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The Hunted (2003)
Slim on dialogue, but plentiful in action
Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro, The Hunted is a story of an elite, decorated ex-solder that slowly lets the pressures and pains of combat break him down mentally, lowering his better judgment and driving him to the edge of sanity. Del Toro plays this title role as Aaron Hallam, the assassin that is caught in between a world of reason, revenge and reckoning.
Jones, as L.T. Bonham, plays the role of an ex-Special Forces Special Training Agent and former mentor to Hallam. When Hallam goes on a killing spree, brutally taking the lives of four deer hunters in Oregon, FBI Special Agent Abby Durrell, played by Connie Nielsen, seeks Bonham for help bringing Hallam to justice. Bonham reluctantly accepts the mission, but does so because he essentially made Hallam the way he is now, a stealth, ruthless killer. Thus, the hunter becomes the hunted!
While there aren't too many plot twists in this tale, Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro give better-than-average performances that are slim on dialogue and plentiful in action. The directing by William Friedkin (The Exorcist and To Live and Die in L.A.) is also quite chilling and scenic. While The Hunted won't be winning any major awards, its certainly worth a look.
The Polar Express (2004)
Visually stunning, ESPECIALLY in IMAX 3D
If you are going to see any movie in 3D, this is the one to see. Filled with cutting-edge, life-like animation, the 3D experience in IMAX makes you feel like you are one of the characters in the movie.
Starring Tom Hanks (playing/voicing 6 characters in the feature nonetheless!), The Polar Express is the story of a boy (voice of Daryl Sabara) that is starting to lose his excitement in Christmas as well as his belief that there really exists Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, he goes to bed with doubts on his mind only to wake up to a multi-car locomotive outside of his house led by Conductor Tom Hanks. The Conductor invites the boy to take a voyage up to the North Pole to experience for himself what Christmas is all about.
While The Polar Express is light on a thought-provoking and/or innovative plot, it offers some of the most incredible visuals a moviegoer has ever seen. It is an enjoyable ride through the snow, ice and then some all the way to the North Pole where millions of elves help Santa prepare for his departure to deliver gifts all around the world to those children whom have behaved themselves.
Bottom line: this is a must-see family film!
Apt Pupil (1998)
A psychological thriller
Directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects and both X-Men features), Apt Pupil is a story of adolescent curiosity and evil intentions. Ian McKellen (X-Men) plays the role of an aged, former Nazi soldier living alone in a quiet town with Brad Renfro (Sleepers) as a young, high school teenager in the search of finding the truth about Nazi life in wartime Germany.
Adapted from the Stephen King novella of the same name, Apt Pupil is a psychological thriller with an Alfred Hitchcock-like presence, leaving quite a bit to the viewer's imagination. Much like a game of cards, the action moves back and forth between characters, each trying to take control of one another. While Kurt Dussander (McKellen) wants to keep his past in the past, Todd Bowden (Renfro) keeps probing (and sometimes threatening) to unleash the stories of the reign of Hitler and the torture of the Jews.
While this movie is much like other Stephen King-adapted novels in the sense that it doesn't always translate well to the big screen (with all of the little nuances that made King famous), the superb acting and directing makes Apt Pupil a worthwhile venture into the nature of mental wickedness. Both Singer's vision and McKellen's portrayal of Nazi war criminal bring excitement and intrigue to this movie making it a must-see.
A candid look at teenage life
I stumbled upon this movie a few nights ago on late-night cable. I was really shocked and pleasantly surprised with how "real" this movie was.
Thirteen chronicles the lives of two 13-year old girls that go through life with all of the challenges and prejudices of fitting in with peers, gaining and maintaining friendships and surviving all of the trials and tribulations of family life. And these girls quickly find out how easy it is to get stabbed in the back by those simply out for themselves!
Starring Holly Hunter, Thirteen is a wake-up call for those that think childhood is easy and seamless. It is a candid look at teenage life in a modern perspective. The story is thought-provoking and the acting couldn't be better. For those that have thick skin and not a queesy stomach, this movie is for you!
Vice Versa (1988)
A cute, family film
What a blast from the past this movie was! Debuting in 1988, I hadn't seen Vice Versa for at least 10 or so years. I was so happy that Encore recently featured this classic on its lineup. This movie came out right around the time that Fred Savage was starring in The Wonder Years on prime-time television. Judge Reinhold was fresh off of his Beverly Hills Cop stint(s).
While Vice Versa is your campy, PG-rated family film, it was hysterical and followed in form with 18 Again! with George Burns, Big with Tom Hanks and Like Father Like Son with Dudley Moore. It also inspired more recent movies such as Freaky Friday with Jamie Lee Curtis (some would say that Freaky Friday is the female version of Vice Versa).