Lang zai ji. / The Warrior and The Wolf

Lang zai ji. / The Warrior and The Wolf
Angrily asserting that men are no better than ferocious beasts, doomed to fall prey eventually to their own victims, celebrated Chinese Fifth Generation director Tian Zhuangzhuang launches into a series of metaphors leading to other metaphors and flashbacks within flashbacks with the Warrior and the Wolf, set in ancient times as the Chinese Empire takes on the rebellions tribes at its borders.

Tian is asking even his most faithful followers to work hard here to unravel the unwieldy knots of his story, based on a short piece by Japanese writer Yasushi Inoue but expanded with numerous brutal battles sequences and several torrid sex scenes. The director’s reputation could secure this arthouse and certainly festival play, but critical support is less than assured.

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Passion Play

Passion Play
I have no idea why this film was ever made. Centering on a down-on-his-luck trumpet player that falls in love with a carnie with wings, Passion Play is a bunch of silliness that plays out for 91 minutes and then disappears never to be heard from again. This is a film that could have been incredibly entertaining if it had continually built on its stupidity for comedic gain. However, it tries to push some half-assed love story only to try and get all twisty and meaningful in the end. Gimme a break.

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Blankman

Blankman
Are you ready for a new kind of superhero -- a thirty-something virgin in long underwear? Darryl Walker (Damon Wayans) is a bright but socially inept man with a gift for inventing things but little skill for functioning in the real world. His brother Kevin (David Alan Grier) works on a low-class tabloid news show featuring beautiful anchorwoman Kimberley Jonz (Robin Givens), whom he secretly loves.

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Reservation Road

Reservation Road
It would be interesting to get a psychologist's perspective about why revenge/vigilante (two sides of the same coin) motion pictures are suddenly so popular. From The Brave One to Death Sentence to Before the Devil Knows You're Dead to Reservation Road, they are moving into and out of multiplexes with regularity. Maybe it has something to do with a growing sense in society that criminals are going free and victims aren't getting justice. Perhaps there's a feeling of impotence when it comes to protecting our families and property not only from killers, robbers, and rapists but from terrorists. The revenge film provides the fantasy of control, that one person can make a difference and dole out justice when the system fails. But why is there a sudden preponderance of these movies? Is it just a coincidence or is there something more to it than that?

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Deliver Us From Evil

Deliver Us From Evil
Forget The Grudge 2, Saw III, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. If you want real horror - the kind that will turn your stomach and curdle your insides - you need look no further than the documentary realm and Deliver Us from Evil. After watching this film, you will believe that evil exists on earth. That the movie deals in truth and established facts makes it all the more disturbing. Deliver Us from Evil takes us behind the curtain of the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in recent years and shows that the problem is not solved. In addition to giving faces and voices to victims who are often anonymous, it offers an interview with a convicted ex-priest who admits his crimes without remorse. That interview marks Deliver Us from Evil as unique - it is a first.

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Wedding Crashers

Wedding Crashers
Please note: Obvious references to Animal House, Porky's, American Pie, and Old School will not be used in this review. Whether appropriate or not, those titles will not appear.

During the first ten minutes of Wedding Crashers, we are treated to a display of the debauched antics that were staples in comedies of the late 1970s and 1980s. Alas, it's only a tease. Pretty soon, this movie settles into the comfortable groove of telling its story - a by-the-numbers romantic comedy that's far too plot-heavy for its own good. The jokes become farther between and less funny as the filmmakers mistakenly believe that we in the audience actually care about the characters and their romantic entanglements. No cliché goes unmissed as the movie stumbles along its pre-determined trajectory. I'm not going to explicitly reveal the ending, but if you have seen more than one romantic comedy in your day, you'll know what's coming.

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Machinist

Machinist
A noir horror movie of the most un-classic kind, Brad Anderson's The Machinist takes you into the unstable mind of an insomniac with a dark secret whose life has become a bleak emotional wasteland devoted only to going through the motions of working. Blessed with an extraordinary performance by Christian Bale, this movie plays out like a nightmare, and will remind some viewers of Fight Club, Memento, and Insomnia. Although The Machinist may at times seem to be derivative of those films, and is inferior to them, it is nevertheless a harrowing experience for those to whom this sort of story appeals.

Bale's Trevor is, as the title implies, a machinist at an assembly-line factory. He clocks in every morning, then clocks out every afternoon, keeping basically to himself. When he returns from work, he does nothing more remarkable than frequent an airport diner where he converses with the same waitress (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) on a daily basis, or visit his "regular" prostitute, Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh). But something strange is happening. A mysterious man named Ivan (John Sharian) is haunting him, and he is having strange visions. The question is whether these are figments of a deranged imagination or part of a larger external conspiracy to drive him insane. How much of what is happening is transpiring within Trevor's psyche? Who, if anyone, is real? Why has the clock stopped at 1:30? Why is the refrigerator bleeding? (And why does Ivan look like Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now?)

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P.S. I Love You

P.S. I Love You
If you want an insightful movie about the grieving process, check out Grace Is Gone, which explores how a suddenly single father must cope not only with the loss of his wife but must face telling his daughters that their mother is not coming home. Grace Is Gone is sincere and touching; P.S. I Love You is the cinematic equivalent of a Celine Dion song. Since there are plenty of people who love Dion's sappy, whiny warbling, there will no doubt be a sizable audience that will fall for the treacle dished out by P.S. I Love You. Aside from the inept August Rush, there probably isn't a more clumsily manipulative motion picture out there this holiday season than P.S. I Love You.

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Hulk
Hulk represents the most involving superhero motion picture since >Superman soared skywards in 1978. By taking its time to develop characters and situations, Hulk does what so many action/adventure movies fail to do - allow us to really feel for the protagonists. Director Ang Lee, fresh off his success from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has re-imagined The Hulk as a tragic figure trapped by fate and the hubris of others into showing the inner beast whenever rage overwhelms him. In truth, the film has a greater synergy with classic monster movies like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, and (especially) King Kong than it does with the current crop of superhero motion pictures. Spider-Man or X-Men, this isn't.

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Devil's Island: Journey Into Jungle Alcatraz

Devil's Island: Journey Into Jungle Alcatraz
Imagine the prison of Alcatraz, only 10 times worse, built on tropical, hellish and deadly islands, lost to the rest of the world. Three tiny castaway islands rise away from the coast of French Guyana, in South America The Devils Islands. Now buried under an impenetrable jungle, lay the lost remains of what had been for a hundred years the most storied convict prison in history. There, while most of the prisoners faded into oblivion, a few became legends. Some because they were innocent, as in the scandalous Dreyfus Affair, some because they somehow escaped the islands of nightmare, as did the butterfly, Henry Charrire, immortalized by Steve McQueen in Papillon. Now 50 years after the prison doors slammed shut for the last time, we explore whats left of the Devils Islands unbelievably dark and oppressive realm. Follow Jean-Christophe Jeauffre and his crew as he reveals the secrets of another lost world...

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Megiddo: The Omega Code 2

Megiddo: The Omega Code 2
Gavin Fink plays this younger Stone. Noah Huntley plays Stone in his late teens and early twenties. Upon graduating from military academy, Stone meets his younger brother David. At first, David (Chad Michael Murray) admires his older brother; however, his father admonishes him to be true to himself. After graduating from the academy, Stone marries his Italian girlfriend, Gabriella.

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Stranded

Stranded
David Robinson is being shipped off to a penal colony. His wife and kids are allowed to acompany him. A storm strikes the ship and the family (save for one son, Jacob) are trapped below deck. Jacob is raised by pirates, and the family gets out of the boat and on to land, salvaging as much as they can from the boat, including dogs, chickens, and muskets. They learn to survive and build a shelter on land. Then, Jacobs pirates kidnap Emily, the daughter of a sea-captain. She escapes onto the island and becomes a love intrest with Fritz and Ernst. Jacob is reunited with his family during a battle with the pirates over Emily, and she is returned to her father. In the end, the family goes there own ways, some staying on the island, some going home.

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Dirty Pretty Things

Dirty Pretty Things
Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a Nigerian man who drives a cab in London during the day and works at the front desk of a hotel at night — chewing khat (a stimulant) to keep awake. Okwe was formerly a doctor in Nigeria. In London he is pressed into giving medical treatment to other poor immigrants — including fellow cab drivers with venereal diseases. Okwe's friend Guo Yi (Benedict Wong), an employee at a hospital mortuary, provides him with antibiotics under the table.

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Child's Play 5: Seed of Chucky

Child's Play 5: Seed of Chucky
Six years following the events of Child's Play 3 and Bride of Chucky, the film opens with Glen (Billy Boyd), the apparent "son" of Chucky and Tiffany; born at the expense of his estranged mother Tiffany dying immediately after he was born (this is shown at the end of Bride of Chucky) and living a life of embarrassment and abuse as a ventriloquist's dummy who shortly said he found him long ago in the cemetery of where Glen's mother died. Desperate to know his parents (after seeing behind the scenes footage of the Child's Play movie-within-a-movie on TV), Glen escapes and tracks them down to Hollywood.

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Keeping the Faith

Keeping the Faith
Father Brian Finn (Edward Norton) has been dedicated to his calling since he was a child and now shares the duties of a New York parish with an older priest, Fr. Havel (Miloš Forman). Rabbi Jacob "Jake" Schram (Ben Stiller), best friends with Brian since childhood, is the youngest rabbi at his Reform synagogue; his lack of effort to find a wife often results in his mother (Anne Bancroft) and other women of his congregation setting him up on blind dates, much to his dismay. The two men show a close bond, even in their professions, where the two are planning the opening of a jointly sponsored community center. In its earlier days, the friendship included a third party. Via flashbacks and reminiscent musings, Anna Reilly (Jenna Elfman) is introduced: she met Jake and Brian in middle school, after beating up a bully who was picking on them. The three enjoyed attending ballgames, playing sports, and riding the subway around the city together, as well as getting into typical mischief. Unfortunately, Anna's father got a new job that resulted in the Reillys moving cross-country to California.

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Bloodlust Zombies

Bloodlust Zombies
A military weapons manufacturer creates a chemical weapon that causes victims to become blood-lusting killers. A lab accident causes the building to go into lock-down and the employees are trapped inside with the crazed killers.

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