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Blogs STRANGER THAN FICTION (2006) (***1/2)

Taking a page from the work of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, Zach Helm’s screenplay about a man who keeps hearing a narrator in his head is brought to the screen by director Marc Forster (MONSTER’S BALL) as both a parable about living one’s life more fully and the tormented process of a writer. It’s really not as innovative an idea as Kaufman’s ADAPTATION or BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, but the film is intriguing with solid performances from the entire cast, especially lead Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Harold Crick (Ferrell, ANCHORMAN) is an IRS auditor, who pretty much wakes up, goes to work, comes home, goes to bed and then repeats the process all over again. He meticulously plans out his day on a perfect time frame. One day he starts hearing a voice in his head that is narrating his actions. When the voice warns him of his emanate death, he is frightened and turns to literary expert Prof. Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman, RAIN MAN), who tries to determine if Harold is in either a comedy or tragedy. Meanwhile, Harold is assigned to investigate the case of baker Amy Pascal (Gyllenhaal, WORLD TRADE CENTER), who only paid part of her taxes because she objects to paying for things like wars. Of course, she hates Harold at first, but soon falls for his innocence and dry wit. As this is going on, writer Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson, DEAD AGAIN) is looking for a way to kill the main character in her next novel, which happens to be Harold Crick. She is a very depressive type, who isn’t too receptive to her book publisher strapping her with an unwanted aide named Penny Escher (Queen Latifah, CHICAGO).

Blogs HOLES (2003) (***1/2)

Novelist Louis Sachar adapts his own young adult novel into this strange, but emotionally honest story about troubled kids and friendship. The real surprising thing about this film is not the originality of its story, but the lack of pandering toward its intended audience. Thus, the film rises above the tween set and becomes something truly for the entire family.

Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia LaBeouf, TRANSFORMERS) is from a long line of cursed men in his family ever since his great grandfather didn't follow through with the demands of the gypsy Madame Zeroni (Eartha Kitt, TV's BATMAN), who was trying to help him win a wife. Stanley is blamed for stealing a pair of sneakers and is given the option of either going to jail or going to Camp Greenlake, a reform camp for troubled boys. Now Camp Greenlake has no lake in sight. There, caretaker Mr. Sir (Jon Voight, DELIVERENCE), counselor Dr. Pendanski (Tim Blake Nelson, O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?) and Warden Walker (Sigourney Weaver, ALIEN), make the boys dig holes in the desert all day. As Mr. Sir states, "You make a bad boy dig a hole in the hot sun all day and you turn him into a good boy."

Blogs WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? (2006) (***1/2)

Chris Paine's documentary looks at the history of the electric car production from what first spurred it to the many factors that led to its death. The EV1 was a completely electric car, which ran completely clean. It's manufacturer, General Motors, pulled the entire fleet of vehicles from the market, taking them from their lessees, and destroyed them.

The film looks at many factors to why the electric vehicle died from the oil companies, the viability of battery technology, consumers, the California Clean Air Board, the hydrogen car, the U.S. government and the car companies themselves. A mandate by the California state government to have no emissions cars available forced the major auto companies to create the electric car or be pushed out of the California market. So while several car producers were making electric vehicles, they were systematically trying to kill their own product. What kind of business would want to undermine it's own advanced technology?

Blogs This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates The Best of the Wacky on the Guardian 1000

I love lists. So, best of film lists are like an addiction to crack for me. I can't get enough. THE GUARDIAN has put together its list of the 1,000 films to see before you die. Not as complete as Steven Jay Schneider's book, 1001 MOVIES YOU MUST SEE BEFORE YOU DIE — it's missing THE GODFATHER: PART II and Cocteau’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST — the Guardian list skews toward more modern films, shies away from sequels and certainly has eclectic taste. So I decided to highlight some of its more wacky choices that I think deserve your attention.

I commend choices like ONE FALSE MOVE, THREE KINGS, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, GHOST WORLD, GHOST DOG and GRIZZLY MAN, but question picks like DODGEBALL, NEAR DARK, ZOOLANDER, ACE VENTURA and THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE. (Yes, THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE). Maybe not cinematic perfection, but it does pick modern successes that have influenced the business like AMERICAN PIE, BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, CROCODILE DUNDEE, X-MEN, SPIDER-MAN, TERMINATOR, T2 and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL. There are a lot of good films that I don't really think of landmarks like BAD SANTA, 8 MILE, ROMEO + JULIET and HOT FUZZ. Kevin Smith's CLERKS was a landmark film of the '90s, but MALLRATS instead of CHASING AMY? Lots of fun cult films like BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, ROBOCOP, STRICTLY BALLROOM, TWO LANE BLACKTOP, OFFICE SPACE, TOUCHING THE VOID and TIMECODE. It doesn't miss great animated films like SPIRITED AWAY, SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT, THE IRON GIANT, CHICKEN RUN and Starewicz's THE TALE OF THE FOX. It also doesn't miss some the "baser" genres like horror, picking such films as RE-ANIMATOR and SCREAM. But are films like DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID, OUT OF SIGHT or PARENTS, really that good?

Blogs Nik and Nancy have a new family member!

As most of you know Nik and I lost our beloved 15 year old Dalmatian Kirby earlier this year and he was soon followed to dog heaven by our equally beloved 15 year old Molly. It was very painful for us to lose both of them so close together but we are dog people and we knew that somewhere down the road there would be another dog that needed a good home and a lot of love. We had planned not to even think about a dog until after we returned from KROK in the Ukraine in early October but low but as we all know life does not always go the way we plan.

Last Sunday Nik and I saw a sign on a tree in a little park near our house for a homeless 4 year old West Highland Terrier that was free but must be taken before the next day or it would be go to the pound. It turned out that his mistress is dead, the master is in jail and their two sons put the dog out on the street. The family that took him in after a week on the streets already have 2 Skiperkeys and couldn't keep a third dog but they did take him to a vet to be checked out and an implanted chip was found. The vet tracked down the children who said that they didn't want anything to do with their father, the dog, or anything that the father had ever touched! Please do not write for more details -- we don't have any and don't really want to know what happened.


More than any of the other HARRY POTTER films, this one got the emotional core of the story perfect. This edition in the series is less spectacle and more dramatic. It puts Harry's emotional struggle — fighting his inner anger with the world — front and center. The characterization of the new characters is perfect. Director David Yates (THE GIRL IN THE CAFE) and writer Michael Goldenberg (2003's PETER PAN), who are both new to the series, take the biggest of the novels and pare it down to its essence. Remarkably, the HARRY POTTER films just keep getting better.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) feels isolated back home with his non-magical Muggle family. After he is forced to use magic outside of school to save himself and his cousin Dudley (Harry Melling), he is expelled from Hogwarts, but then is taken from his aunt and uncle's home to the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, which includes his godfather Sirius Black (Gary Oldman, THE PROFESSIONAL), former teachers Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (Brendan Gleeson, GANGS OF NEW YORK) and werewolf Remus Lupin (David Thewlis, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN), veteran wizards Kingsley Shacklebolt (George Harris, LAYER CAKE) and Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena, ABOUT A BOY) and Ron's parents Mr. and Mrs. Weasley (Mark Williams, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE & Julie Walters, BILLY ELLIOT). The minister of magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy, AN IDEAL HUSBAND) is denying the return of the dark lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, THE ENGLISH PATIENT), putting sugary sweet dictator Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton, VERA DRAKE) in the role of Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, where she refuses to teach real magic that could save the teens and rules over the student body with decrees controlling all forms of behavior and thought.

Blogs A MIGHTY HEART (2007) (***1/2)

A MIGHTY HEART turns the kidnapping of WALL STREET JOURNAL reporter Daniel Pearl into a powerful procedural. Director Michael Winterbottom (THE CLAIM) and star Angelina Jolie bring energy and emotion to the political and personal side of the story that gripped headlines across the world. The production honors the life of Daniel Pearl, the courage of his life Mariane and the passion of dedicated journalists.

Daniel (Dan Futterman, TV's JUDGING AMY) and pregnant Mariane Pearl (Jolie, GIRL, INTERRUPTED) moved to Karachi, Pakistan where he continues his investigation into a link between "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and extremist cleric Mubarisk Ali Gilani. They move into the house of colleague and long-time friend Asra Nomani (Archie Panjabi, THE CONSTANT GARDNER). Danny meets with Randall Bennett (Will Patton, REMEMBER THE TITANS) at the U.S. consulate about whether he should go through with a planned meeting with Gilani and Bennett advises him not to. But after getting assurances from a Pakistani government official that as long as they are in public he will be safe, Danny takes a taxi to meet Gilani, but never returns.

Blogs 1408 (2007) (***1/2)

With horror these days either going to torture porn or weak PG-13 remakes of Asian scarefests, it is refreshing to see a classic horror tale that takes the viewer into the hell of its characters' minds. But what do you expect from the master of horror Stephen King. This is one of the better horror adaptations of his work in some time. Less interested in the twists and turns of the plot (but there are some), this film is more interested in the twisted turns inside its main character's psyche.

Mike Enslin (John Cusack, HIGH FIDELITY) is a failed novelist who now writes travel guides of haunted locations across the U.S. Estranged from his wife Lily (Mary McCormack, DEEP IMPACT), he is struggling with the death of his young daughter Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN). He gets an anonymous postcard warning him not to stay in room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in New York City. Enslin's interest in peaked and he is willing to face some of his demons to see what lies in the haunted hotel room where more than 50 people have died. Hotel manager Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson, SNAKES ON A PLANE) nearly begs him not to stay in the room and warns him that no one has lasted longer than an hour.

Blogs STRAW DOGS (1971) (**1/2)

When I first saw this film in college, I hated it. Loathed its misogyny. Now seeing it 10 or so years later, I respect it more, but my issues with the film have not changed. Sam Peckinpah is a man fighting his own 19th Century view of male-female relations as well as violence. You see this over many of his films. He is a great filmmaker, who skillful plays out his stories and fills them with provocative ideas. But what does he leave the audience feeling? What is he saying? STRAW DOGS represents Peckinpah's own dark internal struggle and the dark wins out too many times over the truth.

David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman, THE GRADUATE) is an American intellectual who moves to England with his British wife Amy (Susan George, DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY) to do his research. David is very non-confrontational, allowing local thugs to push him around. Amy resents him for it and flirts with her burly ex-boyfriend Charlie Venner (Del Henney). Tensions grow between David, Amy and the townsfolk, which turn to violence.

Blogs This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of America

With it being the 4th of July, I thought a great theme for this week's This Weekend's Film Festival would be America — the good, the bad and the ugly. Once I had my theme lots of ideas and sub-themes came to mind. It's a ripe area to explore and I will definitely be visiting it again sometime. However, the lineup I have come up with captures the American spirit though politics and sports. I truly feel that American holidays celebrating America should be a time for us to not only wave flags and remember that we are lucky to be Americans, but also to reflect on the bad and the ugly parts of what being an American means to us as well as the rest of the world. This week's five films address some of our shortcomings as well as our triumphs.

Blogs An Event Honoring Walter Lantz and Woody Woodpecker

A few days ago I received an email regarding this event in Los Angeles on July 11th

Here is the link to a site for FREE tickets and more information....just click here

The text of the email follows....wish I was in L.A. on the 11th....

Headline: An Animator’s Grand Salute to Woody Woodpecker! Guess Who!

On July 11, StoryMakers Studio brings several of the biggest names in the cartoon world to the Grauman’s Chinese Theatres Complex in Hollywood:

Blogs SHOOTER (2007) (**)

Outside of an earnest performance from Mark Wahlberg and a half decent role for Michael Pena, this stupid film has very little else to offer. This film falls into the category of films that I like to call 15-minute Google movies — they're films that pretend to know what they are talking about by using what seems like about 15 minutes of Googling the given topic. Reportedly this film is based off a novel by Stephen Hunter, who is either a hack writer or very mad at the film studio. Jonathan Lemkin's screenplay actually feels like it was based on a million other films just like it. Additionally, director Antoine Fuqua (TRAINING DAY) seems to know this and just goes through the motions on this one.

Blogs Find your fantasy

Very interesting contrast last week when I caught back-to-back screenings of a pair of fantasy flicks: Stardust and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

For one, the Stardust screening was deserted - just me, one other person and a friend I brought along. (A tumbling tumbleweed blocked my view of the screen for a while). The Phoenix screening was packed - they had to bring in folding chairs for the overflow, and held the start until some bigshot could make it.

And the movies deserved their respective audiences. Want to see an uninspired, you'll-leave-the-theater-humming-the(adequate)-special-effects fantasy? Stardust (directed by Matthew Vaughn of Layer Cake) is your film. Everything's pro-forma, out of the twinkly, twee, Edwardian-British faerie school of literary fantasy, without an ounce of conviction showing anywhere; I've had more believable experiences at your average Renaissance Festival.

Blogs TRANSFORMERS (2007) (**1/2)

TRANSFORMERS starts off as a fun summer cruise, but then crashes head on into the medium strip at 100 mph and subsequently kicks it into autopilot. The first third is an entertaining global alien invasion flick in the mold of INDEPENDENCE DAY, but sadly once the Autobots show up the script flips into a juvenile, sitcom-like version of IRON GIANT. Finally in the end, we are given a conclusion with so many plot holes you could drive Optimus Prime right through them.

In Qatar, a U.S. military base is attacked by a transforming helicopter, leaving soldiers Sgt. Lennox (Josh Duhamel, TV's LAS VEGAS), USAF Tech Sgt. Epps (Tyrese Gibson, BABY BOY) and their teammates stranded in the desert. Then we move to the American suburbs, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf, HOLES) is trying to save up for his first car, going to the point where he's willing to sell his grandfather's glasses on eBay. He pines over the pretty, popular girl Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox, TV's HOPE & FAITH), who turns out to be a grease monkey. Defense Secretary John Keller (Jon Voight, DELIVERENCE) tries to make heads or tails of the robot attack, which includes a hack into the government's computer systems. To do so he calls in tech experts from all walks of life. Young, pretty, Aussie techie Maggie Madsen (Rachael Taylor, SEE NO EVIL) discovers the alien robots hacking into Air Force One computers and when she gets resistance to her idea about the hacks coming from DNA based machines, she goes to her hacker friend Glen Whitmann (Anthony Anderson, HUSTLE & FLOW) for help. Later Sam discovers that his beat-up Camero is really an alien robot named Bumblebee (Mark Ryan, THE PRESTIGE) and that his grandfather's glasses are key to saving Earth from the evil alien robot Decepticons.

Blogs RATATOUILLE (2007) (****)

I'd like to introduce you to the first real contender for Best Film of 2007. Brad Bird is the best American director working in animation today. Knowing that he came onto the project midway is amazing, because he has made the best American animated film since TOY STORY 2 and his own IRON GIANT. He has also pushed the boundaries of American animation into a more adult realm. It's still a film for the whole family, but I suspect parents will get more out of it than their kids.

Remy (Patton Oswalt, TV's THE KING OF QUEENS) is a rat with a keen sense of smell. He loves fine cooking, which puts him at odds with is moldy meat-and-potatoes father, Django (Brian Dennehy, COCOON) and simple taste brother, Emile (Peter Sohn, story artist at Pixar). When they get forced out of their home in the country, the rat clan ends up in Paris. Remy gets separated from the rest and is inspired to check the city out by a figment of his imagination in the form of his favorite chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett, TV's EVERYONE LOVES RAYMOND). He ends up in the deceased Gusteau's famed restaurant, which is now run by the short tyrant Skinner (Ian Holm, LORD OF THE RINGS), who is more interested in using Gusteau's fame to sell a line of frozen foods than to run the once five-star eatery.

Blogs STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986) (***)

Considered by some the best STAR TREK feature, this installment is a bit hokey, but serves as an excellent time capsule of its era. Taking a page from ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, VOYAGE HOME finds the 23rd Century crew of the Enterprise in '80s San Francisco. Silly humor aside, the film has a message at its core that applies to the current time, which was a hallmark of the classic TV series. It's not all that deep, but it's fun and entertaining.

Admiral Jim Kirk (William Shatner) has saved his once-dead friend Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who is coping with his rebirth and readjusting to his duel lineage as a logical Vulcan and emotional human. The Federation wants to try the crew for their actions in the third film, but a mysterious probe has come to Earth and will destroy the planet unless it can make contact with humpback whales. The problem is humpback whales are extinct. So Kirk devises a plan to travel back in time and bring back two whales. In the past, they team up with whale expert Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks, TV's 7TH HEAVEN), who first believes the strangely dressed Kirk and Spock are crazy.

Blogs This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Eclectic Cinema Starring African-Americans

With BLACK SNAKE MOAN hitting DVD this week, I thought I'd build the week's This Weekend Film Festival around cult cinema starring African-Americans. I went through a big list of possible films and picked ones that I felt complemented each other in thematic and/or tonal ways. If you like this lineup some alternative titles for future viewing could include BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, BAADASSSSS!, SHAFT or CABIN IN THE SKY. All five films have a hot, steamy feel to them, which is quite fitting for this pre-July 4th weekend. Looking for eccentric characters and eclectic stories? Than I have a lineup for you.

Kicking off the fest on Friday night is the best film from 2000 — GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI. Jim Jarmusch's genre-bending comedy/thriller mixes gangsters, hip-hop and the samurai's code of honor. Ghost Dog is a cool and calculated killer for the mob, who has a peaceful soul inside. He lives by a strict code, which gives him purpose. Jarmusch sets Ghost Dog's ways against the dying Italian mob culture. The film satirically pokes fun at gangster conventions, bringing a droll sense of humor to the film. Unique characters populate this entire film. This one is like nothing you've ever seen before. Check out my 2001 review of the film to find out more.

Blogs EL TOPO (1970) (****)

This mystical, satirical Western is like if Buñuel, Fellini and Mel Brooks made THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY for the arthouse and grindhouse, simultaneously. Every now and than you see a film so original that it's more than just something that you've never seen before, it's something that changes the way you think about film. This is one of those rare films. Alejandro Jodorowsky is a master filmmaker, who is like many of the great modern filmmakers, combining elements of cinema that have come before in a way that it makes something revolutionarily new and refreshing. This is post-modern cinema at its best, strangest and most spiritual.

El Topo (Jodorowsky) is a black clad rider, who tells his six-year-old naked son that the boy is now a man and he should symbolically burry his first toy and a picture of his mother in the desert. They ride into a town where the people have been slaughtered by outlaws. While avenging the deaths, he meets a woman he names Mara (Mara Lorenzio), who will urge him to make morally questionable decisions, which lead to his redemption in an underground community of deformed people where he meets a little woman (Jacqueline Luis), who changes his life.

Blogs NASHVILLE (1975) (****)

The quintessential "Altman" feature follows 24 major characters through five days in Nashville, leading up to a political rally/ country concert. More free flowing than any of director Robert Altman's other hyperlink films, this feature clearly has no main character and moves along on the simplest plot theme, building wonderful character moments, which lead back to its core themes of fame and politics. The "plot" is thin, but the narrative is a complex and brilliantly constructed tapestry of intertwining narratives, surrounded by nearly an hour of music.

Haven Hamilton (Henry Gibson, MAGNOLIA) is a Nashville icon with his big hair and white, spangled jump suit. The film begins with him recording an insipid ballad about the bicentennial. Linnea Reese (Lily Tomlin, 9 TO 5) is a white gospel singer, who is married to lawyer Delbert (Ned Beatty, DELIVERENCE), who is helping organize the political rally for third party candidate Hal Phillip Walker, who is unseen throughout the film. Linnea and Delbert have two deaf sons, which Delbert cannot relate to at all. Linnea is hounded by womanizing folk rocker Tom Frank (Keith Carradine, CHOOSE ME), who is having an affair with his bandmate Mary (Cristina Raines, THE SENTINEL), who is married to his other bandmate Bill (Allan Nicholls, SLAP SHOT). Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) is a reigning queen of Nashville, but she is mentally and physically burnt out by the pressures of the music business and her controlling manager/husband Barnett (Allen Garfield, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY).

Blogs THE BRIDGE (2006) (****)

More than 20 people leap from the Golden Gate Bridge each year and this film watches them do it. There is an allure to the location that draws more people to end their lives there than any other spot on Earth. It's a dramatic way to go. Eric Steel's gripping documentary about the phenomenon is chilling as we watch in horror as 24 people jump from the bridge. For many this film will certainly fall into the category of a great film that they will never want to see again. For others it may be a film too disturbing to watch one time. It profoundly tries to step into the darkness that causes people to take their own lives and it's not a comfortable place to go.

Through the course of the film, we see many people jump, we see a few people stopped, we hear from the family and friends of the dead and also hear from one very lucky survivor. The 220-foot fall takes 4 seconds; most die on impact, others drown. Roughly 1,300 people have killed themselves at the Golden Gate Bridge, only 26 jumpers have survived.

Blogs ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN (2006) (**1/2)

Luckily there's a 4-star Scrat short interspersed between the weak sitcom plot of this disappointing sequel to Blue Sky's surprisingly good debut film, ICE AGE. The characters made the original so wonderful. The new characters in MELTDOWN make the sequel annoying. And there are too many of them. This overshadows poor Manny, Sid and Diego. Scrat fares much better because he's out on his own.

Our loveable trio each has their own separate issues to deal with this time around. Manny (Ray Romano, TV's EVERYONE LOVES RAYMOND) is sad over the possibility that he may be the last mammoth alive. Sid (John Leguizamo, SUMMER OF SAM) gets no respect from the kids in their new larger tribe of various prehistoric animals. Diego (Denis Leary, TV's RESCUE ME) fears water, which is a real problem when the land of ice you live in is melting all around you. It appears that the valley where they all reside is going to flood soon, so they head off to the far end toward a rumored boat. Along the way Manny, Sid and Diego get separated from the mass of annoying characters, to end up with three other annoying characters — possums Crash (Sean William Scott, AMERICAN PIE) and Eddie (Josh Peck, MEAN CREEK) and their adopted mammoth sister Ellie (Queen Latifah, CHICAGO), who doggedly refuses to accept that she is indeed a mammoth.

Blogs ALICE, SWEET ALICE (1976) (**1/2)

Originally titled COMMUNION upon its theatrical release, this horror thriller peaked my interest when it made Bravo's top-50 horror list and features Brooke Shields first film performance. Horror fans may find the core premise an interesting twist on the slasher genre, but others will find the tone and pacing all wrong. Most of the ingredients are fresh, but the meal gets overheated and goes down rough.

Catherine Spages (Linda Miller, AN UNMARRIED WOMAN) has two daughters — the perfect beauty Karen (Shields) and the troublemaker Alice (Paula Sheppard). Alice torments her sister with creepy masks and mean pranks. We suspect that she is up to no good. Then on the day of her first communion, Karen is strangled by a masked killer who hides her body and sets it on fire. Catherine is devastated. Her strict sister Annie (Jane Lowry) moves in with her. The beloved Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich, THE NUMBER 23) tries to consol her. Her estranged husband Dom (Niles McMaster) comes into town. Det. Spina (Michael Hardstark) and Brennan (Tom Signorelli, THE COTTON CLUB) want to talk to Alice about the murder, but her family can't believe that she could be involved. But Karen's attack will not be the only victim of this killer.


Prior to making this film, director Joseph Ruben made another film called THE STEPFATHER, which dealt with a domineering male who loams over his family. Both films share similar plot themes, positive points and problems. They start convincingly and contain strong performances, but spiral off into ridiculous slasher movies in the end. Ruben sets up well, but doesn't deliver.

Laura (Julia Roberts, PRETTY WOMAN) meets and marries Martin Burney (Patrick Bergin, PATRIOT GAMES), who is suave, charming and wealthy. He seems like a catch. But after the honeymoon is over, he becomes controlling and ultimately abusive both mentally and physically. After three years of being trapped, Laura devises a plan to fake her own death then run away to Iowa to start her life anew. In her new life, she meets theater professor Ben Woodward (Kevin Anderson, CHARLOTTE'S WEB), who she has a problem opening up to. Laura is afraid that Martin will find out about her deception and come looking for her and she has every right to fear this happening.

Blogs BREACH (2007) (***1/2)

Based on the true story of the worst case of spying in U.S. history, this taut thriller relies on an intriguing central character, brought to life brilliantly by Chris Cooper (AMERICAN BEAUTY). Director Billy Ray brings the same examining eye he brought to his previous film, SHATTERED GLASS, which chronicled Stephen Glass's deception in filing fake news reports to his newspaper in an effort to succeed. Many of the same themes are addressed in this sad tale of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who for decades gave up American secrets to Russia.

We begin with hot agent in training Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe, CRASH) on a stakeout, where he outshines the other trainees. He's called in by senior agent Kate Burroughs (Laura Linney, KINSEY), who wants Eric to ride the desk of Hanssen, who is being reassigned to plan out the agency's new computer security structure and needs to be watched because he is a sexual deviant. Eric keeps an eye on the cocky Hanssen, who on the surface appears to be a staunchly religious man dedicated to his family. Hanssen pushes Eric to embrace his Catholic faith and along with his wife Bonnie (Kathleen Quinlan, APOLLO 13) tries to push Eric's lax protestant wife Juliana (Caroline Dhavernas, HOLLYWOODLAND) into their beliefs. Hanssen is blunt and can be demeaning when Eric slips up. He isn't shy about sharing his distain with the politics of the FBI, which have kept him from being promoted to a higher level. Eric is torn about keeping secrets from his wife and spying on a boss he has come to respect until Burroughs reveals that Hanssen is a traitor.

Blogs THE FOUNTAIN (2006) (**1/2)

Darren Aronofsky is a smart filmmaker. This REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is a devastating piece of cinema, which asked tough questions within a deeply layered narrative. For his follow-up, THE FOUNTAIN is a sci-fi epic that looks a various generations' attempts at finding immortal life. This topic is presented in an ethereal way with a complex plot structure that is unnecessarily convoluted creating an air of pretension when the thin concept delivers nothing all that profound in the end.

Hugh Jackman (X-MEN) and Rachel Weisz (THE CONSTANT GARDENER) play three roles each separated by 500 years. Tomas is a Spanish conquistador who travels to the Americas to locate the Tree of Life for Queen Isabel, who has promised her hand in return. Dr. Tom Creo is a current researcher looking for a cure to his wife Izzi's cancer. Then 500 years in the future, Tommy travels with the Tree of Life in a space bubble to a dying star. It is alluded to that they are reincarnated versions of the same soul, but this is more implied than made explicit. In actuality, the 2005 male and the future male are the same person, which makes the connection to the Spanish male fuzzy.