Barry Munday – comedy - CHRIS D’ARIENZO
Rotten Tomatoes: 38 Metacritic: 28
Patrick Wilson, Chloë Sevigny, Judy Greer, and Cybill Shepherd headline first-time writer/director Chris D'Arienzo's dark comedy concerning a die-hard womanizer who finds himself named as the defendant in a paternity suit after losing his testicles in a violent street attack. Adapted from author Frank Turner Hollan's novel of the same name, Barry Munday stars Wilson as the titular character -- a man known for having a special way with the ladies. One day, after waking up in a hospital room to discover that the family jewels have suddenly gone missing, Munday is shocked to find himself slapped with a paternity suit by a woman (Greer) he can't even remember sleeping with.
Buried - mystery/thriller - Rodrigo Cortes
Rotten Tomatoes: 86 Metacritic: 63
A man is caught in a desperate race against time in this claustrophobic thriller from director Rodrigo Cortés. Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is an American truck driver who has been contracted to work in Iraq, and while delivering a load of kitchen equipment as part of a humanitarian aid program, he's captured by insurgent guerrillas who intend to hold him hostage. Paul is struck unconscious, put into a coffin-like box, and buried, and when he comes to, all he has to help him get out is a lighter, a cell phone, a pen, and a jackknife. Trapped underground with a limited supply of air, Paul frantically calls his family, his employer, and American military and political representatives, trying to remain calm as his chances of survival slip farther away with each passing minute. Featuring the voice talent of Robert Paterson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis, and Erik Palladino, with all the action taking place within the underground box, Buried received its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Carlos - bio/crime - Olivier Assayas
Arthouse favorite Olivier Assayas followed up his critical darling L'Heure d'Été (2008) with this wildly different chronicle - a biopic of the ultra-leftwing, Venezuelan terrorist-cum-mercenary Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, popularly known as "Carlos the Jackal." As co-written by Assayas and scenarist Dan Franck, the account spans the years 1973-1994 - or the period that witnessed Sanchez at his most violent and relentless. Narrative touchstones include the 1974 bomb attack at the Publicis Drugstore on Paris's Left Bank and the 1975 abduction of 11 OPEC officials from Vienna, as well as a torrent of assassinations that Carlos and his cronies planned but didn't carry out. As produced by Daniel Lecomte, this telling of Sanchez's life stars Edgar Ramirez as the terrorist, as well as Alexander Scheer, Aljoscha Stadelmann and Julia Hummer; it was predominantly shot in Germany, France and Lebanon.
Catfish – documentary - Ariel Shulman and Henry Joost
Rotten Tomatoes: 76 Metacritic: 65
Love and identity become twisted across the lines of the Internet in this documentary from filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Nev Schulman is a photographer who one day received a surprising e-mail message -- Abby, an eight-year-old girl in Michigan, had seen his picture in a newspaper and wanted permission to paint a portrait from it. Nev gave his OK, and when he was given a copy of the painting, he was struck by how good it was, assuming that the girl was either a genius or a fraud. Nev tried to contact Abby's family, and somehow ended up in contact with Megan, Abby's sexy 19-year-old sister. As Nev fell into an increasingly complicated on-line relationship with Megan, he decided it was time to meet her in person, but when he traveled to Michigan and tracked her down, Nev learned that Abby and Megan's family were not at all what he expected them to be. Ariel Schulman, Nev's brother, began filming his brother's adventures from his first contact with Abby, and in Catfish he and Henry Joost tell this strange story from beginning to end. Catfish received its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer – documentary - Alex Gibney
This documentary feature takes an in-depth look at the rapid rise and dramatic fall of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Nicknamed "The Sheriff of Wall Street," when he was NY's Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer prosecuted crimes by America’s largest financial institutions and some of the most powerful executives in the country. After his election as Governor, with the largest margin in the state's history, many believed Spitzer was on his way to becoming the nation's first Jewish President. Then, shockingly, Spitzer’s meteoric rise turned into a precipitous fall when the New York Times revealed that Spitzer - the paragon of rectitude - had been caught seeing prostitutes. As his powerful enemies gloated, his supporters questioned the timing of it all: as the Sheriff fell, so did the financial markets, in a cataclysm that threatened to unravel the global economy. With unique access to the escort world as well as friends, colleagues and enemies of the ex-Governor (many of whom have come forward for the first time) the film explores the hidden contours of this tale of hubris, sex, and power.
The Concert - comedy/drama - Radu Mihaileanu
Rotten Tomatoes: 58 Metacritic:59
Twenty-five years after losing his position as the conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra for his refusal to fire the Jewish musicians, a once-famous musical director attempts to stage a late-career comeback. Andreï Semoinovitch Filipov (Aleksei Guskov) was at the top of his game when the Soviet regime ended his career. More than two decades later, he's working as a janitor in the same theater where he once conducted. In his spare time, Andreï and his wife stage mock communist demonstrations to entertain the locals. When Andreï happens across an invitation to Paris' famed Théâtre du Châtelet, he contacts his old orchestra friends in hopes of staging a performance that will bring the crowd to their feet for a standing ovation.
Dancing Across Borders – documentary - Anne Bass
Rotten Tomatoes: 60 Metacritic: 47
Filmmaker Anne H. Bass was visiting Cambodia when she saw a young man dancing in the street and was immediately struck by his skill, his passion, and his charisma. Bass introduced herself to the dancer, Sokvannara Sar, and she was impressed enough with him that she offered to help him come to the United States to study classical dance. It was the beginning of a remarkable journey for Sar, as he went from performing folk dances on the street to the rigors of professional-level ballet study in America, where he was a highly promising but unlikely new figure on the dance scene. Bass and her camera were on hand for much of Sar's transition to his new life, and the documentary Dancing Across Borders tells his remarkable story, from busking in the streets to a special performance accompanied by composer Philip Glass. Dancing Across Borders received its world premiere as an official selection at the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival.
Dogtooth – foreign - Giorgos Lanthimos
Rotten Tomatoes: 90 Metacritic: 73
Three young people exist in a strange world of their parents' devising in this bizarre drama from writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos. A father and mother (Christos Stergioglou and Michele Valley) live in a large house on the outskirts of town with their three children, whose ages range from mid-teens to early twenties. The children have never been allowed to leave the house (which is surrounded by a tall fence), and their knowledge of the outside world has been strictly controlled by their parents, who have chosen to teach them only what they believe is important and have deliberately confused or misled them in many other areas. The parents quite literally treat their children like animals, and the only contact the youngsters have with people outside their family is Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou), a woman who works with the father's business and comes by periodically to have sex with the eldest son (Christos Passalis). Christina makes the mistake of bringing a present for the two younger daughters (Aggeliki Papoulia and Mary Tsoni), and explains the custom is that they should give her something in return. This simple act sets off a chain reaction of events that has terrible consequences for everyone involved. Kynodontas (aka Dogtooth) was an official selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
Down Terrace – comedy - Ben Wheatley
Rotten Tomatoes: 87
A family on the wrong side of the law has some serious business to attend to in this black comedy from British filmmaker Ben Wheatley. Karl (Robin Hill) followed his father, Bill (Robert Hill), into the family business, which in this case happens to be organized crime, and their occupational hazards become obvious when the two return to the family home after a few days in jail. Bill is convinced that one of their associates has been talking to the police, and whoever it is needs to be silenced as soon as possible, but first they have to figure out who is the snitch. As Karl and Bill ponder the likely suspects as their allies stop by the house to check in on them -- including well-connected Uncle Eric (David Schaal), shady nightclub manager Garvey (Tony Way), crooked politician Councilor Berman (Mark Kempner), and enforcer Pringle (Michael Smiley) -- Karl gets some unexpected news from his girlfriend, Valda (Kerry Peacock), who announces that she's pregnant with his child. Karl isn't certain he's ready for the responsibilities of parenthood, and Bill and his wife, Maggie (Julia Deakin), aren't very excited about being grandparents, but the upcoming addition to the family becomes a secondary concern after Bill decides he's figured out who's the rat in the organization. Down Terrace screened at the 2010 Slamdance Film Festival.
Enter the Void – drama - Gasper Noe
Rotten Tomatoes: 74 Metacritic:68
Death takes one man on a journey that is by turns beautiful and terrifying in this feature from writer and director Gaspar Noe, who describes it as "a psychedelic melodrama." Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is a small time drug dealer who sells his wares at a club in Tokyo called "The Void." In the midst of a deal that goes sour, Oscar is shot dead, and finds himself crossing from one plane of existence to the next. When he was younger, Oscar made a pledge to his younger sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) to always look after her, and as his soul leaves his body, the spirit is led on a journey through Tokyo, past traditional consciousness and into the moment of human creation as he struggles to be reunited with Linda, who now works as an exotic dancer. Soudain Le Vide (aka Enter The Void) received its world premiere at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
A Film Unfinished – documentary - Yael Hersonski
Rotten Tomatoes: 94 Metacritic: 87
In 1942, more than two years after Nazi troops herded Poland's Jews into a ghetto in Warsaw, where they were to be held until they were sent to extermination camps, a handful of cameramen were sent into the ghetto to shoot material that was intended for a German propaganda film. The images they captured ran the gamut from blasé scenes of day-to-day life to horrific moments of death and despair. The film was never completed, but after the war, the unedited footage, running roughly an hour, was discovered in a German archive. Yael Hersonski's documentary Shtikat Haarchion (aka A Film Unfinished) presents the surviving footage of the Warsaw ghetto in full for the first time; along with the archival images, Hersonski includes interviews with five survivors of the ghetto, who talk about what was captured on film and their lives under the Nazis, as well as a member of the camera crew who offers a perspective on the original intended slant of the film (which was, at least in part, meant to reveal the class differences between Jews of different economic status). A Film Unfinished received its world premiere at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival.
The Freebie – drama - Katie Aselton
Rotten Tomatoes: 59 Metacritic: 51
A couple hatches a highly dubious scheme to put the spark back in their marriage in this independent comedy drama. Annie (Katie Aselton) and Darren (Dax Shepard) have been married for seven years, and they love each other as much as the day they were wed; they're affectionate, have fun together, and enjoy games such as crossword puzzle races. They would seem to have a perfect relationship, except for one thing -- they haven't had sex in ages, and seem to have lost all interest in making love with one another, no matter how they try to put each other in the mood. Hoping to put some adventure back into their lives, Annie and Darren come up with an unusual idea -- they each get one night in which they're free to find someone and have sex with them, scot-free. But is this going to help their relationship, or is it just going to turn a small problem into a big problem? The Freebie was the first directorial assignment for actress Katie Aselton, who also plays Annie (and is married to another actor and filmmaker, Mark Duplass); the film was an official selection at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - foreign drama - Daniel Alfredson
Author Stieg Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy" winds to a close with The Girl Who Played with Fire, director Daniel Alfredson's adaptation of the best-selling novel following punky protagonist Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) as she fights to prove that she's innocent of committing multiple murders. As Lisbeth lies in intensive care, the corrupt officials in high office attempt to take advantage of her incapacitated state by accusing her of murder. But fiercely independent Lisbeth isn't about to play the scapegoat, and the more her accusers work to ruin her life, the harder she and her loyal friend Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) must push back to prove them wrong.
In Search of memory – documentary - Petra Seeger
Rotten Tomatoes: 100 Metacritic: 77
Two years after Eric Kandel's autobiography, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of the Mind, brought his theory about the biological basis of memory to the masses, filmmaker Petra Seeger explores the Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist's story to the screen in this documentary. A Viennese Jew by birth, Kandel was forced to emigrate to the United States at the age of nine. After studying literature and Austrian history in New York, he became a psychoanalyst and, eventually, a neuroscientist. Ever since Kandel's traumatic childhood in Nazi-occupied Vienna, he became obsessed with the search for memory. In this film, we follow Kandel on a personal journey into his own memory, and follow him as he conducts research from his institute at Columbia University in New York.
Inside Job – documentary - Charles Ferguson
Rotten Tomatoes: 94 Metacritic: 90
Producer/director Charles Ferguson (No End in Sight) speaks at length with journalists, politicians, and financial insiders in order to offer a clearer picture of the economic meltdown that hit America starting in 2008. Academy Award winner Matt Damon narrates this unflinching look at the deep-rooted corruption that has left millions of middle-class Americans jobless and homeless as the major corporations get bailed out while paying millions in bonuses.
It's Kind of a Funny Story - comedy/drama - Anna Boden and ryan Fleck
Rotten Tomatoes:60 Metacritic:58
Adapted from Ned Vizzini's 2006 novel, It's Kind of a Funny Story tells the story of burnt-out teenager Craig (Keir Gilchrist), who checks himself into a mental health clinic citing exhaustion, and finds himself placed in the adult ward due to the fact that the youth ward has been shut down. Taken under the wing of fellow patient Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), the stressed-out 16-year-old attempts to endure his mandatory five days' stay without completely losing his mind. His predicament is made somewhat more tolerable by the presence of Noelle (Emma Roberts), another teenage patient who's struggling to sort out her thoughts. Academy Award nominee Viola Davis, Lauren Graham, and Jim Gaffigan co-star.
Jack Goes Boating – drama - Philip Seymour Hoffman
Rotten Tomatoes: 66 Metacritic:64
Adapted from Bob Glaudini's play of the same name, Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut Jack Goes Boating tells the simple tale of Jack (Hoffman), a shy, fortyish limo-driver with a fondness for pot and reggae music - he likes it because it sounds happy -- who meets Connie (Amy Ryan) for a blind date set-up by Connie's co-worker Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega) who is married to Jack's best-friend and fellow limo-driver Clyde (John Ortiz). As the young couple tentatively come together, breaking through layers and layers of awkwardness and low self-esteem, Clyde and Lucy's marriage begins to dissolve because of Clyde's inability to get over an incident from their past. All the while Clyde gives Jack swim lessons so that he can take Connie on her dream date - a boating trip on the lake.
Kings of Pastry – documentary - Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker
Rotten Tomatoes: 82 Metacritic: 64
Witness 16 of the world's most talented pastry chefs in action as filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus showcase the intense preparations for the three-day competition known as the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. Staged just once every four years, the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France represents the pinnacle of a pâtissier's career. Those who win the competition are awarded the prestigious "Collar," a distinctive red, white, and blue collar that singles them out as true masters of the culinary arts. As the harried chefs race to perfect their elaborate, delectable creations, judges study their every move with intense scrutiny.
Last Train Home – documentary - Lixin Fan
Rotten Tomatoes: 100 Metacritic: 85
Changhua Zhang and Suqin Chen are a couple from a rural village in China's Sichuan province. Frustrated with their lack of employment opportunities, they traveled to the industrial city of Guangdong and took jobs with a large textile firm, making clothing for export. However, Changhua and Suqin were not able to bring their two children with them, and since then the kids have been raised by their grandparents, with their mother and father staying in touch though occasional telephone calls. The only time they have a chance to see their now-teenage children is during China's annual New Year's celebration; they are among the 130 million Chinese whose work keeps them away from their families and make the trip home during the holiday, resulting in an overcrowded rail system as the trains struggle to keep up with the rush. Filmmaker Lixin Fan follows Changhua and Suqin over the course of several years in the documentary Last Train Home, as the couple makes the long journey home (over a thousand miles) only to find that their family is slowly falling apart -- 16-year-old Qin and her younger brother, Yang, are all but strangers now to their parents, and the youngsters have come to resent their parents, while Qin considers leaving school to move to the city on her own and get a job. Last Train Home received its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Leaving - foreign/drama - Catherine Corsini
Rotten Tomatoes: 78 Metacritic: 53
A woman who has grown tired of her marriage falls into a relationship that leads her to a dangerous place in this drama from director Catherine Corsini. Suzanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) is in her mid-forties and married to Samuel (Yvan Attal), a successful doctor who is the father of their two teenage children (Alexandre Vidal and Daisy Broom). The love between Suzanne and Samuel is dead and their marriage is largely a matter of formalities, so to ease her boredom Suzanne has decided to resume her former career as a therapist. Samuel has agreed to foot the bill for building an office for Suzanne in their home, and he hires Ivan (Sergi López) to help with the work. Ivan is a ruggedly handsome illegal immigrant, and Suzanne is immediately attracted to him; she promptly jumps head-first into an affair with him, and while their hunger for one another is clearly just physical, she decides to leave her family behind to live with Ivan. Even though Samuel doesn't much care for Suzanne, he's furious at the notion of her leaving him for another man, leading to an ugly conflict between the husband, the wife, and the lover. Partir (aka Leaving) was an official selection at the 2009 BFI London Film Festival.
Lebanon – drama - Samuel Moaz
Rotten Tomatoes: 87 Metacritic: 87
A handful of soldiers take a claustrophobic journey into the heart of war in this drama from Israeli writer and director Samuel Maoz. It's June 1982, and Israel is launching an invasion of Lebanon. Four men assigned to take part in the first strike are put on the same tank detail -- Assi (Itay Tiran) is the commanding officer, Shmulik (Yoav Donat) is a gunner new to the outfit, Hertzel (Oshri Cohen) keeps the weapons loaded, and Yigal (Michael Moshonov) drives the machine. After being given their orders by Jamil (Zohar Strauss), the men set out toward the Lebanese border, recognizing little of what goes on outside beyond what can be seen through Yigal's tiny window; they occasionally stop to help fellow Israelis hurt in battle, but for the most part, they roll relentlessly onward, occasionally arguing amongst themselves, until they arrive at their destination, a town already bombed into rubble by the Israeli Air Force. Few of their allies remain in the city, putting the soldiers in a perilous situation when a band of Syrian resistance fighters lays siege to the tank. Levanone (aka Lebanon) was an official selection at the 2009 Venice International Film Festival.
Life During Wartime - comedy drama - Todd Solondz
Rotten Tomatoes: 69 Metacritic: 69
"Part sequel, part variation on his acclaimed and controversial HAPPINESS, the newest film from celebrated director Todd Solondz (WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, PALINDROMES) assembles an amazing ensemble cast including Allison Janney, Shirley Henderson, Paul Reubens, Michael Kenneth Williams, Ally Sheedy, Charlotte Rampling, and Ciáran Hinds in an utterly hilarious
exploration of the boundaries of forgiveness, family, and love. Ten years have passed since shocking revelations shattered the world of the Jordan family, and now sisters Joy (Henderson), Trish (Janney), and Helen (Sheedy), each embroiled in their own unique dilemmas, struggle to find their place in an unpredictable and volatile world. The past now haunts their family both literally and otherwise, and jeopardizes the future. Alternately hilarious and tragic, outrageous and poignant, LIFE DURING WARTIME is an audacious comedy with unexpected resonance."
Mao's Last Dancer – drama - Bruce Beresford
Rotten Tomatoes: 58 Metacritic: 55
The true story of Li Cunxin and his journey from rural China to the bright lights of ballet stardom is brought to the screen in this biographical drama from director Bruce Beresford. In 1972, 11-year-old Li Cunxin (Huang Wenbin) is living with his parents, Niang (Joan Chen) and Dia (Wang Shuangbao), and six siblings while attending a tumbledown school in Shandog province. Li's life changes when representatives of Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy visit his school, and he is one of several students believed to have promise as a dancer. While life at the school is difficult for Li and many of the instructors are harsh and unforgiving, Chan (Zhang Su) takes the boy under his wing and grooms him into one of the school's star pupils. In 1981, Li (now played by Chi Cao) is chosen to travel to the United States as part of a student exchange with the Houston Ballet Company. Under the tutelage of Ben Stevenson (Bruce Greenwood), the company's director, Li impresses his peers and is given a key role in a televised production of Die Fledermaus; despite an attack of stage fright, Li's performance is a triumph. As Li came to love life in the United States, he also falls for an attractive young dancer, Elizabeth (Amanda Schull), and when his time in America draws to a close, he makes the decision to leave his old life behind and pursue a life of personal and creative freedom in America. Also starring Kyle MacLachlan and Camilla Vergotis, Mao's Last Dancer received its world premiere at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.
Marwencol – documentary - Jeff Malmberg
Rotten Tomatoes: 92
After a night of drinking at a bar in his hometown of Kingston, NY, Mark Hogancamp got in a fistfight and was beaten so badly he went into a coma. When Hogancamp regained consciousness, he was diagnosed with brain damage and struggled to return to a normal life. As he tried to put his life back together, Hogancamp came up with an unusual hobby -- using G.I. Joe action figures and Barbie dolls, Hogancamp created an elaborate scale model community in his backyard that he calls Marwencol (named for three characters he's dubbed Mark, Wendy, and Colleen). Marwencol is supposed to be a village in Belgium during World War II, and the scene is full of intrigue and military violence; several of the characters also represent his friends and relatives, and one is based on a married neighbor with whom he's infatuated. Marwencol provides Hogancamp with a fantasy world he can retreat into as he deals with the realities of his life following the beating, but the parallels into his real life are troubling to some people he knows, and when a gallery in New York City offers to present Hogancamp's project as an art installation, he has to decide if he's really willing to share Marwencol with the world at large. Filmmaker Jeff Malmberg profiles Mark Hogancamp and the world he created from toys and his imagination in the documentary Marwencol, which received its world premiere at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival.
Monsters - sci-fi/horror - Gareth Edwards
Rotten Tomatoes: 71
Two people who barely know one another are thrown into otherworldly danger in this independent thriller. Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is an American photojournalist on assignment in Mexico at a time when working there has become unusually dangerous -- after a NASA space probe crash-landed not far from the American border, alien creatures that made their way into the satellite were released, and have since thrived in Northern Mexico. Now the area is regarded as an "infected zone," where the aliens (who resemble giant squids) have been contained but move about freely, sometimes attacking humans who cross their paths. While working on a project, Kaulder's publisher contacts him to ask a big favor; his daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) has been traveling outside the United States, and would appreciate an escort from Southern Mexico to California. Not wanting to anger his boss, Kaulder agrees and books passage on a ferry that travels through a safe zone. But bad timing, bad luck, and some foolish choices by Kaulder prevent him and Samantha from catching the ship, and now they have to travel through alien territory with the help of some armed guards, hoping to avoid contact with the bloodthirsty creatures. Monsters was the first feature film from special effects artist-turned-director Gareth Edwards.
Mugabe and the White African documentary Lucy Bailey & Andrew Thompson 7/23/2010 N/A First Run Features 97 77 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxz03dyZj40 Robert Mugabe's rule as president of Zimbabwe has been wildly controversial, with his economic plans generally held responsible for the nation's hyperinflation and massive unemployment, while Mugabe has also been accused of widespread human rights violations. One of Mugabe's most notorious programs has been his policy of seizing farms owned by white Africans and turning them over to individuals affiliated with the Mugabe government; many of these nationalized farms have been put in the hands of people with little practical background in raising crops, with the nation's agricultural base thrown into chaos. Many white land owners in Zimbabwe have fled the country, but 75-year-old Michael Campbell is a veteran family farmer who has chosen to stay and fight; rather than turn over his property, Campbell has taken his case to an international court, accusing the government of Zimbabwe of racial discrimination and violation of his human rights by claiming ownership of his rightful property. Filmmakers Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson profile Campbell and present an indictment of the abuses of the Mugabe administration in the documentary Mugabe and the White African, which was an official selection at the 2009 Hot Docs International Film Festival.
Nowhere Boy – biopic - Sam Taylor-Wood
Rotten Tomatoes: 81 Metacritic: 62
The true story of John Lennon's troubled childhood and difficult relationship with his family is brought to the screen in this period drama. Young John (Alex Ambrose) is a bright but sharp-tongued boy living in the coastal town of Liverpool during the 1950s with his aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) and uncle George (David Threlfall). John's father walked out on the family when he was four years old, and the boy was given to Mimi to raise, even though his mother, Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), was still alive. While Mimi's straight-laced nature runs counter to John's more reckless personality, they clearly love one another and the household is thrown into chaos when George dies suddenly. At the funeral, teenage John (now played by Aaron Johnson) sees Julia, and learns to his surprise that she lives only a few blocks away from Mimi. John pays her a visit, and Julia gratefully welcomes him back into her life. Julia's personality is a much closer fit to John than Mimi, and she encourages his love for writing and music, teaching him to play the banjo. However, John's renewed relationship with Julia brings up a number of unanswered questions, and causes new tensions between Mimi and John. And as rock & roll becomes the hot new sound of the day, John falls in love with the bold new music and makes a friend who is interested in forming a band, Paul (Thomas Brodie Sangster). The first feature film from artist-turned-director Sam Taylor-Wood, Nowhere Boy was the closing night attraction at the 2009 BFI London Film Festival.
Stone - drama/thriller - John Curran
Rotten Tomatoes: 38 Metacritic: 55
A convicted arsonist schemes to get out of prison by convincing his debauched wife to seduce his retirement ready parole officer in director John J. Curran's adaptation of a play by Angus MacLachlan (who also authored the screenplay). His career as a parole officer winding down after years of service, Jack Mabry (Robert DeNiro) reluctantly accepts an assignment to reassess inmate Gerald "Stone" Creeson's (Edward Norton) case for an upcoming parole hearing. Convicted of setting a fire to make the murder of his grandparents look like an accidental death, Stone will do anything to get out from behind bars, and his wife Lucetta (MIlla Jovovich) is willing to do whatever it takes to help secure her husband's freedom - including seducing Jack. Meanwhile, Jack's devoted wife Madylyn (Frances Conroy) has suffered with the emotional weight of her husband's demanding job for far too long.
Stonewall Uprising – documentary - Kate Davis, David Heilbroner
Rotten Tomatoes: 82 Metacritic: 74
Filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner team up to explore the Stonewall riots, an event that served as a sharp turning point for gay rights in the United States. The setting was a Greenwich Village gay bar called the Stonewall Inn; the date was June 28, 1969. It was a time when homosexuality was still seen as a dangerous mental illness, and raids on gay gathering spots were commonplace. When New York City police raided the Mafia-run establishment, they figured the patrons could be herded into paddy wagons without a fight -- they were wrong. Over the course of the next three days, gay protestors clashed with police in an uprising that made headlines across the world. In this film, participants from both sides of the conflict offer firsthand testimony about the social climate of the era and the riots that sparked a revolution.
Tamara Drewe – comedy - Stephen Frears
Rotten Tomatoes: 75 Metacritic: 66
Stephen Frears directed this comedy drama about an ugly duckling who's followed by a handful of suitors after maturing into a sexy swan. Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) was born and raised in Ewedown, a quiet community on the outskirts of London dominated by a writer's colony run by Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam), a best-selling novelist who specializes in crime fiction, and his wife Beth (Tamsin Greig). When Tamara left Ewedown, she was a plain and awkward teenager, but when she returns home for the first time in years, the locals are surprised to discover that time (and a nose job) have turned her into an attractive and alluring woman, and she's gained a share of money and fame thanks to a successful newspaper column. Tamara has returned to Ewedown after the death of her mother in order to refurbish the family home and put it on the market. Before long, Tamara finds herself pursued by three men from her past -- Andy Cobb (Luke Evans), her former boyfriend who has been hired to help fix up the house; Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper), the swaggering drummer with a local indie rock band flirting with larger success; and Nicholas (Roger Allam), who is chronically unfaithful to his wife and sees an opportunity with the neighborhood girl who was infatuated with him in her teens. Tamara Drewe was adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Posy Simmonds, which was in turn inspired by Thomas Hardy's novel Far From the Madding Crowd.
The Tillman Story – documentary - Amir Bar-Lev
Rotten Tomatoes: 91 Metacritic: 86
In 2002, as America was poised to go to war in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pat Tillman, a defensive back with the Arizona Cardinals, joined the United States Army, believing he had a duty to serve in a time of need even though he had signed a lucrative deal to play professional football. Tillman served a tour of duty in Iraq and was on patrol in Afghanistan when, on April 22, 2004, he was killed during a reconnaissance mission near the border of Pakistan. When word spread about Tillman's death, the Army issued a press release declaring he'd been shot down while trying to heroically block the fire of a band of Taliban insurgents. While the Army's story painted a glowing picture of the fallen soldier and athlete, some of the details sounded suspect to Tillman's family, and in time they began asking questions. As it happens, Tillman's parents were outspoken in their opposition to the war in Iraq, and after he had seen what was happening firsthand, so was Tillman, who had been a sharp student with an interest in politics during his college years. In time, Tillman's parents demanded an investigation into their son's death, and the testimony of several witnesses revealed that Tillman wasn't felled during an act of heroism -- his death was the result of "friendly fire" by men from his own company, shooting indiscriminately at an unknown target. Filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev examines Pat Tillman's unusual life and times, the facts about his death, how and why the military created a cover story to hide the truth, and his family's battle to bring the real story into the open in the documentary The Tillman Story, which received its world premiere at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Vision: From the life of Hildegard von Bingen – drama - Margarethe von Trotta
Margarethe von Trotta, one of the most celebrated female directors in the German cinema, pays homage to another remarkable woman in this screen biography of 12th century Renaissance woman Hildegard von Bingen. Hildegard (Barbara Sukowa) came to live at the Disibodenberg abbey when she was a youngster, and grew up under the watchful but compassionate eye of Jutta the Holy (Mareile Blendl). In her teens, Hildegard became a nun and was known among her peers for her generous nature and desire to help others; she developed a talent for formulating herbal medicine as well as gift for composing music, and after three decades she was selected to become a magistra at the abbey. Hildegard was born during a time when women were expected to serve and not to preach, but she fearlessly began speaking to others about her religious visions, which she used as a vehicle to share lessons in faith in a manner that circumvented the rules. Hildegard also fearlessly denounced the violent self-abasement that was common among holy men and women of her day, believing that a faith born of kindness and devotion was more valuable than that which came from fear and pain. While Hildegard won may friends through her work, she also gained more than a few enemies, and while some denounced her for not restricting herself to the traditional role of a woman in the church, others contended that her holy visions were not the work of the Lord, but of the Devil. Vision was an official selection at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.
Waiting for Superman – documentary - Davis Guggenheim
Rotten Tomatoes: 93 Metacritic: 82
Documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim explores the tragic ways in which the American public education system is failing our nation's children, and explores the roles that charter schools and education reformers could play in offering hope for the future. We see the statistics every day -- students dropping out, science and math scores falling, and schools closing due to lack of funding. What we don't see are the names and faces of the children whose entire futures are at stake due to our own inability to enact change. There was a time when the American public education system was a model admired by the entire world. Today other countries are surpassing us in every respect, and the slogan "No Child Left Behind" has become a cynical punch line. Bianca, Emily, Anthony, Daisy, and Francisco are five students who deserve better. By investigating how the current system is actually obstructing their education instead of bolstering it, Guggenheim opens the door to considering possible options for transformation and improvement.
Winnebago Man – documentary - Ben Steinbauer
Rotten Tomatoes: 93 Metacritic: 71
In 1988, a man named Jack Rebney spent time with a camera crew making a promotional video to be used as a sales tool for recreational vehicles. To say Rebney was having a frustrating time would be something of an understatement; unable to remember much of the sales pitch he'd written and showing little patience as he dealt with bugs, hot weather, and uncooperative equipment, Rebney spoiled take after take, swearing a blue streak as one thing or another went wrong. The editors of the video created a gag reel in which Rebney's colorful bursts of anger were strung together for comic effect, and the footage circulated on dubbed videotapes until 2005. That year, someone posted Rebney's tirade online, and before long "Winnebago Man" became an Internet sensation, with the video racking up countless views and inspiring a number of parodies and on-line tributes. But who was Jack Rebney, why was he in such a lousy mood, and is he aware of his underground fame today? Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer decided to find out, and his search to locate Rebney and uncover the true story behind his moment of Internet infamy is chronicled in the documentary Winnebago Man. The film received its world premiere at the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival.
A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop - foreign, drama - Yimou Zhang
Rotten Tomatoes: 27 Metacritic: 57
Love, betrayal and murder take root in the deserts of China in this comedy-drama from filmmaker Zhang Yimou. Wang (Ni Dahong) is an ill-tempered tyrant who runs a noodle shop not far from the Great Wall. Wang treats his employees like dirt and isn't much friendlier to his long-suffering wife (Ni Yan), who soothes her nerves by having an affair with Li (Xiao Shen-Yang), one of Wang's cooks. The wife would like to take Wang out of the picture, and one day she gives Li a gun, suggesting that he kill Wang so they can live in peace. A crooked cop named Zhang learns about the plot and tells Wang about the lovers, offering to kill them for a price. The next day, Zhang returns with evidence that Wang's wife and his cook have been shot, but shoots Wang before he can pay him. Zhang is about to empty out Wang's safe when he discovers he wasn't the only one with a plan to double-cross the despised noodle baron. Inspired by Joel & Ethan Coen's Blood Simple, San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi (aka A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop was an official selection at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - comedy/romance - Woody Allen
Rotten Tomatoes: 50 Metacritic: 54
Two couples find their lives turned upside down by their unfulfilled longings in this ensemble comedy from director Woody Allen. Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones) have been married for years. They have a grown-up daughter named Sally (Naomi Watts), who is married to a successful novelist named Roy (Josh Brolin), but finds the future of her marriage in jeopardy after falling for Greg (Antonio Banderas), the dapper owner of a prominent art gallery. Meanwhile, as Roy develops a fixation on Dia (Freida Pinto), an exotic beauty he encounters on the street, Alfie ditches Helena for Charmaine (Lucy Punch), an impressionable young call girl. Now it seems that the harder everyone tries runs away from their problems, the faster their lives seem to fall apart.