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December 2005

Stocking Thrillers

Chill out with this selection of holiday viewing

Though the title of this film is taken from a 1980s alternative goth-rock hit by The Cure, the movie is a typical romantic comedy with something of a Ghost-like feel to it. In fact, as it follows lonesome landscape architect, David Abbott (Mark Rufallo), on his search for a furnished apartment, the story seems to mimic the 1980s hit with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. When the winds of fate blow over a rental notice for a vacancy across the street, he immediately feels drawn to the spacious living quarters. Soon, however, he realizes that he’s not quite alone in his loneliness when he starts seeing apparitions of a beautiful young woman who believes that he’s occupying her home. The resident is Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon), an emergency room doctor who spent her life dedicated to helping others while neglecting herself. David searches for an explanation to the strange experiences in his apartment and ends up in a bookstore for the supernatural. There he meets Daryl (Jon Heder), a young dude who has a talent for feeling the psychic vibrations of the afterworld. While Daryl lends the film its comedic element, the romantic part is taken care of by David and Elizabeth, who join forces to discover why Elizabeth seems to be stuck between life and death. After a dark turn in Jane Campion’s In the Cut, Ruffalo (13 Going on 30) displays his innocent charm and comic timing excellently in this film. Witherspoon (Legally Blonde) brilliantly tackles the multifaceted role of the hard, bitchy Elizabeth, who softens as she, the cynical, longtime giver, learns to receive. It’s not a film that breaks any new ground, but it’s funny, sweet and makes you want to believe in the power of love and something greater.
German Release Date (subject to change) December 1,
US rated PG-13

’Tis the season for holiday movies. The Family Stone, however, is not your average end-of-the-year flick. A slightly darker, less warm-and-fuzzy version of the “home for the holidays” film, it revolves around the annual Thanksgiving gathering of the Stone family and their efforts to cope with the inclusion of a potential new family member—favorite son Everett’s (Dermot Mulroney) high-strung girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker), to whom he plans to propose. Once the Stones meet Meredith, however, they band together in hopes of preventing her from marrying Everett. Of course, each family member has issues of his or her own with which to deal and, once they stop pointing the finger at Meredith, they’re finally able to confront each other and the problems that face the family. An unlikely couple, Everett and Meredith do not see things clearly until Meredith’s sister Julie (Claire Danes) arrives. In attempting to prove that opposites attract, the film plays with contradictions: black and white, gay and straight, liberal Berkley dude and uptight New Yorker, conservative businessman and passionate artist. The biggest let down of the film is the sitcom-acting by Parker (Sex and the City), who is clearly acting hysterical, acting nervous, acting drunk, but who never quite convinces. There is, however, some wonderful acting from Craig T. Nelson (Coach, The Incredibles) and Diane Keaton (Something’s Gotta Give) as Everett’s bohemian parents. Luke Wilson (Around the World in Eighty Days) also adds a pleasant presence as the sensitive, calm member of the family. The arrival of the ever-lovely Danes—albeit 40 minutes into the film—seems like it might lift the thing and pull some attention away from Parker, but it’s too little too late. It’s a film with some fine moments but is otherwise too distracted for its own good.
German Release Date (subject to change) December 15,
US rated PG-13

New release on DVD
SIN CITY **1/2
Based on three graphic novels by cult comic book author Frank Miller, this film has been faithfully transferred from page to screen. Those familiar with Miller’s work will appreciate how every frame reproduces the books’ stylized dark and gritty look. But those who are not part of the hardcore fan base might get slightly bored with it after the first 30 minutes. No doubt about it, the look of the film is stunning and innovative but, after the initial awe of the visuals, we’re not left with much else. There is some fine acting from an ensemble cast, which includes Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owens, Benicio Del Toro and some eye candy for the teens, Jessica Alba. The Motion Picture Association of America has stated that the film contains “sustained strong stylized violence.” For some, this may be too much. It is an exciting trip through a new medium of motion pictures, but it doesn’t leave you with much to think about afterwards.
German Release Date (subject to change) December 15,
US rated R

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