Recent Reviews

Dir. Michael Mann; writ. Stuart Beattie; feat. Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Irma P. Hall, Javier Bardem (R)
Hollywood isn't shy about testosterone, of course, but Mann romanticizes manliness in a particularly potent and distinctive way, especially the manliness of those old movie mainstays, cops and robbers. Collateral revolves around two men: a paid killer (Vincent, played by Cruise) and a cabbie (Foxx as Max) who, like most inhabitants of Mannsville, do their jobs exceedingly well. The plot is satisfyingly tense, but it becomes a stumbling point in the story's climax, which involves a coincidence as big as the Hollywood sign. By that point, audiences are either with or against the film and, as usual with a Mann film, style and technique go a long way, even when the movie itself isn't quite working. JD

The Door in the Floor
Writ. & dir. Tod Williams, based on a John Irving novel; feat. Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Jon Foster (R)
When Eddie O'Hare, a junior at Exeter, obtains a summer job as assistant to Ted Cole, his father advises: "Do whatever it is he wants you to do." Eddie resembles Ted's 17-year-old son, also a student at Exeter who, along with his younger brother, died in an auto wreck five years before. Car crashes and fictional novelists are trademarks of John Irving, and The Door in the Floor is Tod Williams' adaptation of the first section of Irving's 1998 novel A Widow for One Year. The film's title comes from one of Ted's books, as well as the sense of subterranean secrets that lurk beneath any household. Veering between angst and farce, The Door in the Floor opens up on domestic dysfunction but earns a few knocks. SGK

Intimate Strangers / Confidences trop intimes
Dir. Patrice Leconte; writ. Jérôme Tonnerre; feat. Sandrine Bonnaire, Fabrice Luchini, Michel Duchaussoy, Anne Brochet (R)
Intimate Strangers examines the attractions of voyeurism, exposing the peculiar pleasure that therapists and movie audiences enjoy when granted access to others' secrets. By the time the opening credits conclude, an attractive pair of legs have taken a woman to an office she has never visited before. Distraught and desperate, Anna Delambre (Bonnaire) found the address in the telephone directory, under "psychotherapist." She immediately begins unburdening herself of the details of her troubled marriage. When she eventually terminates the session, William Faber (Luchini) is too overwhelmed by the revelations he has heard to offer one of his own - Anna has wandered into the wrong office; William is not a therapist but a tax attorney. The characters in Intimate Strangers live all they can within the conventions of a Hitchcock thriller devoid of violence except the psychological sort. It is all enough to make a rational viewer wriggle in his privileged seat. SGK

The Manchurian Candidate
Dir. Jonathan Demme; writ. Daniel Pyne, Dean Georgaris, Richard Condon (novel); feat. Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, Kimberly Elise, Jon Voight (R)
While the director's last Hollywood outing, a remake of Charade, suffered from comparisons to its more debonair predecessor, Demme has learned his lessons here: He takes the story's solid bones - brainwashed war hero, presidential politics, and one of cinema's great Lady Macbeth roles - and changes enough of the details to keep it suspenseful even for viewers who have recently revisited the original. Directorial flourishes, political commentary, and film history aside, The Manchurian Candidate is still a gripping thriller with a top-flight cast. Audiences needn't know John Frankenheimer to enjoy its thrills, and they needn't share Demme's politics to feel its chill. It's a great night at the movies, whether you think it strikes close to home or not. JD

Maria Full of Grace (Maria, llena eres de gracia)
Writ. & dir. Joshua Marston; feat. Catalina Sandino Moreno, Guilied Lopez, Patricia Rae (R)
Like El Norte, Maria Full of Grace offers an acrid take on immigration of the innocents. Lovely Maria Alvarez (Moreno) might seem full of grace, but during a gut-wrenching flight from Bogota to Newark her stomach is full of heroin - 62 packets that she swallows to smuggle past customs. When customs officials discover she is pregnant, regulations constrain them from using X-rays to test their hunch that drugs lie hidden beneath her smooth skin. But novice writer-director Joshua Marston, a native of California and graduate of New York University who insisted on making his film in the language his characters would speak, uses a camera in place of MRI, to bare the soul of a brave and brazen traveler. SGK

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Dir. Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger (NR)
At its core, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster is about two kids who bonded over their love of speed-metal, grew up to become ultra-successful, and discovered that they barely knew each other. It's the story of James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. This film captures none of the triumph and all the decadent, mid-life angst of their story. What makes the film special is the way it shows personal and creative tensions intersecting. At the very moment that Hetfield and Ulrich confront their own controlling personalities, they must learn to make music without imposing complete control. The ultimate testament to Some Kind of Monster is that even if you have no taste for Metallica's work, you won't be able to avert your eyes. GG

Seducing Dr. Lewis (La Grande Séduction, 2003) Dir. Jean-François Pouiot; writ. Ken Scott; feat. Raymond Bouchard, Dominic Michon-Dagenais, Guy-Daniel Tremblay, Nadia Drouin, Rita LaFontaine, Roc LaFortune (NR)
Urbane doctor in a tiny village filled with quirky locals is a scenario we know, and this film may be a bit heavy-handed with its messages of small town goodness and corporate vileness. Yet, with it's slow pace and sweet wisdom, it is still refreshing. A serendipitous run-in with a traffic cop lands the coke-snorting, cricket-obsessed Dr. Christopher Lewis on the island for a month. The tricky part is keeping him. As the song goes, many fish bites if you got good bait. Hilarity ensues as the villagers devise ways to not just catch the big fish - a full-time doctor for the isolated village - but convince him that he wants to get in the boat himself. SDP

Strayed (Les Egarés) Dir. André Téchiné; writ. Gilles Taurand and André Téchiné, based on a novel by Gillet Perrault; feat. Emmanuelle Béart, Gaspard Ulliel, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Clémence Meyer, Jean Fornerod, Samuel Labarthe (NR)
The moment of tumultuous mass evacuation just before the Nazis seize Paris has become the Groundhog Day of French cinema. Director André Téchiné sets the opening sequence of Strayed on June 10, 1940, when the roads leading out of Paris are clogged with thousands of civilians fleeing south, away from the invading German forces. Among them are the Chamberts - 13-year-old Philippe (Leprince-Ringuet), 7-year-old Cathy (Meyer), and their beautiful mother, Odile (Béart). Strayed is the story of a woman - and a country - that got lost, that abandoned her standards while trying to survive. It finds yet another way to make a winning film out of national defeat. SGK

Films reviewed by:

EB: Eric Bradshaw
JD: John DeFore
SGK: Steven G. Kellman
SDP: Susan Pagani
AP: Alejandro Pérez
RP: Rich Perin
LS: Lisa Sorg
JW: Joe Weiss
EW: Elaine Wolff

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