The Animation Show 2005. (Not Rated) There are no "wraparound" sequences from Don Hertzfeldt or Mike Judge this time around, but both continue to seek selections that push the boundaries, including a documentary short ("F.E.D.S."), rotoscope-animated Waking Life-style, about the people who hand out free samples in the grocery store. David Russo's "Pan With Us" features live-action footage shot using animation techniques, Peter Cornwall's excellent "Ward 13" suggests a cross between "Wallace and Gromit" and Lars von Trier's The Kingdom, Tomek Baginski's "Fallen Art" is twisted genius, Jonathan Nix's "Hello" is poignant and clever, and Tim Miller's "Rock Fish" spins a Tremors-inspired CG-tale of a futuristic redneck on a heavy-duty fishing trip. On the other hand, Georges Schwizgebel's "The Man With No Shadow" and Wendy Tilby & Amanda Forbis' "When the Day Breaks" feel a little too abstract and pointless (both are funded by government grants, natch). Bill Plympton's amusing "Guard Dog" kicks things off, and Hertzfeldt's latest -- a bit pretentious, but still well done -- closes the show. Opens Friday, March 11, at the Tivoli. (Luke Y. Thompson)
Downfall. (R) Opens Friday, March 11, at the Hi-Pointe. Reviewed in this issue.
Hostage. (R) Hostage certainly delivers violence and heroics, but not in a way everyone is going to enjoy -- it's brutal and harrowing. The English-language debut of French director Florent Emilio Siri (2002's The Nest), it plays like the next step in the Clint Eastwoodization of Bruce Willis from action icon to flawed, aging hero with regrets. After washing his hands of L.A., hostage negotiator Jeff Talley (Willis) winds up in the small town of Bristo Camino, which is extremely low on crime, but as fate would have it, home to one of the most evil juvenile delinquents in the world (Ben Foster). When he and his friends stage a home invasion, however, they pick the wrong house, one where the resident (Kevin Pollak) is connected to some very high-level crooks. Two groups of bad guys, one morally ambiguous hostage, and a negotiator primarily concerned with his own family. You know it'll have to end badly for someone. The film itself, however, works out pretty well. Opens Friday, March 11, at multiple locations. (Thompson)
The Passion Recut. (Not Rated) Says in the press notes that Mel Gibson wanted to reissue The Passion of the Christ, stripped now of some of its gore but still clocking in at 122 minutes, in order to make "its message of love available to a wider audience" -- and, one assumes, make a few more bucks too. The original's bloodlust was indeed off-putting to the secular moviegoer -- Gibson fetishized each lashing, each wound, each drop of blood coagulating on Jim Caviezel's gaunt frame -- but therein also lay much of its power; if nothing else, it was indeed the year's most visceral movie experience. Stripping it of its "more brutal scenes," as Gibson puts it, smacks of cynicism and greed; this isn't the director's cut so much as the accountant's, five minutes lopped off to add a few more thou to the box-office take. Besides, it's not like cutting five minutes out of the thing is going to make it less boring . . . pardon, meant to say more inspirational. More inspirational, that's it. My mistake. Opens Friday, March 11, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)
Robots. (PG) Opens Friday, March 11, at multiple locations. Reviewed in this issue.