Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Manchurian Candidate

R2 Spain



Jonathan Demme directed this updated remake of John Frankenheimer's 1962 cult favorite The Manchurian Candidate, a pioneering examination of political conspiracy and psychological reconditioning. Major Bennett Marco (Denzel Washington) and Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) are two soldiers who served in the same company during Operation Desert Storm, but their paths following their tours of duty have been very different. Shaw, the son of powerful congresswoman Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep), has used his reputation as a war hero to quickly scale the ladder of American politics, and with the help of his mother earns the Vice Presidential nomination. Marco, on the other hand, has been troubled with mental illness, and is convinced that something strange happened to him and his compatriots during the war. As Marco struggles to find the truth behind his nightmares and emotional torment, he unearths some disturbing facts about how his mind and body have been reworked by shadowy forces, as well as those of his fellow soldiers -- including Raymond Shaw. Featuring a stellar supporting cast (including Jon Voight, Miguel Ferrer, Ted Levine, and Dean Stockwell), The Manchurian Candidate credits George Axelrod's screenplay for the 1962 film as its source, as opposed to Richard Condon's 1959 novel from which Axelrod adapted his script.


The Sentinel

R2 Portugal



A man who has devoted himself to serving the leader of the free world is accused of plotting against him in this thriller. Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas) is a veteran Secret Service agent who has had a long and distinguished career helping protect the president of the United States. David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) is a fellow Secret Service agent who learned most of what he knows from Garrison and holds him in great respect. When intelligence data suggests that there is a mole within the Secret Service who is part of a plot to assassinate President Ballentine (David Rasche), Garrison launches an investigation to ferret out the rogue agent, and asks Breckinridge to go over the evidence with a fine-toothed comb. Breckinridge is shocked when the clues point to Garrison as the traitor within the Secret Service, but his sense of duty compels him to see that his former mentor is placed under arrest. Garrison eludes his captors and struggles to prove his innocence while tracking down the real conspirator and eluding the agents who were once his colleagues. As Breckinridge leads the search for Garrison, another ranking agent, Jill Marin (Eva Longoria) plays devil's advocate, convinced that Garrison couldn't possibly be the rat in the house. The Sentinel also co-stars Kim Basinger as the First Lady.

Top Gun

R2 Spain












Devil-may-care navy pilot Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is sent to Miramar Naval Air Station for advanced training. Here he vies with Tom Kasansky (Val Kilmer) for the coveted "Top Gun" award. When not so occupied, Mitchell carries on a romance with civilian consultant Charlotte Blackwood (Kelly McGillis). Shaken up by the death of a friend, Mitchell loses the Top Gun honor to Kasansky. Worried that he may have lost his nerve, Mitchell is given a chance to redeem himself during a tense international crisis involving a crippled US vessel and a flock of predatory enemy planes. The story wasn't new in 1986, but Top Gun scored with audiences on the strength of its visuals, especially the vertigo-inducing aerial sequences. The film made more money than any other film in 1986 and even spawned a 1989 takeoff, Hot Shots. An Academy Award went to the Giogio Moroder-Tom Whitlock song "Take My Breath Away."



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Twilight Samurai

R2 Portugal



Veteran filmmaker Yoji Yamada -- who is perhaps most famous for cranking out most of the 48 films of the Tora-san series -- directs this good-natured drama set in the waning years of the Edo period (1600-1867). Seibei (Hiroyuki Sanada) is a mid-level samurai struggling to get by on stipend of 50 rice bales a year while working as a clerk at the clan office. While his co-workers spend their evenings sucking down sake at the local pub, Seibei, whose wife has passed away, heads straight home to care for his two young daughters and doddering mother. One day, his friend Michinojo (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) tells him that his sister, Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa), is leaving her thuggish husband and returning home. Tomoe soon starts to frequent Seibei's house, taking care of his daughters, while Seibei quietly falls in love with the attractive young lass. After defeating Tomoe's husband in a duel, armed with only a pointed stick, Seibei is asked by Michinojo if he wants to marry Tomoe. Seibei declines, too embarrassed by his poverty to accept. Later, as he prepares to perform the distasteful task of killing a fellow samurai, he learns that Tomoe is engaged to another man.

Project A

R2 Portugal




Jackie Chan directs himself and fellow martial arts superstar Sammo Hung in the action film Jackie Chan's Project A. Chan plays a 19th century Coast Guard office who must defend Hong Kong's borders from a variety of smugglers and undesirables. As is usually the case, Chan performs all of his own stunts during the film.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Crime Story

R2 Portugal







Internationally famed action star Jackie Chan tones down his usual martial arts pyrotechnics for a more traditionally dramatic role in this police drama. Crime Story finds Chan portraying a Hong Kong police detective, an honest cop guilt-ridden over his participation in a recent shoot-out. He is absolved of wrong-doing by the force, however, and assigned to protect a major real estate developer. Despite Chan's best efforts, though, the man under his care is soon kidnapped. The criminals demand millions in payment from the developer's wife, and Chan takes it upon himself to try and foil their plot and rescue the developer. His job is made more difficult by the fact that his new partner on the case, an esteemed detective, is secretly in cahoots with the criminals. Though there are a number of martial arts sequences near the film's climax, much of the action is more typical of Hollywood than Hong Kong, consisting of shoot-outs, explosions, and extended car chases. The ample amount of blood and the overall gritty tone combines with Chan's restrained performance to create a darker experience than most other Chan films familiar to American audiences.

Shaft (2000)

R2 Portugal



This action drama puts a new spin on Shaft, one of the key "blaxploitation" films of the 1970s. John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson), the namesake nephew of the legendary private eye (Richard Roundtree), is a street-smart police detective who with his partner Carmen Velez (Vanessa L. Williams) has been assigned to a racially motivated murder case, in which a black college student was killed in front of a restaurant by Walter Williams Jr. (Christian Bale), the sociopathic son of a New York construction tycoon, who then fled the country rather than face prosecution. Diane Palmieri (Toni Collette), a waitress on a smoke break, saw the murder, but she doesn't want to talk to the police. Two years later, Walter is forced to return to New York, but without Diane's testimony, the city doesn't have much of a case. Soon, Shaft, Walter Junior, and Walter Senior's goons are all looking for Diane, with Junior enlisting the help of Peoples Hernandez (Jeffrey Wright), a small-time drug dealer who will do anything to move into the big leagues. Shaft and Carmen find Diane, but discover that she had a good reason for being on the lam for the past two years. Amidst all this activity, John gets frequent advice from his uncle, with whom he ponders the idea of quitting the force and opening a detective agency. Shaft was directed by John Singleton, from a screenplay by Singleton, Richard Price, and Shane Salerno.




The Proposition

R2 Portugal



An outlaw is goaded into taking on justice at its most brutal in this hard-edged Western set in rural Australia in the 1880s. Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is a criminal living in the outback. He and his two brothers, Arthur (Danny Huston) and Mikey (Richard Wilson), are on the run from the law for rape and murder. Arthur is a violent and dangerous sociopath with a much longer rap sheet than his siblings and a reputation for hiding out in villages so lawless the police are afraid to visit them, while Mikey is a much younger and more impressionable chap.The authorities capture Charlie and Mikey after a bloody shootout, and the brothers are handed over to Capt. Stanley (Ray Winstone), a British lawman sent to Australia to help bring order to the colonies. Stanley proposes a deal to Charlie, explaining that it's Arthur he really wants, and that he's willing to spare the childlike and terrified Mikey if Charlie can find Arthur and murder him. Charlie, realizing that this is his only hope to save his simpleton younger brother (who is scheduled to be hanged on Christmas Day), agrees and sets out to find and execute his other brother, who he believes has gone too far into the world of crime. As Charlie scours the backwaters of Australia, he encounters Jellon Lamb (John Hurt), an educated yet thoroughly menacing bounty hunter. In time, Charlie finds his brother, but isn't certain if he can carry out his mission. Meanwhile, Stanley struggles to bring a European sense of civility to the rough and tumble land he now calls home, while his wife Martha (Emily Watson) becomes the focus of the lustful appetites of the men in town. The Proposition was written by rock star and novelist Nick Cave; he previously collaborated with director John Hillcoat on the film Ghosts... of the Civil Dead.