural community while keeping the mood dark and nasty.
At a sleazy roadside motel, manager Chloe (Eve) is saving up the cash kickbacks she gets from the prostitutes who use the rooms. She's determined to move somewhere nicer with her young daughter Sophia (Parker), and now this is becoming urgent since social services is threatening to take Sophia into care if they don't move soon. Then things get complicated when the nearly blind thug Topo (Cranston) arrives. Separated from his assistant, he forces Chloe to help him recover the package he's meant to deliver. But that's been stolen by the hotheaded young cop Billy (Marshall-Green), who has a twisted past with Chloe. Which is why Billy's wife (Cummings) is furious that she's now coming round the house.
All of this takes place in a small town not far from the US-Canada border, where the autumn chill is beginning to bite. The film captures a terrific sense of isolation in this place, where everyone knows everyone else's business but pretends not to care. Eve gives Chloe a surprising tenacity as she bravely deals with Topo's demands, hoping maybe she'll get something out of it. Well, she has nothing to lose, and everyone seems to underestimate her desperation.
Continue reading: Cold Comes The Night Review
Chloe is a financially unstable owner of a motel whose life is made all the more difficult by child protection services threatening to take her daughter Sophia away from her if she cannot relocate her to a safer residence. One day, when she hears a disturbance from one guest room, her world gets even more complicated when she discovers a dead body and bag full of cash. However, when the money goes missing, she and Sophia are held hostage by a partially sighted but dangerous Russian gangster who threatens to shoot Sophia if Chloe cannot help him retrieve the loot, which he believes has been stolen by a corrupted police officer. Now Chloe, who's been working in vain to care for her daughter to the best of her ability, faces the ultimate test of motherhood.
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Part of the problem is Hartley's distinct style, which, if you're a fan, you already know well. Characters often speak slowly, pausing pensively for dramatic or comedic effect. Conversations -- and camera angles -- are unexpectedly funny and skewed, dabbling in established genres. When this approach has purpose or emotion (as in Henry Fool), it works. When it runs in circles, as in the second-half of Fay Grim, it exists only for the "art" and can be annoying as hell.
Continue reading: Fay Grim Review
The film follows a few characters through one day in New York City. Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) and his buddy Casper (Justin Pierce) skateboard, do a little petty thievery, drink malt liquor, hustle drugs, beat up a black man, throw some dice, and if a virgin or two happen to cross their path, Telly is only too happy to perform a little "virgin surgery." On their trail is Jennie (Chloe Sevigny), a prior virginal conquest of Telly's, who discovers she is HIV-positive that morning and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Continue reading: Kids Review
Described in the credits as "science fiction" (a pretty loose use of the term), The Girl From Monday represents another genre leap for Hartley, following his 2001 Beauty and the Beast fantasy, No Such Thing. Well, if you're a typical sci-fi fan, be forewarned: There are no special effects -- minus thugs in funny helmets -- and there's really nothing terribly innovative in the storyline department.
Continue reading: The Girl From Monday Review
A slam-dunk natural subject for Clark, Bully follows the based-on-reality story of Marty Puccio (Brad Renfro), who along with his girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner) decides to brutally slay his "best friend" Bobby (Nick Stahl) as payback for a lifetime of abuse. Set in the ultra-trashy nether regions of southern Florida -- and I mean seriously, beyond-WWF trashy -- there's little to do but drive your car, play video games, have sex, and beat the crap out of your friends.
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Aside from Solondz's decidedly risky topics, his format in Storytelling takes chances. It presents two separate shorts, entitled "Fiction" and "Non-fiction," with no obvious connection between the two. The only true thread is that both comment on the telling of tales, the shifting of points of view, and the way most people in Solondz's suburban landscapes constantly paddle their painful lives upstream.
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Last year John Cusack -- modern Hollywood's most endeari=ngEveryman -- starred in a great guy movie with a romanticcomedy bent that made it the year's best date movie too. This year's front runner for the same honor is a fate-fue=led,starry-eyed chick flick entitled "Serendipity" -- also starringJohn Cusack, which may help convince otherwise reluctant boyfriends andhusbands to see this sweet, cuddly charmer. They're guaranteed to enjoyit if they give it half a chance. Cusack plays an ESPN segment director who meets the girlof his dreams (British girl-next-door Kate Beckinsale) in a Christmas shopp=ingshowdown over the last pair of black cashmere gloves at Bloomingdale's.Instantly smitten, they spend the day together, at one point ice skatingin Central Park and playing the getting-to-know-you game of favorites:"Favorite New York moment?" Beckinsale asks. "This one'sclimbing the charts," Cusack grins winningly. Continue reading: Serendipity Review
This year's front runner for the same honor is a fate-fue=led,starry-eyed chick flick entitled "Serendipity" -- also starringJohn Cusack, which may help convince otherwise reluctant boyfriends andhusbands to see this sweet, cuddly charmer. They're guaranteed to enjoyit if they give it half a chance.
Cusack plays an ESPN segment director who meets the girlof his dreams (British girl-next-door Kate Beckinsale) in a Christmas shopp=ingshowdown over the last pair of black cashmere gloves at Bloomingdale's.Instantly smitten, they spend the day together, at one point ice skatingin Central Park and playing the getting-to-know-you game of favorites:"Favorite New York moment?" Beckinsale asks. "This one'sclimbing the charts," Cusack grins winningly.
Continue reading: Serendipity Review
Todd Solondz's "Storytelling" is designed to foster a sensation of absorbing discomfort, not unlike his earlier examinations of esoteric, emotionally disquieting Americana "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and "Happiness." But this film's two shrewd but pointless short stories are suppressed by the underlying feeling that the film got worked over something fierce in post-production, and that half its guts are lying on a cutting room floor somewhere.
The conspicuously abrupt first segment, entitled "Fiction," runs about 20 minutes and stars Selma Blair ("Legally Blonde") and Leo Fitzpatrick ("Bully") in painfully authentic performances as an emotionally insecure coed and her cerebral palsy-stricken dorm neighbor and lover. Unable to connect emotionally, they each vent their frustrations in pallid short stories about their thinly veiled real lives for a creative writing class. These yarns are not well received by their ruthlessly candid classmates, who pass judgment on Blair's and Fitzpatrick's meager authoring talents and, by extension, their messed-up lives.
Desperately seeking some kind of acceptance, the frail, troubled Blair surrenders herself sexually to her even more cruel professor (Robert Wisdom). Once at his apartment, he forces her to spout racial epithets (she's white, he's black and about three times her size) while having his way with her rather violently and so graphically that Solondz covered the scene with a superimposed red box to avoid an NC-17.
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A troubling vérité-style docudrama about worthless, contemptible, murderous teenage losers, "Bully" is a raw and graphic, half cautionary tale, half exploitation flick, similar to director Larry Clark's controversial 1995 film "Kids."
But as infamous as "Kids" was for its grossly candid depiction of drug use and careless, even vengeful sex, it was largely fictional. "Bully" isn't quite as coarse, but may be more chilling as it is based on true events: The circumstances surrounding the very premeditated but very sloppy slaying of a malevolent south Florida delinquent who physically intimidated and verbally abused his friends until, well, they killed him.
Fascinating in a "Cops"-meets-Psychology Today, can't-help-but-look kind of way, every character in this film is a vile imbecile -- the kind of nitwits who genuinely look to angry white rapper Eminem as a role model.
Continue reading: Bully Review
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Todd Solondz's "Storytelling" is designed to foster a sensation of absorbing discomfort, not unlike his...
Last year John Cusack -- modern Hollywood's most endeari=ngEveryman -- starred in...
A troubling vérité-style docudrama about worthless, contemptible, murderous teenage losers, "Bully" is a raw and...
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