Jealousy is a dangerous emotion. Tessa (Katherine Heigl) thought she had a chance to get her ex-husband David (Geoff Stults) back and finally be a family again with their daughter Lily (Isabella Rice), but then he met the sweet and beautiful Julia (Rosario Dawson) who he obviosly fell hopelessly in love with and subsequently married. She's the polar opposite of Tessa, and as understanding as she tries to be towards the latter, it doesn't stop Tessa plotting to destroy their happy home life. She thinks Julia has stolen her world and plans to get revenge by delving into her dark past life and raising doubts about her to David. Things come to a head when a man dies, and Julia is the one with blood on her hands.
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Five married friends decide to buy a loft together, and each owned a key, but no one else did. The men use the loft as a place to have affairs with their various mistresses. But one day, one of the men goes to the loft, only to discover an unknown woman dead in the master bed. When all the members are assembles, they realise that they have to call the police - thus exposing their secret of their loft to their wives. But with their other halves now knowing about their dirty little secrets, the men are forced to look into their past to find out just who killed the mysterious woman.
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In the midst of the 1990's Rampart Scandal, Dave Brown works for the LAPD and is the most corrupt cop you're ever likely to meet. He is racist, homophobic and chauvinistic and that's just the tip of the iceberg. In his mind, he thinks he is an action hero and he has dedicated himself to doing 'the people's dirty work'. In his personal life, he has two ex-wives - both of them sisters - and has fathered two daughters between them.
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More than enough, it turns out.
Continue reading: The Wire: Season Four Review
A schizoid doppelganger mind-bender wrapped around your standard ticking-bomb scenario (it's hidden somewhere in Los Angeles and could take out the whole basin if detonated -- or something), Face/Off is an utterly lunatic film in the best possible way. Originally a futuristic thriller, the script was retooled for a modern-day setting, keeping several of its sci-fi elements but focusing more intently on its personality-shifting aspects which seemed to come straight out of Woo's international breakthrough, The Killer. An FBI agent, Sean Archer (John Travolta) has been hunting jet-set super-criminal Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) for years. For Archer, it's gone beyond personal to haunted obsession, particularly after Troy tried to shoot Archer but missed and killed his son instead. After a gonzo opening sequence involving a Humvee/private jet showdown on a runway and about ten thousand expended rounds (mostly fired by people flying sideways in slo-mo, of course), Archer's team brings down Troy.
Continue reading: Face/off Review
Sadly, the most passionate and persuasive argument in recent years against the current disposition of the government's stance in the so-called "War on Drugs" came not from a think tank armed with stats and big ideas or a celebrity eager for a cause, but from a TV show. The third season of The Wire, which aired on HBO in late 2004, continued its sprawling and justifiably lauded Dickensian crawl through its web of stories centering on the inner Baltimore drug trade -- following, with an unusual focus to detail and character, both the gangs fighting for territory and the cops of a major case unit assigned to busting up their organizations. But where the show became more than just an abnormally well-made, balanced, and realistic law and order drama (and there's no need here to heap more praise on the show than already has been done), and became something entirely different, was in the fourth episode, "Amsterdam."
Police major "Bunny" Colvin (previously a supporting player on the show), desperate to see some improvement in his crime-ridden West Baltimore district and tired of watching his cops waste all their time busting street corner dealers to no larger effect, institutes a new policy: If all drug dealers move to three designated zones in the district and sell there, they will not be arrested. In effect, he legalizes the drug trade in a large part of an American city. The cops don't get it, the drug-dealing kids don't either, as it throws into question the entire reality of their limited universe where the kids sell drugs, occasionally they get hassled or arrested, but everything goes on without change; as one of the dealers says, "Why you got to go and fuck with the program?"
The point being made here by the two creative forces behind The Wire -- investigative reporter David Simon and veteran detective Ed Burns, both of whom know this territory better than almost anyone -- is quite simple: the drug trade has atomized vast and forgotten swaths of American cities, like West Baltimore, and decades of simplistic, head-knocking, "tough on crime" enforcement has made zero difference. So, take a page out of Amsterdam's book, where a blind eye is turned to the drug traffic in certain designated areas, and see if you can at least make some poor neighborhoods normal again by ridding them of turf-battling drug gangs.
Colvin -- a strange kind of revolutionary -- gives a speech using the "brown paper bag" analogy Simon introduced in his book The Corner: Men drinking on the street will carry their liquor in a brown paper bag -- the cops know it's liquor but don't arrest them for public drinking because the men are at least making an attempt at hiding the bottle. It's the same with pushing drug dealing to what Colvin calls the "free zones"; it's a civil truce. Call it legalization, call it a truce, call it dealing with reality, Simon's point is that drugs will be dealt, and the more you can keep the trade itself from ruining the social fabric of already distressed neighborhoods, the better. And if you can weave this message into a thrilling hour-long crime drama, all the better.
As for what the remainder of this season dealt with, it would be futile to go into much discussion of that, since The Wire's storylines rival Tolstoy's in their complexity. Suffice it to say that one must watch the show as one reads a book, starting at the beginning of season three -- even with that "previously, on The Wire" intro which HBO prefaces its shows with -- is next to useless. For those who have already been watching, of primary importance is that the show's quality remains undimmed. Simon's writing staff has been beefed up by the addition of top-shelf novelists like Richard Price (Clockers) and George Pelecanos (The Night Gardener), who bring some welcome flourishes of both character-driven realism and pulp crime drama to the proceedings. A few of the show's more central characters get their arcs reversed, with the classically rogueish cop McNulty (a wonderfully snarky Dominic West) coming to a crisis of self-destruction, and striving criminal mastermind Stringer Bell (the iconic and contemplative Idris Elba) finding himself stuck between worlds, too street for the business world and too thoughtful for the street. And although several long-running characters continue to pop up -- like free-range gunslingers Omar (Michael K. Williams) and Brother Mouzone (Michael Potts), and Bubbles (Andre Royo), the junkie who serves as the closest thing The Wire has to a chorus -- story is always sublimated to the overarching themes, with the focus never straying far from Simon's central conceit of the American city in crisis, and what to do about it.
The Wire has cast a sardonic eye on the efficacy of current drug law enforcement since the beginning. In the very first episode, a detective who just used the term "War on Drugs" gets a quick schooling from another detective on why the term just doesn't apply, with the world-wearied quip, "Wars end." By presenting an idea for how one might, if not win a war that has done so much damage to American cities and the economically disadvantaged, then at least call an honorable truce, the show became not just the best show currently on television, but also possibly the most important.
Anyone else see Charlie Brown's shirt?
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.
Continue reading: Storytelling Review
As part of its bid to make 24-hour news an institution, CNN sent producers Robert Wiener (Michael Keaton) and Ingrid Formanek (Helena Bonham Carter) to Baghdad in August 1990 to cover the brutal Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The HBO film Live from Baghdad is the story of how Wiener and CNN overcame adversity to become the only network to continue broadcasting from Baghdad during the U.S. air strikes.
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The result of this combination is an overly ambitious film that's as muddled and cryptic as a mumble-filled Dylan vocal. Dylan stars as the symbolically named Jack Fate, an apparent musical legend, jailed in the midst of a brutally downtrodden America where the government has taken over, war is rampant, and even the counter-revolutionaries have counter-revolutionaries.
Continue reading: Masked & Anonymous 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.
Continue reading: Storytelling Review
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