“Trance” is an all-out assault on the psychological thriller by master-of-every-genre Danny Boyle. Much like his assault on science fiction, “Sunshine,” audiences shied away from “Trance,” most likely because the meat of the film can’t be encapsulated in a few words or a 60-second trailer. “Trance” is nothing short of a visual mind game that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, heroes and villains, recalling the more monumental early works of David Cronenberg. It’s a convoluted crime caper-mystery-thriller roller-coaster ride in which the viewer — as well as the protagonists — never know what’s real and what’s fiction. The story: Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, teams up with a criminal gang to steal a $27 million Goya painting, but after suffering a blow to the head during the heist, he awakens to discover he has no memory of where he hid the painting. When physical threats and torture fail to produce answers, the gang’s leader, Frank (Vincent Cassel), hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to delve into the darkest recesses of Simon’s psyche. As Elizabeth begins to unravel Simon’s broken subconscious, the lines between truth, suggestion, and deceit begin to blur. Though it may take some extra viewing to unravel the truth (if that’s even possible), the film is well worth putting on your list — if nothing else than for the stunning performance by Dawson. Extras include deleted scenes, commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes. Vitals: Director: Danny Boyle. Stars: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Tuppence Middleton, Sam Creed. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 101 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $2.310 million, Fox.
Sally Potter, director of the outlandish “Orlando” (1992) and “The Tango Lesson” (1997), continues her skein of interesting and quirky productions with “Ginger & Rosa,” a coming-of-age story set in London in 1962. The story: Two teenage girls — Ginger & Rosa — are inseparable. They skip school together, talk about love, religion and politics and dream of lives bigger than their mothers’ domesticity. As the Cold War meets the sexual revolution and the threat of nuclear holocaust escalates, the girls face the clash of desire and the determination to grow up. Ginger (Elle Fanning) is drawn to poetry and protest, while Rosa (Alice Englert) shows Ginger how to smoke cigarettes, kiss boys and pray. Both rebel against their mothers: Rosa’s single mum, Anoushka and Ginger’s frustrated painter mother, Natalie. Meanwhile, Ginger’s pacifist father, Roland, seems a romantic, bohemian figure to the girls. He encourages Ginger’s Ban-the-Bomb activism, while Rosa starts to take a very different interest in him. As Ginger’s parents fight and fall apart, Ginger finds emotional sanctuary with a gay couple, both named Mark, and their American friend, the poet Bella. Finally, as the Cuban Missile Crisis escalates — and it seems the world itself may come to an end — the lifelong friendship of the two girls is shattered. “Ginger & Rosa” takes the familiar teen-coming-of-age genre and subverts it into a sensitive look at the real joys and sorrows of growing up, presenting her characters with more predicaments than most kids have to face and merging the personal with the political. Potter ups the ante of coming-of-age tales set in the 60s — or any decade, for that matter — by adding in the anti-war sentiments and a love affair between one of the girls and the other’s dad. And, the icing on the cake: Elle Fanning is spectacular as Ginger. Extras include deleted scenes, cast interviews, an audio commentary with writer-director Potter and two featurettes going behind-the-scenes into the making of the film. Vitals: Director: Sally Potter. Stars: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 90 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.05 million, Lionsgate.
Warner Archive Collection Releases (2013)
Due July 9:
Comedy about the unexpected detours we encounter on the road to happiness. Year in and year out, Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) has lived her life by the book. But during her annual recruiting trip, she finds herself reconnecting with a former college classmate, free-spirited teacher John Pressman (Paul Rudd). As she bends the entrance rules for one of his very unconventional students, Portia puts at risk the future she thought she always wanted, and finds her way to a surprising and exhilarating life she never dreamed of having. Director: Paul Weitz. Stars: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Michael Sheen, Lily Tomlin, Gloria Reuben, Wallace Shawn. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 107 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $17.873 million, Universal. Available: 7/9.
Due September 3:
In this inspired new film, Oscar-nominated actor-writer-director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who’s telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. Stories We Tell explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the larger human story. An official selection of the Sundance, Toronto, Venice and Telluride film festivals and winner of Best Documentary at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, “Stories We Tell” is at its core a deeply personal film about the nature of truth and memory, and how personal narratives shape and define both individuals and families. Vitals: Director: Sarah Polley. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 108 min., Documentary, Box office gross: $1.243 million, Lionsgate.
On July 23, Music Box Films will release director Baran bo Odar’s critically acclaimed “The Silence” (2010), a brooding mystery and psychological thriller about a young girl’s disappearance on the anniversary of the unsolved rape and murder of a young girl 23 years earlier. As a new investigation is mounted, a small German town is ripped apart by guilt, grief and suspicion. Featuring spot-on performances, beautiful cinematography, and a captivating script, “The Silence” has an 87% Fresh rating including rave reviews by The Washington Post, LA Times, Entertainment Weekly and more. We’re giving away three DVD copies of the film; for a chance to win, answer the following question and send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Who wrote the book upon which “The Silence” is based?
Three e-mail addresses will be chosen at random from those received; only correct answers sent to email@example.com are eligible to win. Only winners will be notified and only one entry per email address.
• Criterion Collection: September 2013
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• Criterion Collection: December 2012
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• Criterion Collection: February 2012
• Criterion Collection: January 2012
The recent release of “The Hunger Games” movie has brought in $155 million during its box-office opening, making it the third highest opening-weekend earner ever (and grossing domestically $302 million to date). So what is it about this movie that has got people queuing up en masse to see it? Well, it’s got something that quite a few other successful and not-so-successful movies have: A story line that has people hooked. It’s one that centers around a dystopian future, where people are forced to set upon each other in violent and fatal battles for entertainment value. There was a time, of course, when this type of thing was actually part of a nation’s culture: some 2000 years ago in the era of the Roman Gladiators and the infamous battles to the death in the amphitheaters spread across the Empire.
Not exactly an original idea
Futuristic battles to the death, set in a post-apocalyptic or de-sensitized world, where a dystopian society regards brutal and murderous violence on television as normal entertainment, have often made for pretty good movies, so it’s no surprise that “The Hunger Games” has done so well. Let’s take a look at some of the other movies that fit the same bill.
Going all the way back to 1975, “Death Race 2000” has become a cult film, and there has even been a remake of the original, which was released in 2008. One of the first films of this genre, in the world of “Death Race 2000” the U.S. has become a fascist police state, the result of a military coup and a financial crisis. The Annual Transcontinental Road Race is the state-controlled entertainment for the public, a race where killing your opponents and any pedestrians that get in the way is rewarded with more points. The same year another film of a similar vein was released, “Rollerball.” In the universe of Rollerball, the world is governed by a corporate state, which controls absolutely everything, from energy and food, to transport. The governing corporation have put in place a violent sport called Rollerball, which replaces all other sports. The matches are televised, with death and injury common sights for the viewers.
One of the most popular movies that involved a televised death match is the 1987 movie “The Running Man.” Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards, it is set in an American totalitarian state where convicts are given a supposed chance at freedom in a fixed televised game show. Ben is wrongly convicted and forced to fight for his life in a murderous gladiator style game show.
Battle Royale: a little too similar?
In 2000, the Japanese movie “Battle Royale” was released. Also based on a novel, this movie has one big theme similar to “The Hunger Games” in that children — not adults — are forced to compete in the deadly games. In the world of Battle Royale, children are kidnapped and forced to fight to the death against each other. The groups are given various types of weapons and fitted with a collar that will explode it they don’t comply with the rules. There has been some criticism towards the author of “The Hunger Games,” Suzanne Collins, over the similarity, although she claims to have never of heard of Battle Royale before she wrote her book.
Audiences just want more, and they will have it
In the last few years, there have been a number of movies that fit into the same mold as “The Hunger Games.” 2007 saw the release of “The Condemned,” a movie where prisoners from around the world are purchased and forced to fight each other to the death in order to win back their freedom. The 2009 movie “Gamer” offers a different take on the death match idea. Instead on being of a television show, the death match takes place within an interactive game controlled by the public, and all the people in the deadly game are real people under somebody else’s control.
It seems there is no let-up in the amount of movies that use this ancient desire for blood, just like back in the days of the Roman Empire. In fact, the author of “The Hunger Games” has already written two more books that follow on from her first. The follow-on novel to “The Hunger Games,” called “Catching Fire,” is already being made into a movie, and is due to be released in November next year.