Joseph Gordon-Leavitt hits all the right notes in a delightful comedy about porn and the single man.
Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi steal the show in Paul Greengrass's brilliant thriller.
Director Ron Howard is at his best in a movie about a memorable Formula One duel.
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto give a memorable charge to an AIDS "memoir."
The Coen Brothers take a soft and highly melancholy look into the New York folk scene.
David O. Russell's ABSCAM spinoff is the wondrous sum of Amy Adams and Christian Bale.
Before "The Matrix," The Wachowskis made a neo-noir that remains untouchably fine.
In "The Call," Brad Anderson creates superior suspense until he fritters it away.
While special effects minus monsters are a joy to behold, "Gravity" lacks gravitas.
J.J. Abrams dives back into Trekkie-land and again provides his matinee worth.
Directed by: Daniel Stamm
Starring: Mark Webber, Devon Graye, Tom Bower, Rutina Wesley, Ron Perlman, Pruitt Taylor Vince
German director Daniel Stamm's gruesome Faustian thriller opens with a jarring episode involving a severed finger and escalates zealously. Elliot (Mark Webber) is a timid New Orleans salesman with a pregnant fianc้e, a cruel father, and a mentally disabled brother. He's just been fired and is at wit's end when he receives an anonymous call telling him that if he's willing to "enter" a macabre game show-like contest and complete 13 tasks, all his financial and personal woes will vanish.
But what starts with swallowing flies and making children cry ramps up into darker, more cutthroat tasks. The horror here is in beholding the willingness of the escalation, "the spectacle of transformation," says one character, "to show anyone can be turned into a monster." And there's monstrosity aplenty, as well as a cop called Chilcoat (all-jaw Ron Perlman), who somehow knows the game is at the root of all human conspiracies, the tool of capricious puppeteers who manipulate history itself. But evil is choice, not chance and the greedy players are willing participants. Though Elliot eventually loses both gumption and glee, his reversal seems too little, too late.
Stamm handles all this enchanted grisliness with kid-in-a-sandbox conviction. That the "game" cell phone instruction comes via Broadway octogenarian George Coe's ironically cheery voice and is cued up by Julius Fucik "Entry of the Gladiators" ring tone, the circus classic, gives the creepy goings-on an added punch.
The film is an English-language remake of Thai horror director Chukiat Sakveerakul's 2006 "13 Beloved."Reviewed by: Marcia Yarrow