Only one new title headlines this week’s Digital Multiplex, but it’s a good one: Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine has already been racking up the nominations and awards, and Cate Blanchett is an early frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar. Beyond that, we’ve got a solid list of older titles newly available on Netflix and Crackle. Read on for the full list.


Blue Jasmine
91%

Cate Blanchett stars in Woody Allen’s latest as a well-to-do socialite whose world is upended when her husband’s white-collar criminal activities are unveiled. Now destitute, she moves into her sister’s cramped apartment, offering unwanted advice while hoping to return to her life of luxury.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


The Virgin Suicides
77%

Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, and Josh Hartnett star in Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut, a drama about a suburban family coming apart at the seams.

Available now on: Netflix


Year of the Dog
69%

Molly Shannon stars in this dark comedy about a woman looking to fill the void left by the death of her beloved dog; Laura Dern, Regina King, and John C. Reilly also star.

Available now on: Netflix


The Talented Mr. Ripley
83%

Matt Damon is riviting as Tom Ripley, ionternational man of mystery, in Anthony Minghella’s picturesque thriller that also stars Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Available now on: Netflix


Hachi: A Dog’s Tale
64%

Richard Gere and Joan Allen star in this tear-jerker about a college professor who takes in a stray dog and forms an unbreakable bond with the pooch.

Available now on: Crackle


…And Justice For All
81%

Norman Jewison’s classic courtroom drama is the tale of an attorney taking on the legal system, and it features Al Pacino shouting, “You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order!”

Available now on: Crackle

This week at RTIndie, we’ll take a look at what the over-saturation of specialty films has done to New York’s theatrical landscape. Plus, AOL screens 40 minutes of the anti-Michael Moore doc Manufacturing Dissent; Dark Horse Indie develops a tale of military-trained monkeys on the loose; and a story of one woman’s love for man’s best friend is our DVD Pick of the Week.

Indies In NYC: Too Many Movies, Not Enough Screens?

In many ways, New York City is the nation’s indie film Mecca, the place where the smaller, more provocative films get their first theatrical exposure. But what happens if the Big Apple is crowded with too much art house product — and not enough places for them to be seen?

Such is the situation chronicled by Anthony Kauffman in the Village Voice. Kauffman writes, “The exhibition landscape is an increasingly contentious and competitive space, with too many movies struggling to stay alive on too few screens.”

New York may have a large audience for foreign and low-budget films, but an overabundance of product may limit the amount of time that movies can screen, making it hard for films to find an audience. And there are fewer venues to show art-house fare. “Manhattan is scandalously under-screened, and the rate at which theaters playing specialty films are renovated and created is far behind the rate they’ve been dying,” ThinkFilm’s Mark Urman, an indie distributor, is quoted as saying.

It’s never a bad thing to have choice, especially when it comes to challenging entertainment. As Kauffman says, “There’s an increasing array of options for filmgoers. But there’s also more clutter.”

See 40 Minutes Of Manufacturing Dissent For Free

Arguably the most polarizing figure in cinema today, Michael Moore is the subject of Manufacturing Dissent, a movie that’s getting something of an unconventional push: AOL’s True Stories is screening 40 minutes of the film for free. The film, directed by Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk, claims that Moore has fudged and manipulated the facts to suit his agenda. Manufacturing Dissent will be released theatrically in October, and will hit DVD shelves in November. It’s currently at 50 percent on the Tomatometer.


Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11

Dark Horse Indie Monkeys Around

Ready for some midnight movie mania? The Hollywood Reporter says Dark Horse Indie is developing War Monkeys, the story of a janitor trapped in a research facility with military-trained Rhesus monkeys. The comedy/horror flick will be penned by Cleve Nettles. Dark Horse Indie is also behind the forthcoming My Name is Bruce, directed by and starring Evil Dead-head Bruce Campbell; he plays himself, pressed into battle against a monster in an effort to save a small town in Oregon.


Bruce Campbell to play…Bruce Campbell.

RTIndie DVD Pick of the Week: Year of the Dog

It’s a good thing Peggy, the canine-lover played by Molly Shannon in Year of the Dog, is just a fictional character. If she found out about the Michael Vick case, there’s no telling what she’d do. In what may be her richest movie role to date, Shannon plays a woman who has “only ever been able to count on my pets.” Unlucky in love, held at arm’s length by her family, Peggy loses the only thing she feels truly understands her: her dog Pencil. But after meeting fellow dog lover Newt (Peter Sarsgaard), she becomes committed to the cause of helping her four-legged friends. She decides to be a vegan and an animal rights activist, but her behavior becomes increasingly erratic (like adopting all the dogs from the city pound that will be euthanized). Shannon and director Mike White could easily have used the character as the butt of cheap jokes; instead, Year of the Dog is a warm and funny, a portrait of a woman who may be strange, but not without integrity. At 72 percent on the Tomatometer, Dog is Certified Fresh; Christy Lemire of the Associated Press writes, “What could have been a feel-good performance from Molly Shannon is instead delicate, poignant, and an unexpected display of dramatic mastery from an actress who’s made her name with comedy.”


Year of the Dog

It’s an exciting week to be a fan of NBC’s Heroes (we vote Petrelli — Peter Petrelli!) but the uninitiated also have rival figure skaters, real-life air guitarists, and plenty more Fresh titles to choose from today on DVD. Read on for the new release lowdown.


Heroes: Season 1 (Universal)


Tomatometer: N/A

Finally, it’s here! Seven glorious discs chock full of yummy Heroes goodness, including five behind-the-scenes featurettes, over 50 deleted and extended scenes, and the infamous 73-minute unaired pilot episode (which features a handful of different actors, sets, and an entire terrorist subplot — and a new character — that was excised from the season). Best of all, each episode of the modern day superhero series has its own commentary track, so you can sit back and soak in hours and hours of “why’d they do that” insight (for example, Tim Kring and Co. point out homages to The Godfather, The Naked Kiss, and Ran in the season finale alone). If you’re like us, you’ll be spending the next few weeks locked away re-watching every Milo Ventimiglia-filled minute in anticipation of next month’s all-new episodes!


Blades of Glory (Paramount)


Tomatometer: 69%

If you loved Will Ferrell and Jon Heder as figure skating’s first all-male pairs team, then the Blades of Glory DVD should serve you well. Not only can you relive the glory of Ferrell and Heder in the most ridiculous spandex costumes imaginable, you’ll also get the added treat of a bonus menu with plenty of comic goodies like the in-character featurette starring Hector the Psychofan and a DVD-stealing bit with real-life couple (and on-screen siblings) Amy Poehler and Will Arnett.


Air Guitar Nation (Docurama)


Tomatometer: 83%

For more comic hijinks, look for Air Guitar Nation on shelves this week. This rockumentary follows the ambitions of two aspiring invisible rock ‘n rollers as they battle for the U.S. Air Guitar Championship — and with names like C. Diddy and Björn Türoque, you’re promised one helluva show. More than an hour of extra features include even more air guitar performances, a “Where Are They Now?” update, and behind-the-scenes footage.


Offside (Sony)

Tomatometer: 97%

Director Jafar Panahi‘s dramedy about Iranian girls breaking the law to watch a World Cup match earned an impressive 97 percent on the Tomatometer for two reasons; it paints a comic portrait of pure, unadulterated soccer fever, but also calls for discussion of Iran’s strict gender-restricting statutes — rules that mean any females caught sneaking into a soccer stadium, for example, are subject to arrest. If you missed Offside in theaters, make sure to check it out now; the disc includes an interview with director Panahi.


Masters of Horror Box Set (Anchor Bay)


Tomatometer: N/A

Horror fans, put this on your list. The first season of Showtime’s Masters of Horror series is out today in a 14-disc box set, featuring all 13 hour-long episodes directed by horror legends like John Carpenter, Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, and Takashi Miike. Each film has its own disc of a widescreen version, filmmaker interviews, commentary tracks, trailers, stills, and more; an extra disc of bonus featurettes is thrown in for added incentive to buy the set, since all thirteen films are available individually as well.


Other Safe Bets This Week

Red Road
Tomatometer: 90%

Andrea Arnold‘s feature debut thriller about a Scottish woman who works as a security camera operator and starts watching a man from her past won over critics, earning a 90 percent approval rating and the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 2006.

Year of the Dog

Tomatometer: 72%

Molly Shannon stars as a meek woman with an unhealthy attachment to her pet dog in this quirky comedy, directed by Mike White (Chuck & Buck).


LOL

Tomatometer: 100%

Joe Swanberg‘s early entry in the emerging mumblecore movement — no-budget independent films largely about relationships among the twenty-something set — turns a tragicomic eye to three college grads who are dependent on technology, to the detriment of their love lives.


Friday Night Lights — The First Season

Tomatometer: N/A

The first season of NBC’s acclaimed serial, showcasing football mania in a small Texas town, is now out on DVD.

Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You…


Crocodile Dundee Triple Pack

Tomatometer: N/A

America’s favorite Australian is back, sorta, in this unprecedented triple feature DVD. Good old Crocodile Dundee (Paul Hogan) and his lady friend Sue (Linda Kozlowski) have braved New York thugs, Columbian drug runners, and Hollywood studio execs, and you can watch the entire trilogy at once — if you dare.


Dane Cook: The Lost Pilots

Tomatometer: N/A

How funny Dane Cook‘s stand-up routines are is an arguable matter — audiences seemed to either love or hate his previous Tourgasm comedy road show — so perhaps this DVD consisting of two of Cook’s failed television pilots will serve up his comedy in more palatable style. Then again, they didn’t get picked up for a reason…


Kickin’ It Old Skool

Tomatometer: 3%

Jamie Kennedy‘s Rip Van Winkle-esque tale of a 1980s breakdancer who wakes up after a twenty-year coma failed to impress 97 percent of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Go rent Beat Street, Breakin’ 2, or even You Got Served instead.

Until next week, happy renting!

In the battle of the single-word-titled thrillers, "Fracture" beat out "Vacancy" but neither could dislodge "Disturbia" from the number one spot this weeend. It was mostly a sluggish frame at the North American box office as the top ten slumped to its third worst level of 2007.

The courtroom thriller "Fracture" and the action-comedy "Hot Fuzz" both opened to respectable results while the horror pic "Vacancy" and the drama "In the Land of Women" generated little excitement.

Shia LaBeouf enjoyed his first back-to-back stint in the top spot with the suspense hit "Disturbia" which held up well in its sophomore frame grossing an estimated $13.5M. Off only 39%, the Paramount release of a DreamWorks production averaged a solid $4,464 from 3,015 sites. Teen-oriented thrillers typically fall by more than 50% on the second session. Produced for a mere $23M, "Disturbia" has grossed an impressive $40.7M in its first ten days and could be headed for a $65-70M finish.

Leading the weekend’s crop of new movies was the murder thriller "Fracture" as ticket buyers spent an estimated $11.2M watching Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling go at it. The R-rated film from New Line averaged a solid $4,574 per theater from 2,443 sites. Reviews were mostly good which helped since the film skewed to a mature adult audience.

Will Ferrell scored the third $100M blockbuster of his career, and second in nine months, with "Blades of Glory" which ranked third in its fourth weekend with an estimated $7.8M. Down 44%, the Paramount title is still the widest release in the marketplace with 3,459 locations and the cume has hit $101.1M. The comedy star’s other trips to the century club in a lead role were with 2003’s "Elf" ($173.4M) and last summer’s "Talladega Nights" ($148M).

Opening weaker than expected in the fourth slot was the horror entry "Vacancy" with only $7.6M, according to estimates. The R-rated pic about a couple stranded in a motel where videotaped killings take place averaged a mild $2,979 from 2,551 playdates. Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale star in the Sony release. Fright fatigue may have hurt "Vacancy"’s opening as the $19M-budgeted film was the fourth scary flick this month to be aimed at moviegoers. Young adults made up most of the audience as studio research showed that 66% of the crowd was under the age of 25 and 52% was female. "Disturbia"’s better-than-expected hold also made an impact.

Disney followed in fifth with the animated hit "Meet the Robinsons" which grossed an estimated $7.1M in its fourth frame, down 43%, for a total of $82.2M.

Shooting up the best average among all wide releases in the marketplace was the new British action-comedy "Hot Fuzz" which premiered to an estimated $5.8M from 825 theaters for a potent $7,075 per venue. The R-rated buddy cop flick from the creative team behind 2004’s cult hit "Shaun of the Dead" earned glowing reviews and tapped into a built-in audience of fans. "Fuzz" outgunned "Shaun" in all ways beating the latter’s September 2004 bow which delivered $3.3M from 607 theaters for a $5,487 average. Produced for $16M, "Hot Fuzz" has already grossed an impressive $48.5M overseas including $41M from the United Kingdom.

The Ice Cube comedy sequel "Are We Done Yet?" dropped two spots to seventh with an estimated $5.2M in its third weekend. Sony’s family pic fell 42% and raised its sum to $39.6M.

Close behind in eighth was the new chick flick "In the Land of Women" which opened poorly with an estimated $4.9M from 2,155 theaters. Averaging a weak $2,281 per location, the PG-13 film stars Adam Brody as a young man who meets a houseful of women when caring for his sick grandmother. "Women" was the fifth wide opener of the past two weeks to fail to reach a $3,000 average in its debut frame.

Rounding out the top ten were two films that that have been showing how differently starpower can affect the box office. The Halle BerryBruce Willis thriller "Perfect Stranger" collapsed in its second weekend and tumbled 63% to an estimated $4.1M. With only $18.1M locked up in ten days, Sony should find its way to roughly $25M followed by a quick trip to DVD. On the other hand, Buena Vista’s blockbuster comedy "Wild Hogs" starring Tim Allen and John Travolta remained in the top ten for the eighth consecutive weekend with an estimated $2.9M, off 39%, boosting the cume to $156.2M. It is the highest-grossing non-Spartan film of the year.

Four films fell out of the top ten this weekend. The year’s biggest smash "300" dropped 49% to an estimated $2.3M in its seventh adventure and lifted its staggering domestic total to $204.7M. Budgeted at only $60M, the stylish war epic should end its North American run with an amazing $207-210M. That would amount to nearly three times its opening weekend gross which is rare these days for effects-driven action films that debut with monster bows. "300"’s legs have been strong overseas too where it has tallied $216.8M for a mammoth global gross of $421M and counting.

Other R-rated films suffered horrendous drops as they tumbled out of the top ten. Losing two-thirds of its audience was Fox’s adventure "Pathfinder" which grossed an estimated $1.7M in its second weekend. The Viking pic has collected a puny $8M in ten days and looks headed for a wimpy $10M finish. Maybe casting some Spartans would have helped.

Hilary Swank’s horrorfest "The Reaping" grossed an estimated $1.6M, down 65%, boosting the mild cume to $22.7M. The $53M double feature "Grindhouse" crashed 68% in its third try and took in an estimated $1.4M putting its 17-day take at $22.7M as well. Both films should end up in the $25M vicinity.

Miramax expanded its Richard Gere drama "The Hoax" from 413 to 1,069 theaters but saw weekend sales slip 11% to an estimated $1.3M. The average was diluted down to a poor $1,216 as the cume inched up to only $5.1M.

In limited release, Paramount Vantage widened its Molly Shannon pic "Year of the Dog" from seven to 33 sites and grossed an estimated $139,000 for a $4,200 average. Cume sits at $280,000 with more cities being added this Friday. Fox Searchlight’s "The Namesake" collected an estimated $765,000 from 327 locations in its seventh weekend averaging $2,339 for a cume of $9.8M to date.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $70.1M which was down an unsettling 26% from last year when "Silent Hill" opened at number one with $20.2M; and off 10% from 2005 when "The Interpreter" debuted on top with $22.8M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Paramount replaced itself at the top of the North American box office chart as its new teen thriller "Disturbia" opened ahead of expectations in first place bumping the studio’s two-week champ "Blades of Glory" into the runnerup spot.

The weekend’s other new suspense thriller "Perfect Stranger" starring Halle Berry and Bruce Willis disappointed and landed in fourth place. Four other new films debuted in wide release but generated little interest from moviegoers. Overall, the marketplace suffered the usual late spring slowdown as for the first time since February, the top ten failed to sell $100M worth of tickets.

Rising star Shia LaBeouf scored a big victory over the weekend with the thriller "Disturbia" which shot straight to number one debuting with an estimated $23M. The PG-13 pic was given the widest release of the frame’s six new entries playing in 2,925 theaters and generated a strong $7,872 average. A modern day version of Alfred Hitchcock’s "Rear Window," Disturbia played to a young female audience as studio research showed that 57% of the crowd was female and 75% was under 35.

Just before the film’s opening day, the studio announced that LaBeouf had been cast opposite Harrison Ford in its next "Indiana Jones" film. The news may have helped to generate more excitement for Disturbia which was the only major choice for teenage girls this weekend. The safe rating and fairly good reviews may also have contributed. The $20M production looks to become a profitable vehicle.

After its two-week run at the top, Will Ferrell’s comedy hit "Blades of Glory" slipped to second place dropping a moderate 38% to an estimated $14.1M. The 17-day cume stands at a potent $90.2M. Like "Disturbia," "Blades" was produced by DreamWorks and distributed by its new parent Paramount.

Slipping only 28% was Disney’s animated comedy "Meet the Robinsons" with an estimated $12.1M which lifted the total to $72M. With no new films for young kids this weekend, "Robinsons" enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten.

Halle Berry and Bruce Willis failed to turn their starpower into box office bucks as their new suspense thriller "Perfect Stranger" debuted weaker than expected in fourth place with an estimated $11.5M. The critically-panned Sony release averaged a mediocre $4,322 from 2,661 theaters. With its R rating, "Perfect Stranger" played to an adult audience with a female skew. Studio research showed that women made up 54% of the audience and a very high 70% were 25 or older. The opening was weaker than the bows of other films headlined by Berry like "Catwoman" ($16.7M) and "Gothika" ($19.3M).

Ice Cube had a decent second weekend for his comedy sequel "Are We Done Yet?" which fell by 36% to an estimated $9.2M. That gave the Sony release a cume of $33M after 12 days. Its predecessor enjoyed a much slimmer 12% dip to $16.3M in its second weekend on its way to $82.3M. "Done" might find its way to the vicinity of $55M.

Fox’s Viking actioner "Pathfinder" limped into sixth place with a weak $4.8M opening, according to estimates. The R-rated film averaged a mild $2,791 from 1,720 locations.

The rest of the top ten was filled with four films separated by only $400,000. Buena Vista’s motorcycle comedy "Wild Hogs" grossed an estimated $4.6M, down only 30%, for a stellar cume of $152.2M. Hilary Swank’s horror flick "The Reaping" tumbled 55% in its second weekend to an estimated $4.6M giving Warner Bros. $19.8M in 11 days.

The mighty "300" broke through the double century mark over the weekend both domestically and internationally. In North America, the Warner Bros. smash dropped 48% to an estimated $4.3M boosting the total to $200.8M. Overseas, "300" collected an estimated $14.8M this weekend to lift the international haul to $204.1M giving the Spartan epic a global tally of $405M and counting. The stylish war film is now the highest grossing March release ever having surpassed the old record holder "Ice Age: The Meltdown" which grossed $195.3M last spring.

Rounding out the top ten was the Quentin TarantinoRobert Rodriguez flop "Grindhouse" which plunged 63% in its sophomore session to an estimated $4.2M. Budgeted at $53M, the double feature has taken in just $19.7M in its first ten days and looks headed for a weak $25-27M finish for The Weinstein Co.

In addition to the three new wide releases that debuted in the top ten, another three opened outside of it with weaker results. The car racing pic "Redline" bowed to an estimated $4M from 1,607 sites for a slow $2,492 average per theater. The first title from rookie distributor Chicago Pictures stars Eddie Griffin and targeted young males.

First Look opened the animated film "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" to the tune of $3.1M, according to estimates, giving the R-rated film an average of just $3,521 from 877 locations. Lionsgate made no impact with its Ray Liotta actioner "Slow Burn" which bowed to an estimated $805,000 from 1,163 playdates for a puny average of $692 per theater.

Three films fell out of the top ten this weekend. Mark Wahlberg’s sniper pic "Shooter" dropped 47% to an estimated $3.1M putting its total at $42.1M. The $60M Paramount release should end its run with $47-49M. Fox’s family film "Firehouse Dog" held up well in its second weekend, despite collecting low overall grosses. The PG-rated drama dipped 28% to an estimated $2.8M for a cume of $9.9M after 12 days. Warner Bros. took in an estimated $2.1M for the animated actioner "TMNT," off 56%, for a total of $50.7M. Look for a $53-55M final.

Platforming to solid results was the Molly Shannon comedy "Year of the Dog" which bowed in seven New York and Los Angeles sites and grossed an estimated $112,000. The Paramount Vantage release averaged $16,049 and will open in nine additional cities this Friday boosting its theater count to more than 30.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $92.5M which was down 14% from last year when Scary Movie 4 opened at number one with $40.2M; but up 29% from 2005 when The Amityville Horror debuted on top with $23.5M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got snoops ("Disturbia," starring Shia LaBeouf), temps ("Perfect Stranger," starring Halle Berry and Bruce Willis), Mooninites ("Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters"), and frauds ("The Hoax," starring Richard Gere). What do the critics have to say?

With a plot involving a bored house-arrested teenager, binoculars, and a neighbor who may be a murderer, it’s hard not to imagine "Disturbia" as "Rear Window" for the YouTube generation. Shia LaBeouf plays the James Stewart role as a kid trying to figure out whether he’s witnessing the work of a serial killer — or if it’s just his imagination. Though critics say "Disturbia" rips off Hitchcock, some still praise the film’s tense atmospherics; others call it too predictable, with the exception of one problematic twist late in the game. However, most agree that star Shia LaBeouf is evolving into an engaging screen presence. At 56 percent on the Tomatometer, keep your expectations in check and "Disturbia" may be worth a peep.


"Hey, look, it’s like YouTubing with The Rockettes."

Frankly, we’re getting a little worried about Halle Berry. Ever since she took home the Oscar for "Monster’s Ball," she hasn’t been able to steer clear of mediocre movies. The latest example: "Perfect Stranger," a twisty whodunit that is unlikely to redeem her in the eyes of the scribes. Berry stars as an investigative reporter looking into the murder of a friend; signs seem to point to a powerful, sketchy ad exec (played by Bruce Willis), so she goes undercover as a temp in his firm. There’s nothing wrong with sexy potboilers, but the critics say "Perfect Stranger" is way too convoluted and filled with lame red herrings to work. At 16 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to avoid this "Stranger."


"Now why wouldn’t they book my flight to Mypos?"

Another month, another swords-and-decapitations-filled epic. "Pathfinder" stars Karl Urban as Ghost, an orphaned Viking boy raised by Native Americans, destined to fight off his ancestors when they come back to pillage pre-Columbus America. Despite a few rousing action sequences, critics are finding lots to take issue with in "Pathfinder" including a non-existent plot, silly dialogue, a sophomoric obsession with gory violence, and even the cinematography, which bathes everything in a washed-out blue. This "Pathfinder" is lost in the woods with a 33 percent Tomatometer.


Forget the Vikings, pneumonia’s going to kill this guy.

If you’re a fan of Adult Swim’s "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," critics say you’ll probably dig its big screen adaptation, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters." If you’re not initiated into the world of those wacky anthropomorphic fast food items Meatwad, Frylock, and Master Shake, however, you’re likely to be left cold. Absurdist antics are the order of the day as our heroes seek out a piece of antiquated gym equipment called the Insanoflex. Long story short, critics say if you’re up for wacky non-sequiturs and are untroubled by such pesky cinematic conventions as narrative, "ATHFCMFFT" is as tasty as a Happy Meal. If not, politely ignore the film’s 68 percent Tomatometer.


This movie would’ve been better if it starred Mel Gibson. And Master Blaster.

When it comes to literary scandal, James Frey and Stephen Glass ain’t got nothing on Clifford Irving, whose phony "autobiography" of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes was a sensation — until Hughes emerged to dispute it. Irving appeared as himself in Orson Welles’ endlessly inventive final film "F for Fake," and now Lasse Hallström has made "The Hoax," a fictional account of the affair that critics say features Richard Gere’s best performance in years. The pundits say Hallström’s direction is deft enough to make the film work as a comedy, a thriller, and an empathetic character study to boot. At 85 percent, this "Hoax" is no joke. In fact, it’s Certified Fresh.


After sunrise, but before blanket turndown service.

Add two more flicks to ever-growing list of movies hidden from critics. "Redline," starring Angus MacFadyen and Eddie Griffin, is set in the world of illegal drag racing, while "Slow Burn" stars Ray Liotta and LL Cool J in a complex murder mystery. Guess those Tomatometers, kids.


"I dare you to make fun of the pompadour."

Also opening this week in limited release: "Red Road," a tense, Hitchcockian meditation on grief, is at 88 percent; the documentary "Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis," about the underground artist, is at 88 percent; "Year of the Dog," a Sundance-approved comedy about the love of man’s best friend starring Molly Shannon, is at 86 percent; the Slamdance-accepted "Rock the Bells," a doc about efforts to stage a Wu-Tang reunion, is at 86 percent; "Private Fears in Public Places," a melodrama about relationships by legendary French director Alain Resnais, is at 82 percent; "Everything’s Gone Green," the tale of a slacker written by Gen-X writer Douglas Coupland, is at 67 percent; and "Lonely Hearts," a noir starring John Travolta, Salma Hayek, and Jared Leto, is at 43 percent.


This one’s strictly for the dogs.

Recent Halle Berry Movies:
———————————-
57% — X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
62% — Robots (2005)
9% — Catwoman (2004)
87% — X2: X-Men United (2003)
15% — Gothika (2003)

Recent Richard Gere Movies:
———————————–
41% — Bee Season (2005)
48% — Shall We Dance? (2004)
86% — Chicago (2002)
47% — Unfaithful (2002)
52% — The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Read on for short reviews of films playing at Sundance: "Black Snake Moan," starring Christina Ricci, Samuel L. Jackson, and Justin Timberlake, is a powerful tale of sin, redemption, and the blues, and "Year of the Dog," starring Molly Shannon, is a quirky ode to dog lovers.

Like a good blues song, "Black Snake Moan" is a movie filled with love, sin, redemption, and conflict. And like any blues singer worth his or her salt, it has a showman’s wink and nod. "Black Snake Moan" tells the story of Rae (Christina Ricci), a feral young woman with "the itch" (i.e. insatiable promiscuity) whose boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) has just left for boot camp. After a night of drinking and drugging, she is beaten and left by the side of the road, where Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) rescues her. He has demons of his own; his wife has left him for his brother, he’s got a violent temper, and the solace he once found in the blues is gone, as he rarely picks up his guitar. Lazarus chains Rae to the radiator in his house in order to cure her of her "sickness," but it’s clear Lazarus is trying to find salvation of his own. "Black Snake Moan" is admittedly lurid material, sometimes bordering on the absurd, but there’s a sly undercurrent of perverse wit throughout. As he did in "Hustle and Flow," director Craig Brewer takes age-old archetypes (the conflicted bluesman, the town hussy) and turns them into living, breathing people; Ricci and Jackson are a joy to watch together, sharing an edgy, desperate energy. And Jackson plays a pretty mean blues, looking like R.L. Burnside and singing in a low register reminiscent of John Lee Hooker‘s. Above all, "Black Snake Moan" is visceral and entertaining, a movie about being knee-deep in the blues.

"I’ve always been disappointed by people," says Peggy (Molly Shannon) in "Year of the Dog." "I’ve only ever been able to count on my pets." Peggy loves her dog Pencil, but after his unfortunate demise, her life veers off in a new direction. At the behest of Newt (Peter Sarsgaard) Peggy adopts an abused dog from the animal shelter; Newt and Peggy discover they have a lot in common, not least that neither are any good with people. Peggy decides to be a vegan and a committed animal rights activist, but her behavior becomes increasingly strange, from adopting all the dogs to be euthanized from the city pound to forging company checks for various charities. "Year of the Dog" is likely to strike a particular chord with pet lovers (some of whom may not find Peggy’s actions beyond the realm of believability). What’s nice about the film is that Shannon plays a character that could have been a gross caricature as someone with offbeat integrity; Peggy may be eccentric, but the filmmakers don’t condescend to her. And "Dog" is rounded out with nuanced supporting performances, especially from Regina King as Peggy’s marriage-obsessed co-worker, John C. Reilly as her sportsman neighbor, and Sarsgaard as a man that shares Peggy’s dog obsession, but only up to a point. It’s a warm and quirky movie, one you don’t have to be a pet lover to enjoy.

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