Monthly Archives: April 2007

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Lee Tamahori’s preposterous sci-fi action/thriller is a silly, half-assed, mildly intriguing tale that never fully engages us with its ridiculous plot. Nicolas Cage (who else?) is magician Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas lounge act who has gained the attention of Security Chief Roybal (Jose Zuniga) at the casino at which he’s employed, by seeming to “cheat” at cards all the time without any clear way of cheating. This is because Cris can see two minutes into the future. This apparent ability, around which he has built a rather campy magic act, has gained the attention of FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), who wants him to use his ability to help prevent a nuclear terrorist attack. Cris, meanwhile, is haunted by the only person he’s managed to see coming for longer than two minutes into the future: Liz Cooper (Jessica Biel), a lovely young woman whose purpose in connection with Cris must be discovered before it’s too late. The film was directed by Lee Tamahori (“The Edge,” “Die Another Day”), a seasoned action/drama professional who sort of appears to be phoning it in a bit here – it all feels a little lazy, a little layed back, a little formulaic and a lot underwhelming. You could easily watch this film on TV and do 15 other things at the same time and still enjoy it to a point. Okay, maybe 5 or 10 things. Cage and Moore are terrific actors marooned here in a wasteland of action cliches and half-baked ideas. The results are passable, but not recommendable.

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JINDABYNE

Ray Lawrence’s follow-up to 2002’s LANTANA follows in that film’s footsteps in a curious way: where as that was an Altman-esque Aussie version of SHORT CUTS, this film is actually based on one of the Raymond Carver short stories that that film took as its source material (“So Much Water So Close to Home”). Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney are a couple living in the title town whose lives are rocked when Byrne and some friends go on a fishing expedition and wait for a whole weekend before reporting that they’ve found an Aboriginal girl murdered and laying in the lake. The uproar over their controversial decision (waiting to report it) overtakes the actual tragedy of her murder (at the hands of a mysterious truck driver). The film is slow and deep at two hours, but eventually involves you enough – if not as much as Lawrence’s previous film. A good, solid effort.

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DISTURBIA

D.J. Caruso’s 2007 thriller stars Shia LaBeouf as a kid who hits his teacher and is soon sentenced to court-ordered house arrest. At first he’s bored, he rubs the teacher’s relative (the cop who enforces the kid’s house arrest) the wrong way, and he begins to notice a mutual attraction (somewhat) with a new girl next door (Sarah Roemer). Another neighbor, a mysterious man who comes and goes at all hours and who seems to have a violent relationship with his women friends (David Morse), soon becomes LaBeouf’s suspect in a series of mysterious disappearances and/or murders in the area. But what can the kid do? He’s under house arrest! This teenage re-tread of Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” (1954) doesn’t quite have the craft or wit of the Master of Suspense, but it does have a charming and charismatic lead actor, a credulity-stretching, but never boring or unentertaining plot, and a good cast of mostly unknown or lesser known character actors. In short, Disturbia’s a hoot!

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YEAR OF THE DOG

PG_13, 97 min, 2007

Director: Mike White
Writer: Mike White
Stars: Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Peter Sarsgaard

Mike White’s Year of the Dog is a sunny-looking dark comedy, hiding a sardonic core just underneath a basically bright, cheerful and delightful surface. Continue reading

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