BOP 25 of Fall 2004: Selections 20-16
20) Ladder 49
One of the lesser known axioms of the movie world, right after "every Angelina Jolie movie will break up a marriage on the set", is that every generation will get its own version of Backdraft. Attempting to be more or less the Saving Private Ryan of the firefighting world, Ladder 49 looks at the comraderie and courage present in a firehouse. As Joaquin Phoenix's character awaits rescue from a tremendous building fire, he reflects back on his career from his days as a raw rookie under his fire captain (played by John Travolta) up to the present action. We're looking forward to the comedy of the training, some fantastic stunt work, and about 49 deliveries of some variation of the line "I won't give up on you!" (I'm assuming that's where the title came from).
19) Ghost in the Shell: Innocence
Mamoru Oshii wowed us in 1995 with the cyber-punk Ghost in the Shell, which was presenting the themes and ideas elucidated in The Matrix far ahead of its time. Most notable for its amazing animation style and memorable soundtrack, Ghost in the Shell became a cult favorite that saw a great deal of play in festivals and indie theaters around North America. Once it was released on DVD, the title was one of the early bestsellers in a time when releases in that medium were far less ubiquitous than they are today. Nearly a decade later, Oshii follows up the original tale with a new examination of similar motifs in the simply titled "Innocence." This sequel carries over the cyborg detective Bateau from the first film and follows him in his investigation of a female robot that was created for nothing other than pleasure. In a mystery of I, Robot-esque intrigue, she slaughters her owner.
The makers of Saw have some real serious issues. First-time director James Wan and first-time writer Leigh Wanell have decided to make their calling card a real doozy, going after the serial killer genre. However, the killer in this film makes Hannibal Lecter look like a dilettante. Anyone can kill and eat their victims; this sicko makes his victims kill themselves, in elaborate puzzles that pit their survival instincts against their own moral fibre. It's pure sadism, and with a villain wearing an oversized featureless mask, it looks more than a little like a cross between Se7en and It. That description is either going to turn you on to the film or send you running for the hills (and if that didn't, the ultra-creepy website will). With a premise this extreme, it's a bit self-limiting in terms of audience. So if you're wondering if we here are messed in the head for wanting to see this, then the answer is, "a little bit, yeah." You'll even be able to spot us; we'll be the ones in the front row, laughing.
17) Surviving Christmas
Bashing Ben Affleck has become the new national sport of late. Ben, when not winning poker tournaments and publically breaking up with starlets, actually makes a movie from time to time. Luckily, Surviving Christmas looks to be the film for those who hate him as well as the ones who think his giant head is worthy of worship. As a soulless record executive (is there any other kind?), Affleck's character quite naturally has a natural yearning to feel as the other humans do around the holidays. Returning to his childhood home to relive happier times, the absence of his real family doesn't deter him from trying to have a Merry Christmas. It might prevent the family living there now from doing so, but money talks, and paying them a boatload of money to put with him for Christmas might just be worth it. Personally, I can't get enough of the bit in the trailer where James Gandolfini whacks Affleck in the back of the head with a shovel. Now that's a memory you can't put a price on.
16) Wicker Park
BOP fave Josh Hartnett returns with another eclectic selection and, as usual, we can’t wait to see what this unconventional A-List actor has chosen to do next. Wicker Park is to many people the ultimate dream. Don’t like your significant other? Whoosh! She’s gone, replaced by an entirely different person. The problem here is that Hartnett’s character does like his girlfriend (what a waste…), so he needs to unravel the mystery of her disappearance. He also needs to figure out who this stranger is that keeps calling him coochy coo lovebird names. Wicker Park is a film that has some surface similarity to another production from our list, The Forgotten. The commercials for the two accentuate those congruities a surprising amount. BOP will be interested to see which film (if either) delivers the goods.
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