by Tim Van Schmidt
Blood Diamond ****
Action and social issues mix in this explosive adventure turning the spotlight on “conflict diamonds.” Leonardo DiCaprio creates a believable smuggler/soldier of fortune on the trail of a huge diamond buried within a conflict zone in Africa. Djimon Hounsou is the intensely righteous man whose life has been ravaged by war- and only he knows where that diamond is.
Directed by Edward Zwick…2006…143 min…featuring Leonardo DiCaprio (as Danny Archer,) Djimon Hounsou (as Solomon Vandy,) Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers (as Dia Vandy,) Arnold Vosloo, Benu Mabhena, Basil Wallace.
Deliver Us from Evil ***
The fatal flaw in this movie is allowing the subject, a pedophile priest, Father Oliver O’Grady, to speak. In a documentary about the cover-up of O’Grady’s molestations and rapes in various California locations, the filmmaker mixes interview footage of O’Grady’s victims and deposition tapings with upper echelon Catholic officials with interviews with the criminal himself. And he seems very pleased to talk about his violations of human dignity.
One interview takes place in front of a children’s playground as O’Grady describes with some apparent relish his sexual attraction to children and what he has done to them. He seems to like the attention he is getting for his actions and this production turns him into a curious subject, perhaps all the more powerful thanks to his starring role as the monster of the story.
Directed by Amy Berg…2006…101 min.
X-Men: Last Stand ***
This third installment in the X-Men series is perhaps the best of the three, mostly because this one deals directly with some very weighty subjects- socially and personally- in between the action sequences. Death, love, connection, confusion, the dark part of the soul and responsibility all play a part in the story that does not spare the lives of some of the main characters. However, an added bonus is some great special effects. Wait until you see what they do with a Bay Area landmark, displaying tech skill and creative concept, to amp up the epic battle between mutants. Hugh Jackman. Halle Berry. Patrick Stewart. Ian McKellen. Anna Paquin. Kelsey Grammer. 2006.
I was looking for a movie to transport me to another world and “Apocalypto” filled the bill mightily. From the opening scene- the heavy underbrush of a thick, tropical forest- and forward, there is nothing familiar about this yarn about the fall of the Mayan civilization. It is a lush world in the forest and the hunters of one tribe make rough sport out of their duties. But then their relative peacefulness is interrupted by brutal slavers from the regional city- capturing candidates especially for human sacrifices at the top of bloody pyramids. In the end, there is a kind of cosmic joke- that just as the forest people feel the horror of invasion- one that will never be turned back, so too will the civilized Mayans. This is a well-paced action movie with richly detailed photography and an innovative soundtrack. Oh, and the whole thing is in ancient Mayan- giving further flavor to this otherworldly adventure.
Directed by Mel Gibson…2006…139 min…featuring Rudy Youngblood (as Jaguar Paw), Morris Birdyellowhead, Gerardo Taracena, Raoul Trujillo, Dalia Hernández.
Jar City ***
A stark, even antiseptic environment aids in underscoring the uneasy and flawed lives of the characters in “Jar City.” The whole thing is a detective caper set in Iceland, but this isn’t your regular Hollywood thriller diller, it’s an odd, static and maybe a little spooky slice of a gritty life indeed. Following the investigation of a murder, a burned out, world weary policeman uncovers a deeper layer of wrongdoing and reopens an old case. Despite the violence of the crimes, “Jar City” is full of psychological drama more than action, also involving the story of a geneticist searching for the reason his young daughter died. It all weaves together in a tangled mess that nobody can seem to get out of, despite the resolution. Not a particularly positive advertisement for life in Iceland.
Directed by Baltasar Kormakur…2006…93 min…featuring Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson.
A slimy thing from outer space infects a rural community- and wants to breed. Part comedy- over the top ick.
Directed by James Gunn…2006…95 min…featuring Don Thompson, Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker.
X-Men The Last Stand
An awesome fight scene to end it all, mutant vs. mutant..
Directed by Brett Ratner…2006…104 min…featuring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page.
Oh, boo hoo. A young art student breaks up with his girlfriend and can’t sleep at night, so he takes a job at a supermarket. There he amuses himself by “stopping time,” undressing female customers while “frozen” in order to draw them. That is, until a check out girl catches his eye and he obsesses about her. The oddball set of characters populating this snoozer and some surrealistic sequences can’t make up for the adolescent nature of the premise or the result.
Directed by Sean Ellis…2006…102 min…featuring Sean Biggerstaff, Emilia Fox, Michelle Ryan, Shaun Evans, Stuart Goodwin.
Absolute Zero **
Directed by Robert Lee…2006…86 min…featuring Jeff Fahey, Erika Eleniak, Bill Dow.