Cinema is littered with "true stories" of criminal justice gone horribly wrong, and generally these films are fair, good, or borderline great. Black and White, saddled with one of cinema's most cliched titles, is square in the middle of the pack, a piece about an Australian aborigine in the 1950s who was, quite obviously, wrongly convicted for raping and murdering a young girl. And though his tale is tragic, it's framed amidst a story about how backwards the Australian legal system is, and how unprepared the man's lawyer (Robert Carlyle) is to defend him in this climate. Interesting history lesson, but the drama ultimately takes a back seat to the lecture.
What's that smell? It's heaven burning, and though Russell Crowe's ga-ga fan base will eat up his half love/half bloody revenge story, casual viewers will come away perplexed. Crowe and co-star Youki Kudoh are good enough here (she's a newlywed who's run away from her husband in a strange country, he's a getaway driver in a bank heist, you do the math), but this story plays out like the usual chase movie we've seen a zillion times before. Still, it's tragic... imagine if Thelma and Louise were lesbians.
I was enchanted with Map of the Human Heart when I first saw it in 1993. Revisiting it today I am less enthralled but still charmed. It's one of those movies that makes you legitimately feel like you've become part of its universe, particularly the scenes in the frigid arctic, which you can almost feel on your skin. A variety of actors play our two leads from childhood to adulthood, as an Eskimo boy and half-Indian girl taunt one another as children, then grow to love each other as adults -- despite the ravages of a raging World War, which makes for a fantastic love story backdrop.
Cute but predictable, Cosi revolves around the cute-but-predictable premise of a group of insane asylum inmates who put on a rendition of the opera Cosi fan Tutte despite having no acting or singing ability whatsoever (not to mention a lack of sanity). Highlights include the always-on Collette, Barry Otto (channelling Geoffrey Rush), and Ben Mendelsohn (channelling Noah Taylor). Odd, yet cute and, you know, predictable.