Saturday, August 2, 2008

After the Fall

Author(s): D.W. Dillon (NV) & Chris M. (NJ)
After The Fall

Produced by Frank Marshall
Directed by John Boorman
Written by Scott Frank
Music by Explosions in the Sky
Cinematography by Caleb Deshanel
Edited by Stephen Mirrione
Art/Set Direction by Dennis Gassner
Costumes by Patricia Field
Sound by Bob Beemer
Sound Effects Editing by Richard Hymns
Special Effects by Robert Lagato & Mark Lasoff
Original Music by Dolores O'Riordan

Principal Cast

Jack Nicholson as Adam Garrity
Sigourney Weaver as Vivian Faulkner
Hugh O'Conor as Liam O'Rielly
Nora-Jane Noone as Nessa O'Reilly
Sophie Okenedo as Evelyn Harvey
Robert John Burke as President Hennigan

Tagline: "We all fall down."

Synopsis: Caldera de Tuberiente, the plain-leveled volcanic cauldron is the notorious fixture of La Palma Island in the Canary's, off the coast of Spain. When it erupted, causing a mega-tsunami, nobody thought it could reach Ireland. The hundreds of thousands of Irish in seaside towns were now buried in a watery grave. Not even President Hennigan (Robert John Burke) survived the onslaught. With the country bleeding under an economic upheaval, vice president Vivian Faulkner (Sigourney Weaver) sought to bandage the gaping wound of what was once the proud Emerald Island that is Ireland, now the lawless land of old.

To see them come out of the woodwork from all directions would make any photo journalist's camera shake. To see street hooligans overwhelming local law enforcement, with more than half the military devoting all it’s resources to rebuilding major cities. The pickings were ripe to take over an ailing country. And that was when I, Liam O'Rielly (Hugh O'Conor), took my first picture of Mr. Adam Garrity (Jack Nicholson). After losing his wife and child in the tsunami, the excommunicated Catholic priest turned pub owner preacher spoke not the word of god, but of repent and re-order. His charismatic preaching reached the masses quickly, from propping himself a-top a milk carton in the middle of a town, then onto radio and television. He reminded me of my rebellious youth as a punk rocker protesting whatever society had to offer. His demand for the sinners and government conspirators to pay for the country's suffering as well as his own was his only goal, and I followed. Accompanied by his enigmatic associate, Evelyn Harvey (Sophie Okenedo), he would strike fear into the fearful, and uplift the weak into carrying out subtle acts of terror that would mirror the IRA and KKK of old. Evelyn had too, lost her family. Her hooded sweater covered her pain and anger, with only the darkness in her eyes piercing the lens of my camera. The only picture I would ever capture of Miss Evelyn would also be the most infamous.

When mass let out at the newly built St. Patrick's Cathedral in the rubble capital of Dublin, President Faulkner's speech to the public at the steps of the grand new church was to be a symbol of hope for the country. President Faulkner imagined an entire country that was truly green, in her heart and on earth. To my mentor, it was futile scientific nonsense that he deemed costly and irresponsible; to watch unsheltered people starve while the president took her time building recycling centers. But she spoke proud and we listened, and we took pictures, and the world had changed in an instant at the snap of my Canon 7 55mm lens as it caught Evelyn Harvey, dressed in religious garb, placing the barrel of her Luger to the head of a now proven leader.

The life I had lead through a camera that captured a dying nation came with a price. My darling wife Nessa (Nora-Jane Noone) now rested in the arms of the same man I had worshipped. A country lost another great leader, and my accomplishments, while rewarding, ailed me so. Now on the dole with nothing but painful and regretful memories, compiling the photos of all the atrocities at the behest of Adam Garrity opened my eyes; from the hangings, bombings, and assassinations to the brainwashing and manipulation of a nation... A man once so displaced with government now looked to run for President of Ireland as if he were their savior. But the public will come to know this man as I did, see as I saw...Not as my mentor, but as a true monster after the fall.

What the Press Will Say?:

The Round Table with Richard Schickel from Time Magazine: Featuring screenwriter Scott Frank, director John Boorman, actors Jack Nicholson and Sigourney Weaver, of "After the Fall"

Richard Schickel: Let us start with Scott Frank, what led you to write this devastating film about a volcanic eruption that causes a mega-tsunami that hits Ireland?

Frank: It was a combination of things; I caught this doomsday scenario on National Geographic and thought, "How would a country bounce back...", and the different variables that would encompass such an event. From society's behavior to the government's actions - It's more society vs. government than anything. They rebel in the form of Jack's character Adam Garrity, as he uses religion to influence the people, while the government attempts to pick up the pieces. Ireland's a proud country, who had great leaders like Eamon de Valera, and I think Sigourney's character embodies his vision of Ireland. Her character goes through a lot and she really is the backbone of the film.

Schickel: Sigourney Weaver, welcome, tell me about President Vivian Faulkner?

Weaver: She is one of those strong female characters that don't come along very often. The president and government's back-story before the mega-tsunami was pretty status quo. Her character breaks new ground, goes against the grain, ditches the advisors and begins an ambitious, yet dangerous journey. You got a nut in Jack's character who's become a growing threat, her cabinet looking to replace her, as well as the people not believing in her. Jack's character leads the bunch and let me tell you, I only have a few scenes with him; One in particular where we debate each other in the middle of a small town, we got so aggravated with one another in the scene, I believed we truly hated each other for a moment. I remember when John yelled cut my fists were clenched, I was ready to deck him. (Laughs)

*Jack Nicholson interjects*

Jack Nicholson: Richard, there's something to be said about a woman with that kind of a conviction. Really it's a brilliant scene between Sigourney and I - I'm there to stir the pot, up everyone's game and if that means hitting where it hurts, then I'm going for the gut.

Schickel: Your character Adam Garrity is a mixture of Hoffa and Daniel-Day Lewis' Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York. Were you inspired by any characters, fiction or otherwise?

Nicholson: (Laughs), funny you should ask that, I ran into Liam Neeson who visited the set, and told him about the role. He of course, played the famous Irish rebel Michael Collins and he more or less tells me I'm playing an evil Michael Collins. But Bobby Duvall's performance in The Apostle stayed with me, yeah...

Schickel: John Boorman, director of such classic and diverse films such as Deliverance, Excalibur and Hope & Glory, tell me, what drew you to this project?

Boorman: This film felt urgent – even though it’s completely fictional it read like it had happened, or could happen... If you’re looking for politics it has it. If you’re looking for religion it has it. The movie is done in such a way it doesn’t point fingers and is not judgmental, you, the audience is allowed to do all of that. As for shooting the film in Ireland and staying authentic and true to the culture, I mean, it's easy when you got the likes of great Irish actors who are a staple in their cinema with Hugh O'Conor who I first noticed playing a long Daniel-Day Lewis in My Left Foot. He is a fearless actor who takes chances and loves to battle the heavyweights on screen – and least we forget the talent that is Sophie Okenedo, who I must say gives that raw, brutally powerful performance. I think she surprised me most, you see when you meet her, she’s so soft spoken, you think she’s this delicate girl, then you watch her as Evelyn Harvey, and you are mesmerized.

*Jack Nicholson and Sigourney Weaver both nod in agreement.*

Schickel: The film has gotten some scathing attacks from religious groups such as the 700 club and the Evangelicals, and from Feminist groups, particularly with the controversial scene involving President Faulkner.

Boorman: I knew going into this that would stir the pot – but at the end of the day it’s just a movie. The movie has millions of meanings and if they want to focus on particular scenes and issue then let them. But at the end of the day, the movie must have been effective, if it’s creating this type of passion, then I guess we have done something right. Art is dangerous, it needs to challenge us, because if it's not making you think, its not art. There's a lot of trivia to this film from being inspired by the tornado that wrecked Greensburg, Kansas, where the community is now rebuilding an almost completely environmental friendly city, to Ireland's rebellious past and all those great disaster genre pictures like George Seaton's Airport.

Schickel: But it's much, much more. It starts out as a tragedy and ends bittersweet, but on the way it's a very politically charged period piece drama in the sense that the scenery is undeveloped because of the tsunami. The debates are held in places like a town center and over the radio, as if Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were campaigning for President.

Boorman: I think Scott Frank and I wanted to strip the nation and show the struggle to rebuild it.

Schickel Well, I think you succeeded and look forward to seeing it again. We are out of time, so I want to thank the stars of "After the Fall" for joining us, Jack Nicholson and Sigourney Weaver, writer Scott Frank and director John Boorman. Take care.

For Your Consideration
Best Picture
Best Director - John Boorman
Best Actor - Jack Nicholson
Best Actress - Sigourney Weaver
Best Supporting Actor - Hugh O'Conor
Best Supporting Actress - Sophie Okenedo
Best Original Screenplay - Scott Frank

The Aftermath

Author(s): Chris P. (IL)
The Aftermath

Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Written by Michael Schiffer
Produced by Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz
Distributed by Warner Bro. Pictures
Music by Mark Isham
Edited by Conrad Buff IV
Cinematography by Philippe Rousselot

Main Cast
Christian Bale as Officer Kyle Mitchell
Taraji P. Henson as Yvette Charles
Kevin Zegers as Officer Frank Waters
Ginnifer Goodwin as Michelle Mitchell
Loretta Devine as Shirley Charles
Anthony Mackie as Anthony Smith
James Garner as Harold Mitchell
Delroy Lindo as Lt. Jackson
William Fitchner as Bruce Waters
Brandon Mychal Smith as Demetrius Smith

Tagline: "Death is at the Center of Life."
Synopsis: An interconnecting story, set in the crime riddled and dangerous austral streets of post-Katrina New Orleans , surrounds the dysfunctional individuals linked to the accidental murder of a corrupt teenager, the events that led to this incident, and the affects this has on their lives.

OFFICER KYLE MITCHELL (Bale), an embittered and hot tempered southern cop, was never a man who was prone to giving or showing much compassion (which is why he's so proficient at his job). This, however, is causing a major riff between him and his exasperated wife of nearly twelve years, MICHELLE(Goodwin), a high school English teacher, and building an even substantial grudge between him and his crippled, alcoholic, and bed ridden father, HAROLD (Garner), who he blames for his unpleasant childhood and hateful attitude towards others. But after his novice partner shoots a teenager, in the heat of the moment, during an attempted store robbery, it changes his perception on life and his career forever...

YVETTE CHARLES (Henson), a spiteful, eight month pregnant, mother figure, is facing the future pressures of motherhood, constant confrontations with her god fearing and very critical mother, SHIRLEY (Devine), coping with the damage of her home and neighborhood after the hurricane, and the resistance of her lover's, ANTHONY (Mackie), the incarcerated father of Yvette's unborn child, deeply troubled younger brother, DEMETRIUS (Smith), who lives his life on the streets as a criminal. When Demetrius is gunned down by a cop, Yvette must tell her boyfriend that his brother is dead and that she has also suffered an unfortunate miscarriage...

OFFICER FRANK WATERS (Zegers), a rookie cop, grew up around immorality. His father, BRUCE WATERS (Fitchner), a death row inmate, was charged and convicted of killing Frank's mother during a violent argument. This is the reason Frank wanted to become a cop. LIEUTENANT JACKSON (Lindo), Officers Waters' and Mitchell's shift aid, becomes a mentor to Frank and guides him through many tough and challenging obstacles. When Frank accidentally shoots a getaway teenage delinquent, it sets off a media storm of bad publicity for his unit, exposes his reckless and out of control past, and ruins his reputation as a cop...

"The Aftermath" is a hard hitting and powerful crime drama about the affects of death and murder, disconnected families, and the professional and personal consequences tragedies bring onto people.

What the Press Would Say:

"The Aftermath", a deep, thought provoking, emotionally involved, and character driven drama, is about the unintentional shooting of a teenager in New Orleans and the characters connected to this murder.

"Training Day" director, Antoine Fuqua, and screenwriter, Michael Schiffer ("Colors"), have created a very unique, compelling, and gritty story about life struggles, death, and the burdens brought on by private and professional set backs. Fuqua brings a slick yet poignantly complex atmosphere into the lives of various characters and the incredibly difficult paths they must cross in order to sustain any sense of humanism within their tough surroundings. He also perfectly captures an authentic landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans life and the struggles some of its residents have to face up against the growing number of homicides and corruption in their communities. Schiffer's screenplay, though uses familiar material, ignores cliches and gives us fantastic and interesting characters with a natural sense of their environment. The depth Schiffer conveys into his script only enhances the extremely profound direction and astonishing performances.

The ensemble cast is universally excellent. The ever diverse, Christian Bale, turns in yet another powerful and understated performance as Officer Kyle Mitchell, a virulent cop with little respect for his marriage, his father, the citizens he's supposed to protect, and himself. Bale's portrayal of this extremely bitter and sorrowful soul is painfully harsh yet heartbreaking, honest, and realistic. The underrated, Taraji P. Henson, plays Yvette Charles, a volatile pregnant woman who looks after her imprisoned paramour's younger brother. Henson's performance is beyond outstanding. The scene where she reveals to her boyfriend that his brother and their unborn child is dead is probably the most affective and gut wrenching things you'll see all year.

The supporting performances are equally as memorable. Ginnifer Goodwin stars as Michelle Mitchell, the aggravated wife of an impassive cop and the teacher of a dead student. Goodwin shows this woman as lonely, afraid, and disturbed by her crumbling marriage and by her husband's constant lack of love and admiration. Loretta Devine portrays Shirley Charles, a very religious and overprotective mother. Devine's performance is simply brilliant. She exposes this character's care and affection for her daughter's afflicted life through her severe stances. Finally, James Garner delivers a meaty and truly remarkable performance as Harold Mitchell, an alcoholic and disabled father. Garner observes the true nature of this character and makes a man who is depressed but expresses his emotions through excessive drinking and by his cruel resentment towards his son.

"The Aftermath" is an enthralling, gripping, and carefully crafted piece. This isn't a film about race, class, Hurricane Katrina, injustice, or the law. But simply a movie about the way life and death result in the internal pain we all must face and which makes this film even more remarkable. A definite must see.

Awards Consideration
Best Picture
Best Director - Antoine Fuqua
Best Actor - Christian Bale
Best Actress - Taraji P. Henson
Best Supporting Actor - James Garner
Best Supporting Actress - Ginnifer Goodwin
Best Supporting Actress - Loretta Devine
Best Original Screenplay

The Architects of Fear

Author(s): Tony (PA)
The Architects of Fear

Directed by David Cronenberg
Written by David Cronenberg and Josh Olson
Based on the Outer Limits episode "The Architects of Fear"
Music by Philip Glass

Principal Cast:

Viggo Mortensen as Allen Leighton
Jennifer Connelly as Yvette Leighton
William Hurt as Dr. Phillip Gainer
Danny Huston as Dr. Hal Herschel

Tagline: "To stop fear, we must unite. To unite, we must fear"


Eleven of the most credible scientists in the country sit at the round table. The room is dark with the glare of cigarette smoke hovering over the table. Years have gone by since the war has started and fear is among every household. With multiple threats of attack over the years, the last resort is to unite. If humanity itself is threatened, men will stop fighting each other and work together. At the head of the table is Dr. Phillip Gainer, the chairman of the Advanced Biological Studies Group. He gives this insightful speech and proposes an idea, that if they were able to create an outside being, something the world has never seen, proof that we are not alone, nations will bond. The idea to use genetic alteration by using a mysterious life form not publicly discovered yet. The studies and surgical procedures are perfected, they only need a participant. After a drawing, Allen Leighton was chosen.

Allen Leighton lives a normal life for a scientist. He's quiet, down to earth, and has been married to his wife, Yvette, for twelve years. Yvette is as good hearted as her husband. Her kindness and love she devotes to Allen only makes his situation more unfortunate. He must give it all away to go through with the experiment, including his unborn child, Yvette being three months pregnant.

The process begins with a single shot, followed by holding Allen in a cell, exposing the alteration inside him. After the painful ordeal, Allen must arrange his death preparations. He informs Yvette that he's traveling out of town for a seminar across the country, his last goodbye. Weeks go by and Phillip must tell Yvette the tragic news, that Allens private jet never made its destination. The news hits hard for Yvette, but deep down she refuses to believe it. With the help of acclaimed scientist Hal Herschel, the transformation begins. Days go by as Allen's skin begins to crack as he feels his organs slowly change every day. The more he misses Yvette, the more hostile and hopeless he becomes. An outraged Gainer must keep Allen's spirits high while comforting Yvette. While dealing with her pain, Yvette questions the words around her and begins to search the truth to what really happened to her husband.

The change worsens as Allen begins to have violent tantrums and schizophrenic episodes. He barges out of his restraints with angry tendencies. He attempts to call the one thing he remembers in his life, Yvette, only for her to hear the desperate screams that strikingly sound like her husband as Gainer and Herschel struggle to contain him. Months go by and the experiment is complete. An emotionless creature is confined, unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. Their plan is to fly him out of the country at a designated target for the world to see and have the idea more will come. It is too late, the creature is so overpowering he manages to kill his way out of the laboratory. His remaining instinct is to go home. He enters his home as Yvette stares in fright. The creature struggles to breath and reaches out to her as he crumbles to the floor. Gainer and the remaining scientists enter the room to see their creation die in front of them. The change was too much for him to handle. Yvette knees to the ground and puts the pieces together. Her cry is screaming, her last goodbye.

What the press would say:

The public have been striving for a film like "The Architects of Fear", one that captivates the essence of horror blended in with remarkable storytelling, beautiful imagery, stunning acting, and a cerebral emotional experience. What was once shown as an hour long episode on The Outer Limits is now remastered, retold, and redone in such spectacular fashion. David Cronenberg signed his name as the director and writer of the film, bringing his legendary horror elements to the screen, along with screenplay writer of History of Violence, Josh Olson. Together, the two clash and blend their own respectful styles into one gem. Olson masters the home life scenes, the hidden tension between the characters that we can only assume is going through their mind. Meanwhile, Cronenberg also covers traumatizing human nature into a graphic, unforgettable fantasy. Cronenberg overwhelms us with a sublime mixture drama and misery. Beyond all that lies a tragic love story about a husband and wife that we feel absolutely hopeless for that we ourselves feel hopeless. A beautifully illustrated romance between Allen and Yvette is so staggering that we eagerly, yet painfully wait for the unhappy ending to follow. An ending to which there is a great suspense created through the entire film that builds up to that one scene where our main characters are together one more time.

Viggo Mortensen is our lead guy. He plays the humble scientist Allen Leighton. Leighton reminds us all of the ideal husband. Loyal, mild mannered, intelligent, a hard worker, but has time to cook his wife dinner and watch a movie together. Although his job is demanding, his smile never disappears when he's with his love. Mortensen is shockingly excellent in a difficult role that must connect with us viewers so we can feel his pain as his transformation continues throughout the film. As it worsens, no longer do we see his understated charm. We can see the torment and helplessness through this astonishing performance that is worthy of Academy attention. Jennifer Connelly plays his wife, Yvette. Connelly's acting is undeniably convincing that along with her chemistry with Viggo, it makes the film into what it is. Her performance can be compared to Viggos, as far as character developments. Connelly shows great range from being emotionally destraut after hearing her husband is dead, but as the film goes on she becomes more suspicious and she can't believe anything she hears. She doesn't know why they would lie, but that sinking feeling in her gut that her husband isn't dead doesn't go away. Instead of feeling pain because of her deceased husband, she feels that he is alive and there's nothing she can do about it. A pure, unadulterated masterful performance. Finally, William Hurt joins the cast as a very interesting character in Dr. Phillip Gainer. Hurt is the wildcard that the viewers don't know how to look upon, which is a great feeling to have as an actor. He truly believes what he's doing is for the good of mankind, but guilt is inevitable. Although he cares for the two of them, he's a manipulator that looks at science as top priority. It's debatable whether his actions are justified, but one is for sure, Hurt is electrifying in his attempts.

"The Architects of Fear" is a film that cannot be taken lightly. From its haunting music cues to sinister outcomes, it never fails to disappoint. At times it may not be pleasant to look at, but every scene serves a purpose, even the graphic ones that aren't overly done but sophisticated. An intelligent, science fiction love story that pays tribute to the 1963 episode. Cronenberg takes his new found wits he gained from "History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises", and combines them with his intense atmosphere and uneasy vibes from his horror classics. Beneath the brilliant make-up effects and "yucks" there lies a strong core. It's the events that change our characters emotionally, not physically, that inspires the true horror. A horror none of us will forget anytime soon. That being said, it's a lesson of its own. One that says there is no magical substitute for mutual love.


Best Picture
Best Director - David Cronenberg
Best Actor - Viggo Mortensen
Best Actress - Jennifer Connelly
Best Supporting Actor - William Hurt
Best Adapted Screenplay - David Cronenberg and Josh Olson

Baked Alaska

Author(s): Brian (AZ)
Baked Alaska

Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Tina Fey

Main Cast

Kristen Stewart (Erin Rothman)
Kevin Kline (Jerome Flanagan)
Joan Cusack (Deirdre Rothman)
Bette Midler (Rita Flanagan)
Alan Alda (Victor Rothman)
Tina Fey (Carrie Rothman)
Zooey Deschanel (Lily Flanagan)

Tagline: “A Celebration of Friendship, Dreams and Dessert.”


Rothman’s Diner is the premier restaurant in Sitka, Alaska. The menu has just a little bit of everything: steaks, fish, salads, sandwiches—the usual. Everyone that goes in knows their servers’ names and is more than likely good friends with the owners. Rothman’s was opened 60 years ago by the deceased George Rothman, then was passed down to his now semi-retired, insult-spewing son Victor, and then to Victor’s eldest daughter, Deirdre, a self-pitying yet oddly lovable divorcee (a choice that came much to the dismay of his younger daughter, the neurotic, self-absorbed Carrie). And when Deirdre retires, she is prepared to hand the title of Manager down to her daughter, Erin. At least, that’s the plan. The last thing Erin wants is own the diner. What Erin really wants to do is move out to Hollywood and try to break in as an actress. But when she tells that to her family, no one takes her seriously or even considers allowing her to go. Erin, however, remains determined…for a while, at least. But this being the summer before her senior year, the odds of her dream coming true are looking increasingly miniscule by the day.

Risky Business is the fastest growing restaurant chain in the country. The menu is essentially the same as Rothman’s, but with a bit more selection and notably lower prices. The managers of this particular branch are Jerome and Rita Flanagan, a married couple who have been traveling across the nation for several years opening new establishments. Rita is convinced (and rightfully so) that, if she can make this branch a success, both she and her husband will finally be promoted to the stature of “Executive Expansion Supervisors.” She will stop at absolutely, positively nothing to reach that title. Their daughter, Lily, joined the family business when she graduated from college, and is equally as devoted to working her way up the ladder. Jerome, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly care less. Since he married Rita thirty years ago and began working for Risky Business, he’s essentially zoned out of life. After his attempts at being a writer failed miserably, Jerome has given up hope on ever truly being happy.

The two groups inherently hate one another. Carrie (in an act that showcases her over-the-top antics) goes as far as to egg Risky Business’ building, while Lily purchases a television ad stating that when she was having lunch at Rothman’s, her soup “smelled of rat poison.” One evening, Deirdre and Rita scheduled to have a “discussion” on a local news station; this being a huge issue for a small town. During the taping of the debate, Erin and Jerome bump into each other for the first time. Each of them expects the other to be passive aggressive or blatantly rude to them, as all of the other family members have been. This, however, is not the case. And so, the two are naturally intrigued by one another. After exchanging grievances to one another during the taping, Erin and Jerome agree to meet, in secrecy, in the wilderness, as both of them love the idea of having someone they can talk to that understands their strife. And from there, an unforgettable friendship forms. Over the next year, they would escape a bear attack, give each other recipes, race each other on a glacier and set up a camp inside a waterfall. Jerome would convince Erin to audition for the school play, Erin would be the first person to read a manuscript Jerome wrote thirty-five years ago, Jerome would write Erin a monologue and Erin would start calling Jerome “dad.”

What the Press Would Say:

“Baked Alaska” opens with a shot of the Alaska wilderness. This shot is immediately followed by a shot of a plate of food being served. Then the wilderness again. Then food. Wilderness. Food. And by the end of the montage, you realize that you are about to see the sweetest, most honest and most stomach-achingly hilarious film of the year. And that first impression is absolutely correct.

It is hard to talk about “Baked Alaska” without first talking about the cast. Kevin Kline, Kristen Stewart, Joan Cusack, Bette Midler, Alan Alda, Tina Fey (who also penned the screenplay) and Zooey Deschanel. Where can I even begin? I suppose with the two main supporting women. It is fairly rare for a film to pick up two Oscar nominations in one acting category, but I believe that “Baked Alaska” has the potential to do just that. Joan Cusack plays Deirdre, the frustrated, self-demeaning manager of Rothman’s Diner, the local hot spot in Sitka, Alaska. Cusack is certainly no stranger to playing these overwrought comedic characters, but she’s never been as on top of her game as she is here. She is quick to pick up on Fey’s subtexts and character development, and gives one of the most multi-layered performances of her career. Cusack, however, is topped by her co-star Bette Midler, who portrays a selfish bitch-on-wheels desperate to work her way up the corporate ladder. Midler incorporates the side-splitting humor she has become famous for into the role, but also adds emotional depth, as displayed in her final scene (I don’t want to spoil anything, but it involves her husband confronting her). The best scene for both of these ladies would have to be towards the beginning, where their characters are having a debate on local television. Again, it wouldn’t be as funny as it is if I were to tell you what happens, so I will just let you be (pleasantly) surprised. However, as I said, Midler and Cusack are the supporting players. The leads are Oscar winner Kevin Kline and the up-and-coming Kristen Stewart, who was last seen as Rachel Price in “The Poisonwood Bible.” I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such strong chemistry between people with such a large age gap. Stewart plays Erin Rothman, the daughter of Cusack’s character and heir apparent to owning the diner. Her character is a sarcastic, unhappy teenager who yearns to be an actress. Much like her co-stars, Stewart finds complexity in what is, on the surface, a relatively simple character. The character has become so used to taking care of herself that she doesn’t know what to do when Kline’s character offers a helping hand. This a difficult theme to reflect when it is never flat-out stated, but Stewart’s performance makes it all crystal clear. This theme is best amplified in a scene where Kline picks Stewart up from a party where she has clearly been drinking; a great scene for both of them. Kevin Kline is known to mix humor and drama into his performances, and his work in “Baked Alaska” is no exception. However, this is also unlike anything he ahs ever done, as this time his character is not eccentric or “wacky”, but downbeat and depressed. And if this is any indication of what he can do with these sorts of characters, then bring it on. Kline is understated and haunting (see: his first run-in with Stewart), but also hilarious and imaginative (see: the waterfall scene). I really do believe that each and every one of these performances have strong Oscar potential. This is one of the strongest ensemble casts I’ve seen in a while.

As with most dramdies, the real star of the film is the screenplay. From the moment it was announced that Tina Fey was the writer of this film, I, like most others, was quite intrigued. I was expecting another “Mean Girls.” The result was not quite that. It was actually better. When it wants to be, “Baked Alaska” is just as funny as Fey’s last feature project, but it also has strong dramatic heft in the more serious scenes. Fey has done more than prove to us that she is capable of comedy with her years on SNL and the current hit sitcom “30 Rock”, and has hinted to us that she is capable of drama in each of her endeavors as well. And “Baked Alaska” solidifies that theory. The script is also complimented by excellent direction from Richard Linklater who, like Fey, combines his hilarious comedic work (“Dazed and Confused”) with his thoughtful dramatic work (“Before Sunrise/Sunset”). All too often, the directors of comedies are overlooked at the Oscars. However, I can sense that this will not be the case for Linklater. He uses the Alaskan environment entirely to his advantage, with sweeping, practically epic shots of the wilderness. Hopefully that will be enough to solidify an Oscar nomination.

This is the most fun you will have at the movies this year, no matter who you are. “Baked Alaska” is a rare gift to moviegoers that I encourage you to accept as soon as possible.

Best Picture
Best Director (Richard Linklater)
Best Actor (Kevin Kline)
Best Actress (Kristen Stewart)
Best Supporting Actress (Joan Cusack)
Best Supporting Actress (Bette Midler)
Best Original Screenplay


Author(s): Douglas Reese (MI)

Written and Directed by Eli Roth
Produced by Eli Roth
Director of Photography: Milan Chadima
Edited by George Folsey, Jr.


Jeremy Sisto ... Jackson Meiks
Maggie Gyllenhaal ... Helen Adams
Jordan Ladd ... Tiffany Leigh
Jacob Kogan ... Junior Meiks

Tagline: “One Only Sees Truth When They Have Faith”


The car flipped four times before arriving at a halt. Due to the impact of the road and his head, Jackson suffers from a third degree brain hemorrhage. His son, Junior, dies in the hospital a few hours after the accident. Jackson leaves the hospital four months later only to dedicate the next three month after to Christianity. His friend Helen arrives every Sunday morning, giving Jackson a ride to church where Jackson spends his best time asking his Lord to forgive him. Jackson feels at fault for Junior's death. Helen, dedicating herself as much to helping Jackson as possible, offering him dinners after church and even allowing him to move into her house. Jackson, however, decides to remain in his apartment alone.

Jackson's younger sister Tiffany, a fractured woman that has carelessly lead her own life toward a commitment to heroin, breaks Jackson's self-isolation when she asks to stay a week. She tells him its because she is ready to get her life back on track, but Jackson can tell that its for a more dark, secretive reason. He does allow her to, feeling that its the right thing to do.

Tiffany keeps herself on a very destructive schedule. An emotionless vampire, she sleeps during the day, and disappears from the apartment during the night, and Jackson can only feel low for Tiffany. Tiffany returns home one night with a friend of hers. The two shoot up in Jackson's bathroom. Jackson acts as if he is clueless of what they were doing. And it is on this night, while Jackson prepares to go to bed, that he sees a man in his window. A man that eerily resembles Jesus Christ. The man just stares, and Jackson does as well. He walks away. Arriving and peering out the window to view his vacant snow-covered front yard.

The next day, after watching Tiffany and her girl pal sleep it away on his living room floor, he eats dinner with Helen and tells her of his visitation. Helen, sort of worried about her friend, goes along with Jackson's story and tells him that “its a turn of faith and a sign that God has your back. I feel there is no other solution to this situation than that.” Later that night, Tiffany leaves for the night. While remaining in his bedroom playing oldie records, Jackson is visited once again. Only this time, its not Jesus. It is his son Junior.

Junior tells Jackson that a dark and demonic force is moving in on him and his home. The dark force, as Junior explains, is an invisible predator and it lurks deep within Tiffany. And this force needs to be destroyed to not only help Jackson and his own soul, but to keep Tiffany from serving a terrible fate at the hands of Satan. And it is on this Saturday night that Tiffany comes home, emotionless and altered by drugs and alcohol. She curses at Jackson, hits him, and blames him for past family circumstances. With a simple appearance of Junior leading him to a kitchen knife, Jackson slashes and stabs at his baby sister, until she gasps her last breath on the kitchen floor.

Helen arrives the next morning, expecting Jackson to exit his apartment for church. Strangely, and unlike him, he doesn't come out. Helen knocks at the screen door, the main door remaining open for he to see the living room. Jackson doesn't arrive to the door, and Helen, decides to go in and see if he is alright. Walking through the living room and into the kitchen, Helen is terrified at the sight of blood. On the floor, the puddles enthrall an immediate reaction to her subconscious. She takes out her cell phone and calls the police. And it is not until after the phone call that Helen begins to hear a faint voice coming from the bedroom. Walking down the hallway she finds her way to the bedroom. A vague sight startles her as she makes a yelp and stares at Jackson, who sits on her bed, covered in blood, his little sister's head lying in his lap. He brushes her blood-stained blonde hair. He stares into space, slurring and mumbling the Lord's prayer. Helen becomes ached with terror. She slowly shuts the door.

What the Press Would Say:

Eli Roth, best known for his graphic holds-no-bars horror films, has bravely constructed a horror film of a different kind. Brilliantly constructing his character, Roth buries deep within sorrow and guilt as he fabricates Jackson Meiks, a tragically blistered soul who begins a rampant change toward personal weakness as he begins to fall into a depressive state. Roth is intelligent in his screenplay, structuring this character into a completely authentic and realistic situation, and Roth brings this character to brilliant depths by casting Jeremy Sisto as Jackson. Sisto is a completely deep actor who finds great emotional depths in his character. A greatly executed performance, Sisto never backs down from reaching into terrifying complexities of Jackson and in the end, gives the film an astounding sense of human weakness. In a scene when dead son Junior reappears to him, Sisto portrays so much emotion with a single tear drop and subtly creates a sense of love rediscovered. A truly great sequence showing an underrated actor in a fluently and authentically developed performance. In an unforgettably comfortable portrayal, Maggie Gyllenhaal portrays Jackson's friend Helen with a great deal of life. She seems like a down-to-earth woman that is there for her friend and in hopes of helping keep foot of him. In her scenes with Jackson she shows care. In the final scene in Jackson's apartment, she brings focus not only to terror, but of pity. The final shot of her expression as she realizes Jackson's mind has lost momentum and closing the bedroom door is exceptionally acted, with Gyllenhaal bringing so much to the screen in such little time. A true woman is brought to the screen through Gyllenhaal's portrayal. As for writer/director Eli Roth, it is clear that he is capable of creating a greater and more complex horror film, that doesn't rely only on its terror, but on its character, whose loss of conviction with himself brings him down to his mental unstableness at the film's climax. A truly masterful direction by a director who deftly understands his genre. A terrific, emotionally devastating, and ultimately saddening psychological horror story has finally been told – and to perfection.

For Your Consideration:

Best Picture
Best Director – Eli Roth
Best Original Screenplay
Best Actor – Jeremy Sisto
Best Supporting Actress – Maggie Gyllenhaal

Dirty Little Secret

Author(s): Evan (NY)
Dirty Little Secret

Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach and Frank Warren

Dustin Hoffman – Frank Warren
Josh Brolin – Anonymous Man
Frances McDormand - Anonymous Woman
Randy Shelly - Anonymous Teen

Tagline: “Secrets are only safe in the most public of places.”


The simple concept of the Post Secret project was that completely anonymous people decorate a postcard and portray a secret that they had never previously revealed. No restrictions are made on the content of the
secret; only that it must be completely truthful and must never have been spoken before…Frank Warren started the website on blogspot on January 1st, 2005. He receives thousands of postcards monthly and has to select a few every week to go on the site. Topics range from sexual misconduct and murder to secret phobias or lies. Each postcard tells a story, and Frank likes to play the stories out in his head the way he thinks they have gone. When three postcards come the same day, from the same post office, he looks them over and thinks out the story…

Anonymous Man
Postcard: “I don’t want him to turn out like me”

The man is a heavy drinker and has, on multiple occasions had to be taken to the hospital to have his stomach pumped. He loses his job and can no longer provide for his family. He is unaware of his wife’s anger, and completely ignores his son… unless he’s drunk. When he is drunk he gets crazy. He beats his wife and tells his son to perform obscene acts on him. When he turns sober and remembers what he has done he regrets it completely. A stake is driven through his stomach each time he wakes up and remembers what he has done. But he can’t talk to them about it. He pretends he doesn’t remember, that everything is OK.

Anonymous Woman
Postcard: “I saved the life of someone I truly hate. Nobody will ever know that it was me.”

The woman hated her husband not only was he irresponsible and lazy, he was mean. However loud she yelled, he would never do what she told him to. It was a waste of her life to stick around, but without a high school diploma, she couldn’t provide for her own son. Once, her son was out at a movie, alone, and her husband collapsed. She rushed over and felt for a pulse. Upon locating it, she performed CPR on him until a glob of something shot out of his mouth. She laid him on his bed and walks out of the room, to clean the kitchen.

Anonymous Teen
Postcard: “I want life to be simple and easy… again.”

The Teenager sat alone in movie theatres. He liked to watch other people’s lives, because his was plainly unbearable. Also, movies always had happy endings. His parents always fought, and when his father got drunk, he molested him. The teenager was also gay, but he couldn’t tell anyone. His father had made him want things that only homosexuals and women want. He wished he could just go back to when he was younger, when playing on his own was fun, when he could use his imagination without the rude interruptions that the real world presented. The teenager wants to be in that place again, a place where everything is simple and easy, and where his mother and father were still in love.

What The Press Would Say

Although many post-secret postcards are hilarious and cool, many that are sent to Frank Warren concern very serious issues in peoples lives, and “Dirty Little Secret,” Noah Baumbachs new film dives into where all the bad starts in people. Following a normal, three-person suburban family, Mr. Baumbach crafts an intensely vivid portrayal of guilt, grief, and the power that every person has to change themselves. In this film, the first story that is shown is that of Frank Warren, the creator of the post-secret art movement. Dustin Hoffman gives a surprisingly reserved performance as the mellow intellectual, and lover of art. What he imagines upon receiving three postcards from the same post-office is the tight story of a woman who has an abusive husband, an alcoholic husband who molests his son, and a teenage boy who struggles with his sexuality, and his family life. The entire cast does a great job at showing just how they distance themselves from each other, and how some are struggling to bet back. Frances McDormand, who plays the anonymous women, gives a stunning performance as the woman who has a hate for her husband, but doesn’t show it. She keeps her anger bottled up, making her completely oblivious to how her son is treated. Josh Brolin also gives a powerhouse performance as an alcoholic who refuses to seek help, even though he knows he abuses his son when he is drunk. Showing us every side of the complicated octagon of a man, Mr. Brolin proves once again that he is one of the best working actors today. The young Randy Shelly, though, gives the best performance in the film. As the last story told, I expected for it to be less powerful, as the third acts of other of Noah Baumbachs films have been. I was mistaken. Mr. Shelly gives a superb portrayal of a boy who is hurt by his father, but has learned to deal. Although he is dealing with normal teenage things as well, most of these are excluded from the film. Mr. Shelly transports us deep inside the mind of this nameless character with his heartbreaking performance, as we learn about his mixed feelings about his sexuality, the grief he feels about his parents, and the longing and hope that things will go back to the way they used to be, something only a child could ever sincerely believe. Digging deep into the psychology of humans, “Dirty Little Secret” is a must see film for anyone who has ever felt, well, alone.

Every Last Night

Author(s): CJ (CA)
Every Last Night

Directed by Shona Auerbach
Written by Naomi Foner
Music by Mychael Danna
Original Song: "Towards Your Arms" by Vienna Teng

Kate Mara as Jillian Cowry
Jensen Ackles as Danny McClellan
Christian Coulson as Scott McClellan
Genevieve Bujold as Annie McClellan
Ian Holm as Daniel McClellan

Tagline: What brought them together tore them apart.

Synopsis: Mechanic Danny McClellan (Ackles) is an ex-collegiate athlete brought down by an early injury who now supports his aging parents in their Massachusetts home. When Danny’s younger brother Scott (Coulson) comes home from college and brings his girlfriend Jillian (Mara) along to meet the family, she is accepted by the McClellans warmly. As their visit wears on, however, Danny begins to feel that he is falling in love with Jillian. One late night, Danny and Jillian share a kiss, but separately resolve to never speak of it.

The next afternoon, Scott proposes marriage to Jillian and she accepts. Months pass and Scott and Jillian’s wedding draws closer, as the interactions between Jillian and Danny grow more tenuous. Two weeks before the ceremony, Danny finally confronts Jillian with his feelings- that he is deeply in love with her. They share an impassioned night together, but afterwards Jillian tells Danny that she wants to move to California with Scott when they get married, because she loves Danny and fears driving a wedge between the close-knit family. Similarly, Danny is wracked with guilt at betraying his brother, as well as anguish at the thought of losing Jillian.

Danny flees to his garage, and is surprised when Scott comes to seek him out. Scott, unaware that the connection between his brother and his fiancée has evolved past platonic, asks Danny to be his best man. Danny, promising himself that this marks the end of his feelings for Jillian, accepts and wishes Scott well. Following a loud explosion, all goes black. Danny wakes up in a hospital bed, his parents at his side and Jillian nowhere to be found.

Danny’s parents tell him that there was an accident in the garage, and that he was injured. He has been in a coma for the past two weeks, making today the date planned for Jillian and Scott’s wedding. Danny demands to know his brother’s whereabouts, and his parents reveal that Scott, after lying comatose for three days, died without waking. After the funeral, Jillian left Massachusetts to return to California, and Danny's mother, Annie, knowingly tells him to let her do what she needs to.

That winter, when after a long period of recovery Danny has been allowed to leave the hospital, he visits Scott's grave, and expresses regret about keeping the truth from him. He leaves a letter from Jillian on Scott's grave, and the film closes with Jillian's voiceover reading its contents.

What the press says:

‘Every Last Night’ is no feel-good film. It is a story of fallible people who give into impulse as well as make thought-out decisions. There are no heroes- the characters left in the best light are the ones granted the least amount of attention, perhaps a commentary on how an individuals flaws become more prevalent the closer we become to them.

As Danny McClellan, Jensen Ackles carries the responsibility of a lead role well, hefting the weight of the drama on his shoulders with an accuracy that develops the predicament of his character into a third protagonist of the film. He is simultaneously drawn between the responsibilities of being the older brother, and a staunch refusal to hurt his younger brother, Scott (deftly if fleetingly played by Christian Coulson), even though he feels a growing passion for Scott’s girlfriend, later fiancée, the glitteringly unattainable Jillian.

Kate Mara ably portrays the difficult role of Jillian, an outsider being drawn into the closeknit McClellan family. Most of Jillian’s exposition is saved for the very last scene of the film, and so the audience knows very little about the woman who causes such discord in the lives of the winningly charming McClellan boys. Mara shows the guarded but delicate emotion in her character during a tender love scene, and once all is said and done at the film’s close, her portrayal is drawn together like a well-spun mystery novel.

‘Every Last Night’ fills itself up with complex themes, and admirably does not get bogged down with their weight in the second act. However, the execution of the film’s story does lean towards heavy-handed. It buzzes with questions and conclusions about the ideas of family, fate, the endurance of love, and most importantly, the fragile condition of hope. ‘Every Last Night’ unwinds its somewhat formulaic (and yet, most decidedly unconventional) plot with an urgency rarely seen in family dramas, placing incredible importance on each fleeting moment, which -for better or for worse-, bodily throws its audience into the thick of the characters’ lives.

Best Picture
Best Original Screenplay: Naomi Foner
Best Original Score: Mychael Danna
Best Actor: Jensen Ackles
Best Actress: Kate Mara
Best Supporting Actress: Genevieve Bujold