The summer blockbuster Troy is neither as bad as it might be nor as stirring as it should be. As directed by Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot), it is an entertaining display of sword-and-sandal heroism via the medium of modern movie technology. But since this is a story about the Trojans, Achilles and Hector, providing a decent adventure story is simply not enough.
Those who have seen Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark know that Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier tends to focus on issues of sacrifice and forgiveness, especially involving women. Dogville adds rage and revenge to the mix.
The genteel French film Monsieur Ibrahim, directed by François Dupeyron, is based on the book Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran, by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, who also coscripted the movie. It is a tender story about a Turkish Muslim and a French Jew. The setting is 1960s Paris, in the gritty but colorful Rue Bleue district, once infamous for its assortment of streetwalkers.
In the 1927 silent version of The King of Kings, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Christ is first seen from the point of view of a blind man regaining his sight. It is a masterful touch that adds grandeur to the story. Over the decades, scores of films have been made about Jesus of Nazareth. Many of these productions dripped with Hollywood glitz, while others tackled serious issues of faith.
Robert S. McNamara, the focus of The Fog of War, an Academy Award–nominated documentary directed by Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line), served as secretary of defense under the two presidents who took the U.S. into Vietnam—John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
Before the advent of drug traffickers and serial killers, films often focused on conflicts over real estate. Think of the red dirt of Tara in Gone With The Wind, the stately mansion in The Magnificent Ambersons or the contested open plains in Shane. Property is also the focal point of House of Sand and Fog, based on the 1999 novel by Andre Dubus III.
With a trio of photogenic stars, a top-shelf crew and outstanding writer-director Anthony Minghella on board, Cold Mountain tries valiantly to match the epic sweep of Charles Frazier's novel, which won the 1997 National Book Award. But it lacks a clear understanding of what the book is about, and that's a problem.
Dating back to his "man with no name" westerns and including his recurring role as Dirty Harry Callahan, Clint Eastwood has embraced projects that rely on his own version of the three R's: remorse, revenge and redemption.
The title of Philip Roth's 2000 novel, The Human Stain, suggests something left behind unwillingly, something to regret, even something to be ashamed of. It alludes to the infamous sexual stain Bill Clinton left on Monica Lewinsky's dress.
One of the most satisfying films of the year, Niki Caro's Whale Rider, is set in a small Maori village on New Zealand's eastern shore. The film begins with the juxtaposition of life and death, as a mother dies giving birth to twins. The male twin also dies, leaving the infant girl, Pai, as the sole survivor of this sad day.
In Christian tradition Mary Magdalene came to symbolize (without much biblical support) the fallen woman who repents. Roman Catholics made Mary Magdalene a saint, and her name was attached to the "Magdalene laundries" that flourished in Ireland throughout the 1900s.
Some movies like to stick their toe in the stream of allegory. Northfork jumps right in. Set in 1955, this film by brothers Michael and Mark Polish (Twin Falls, Idaho, and Jackpot) is about a small Montana town about to be flooded to make way for a hydroelectric plant.
Good documentaries reveal the truth. Better documentaries ask, What is truth? Capturing the Friedmans is a great documentary because of the way it suggests there is no absolute truth about this family in turmoil.
Merging a love story with a political thriller is a daunting challenge for a filmmaker. I remember seeing Warren Beatty's Reds in 1981 and thinking that while the John Reed-Louise Bryant love story was engaging, Beatty could have used help from someone like Constantin Costa-Gavras in staging the scenes of political revolution.
With The Shape of Things, filmmaker Neil LaBute returns to his earlier status as a "nasty piece of work." After taking a moral hiatus to direct the uneven black comedy Nurse Betty (2000) and the dreary love story Possession (2002), he is back to the severe old tricks he exhibited in his first two films, the upsetting but challenging In the Company of Men (199
Pedro Almodovar, the one-time enfant terrible of the Spanish cinema, has matured into one of the most sublime voices on the international film scene, and in the process has become a great moralist. Who could have expected this from the director of such cult films as Dark Habits (1983), which features a heroin-addicted lesbian Mother Superior, or Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!
Roman Polanski's The Pianist has been hailed as the filmmaker's long-awaited return to the glorious 1960s and '70s, when he made such films as Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and especially Chinatown. This analysis is flawed in two respects.
Martin Scorsese's obsession with pain and suffering--and, more to the point, martyrdom--dates back to his breakthrough 1973 film Mean Streets, whose main character repeatedly puts his hand into a burning church candle to see what the flames of damnation will feel like.