In M. Night Shyamalan’s faux gothic film The Village, a late-19th-century community lives in enforced isolation; the deformed, bloodthirsty creatures who inhabit the woods outside the village prevent access to the world beyond. What makes the film an imitation gothic is the double plot twist.
Adapted from one of Robert Ludlum’s bestsellers, The Bourne Identity was one of the exciting entertainments of 2002. Matt Damon played the hero, a man hauled out of the drink who digs two bullets out of his back and finds a Swiss bank account number implanted in his hip. He has no recollection of who he is, but he’s exceptionally strong and resourceful.
The best tales of the supernatural, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, use fantasy to dramatize emotions that are too dark and overpowering to be treated conventionally. Sam Raimi’s marvelous Spider-Man 2 takes audiences into some pretty deep waters too.
In the third Harry Potter movie based on J. K. Rowling’s wondrous series of children’s novels, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón takes the wheel from Chris Columbus, who steered both of the earlier pictures. It would be hard to think of a director with finer credentials for the job.
The German occupation of France, a sinister and embarrassing epoch for the French, tends to be treated by them with dutiful solemnity or avoided altogether. Therefore the gleeful irreverence of Jean-Paul Rappeneau and his team of screenwriters in Bon Voyage is refreshing, even liberating.
Charlie Kaufman may be both the most original screenwriting talent to emerge in the past ten years and the most exasperating. He inspires fervent loyalty among some film buffs because his ideas are playful and heady; they don’t start out or play out like anyone else’s, and at their best they can liberate actors’ most inventive impulses.
Mountain climbing may be one of the few modern dramatic subjects that contain the key elements of Greek tragedy: terror and folly, hubris and courage. You get a staggering sense of all four in Touching the Void, Kevin Macdonald’s film of Joe Simpson’s book.
Though only the second feature by the Australian director Sue Brooks (and the first to open in this country), Japanese Story is an almost perfectly calibrated small work, like a finely shaped short story. About the serendipity of crossing paths with a stranger, it’s a sort of companion piece to Lost in Translation, but with an entirely different tone.
In Out of Time, Matt Whitlock (played by Denzel Washington), a police chief in a small Florida town, is sleeping with Ann Merai (Sanaa Lathan), his high school girl friend, now unhappily married to a local brute (Dean Cain). Ann can't catch a break: she learns that she has cancer, and she can't afford the only treatment that might save her life.
The bedazzling first neon shots of Tokyo in Lost in Translation suggest a topsy-turvy version of Manhattan-weirdly familiar and yet alien, denser, even more vertiginous. Bob Harris (Bill Murray), a middle-aged movie star who's been flown to Japan to shoot a series of whiskey commercials, stares out the window of his cab and blinks through his jet-lag haze.
Dave Hurst is a dentist who shares a practice with his wife, Dana, and comes home at night to their three little girls. He feels he does the lion's share of the household duties: his domestic skills are more finely honed, and the tantrum-prone youngest child doesn't like to be touched by anyone but Daddy.
The latest animated feature from Pixar, Finding Nemo, has all the trademarks of its imprint, which produced A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., and the Toy Story movies. The writing is witty, with a parodic, hipster's tone; the casting of the voices is ingenious; the visual design is zippy and inventive.
In the hilarious, pitch-perfect Christopher Guest parody, A Mighty Wind, three 1960s folk bands participate in a reunion concert to memorialize the promoter who brought them to the public eye. Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy burlesque the most celebrated of the folkies.
Lisa Cholodenko's Laurel Canyon is a confidently made high comedy in which an uptight young man (Christian Bale) brings his fiancée (Kate Beckinsale) to live with his bohemian record-producer mom (Frances McDormand) in Los Angeles. Sam has rebelled against his unconventional music-biz upbringing--Jane raised him by herself in a hazy, languid, druggy, sexually free atmosphere.
Ron Shelton's powerfully unsettling Dark Blue is about the coming apart of a Los Angeles cop. Eldon Perry (Kurt Russell) is about to make lieutenant, and he is deeply entrenched in the LAPD's boys' club network. But his blustery macho armor encases the memory of his murder of an innocent suspect.