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La tigre e la neve (2005)
Powerful Benigni Blend of Comedy, Tragedy
Much like 'Life is Beautiful,' the film 'Tiger and the Snow' is a tale of a man's love and passion overcoming all. Once again Benigni manages to make the often grim setting take a back seat to the will of the main character in this film. Attilio (Benigni), is a hero to all he knows, except for the woman he loves, Vittoria (Braschi), who he has followed since the day he first laid eyes on her. You find yourself pulling for Attilio despite his ignorance of the situation, based on his stubborn-willed passion for the woman of his dreams.
Hearing that she is badly injured from a bomb attack in a growingly hostile Iraq, Attilio heads out, against all odds to the place where she lay dying in a hospital. Despite this fact, and in typical Benigni fashion, you can't help but laughing out loud as Attilio's bumbling character-flaws become more evident. Though, later in the film, these same flaws are the reason you feel sympathy toward the man who traveled so far for a woman that barely knows him (or so you think).
The Circle (2005)
This film was absolutely fascinating. To pull off an entire movie in one continuous shot seems an unattainable feat, but Yuri Zeltser conquers it masterfully. The amazing part of this story is that I didn't notice it was unedited until I read the back of the DVD case - then I went back through the movie and was astonished by the direction and camera work throughout the one-and-a-half hour film. The fact that it was an action/drama even makes it more astounding because these movies often require the most takes. It is a sharp, intelligent and suspenseful tale that plays out like dream. A dream in which the main character, Angela Bettis can't wake up from and turns out to be a horrible nightmare in the end. David Proval also was impressive in his role as a contract killer with a rough edge, but a soft side that shines through with the help of Angela Bettis' character. This film has earned my recommendation and will surely surprise you as film unravels.
Flannel Pajamas (2006)
Intelligent Indie Flick With a Lot to Offer
Flannel Pajamas was intelligent. The dialogue is exceptionally well written and manages to keep the viewer in the movie - as most good "Indie" flicks often do. It is more of a character/relationship study than anything. These types of movies often get overlooked when it comes to critics or the general public. It is understandable how someone who likes "XXX" with Vin Diesel would hate this movie - opposite ends of the spectrum. Likewise, for those of you that loathe the unimaginative huge budget big-named action films that pollute Hollywood and movie screens across the country, you'll love this one. Flannel Pajamas is a much needed break from the mainstream.
Julianne Nicholson and Justin Kirk have excellent chemistry together, doing a superb job of portraying a couple adapting to modern-day problems that threaten to tear them apart. It comes together as a poignant love story of opposites attracting and making it work.
Wedding Slashers (2006)
An Ode to Past Horror Films
And you thought your significant other's family was weird? Wedding Slashers will make you think twice about ever saying "I do." It is reminiscent of past horror titles such as 'Deadly Friend' and 'Friday the 13th.' It is a classic slasher film that features characters with names like 'Sock Monkey' and 'The Mortician.' You may laugh at first but trust me, these guys will freak you out. This is a quencher for the blood-thirsty horror/slasher fan that needs to see gore, gore and more gore. It's not all slash and gash either - Wedding Slashers is chock-full-of one-liners and will give you more than just a chuckle. You're going to need to see this one to believe it.
Down to the Bone (2004)
Vera Farmiga was GREAT in this movie
'Down to the Bone' is a mirror depiction of the lower-to-middle class struggle to keep clean while trying to overcome the perils of poverty and raise a family. It is not your typical run-of-the-mill addiction story either, revealing the darker sides of the problem and focusing on the lives it so often can tear apart. Vera Farmiga was the shining star in this role as Irene, a mother of two trying to keep her cocaine addiction a secret and save a marriage on the rocks. At 'Sundance' Vera took home 'The Special Jury Prize' for her performance and Director Debra Granik won the 'Director's Award.' It's no wonder that Martin Scorsese went out of his way to get her for her upcoming role in "The Departed." She is and will be a great actress in Hollywood for years to come. I look forward to her success in the future.