Red Eye

We've all been conditioned to fear the Saudi, the terrorist with the thick Middle Eastern accent and the half-crazed look in his eye. But what if we board a plane on a "red-eye" flight and the killer turns out to be a nice, slender, attractive, blue-eyed Anglo?

Wes Craven delivers a straight suspense movie, no tricks, nothing supernatural, not sci-fi. It's the story line that propels this movie, and the stars do a nice job of taking us all for the ride.

Dark Water

"Dark Water" is one of those creepy/tingly films that you don't think you want to see, then pulls you into its dreary, dank interior until you go home not wanting to turn on a water faucet.

Jennifer Connelly plays Dahlia, a just-separated Mom in the midst of trying to work with mediators about the visitation arrangements. It's wearying business. Each parent is trying to undermine the other, and both firmly believe they're operating in the best interests of the child, but they're too emotionally involved to separate that from their own best interests. The Dad, Kyle (Dougray Scott) is not portrayed as an uncaring monster, but is just frustrated enough to be believable, especially as he loses his temper over the way she remembers a shared past. He thinks she's re-writing history. She thinks that he could not possibly be as good a parent as she is. And so they stalk off to their respective desultory apartments.

Kingdom of Heaven

Yes, it's the Crusades, and the Church can't help but come off badly: you'll save your immortal soul if you'll go kill some infidels?

But for those who love the Church, it's worse than that: early on, the parish priest goes to the blacksmith's shop to assure the young recent widower that his wife is surely in Hell because she committed suicide (after the death of her baby). Not only that, the "helpful" priest reminds the grieving blacksmith that his wife's head was severed prior to burial, so she's in Hell headless, as well. This gruesome representative of the Church doesn't promise the young blacksmith that going on the Crusade will deliver his wife from Hell, but does try the "save your own soul" appeal. We hardly want to blame the enraged blacksmith for applying his rage to the incredibly insensitive priest.

A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

British humor: an ordinary bloke gets to tour the galaxies with hyperspace intergalactic travel, and all he can think about is that he can't get a good cup of tea anywhere.

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) wakes up one morning in his ramshackle house in the country, only to discover that the wrecking crew has arrived to level his modest home, because they're going to build a bypass there. He lies in front of a bulldozer in his bathrobe to protest. The construction supervisor tells him that it's a useless gesture, because the decision's already been made. In the meantime, his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) scurries toward him, anxious to get him to the nearest pub to drink a couple of quick pints before the world ends. Yes, Mr. Prefect, it turns out, is an alien, and he's planning to beam up to the spaceship via his thumb ring before the world explodes. You see, the planet Earth, also, has been scheduled for demolition in order to make way for a highway in space.

The Interpreter

It loses some of its force because it is fictional. But it could be about any number of countries in Africa that are all too non-fiction: genocides, ethnic cleansing, brutal slayings, mass graves, thousands of victims, thousands of refugees, thousands of the disinherited and dispossessed, thousands of expatriates yearning to go home, except home will never be the same.

Any movie that begins with an execution by children is going to be sobering throughout.  "The Interpreter" is a serious film intended to be taken seriously. 

Because of Winn-Dixie

For a good, old-fashioned family movie, this one has it all: a timeless small town, a cute little girl, a well-meaning but distracted Dad, a few colorful secondary characters, and a dog who has an amazing capacity for bringing the humans closer together.

Annasophia Robb plays Opal, the pig-tailed 10-year old with the skinny legs and the big, blue innocent eyes and a wise-beyond-her-years outlook. She moves to this small town because her Dad (Jeff Daniels) is the new preacher. The church is just forming, and is meeting in a convenience store.

Opal describes her Dad, whom she also calls "Preacher", as a tortoise always going back inside its shell. He seems to spend a lot of time in their mobile home reading the Bible, but not much time going out and seeing people. He's sad because his wife, Opal's Mom, left him several years ago, he says, because she couldn't stand being a preacher's wife. So his resentment of his profession hangs with him along with his gritty determination to keep doing it, because he's already paid too high a price not to continue.

Coach Carter


I liked it better than "Hoosiers."

In "Hoosiers," the new high school coach in a small Indiana town in the '50's preached teamwork, teamwork, teamwork, pass the ball, set picks, four passes before every shot, and then when the star shooter arrived, all that went out the window.

His big motivational ploy was to get them to measure the hoop when they went to the State tournament. They reported it as ten feet from the floor, the same height as every basketball hoop. It was his way of demonstrating to them that they didn't need to be intimidated. And in the end, they go all the way to the State Finals.

Now it's the '90's. Coach Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) arrives at Richmond High in California, a school that graduates only 50% of its students; a school where only 6% go to college. When he preaches "teamwork, teamwork, teamwork," he means more than passing the ball to the best shooter, or running a trap play to force a turnover. He means taking responsibility for yourself, and for everyone else on the team.

The Chorus (Les Choristes)


It's not a new plot idea. Kids languish in an orphanage. New teacher comes and gets them energized. There's no real plot surprise here, it's all in how it's done. And 'The Chorus' is done in such a way that makes it seem real and heart-warming at the same time.There's precious little sugarcoating. It's mostly struggle, and conflict, with just a few moments of tenderness to make it even bearable.

The music teacher Clement Mathieu (Gerard Tugnot) is admittedly depressed as he shuffles into the dilapidated-looking French boys' orphanage in 1949. He's failed at being a professional musician. It seems that nobody really wants to pay to listen to his music. He's put his compositions away, in a leather satchel, and hidden them in the closet of his bare room at the orphanage. Metal bunk bed, wooden dresser, straight chair. The only woman around is the maid, who is seen little and heard from even less. 

The Incredibles

Remember the parable of the talents in Matthew 25: 14-30?  The servants who are rewarded are the ones who are given ten and five talents, and produce ten and five more. The servant who is chastised is the one who takes his one talent and buries it. Yes, yes, the 'talent' in the parable referred to a unit of money and not to individual ability. Nonetheless, it's irresistible for preachers and other well-meaning commentators to apply the metaphor of personal talents. The message would be something like, 'Use your gifts, especially if they can help someone else.'

Well, that's also the message of 'The Incredibles.' This is an animated Pixar feature, where the voices are notable actors, but it's all programmed into the graphics, just like the music soundtrack and the cutting-edge visuals. This is pure high-tech, because there's not a 'real' scene in it.  But it's engaging, nonetheless, in part because of the compelling character development.

Polar Express

'The Polar Express' is an animation film that features Tom Hanks voicing several roles on his way to making a Christmas movie that looks and feels really different, especially on IMAX.

Our unnamed hero is a little boy who's just old enough to start doubting Santa Claus. He overhears his parents telling each other that he's shared his doubts with his younger sister. The mother and dad say, 'This may be the last year of the magic.' The little boy falls asleep, and the next thing he knows, a big train pulls up in his front yard, where the conductor offers to take him to the North Pole.