Viggo Mortensen has to keep telling himself he's not in Mordor's worse!

(2008) Drama (THINKfilm) Viggo Mortensen, Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker, Mark Strong, Steven Mackintosh, Gemma Jones, Anastasia Hille, Ruth Gemmell, Ralph Riach, Steven Elder, Kevin Doyle, David de Keyser, Guy Henry, Adrian Schiller, Tallulah Boote Bond. Directed by Vicente Amorim


We like to think we know the difference between right and wrong and given the choice between the two, will choose the former. That is the definition of a good person, isn’t it? Someone who always chooses the right thing over the wrong thing? Sometimes, the definitions aren’t so clear-cut.

John Halder (Mortensen) is a literature professor in Berlin in the late 1930s as the Nazi party is rising to power. He has written a book in which euthanasia was a theme and the higher-ups in the Party have taken it as a means of excusing the Final Solution, not that John knows any of this. What he dos know is that joining the Party – whose politics he objects to and disagrees with – can mean comfort and safety for his family. So he joins.

His best friend, Maurice Gluckstein (Isaacs) who happens to be Jewish, sees the inherent evil in Nazism that his friend John (shouldn’t it be Johann if this is in Germany?) obviously has turned a blind eye to. And John isn’t a bad man, he’s just doing right by his family?

But when you take one step down the rotten path, sometimes it becomes easier to take other steps. He leaves his neurotic brunette wife (Hille) for a blonde, Aryan student (Whittaker) who the party approves of. She is much more in tune with Party politics than his wife, who like her parents and his, see the transformation Germany is undergoing with horror. It isn’t until it is much too late that John realizes the evil he has bought into and for that kind of mistake the price is very high indeed.

This is based on a 1982 play by John Wrathall which I understand was staged in a very stream-of-consciousness, minimalist way. The storytelling is a little more conventional here (with a subplot about John’s abominable treatment of his mother (Jones) thrown in for good measure) but there are still holes in it. Part of what should make this an excellent subject for a movie is that there really isn’t much exploration as to why John turned such a blind eye to what his country was becoming. It seemed to be out of almost convenience – it was simply easier to go with the flow. It seems to be an over-simplified explanation from what I know of Germany from that era.

Also, the characters (other than Gluckstein, who is portrayed with marvelous zest by Isaacs) are mostly bland and somewhat  without much personality. John is supposed to be a brilliant man who is motivated out of expedience to care for his family, but what we get is a man who doesn’t much care about what is going on around him – neither do we, then.

To be honest, I’m probably a little bit harsher on the film than I might ordinarily be. If I am, it’s because the potential here is so wasted – this is a wonderful and important idea for a movie. It’s just not executed very well. There are parallels to what went on in Nazi Germany to how America responded after 9-11, so this is certainly something worth exploring, especially now. I just wish they’d explored it a little more thoroughly.

WHY RENT THIS: A very interesting discussion about good and evil and how sometimes the line between the two can be very thin.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Underdeveloped characterization and some shoddy plot development.

FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of bad language and some adult themes which smaller children might not yet be prepared for.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Romola Garai was originally cast as Anne but withdrew in order to concentrate on her university studies. Jodie Whittaker took the part instead.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: Rather than having a commentary track, there is an interview segment that is nearly an hour long and includes many of the film’s cast and crew.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $1.6M on an unreported production budget; at best I think the movie broke even.


TOMORROW: For the Love of the Game

Encounters at the End of the World

Encounters at the End of the World

In the sea, in the sea, in the beautiful sea...

(2007) Documentary (THINKfilm) Werner Herzog, Henry Kaiser, Kevin Emery, Ashrita Furman, Douglas MacAyeal, David Ainley, William McIntosh, Peter Gorham, Regina Eisert, Clive Oppenheimer, Samuel S. Bowser, Ernest Shackleton, Jan Pawlowski. Directed by Werner Herzog


At the bottom of the world there is nowhere more desolate, more cold. It is a land without sunrise for six months, without sunset the other six. It is an alien world, inhabited by creatures found nowhere else who can survive in this harsh environment. It is also inhabited by people, people with great courage and also big dreams to sustain them in an unforgiving wilderness.

These are the sorts of things that draws in filmmaker Werner Herzog. With such documentaries as Grizzly Man to his credit, Herzog has a history of being drawn to people with big dreams that the rest of the world might term as odd or unusual. You won’t find anyone quite as unusual as those willing to live in Antarctica.

Herzog was originally drawn there by video taken of the area by his friend avant garde composer, musician and filmmaker Henry Kaiser. Kaiser had himself been brought there by a grant from the National Science Foundation for a writers and artists program in the Antarctic. Herzog got a similar grant but warned the Foundation that he wouldn’t be making a typical wildlife documentary. “No fluffy penguins,” he huffs on the narration. To their credit, the NSF agreed.

What we have here is not only a look at the penguins but also the creatures that exist below the ice, the microscopic life forms who lead a surprisingly violent existence but of more interest to Herzog is the men and women who live at McMurdo Station (the main settlement in Antarctica).

These are an eclectic bunch, some of whom are there mainly for the scientific discoveries in zoology and microbiology (which give insight as to how life evolved here on Earth and, potentially, on other planets), but also gives a front row seat at the apocalypse. The climate and ecological changes man has wrought upon the Earth manifest themselves first at the bottom of the world and the news here is pretty grim.

The images are incredible, particularly of the dives into the Ross Sea. Divers must drill a hole in the ice and then into the dark waters of the ocean they go. They wear no lines in order not to restrict their mobility and range and must trust that they can find the hole again to resurface before their oxygen runs out. However, while the life in these frigid waters is sparse and a little alien, it is beautiful in its own right.

So too is the desolate Arctic wilderness. There is a particularly compelling scene in which a penguin leaves the safety of the nesting ground, walking off the wrong way into the barren interior of the continent. Certain death awaits it, but it trudges on. Earlier, Herzog had asked marine ecologist David Ainley if there’s insanity among penguins; there is certainly some with suicidal tendencies.

There is also a passageway beneath McMurdo where “souvenirs” of those who have lived there before are stored; perfectly preserved by the cold, dry air. There’s a sturgeon from waters far from Antarctica, tins and other human debris, put into alcoves in the ice and left for future generations…assuming there are any.

Me being a history buff, one of the segments that appealed to me was the examination of Ernest Shackleford’s cabin, one built for an expedition almost 100 years ago – perfectly preserved. That expedition ended in disaster and one of the most heroic incidents of the 20th century – but that’s for another day.

Herzog has an obsession with the dreams of men (not in the nighttime sense) and labels those who toil at McMurdo “professional dreamers” and he has a point. However, Herzog often has a tendency to put himself front and center in the documentaries, making himself a part of the stories – he also has been known to stage incidents in his documentaries which I’m fairly certain he didn’t do here but one never knows.

That puts him at direct odds with documentarians like Errol Morris, who rarely get on-camera and take great pains to let his subjects tell their own stories. Herzog is instead more like Michael Moore, who like Herzog has a definite point of view and uses his camera to bolster it. Calling these films documentaries is a little misleading; there’s elements of propaganda to them as well (and I have to point that out, even though I agree with much of the points of view that Herzog and Moore take).

Still, this is a film that pleases the eyes quite a bit, even if some of it is unsettling when you think of the ramifications. There is a lot to think about but one wonders that since the politicians of most of the developed countries can’t see beyond their own narrow self-interest if they really have the ability to see the survival of the species long-term. Kinda makes you think.

I wish Herzog had been a little less in the camera eye and ear here; he’s a great interviewer, yes, but there are times that I wondered if the documentary was about him and not so much about who he was interviewing and what he was filming. Never a good sign.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the great documentarians on the planet, which he is. He makes some very valid points here, takes some incredible pictures and finds some interesting, clever people to chat with. Normally, all that would add up to a much higher mark in my books, but I couldn’t help thinking that a little less Herzog and a little more silence would have done this film more justice.

WHY RENT THIS: Some gorgeous and desolate footage. Lots of quirky interview subjects.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Herzog and his obsession with dreams is front and center, perhaps a bit too much.

FAMILY VALUES:  There’s nothing remotely offensive here or unsuitable for small children; however they may wind up being a bit fidgety and the animals and landscapes may not appeal to them much.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film is dedicated to critic Roger Ebert, an early supporter of Herzog’s work.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There is an abundant amount of extra footage shot by Herzog and Kaiser, as well as an interview of Herzog by filmmaker Jonathan Demme.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $1.2M on an unreported production budget; the movie in all likelihood made its budget back but probably not much more.



The Air I Breathe

The Air I Breathe

Forest Whitaker ponders how much simpler his life would be if he were a butterfly.

(THINKfilm) Brendan Fraser, Andy Garcia, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Bacon, Emile Hirsch, Julie Delpy, Clark Gregg, Kelly Hu. Directed by Jieho Lee

An ancient Chinese proverb breaks life down to four core emotions – Happiness, Sorrow, Pleasure and Love. These are as essential to life as the air we breathe (clever, no?) and without a balance of these things, we are unable to live our lives properly.

Each of the four vignettes in this film is centered around one of these emotions, or at least so we’re told. The first, “Happiness,” presents Whitaker as a timid banker who overhears a conversation at work in which a snide young man with “connections” tells some friends that they need to bet heavily on a race in which the outcome has been fixed. Whitaker goes to the same underground and illegal betting parlor and puts everything on his credit cards on the horse, going so far as to take a $50K line of credit out from the house. This is an extraordinarily unwise thing to do when you don’t have the ability to pay that kind of money back, especially from this kind of house.

The horse that was supposed to win stumbles and falls and the banker is on the hook for fifty grand to the notorious Fingers (Garcia), who came by his nickname honestly albeit gruesomely. At first, the banker resolves to skip town but a visit from Fingers’ menacing right-hand man (Fraser) dissuades the banker, who in a knuckleheaded move then decides to rob a bank to get the cash. For a vignette that is supposed to be about happiness, things sure don’t end happily.

The second vignette, “Pleasure,” is about Fingers’ man Friday, who has a special gift – he is able to foresee the future, only not his own. Fingers orders him to take his nephew Tony (Hirsch) on his rounds and show him what’s what. As the clairvoyant flunky complies, he discovers that he has lost his gift – which has been both a blessing and a curse. It certainly hasn’t been much of a pleasure.

The third vignette, “Sorrow,” concerns Trysta (Gellar), a pop singer who is on the verge of breaking out. Her manager gives Fingers her contract to pay off a gambling debt, which makes Trysta uneasy. The direction she wants her career to go isn’t necessarily the one that Fingers wants her to go to; when she attempts to flee, Fingers sends his clairvoyant assassin after her. This was the first segment that is aptly named.

Finally, there’s love in which an MD (Bacon) who is in love with his best friend’s wife (Delpy) is horrified to discover that she requires a transfusion in order to survive a bite from a rare snake (don’t ask) and her blood type is impossibly rare – unless you write for the movies, in which case it so happens that a certain pop star serendipitously has the same blood type.

Lee is a first-time director, so it is impressive that he put together a cast the caliber of this one together, which includes the Oscar-winning Whitaker and A-listers like Fraser and Bacon, as well as the up and coming Hirsch who may yet turn out to be the next Leonardo di Caprio.

In terms of performance, he gets what he pays for here as nearly the entire cast delivers, with outstanding grades to Fraser in particular, who plays the grim and rough clairvoyant with enough heart to make him sympathetic, but with a reptilian cold shell. Garcia plays Fingers with the same oily menace that made his performance as Terry Benedict in the Oceans movies so delicious.

What submarines this movie is the same thing that torpedoes most independent anthology movies; the unevenness of the vignettes. While the Fraser bit is the best of the bunch, the tone and flow are jarring when put next to the Bacon bit (I always wanted to say that – groan if you must) so in other words, the ride gets bumpy.

Also, the thematic conceit of linking each vignette to one of the Chinese core emotions doesn’t work for me as well; perhaps the point is to illustrate the lack of those emotions in order to play up their importance. If so, then the filmmakers are being unnecessarily indirect and sly; if not, then they probably could have used a steadier hand on the rewrites.

The main problem is you wind up wondering if you haven’t seen this all before and better, and the truth is that you have. With the success of Crash and Babel, indie filmmakers were anxious to channel their inner Robert Altmans and there consequently has been a rash of these sorts of movies that were released with varying degrees of success – including another one in which Whitaker stars that was previously reviewed here entitled Powder Blue.

I like a movie that takes chances and this one takes a few, but if you’re going to take chances you need to have your act together first and this movie isn’t quite there. It has enough moments that make it worthy of a mild recommendation, but understand that this isn’t a movie that’s going to give you a case of the “oh wows” by any stretch of the imagination.

WHY RENT THIS: There are some interesting moments and performances, particularly from Fraser, Whitaker, Garcia and Hirsch.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Overall pretty disjointed and as most independent anthology movies are, uneven in terms of quality.

FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of violence and foul language and a fair share of sexuality and a smidgen of nudity; add it all together and it spells out “mature.”

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The pop songs supposedly sung by Gellar’s character Trysta are in reality sung by Kim Wayman.



TOMORROW: Summer Hours



William Hurt can't take another Celebrity Apprentice story from Billy Baldwin.

(THINKfilm) Tim Robbins, Bridget Moynahan, William Hurt, William Baldwin, Margarita Levieva, Gabrielle Brennan, Maria Ballesteros, Chuck Cooper. Directed by Henry Bean

Those of us who live in a small town as I do, or in a suburb as I did don’t have an idea of the everyday assault of noise for those who live in a city, as I also did. For the most part, you simply tune it out but some things become too much to ignore.

David Owens (Robbins) is a lawyer (methinks) who has begun to be driven wiggy by car alarms, alarms that wake him up in the middle of the night or interrupt his lovemaking sessions with his cellist wife Helen (Moynahan). At first, he contents himself with minor vandalisms against offending vehicles that leave him with a sense of partial justice but soon that becomes insufficient. He begins to smash windows with baseball bats, rip out wiring and so on. Until, that is, he gets arrested.

Helen, becoming increasingly concerned with her increasingly more obsessive and unstable husband, manages to get him to agree to a plea bargain in order to keep him out of jail. At first, he complies in order to keep the peace in his family but the ever-present assault of noise drive him farther and farther around the bend. He takes on the guise of the vigilante figure The Rectifier, leaving calling cards whenever he disables an alarm system.

Surprisingly (although frankly not to David) the exploits of The Rectifier capture the imagination of New Yorkers who cheer the vigilante’s one-man fight against noise pollution. This in turn captures the attention of Mayor Schneer (Hurt), who wants The Rectifier caught. Increasingly this becomes a battle of wills between the clearly not-quite-paddling-with-both-oars-in-the-canoe David and Hizzonner, who seems to take it as a personal affront that there is a man defying the law in his city. When a beautiful Russian lobbyist (Levieva) discovers David’s alter ego, she convinces him to try and get a ballot initiative banning car alarms in the five boroughs of New York City. That’s when the war really begins.

Director Henry Bean, who was last seen helming The Believer which featured Ryan Gosling as an anti-Semitic Jew does a good job of creating the feeling of aural assault that David Owens is surely feeling. However, he takes what was an interesting concept to begin with and tries to get fancy with his storytelling. The story bounces back and forth from the present to various points in a ten-year period, often with little or no way to tell where in the story events are taking place. None of the characters change physically in the ten year time span; you’d think one of them would at least get a different haircut from time to time, or maybe grow some facial hair but we are left trying to guess where in the story you are which leads to the musical question “Does anybody really know what time it is?” which of course begs the unwanted follow-up question “Does anybody really care?”

Robbins does a nice job of making a character who is essentially obsessive, self-righteous and a little bit around the bend remain likable enough that you don’t wind up being without anyone to identify with. Moynihan is also solid in a role that is essentially little more than an exasperated wife cliché. Sadly, Levieva gets a part that really doesn’t have a reason to be in this movie unless its for the titillation aspect.

Occasionally, the writing gets a little bit preachy and self-righteous but to be fair, there is some good, intelligent stuff that indicates that someone a fair amount of thought into this. There are also some moments of black humor that hit without warning, making those scenes all the more effective.

Ultimately Noise is an uneven effort that has just enough to make it worth a DVD recommendation (it also shows up on cable from time to time). It’s too bad it wasn’t a little bit better; Robbins deserved a better movie for his performance.

WHY RENT THIS: There is some black humor that comes out of left field from time to time. Robbins plays a whacko with enough wit and charm to make the character relatively palatable. Movie has a thoughtful air that is refreshing.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The storytelling conceit of jumping back and forth throughout a ten year timeline is often confusing. The writing occasionally gets preachy and not in a good way.

FAMILY VALUES: Vandalism is presented as justifiable throughout the movie; there is also sex, nudity and frank discussions about female genitalia as well as a scene depicting drug use. Although the movie went unrated, parents should think hard before letting their kids see this one.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director Bean based the character of David Owens on himself; as a younger man he was arrested and jailed for breaking into a car and disabling the alarm.




Avenue Montaigne

Avenue Montaigne

Jessica is a tourist in Paris and in life.

(THINKfilm) Cecilie de France, Valerie Lemercier, Albert Dupontel, Sydney Pollack, Claude Brasseur, Christopher Thompson, Dani, Laura Morante, Suzanne Flon. Directed by Danielle Thompson

Life imitates art, it is often said but the reverse isn’t always true. From time to time, art – and the artists who make it – is completely at odds with reality.

Jessica (de France) is a wide-eyed innocent who was orphaned at age four and was raised by her delightful grandmother (Flon), who had a taste for luxury but unfortunately not the pocketbook for it. She contented herself by being a ladies room attendant at the Ritz Hotel, able to rub elbows with the very rich at least indirectly.

Now on her own, Jessica comes to Paris looking for a job but without much experience. She talks her way into a job as a waitress at a café on the Avenue Montaigne, a center of the arts in Paris. At the Bistro, the famous and the lowly come to eat from the stagehands and ushers to the stars of the theater and the concert hall across the street.

Three events are taking place three days from her first day; a recital by Jean-Francois Lefort, a world-famous classical pianist (Dupontel) who has grown weary of his lifestyle and yearns to play for a less discerning audience, despite the fact that his adoring wife and agent (Morante) has him booked for the next six years. There is also an art auction as a businessman and connoisseur named Jacques Grunberg (Brasseur) is selling off the contents of his former life, which irritates his estranged son Frederic (Thompson, the son of the director) who sees his father dating a much younger woman he once had an affair with (unbeknownst to the father) and leaving the legacy of his mother behind.

Finally, there is the performance of a farce at the theater starring Catherine (Lemercier), a star on a wildly popular soap who yearns for more substantial roles. She hopes she might get one in a biography of Simone de Beauvoir that an American director (Pollack) is putting together. Although the casting director for the film hates her, she still hopes she can win the director over.

Jessica moves in an out of their lives like a sprite, befriending the elderly concierge (Dani) who is retiring after the performances. With no place to live and knowing nobody, Jessica sleeps in the dressing room of the concert hall and befriends the performances so guilelessly that they can’t help but feel comfortable with her. But as things move towards the night of the performances, each performer feels the weight of their demons moving in. Can the show go on when the showman doesn’t have the will to perform any longer?

Director Thompson (Jet Lag) has crafted a typically charming slice of life in the French capital as it relates to the arts on the Avenue. This is not a love letter to Paris – although the beauty of the city is well on display, the movie takes it more as a matter of fact that you love Paris. And who wouldn’t? Even the neuroses are charming.

De France carries the movie effortlessly, a pixie in a sidewalk café who flits from situation to situation with enough pluck to make her adorable. Lemercier also captures the neurotic television star with the right mix of frenetic kinesis, nervous tics, self-loathing and blind ambition to make her believable, but with enough heart to make her worth caring about. Dupontel is also solid as a pianist who is a prisoner of his own talent and fame.

The one drawback is that it is hard to feel much sympathy for people who are so successful, so famous, so wealthy. Not that people with success, fame and wealth are without problems, but one must take them with a grain of salt.

There is also a subtext about the relationship between the young and the elderly, starting with Jessica and her grandmother but also including Jacques and his son and Jessica and the concierge. I actually kind of liked it; too often we dismiss the wisdom of our elders because of our own arrogance. The fact is we don’t freakin’ know it all.

Any movie that takes place in a French café had better be prepared to charm the pants off of you, and Avenue Montaigne accomplishes that. This isn’t something that is going to give you remarkable insight; rather it is a fluffy entertainment, a meringue if you will. Nothing wrong with that, so if you like your movies light and charming this just might be your ticket.

 WHY RENT THIS: A delightful slice of Parisian life in the arts as seen by a wide-eyed innocent from the provinces. Some timely themes about ageism and class distinctions.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: It is occasionally hard to feel sympathy for people who are successful and adored but are miserable.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some brief sexuality and some salty language but otherwise fine for all audiences.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Actress Suzanne Flon passed away shortly after filming was completed. As the end credits begin, we see a tribute page to her with the actress, offscreen, repeating a line from earlier in the film stating that she had a good life.



TOMORROW: Frozen River


Mena Suvari in Stuck

Mena Suvari suddenly realizes the best part of her career may be behind her.

(THINKfilm) Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Russell Hornsby, Rukiya Bernard, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Lionel Mark Smith, Wayne Robson. Directed by Stuart Gordon

We love the catharsis of a good horror movie because it allows us to exorcise our inner demons safely. The reason we have inner demons, however, is because real life can be far more horrific than any movie.

Brandi Boski (Suvari) is a sweet-natured nursing assistant at a care facility for the elderly. She is so compassionate that the sometimes hostile residents, particularly the increasingly demented Mr. Binckley (Robson) want her to tend to them exclusively. That hasn’t escaped the notice of the shrewish facility director Ms. Peterson (Purdy-Gordon), who tells Brandi she is up for a promotion.

On the other end of the spectrum is Thomas Bardo (Rea), a man who is hitting bottom. Laid off from his job as a project manager, he has been unable to find work and is being evicted from his apartment. He is trying to get unemployment benefits at a faceless agency but his application has been lost. Rather than trying to help, the faceless drones force the penniless Bardo to pay for their mistake by filling out the forms all over again and waiting for yet another appointment. With the kind of long-suffering sigh that actor Rea is a master at, he walks off to the local park to find a bench to sleep on, although even that is denied him by a pitiless cop who orders him to hoof it to the mission across town – on incongruously named Hope Street.

Meanwhile, Brandi has been partying with a Tanya (Bernard), a sympathetic co-worker who has been the target of Ms. Peterson’s wrath and her drug-dealing boyfriend Rashid (Hornsby) who has been plying both women with alcohol and X. Even though she’s reeeeeally intoxicated, Brandi elects to drive home – after all, she has to work the next day.

As Bardo trudges towards Hope Street pushing a shopping cart left by a sympathetic homeless man named Sam (Smith) that carries his few belongings, Brandi is on her cell phone calling her boyfriend…you know, the one she just left at the bar. You know the two are going to meet and when they do, it will be with a bang. The distracted, inebriated Brandi hits Bardo head on and he plunges through the windshield.

As you might guess from a white girl wearing cornrows, she panics and after getting spooked trying to drop off her unwanted passenger – who is still alive, miraculously – at the hospital, drives home and parks her bloody car in the garage. When her boyfriend arrives, she chooses not to tell him more than that she’d been in an accident and spends the night having sex with him over a loud rap soundtrack.

As the next day arrives Brandi thinks that by letting Bardo expire naturally, she can then convince her boyfriend to get rid of the body after dark but since Bardo stubbornly refuses to die, she must consider other options, some far more dark than the one she’s already chosen.

This is based on an actual incident, in which a Texas woman named Chante Jawan Mallard struck a homeless man with her car and drove him to her garage and left him to die, although coroners would later say that he could have been saved had she just called for help. Her victim actually died within an hour or two of the impact, while Bardo survives for a great deal longer despite horrific injuries.

Director Gordon is responsible for some excellent cult movies dating back to the 1980s. Stylistically, he is known for a very dark sense of humor – think of the term “black comedy” and multiply it times a thousand here. For example, while Bardo suffers in agony in the garage, a local dog finds its way in and decides to chow down on a bone – one of Bardo’s, sticking out from his leg. It’s the kind of thing you laugh at then wince at then wonder how sick you are to have found it funny.

Suvari, who has come a long way from the American Pie movies, does a reasonable job in Stuck. She plays a character that has a veneer of compassion but it deserts her when her comfort is threatened. She’s not evil per se, but self-centered to the point of psychosis. I thought the movie would have worked a little bit better if Brandi had been a little more likable, but perhaps it might not have been possible to paint the character that way without making her actions completely unbelievable so I guess it will have to do. As it stands other than Bardo and Sam, nearly everyone in the movie is completely self-absorbed.

Rea, so good in movies like The Crying Game and V for Vendetta has the hangdog look that befits the character. Given the fact that he spends most of the movie impaled on the windscreen with little to do but moan and rage at the heavens, he makes this movie work. While he isn’t like a Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, he does take a licking and keep on ticking leading to a conclusion that is extraordinarily bloody but nonetheless satisfying.

This is not a laugh out loud funny joke-fest but it could be classified as a comedy. It doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat but it could be counted as a thriller. There are no major scares but it certainly might be found in the horror section of your home video emporium. The fact is, it fulfills the criteria for each genre quite nicely and manages to be quite a good little movie that escaped under the radar. It is certainly worth a rental.

WHY RENT THIS: Gordon is a splendid director who knows a thing or two about ratcheting up the tension level. A not so thinly veiled commentary on the state of the American people – self-absorbed to the point of psychosis.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Suvari’s character is so loathsome that it is difficult for the audience to get behind her, which might have elevated the film a bit had we been able to.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a good deal of violence, some fairly horrific, much nudity and sex and some drug usage. As you can see, not terribly appropriate for the kiddies.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Director Gordon appears in a cameo as a resident carrying a bag of groceries who gets yelled at by Rashid’s girlfriend.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: On the Blu-Ray edition, there’s a feature that touches somewhat in-depth on the incident that inspired the movie. Note that on the DVD edition, there are no extras whatsoever, not even a commentary track.


TOMORROW: Final Day of Six Days of Darkness