2000’s

[6.5] Christian Bale stars as a factory machinist eaten away by paranoia as he suffers a year of insomnia. After an accident at work in which Bale is partly responsible for another man losing his arm, Bale suspects his coworkers are conspiring to get him fired. There’s a man he’s talked to that no one else has ever seen or heard of. There are mysterious …

[7.5] Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams star as young lovers from different social backgrounds whose relationship is torn apart by interfering parents and World War II. When they reunite many years later, she’s engaged to another (James Marsden), but their feelings for one another remain. The Notebook, based on the book by Nicholas Sparks, essentially boils down to, “Which boy will she choose?” But it …

[6.5] Writer/director Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Glee) brings Augusten Burroughs’ memoir to the big screen. Joseph Cross plays young Burroughs, a thirteen-year-old whose emotionally unstable mother hands him off to her therapist. Running with Scissors is primarily about Burroughs trying to fit in at the therapist’s bizarre household while learning to accept that his mother will never be what he needs her to be. Annette Bening …

[4.0] A group of Asian-American high schoolers get bored of being diligent students and begin dabbling in criminal activity. Before long, they’re in over their heads and regretting everything. You don’t get to know any of the characters very well, except that one is a loose cannon the others keep in check by occasionally beating him up a little. There’s a love interest for one …

[8.0] Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott) leads an all-star ensemble in this surreal, satiric look at the breakdown of suburban existence. The Chumscrubber is an ambitious conceptual piece, not unlike American Beauty in tone and style. But where American Beauty centered on one character’s shaky morality and lost me, The Chumscrubber stems more confidently from one of my favorite thematic tropes — human beings’ desperate need …

[5.5] Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone move their family from the hustle and bustle of the big city to an old mansion in the middle of rural nowhere. But before they’re settled in, a strange and spooky man (Stephen Dorff) comes knocking. As a series of unfortunate events unfold, the family discover the man has a connection to the property and he’s not about to …

[5.5] Director Lasse Hallström (The Shipping News, Chocolat) serves up a fluffy, romantic, period piece comedy centered around the antics of legendary lover Casanova in Venice. Heath Ledger plays the promiscuous hero, who early in the film receives a mandate from the ruler of Venice to get married or leave Venice forever. So Casanova goes in search of a wife, beginning a second act rife with mistaken …

[6.5] Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, and Ian McShane star in this stylish and darkly comic story about a retired safecracker (Winstone) whose former mentor (Kingsley) shows up demanding that they team up for one more hit. Kingsley steals the show here in a role that earned him an Oscar nomination. His character is manic, alternating between threatening calm and almost laughable violent energy. Since I …

[8.0] A bunch of British people fall in love, out of love, and do lovey-dovey things in the month leading up to Christmas. Now, if you’re like me, that’s a description that will keep you from ever wanting to watch Love Actually. But since a hundred different people have insisted I watch it over the last fifteen years since it was released, I finally gave …

[8.0] Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg star as a man and woman who retreat to their cabin in the woods to grieve the death of their young son. Dafoe’s character is a therapist and tries to offer techniques to help Gainsbourg’s character cope with the tragedy. But Gainsbourg spirals beyond grief and into insanity… and violence. Writer/director Lars von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, The …

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