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SEPTEMBER 2009

WHITEOUT

Kate Beckinsale, Gabriel Macht, Columbus Short, Tom Skerritt, Alex O’Loughlin, Shawn Doyle, Patrick Sabongui, Nicolas Wright, Paula Jean Hixson, Nick Villarin

Directed by Dominic Sena; Written by Erich and Jon Hoeber

Warner Bros.

Even though she is a bona fide U.S. Marshal in this adaptation of Greg Rucka’s graphic novels, Kate Beckinsale is not what you would call a happy trooper. She’s had her share of sad times, so now she’s chosen to live a life of emotional isolation in Antarctica. But what’s this? A serial killer (a distinct novelty on this continent) is on the loose--and Kate must pull herself together and capture the rascal before the sun goes down (and stays down) for six months! Perhaps Antarctica was not the perfect choice for a dreamy getaway after all.--Guy Flatley

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BRIGHT STAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Paul Schneider, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Kerry Fox

Written and directed by Jane Campion

Apparition

He was in his early twenties, but the rail-thin, impecunious, misunderstood and outrageously maligned poet was not much longer for the vicious, scalding literary society of 19th-century England, or for any other society. Tuberculosis, which had taken the lives of his mother and his brother, was now staging an assault on John Keats’ frail body.

There was to be no happy ending for this gifted, most romantic of poets. But there would be a furtive, rapturous interlude with Fanny Brawne, a vibrant and beautiful young woman whose widowed mother was far too pragmatic to bestow her blessing upon a suitor for her daughter's hand who was not only impoverished but conspicuously ill.

So without Mama's permission or benefit of clergy, John and Fanny plunged into a shimmering, libido-and-poetry-fueled affair, somehow managing to halt just short of intercourse. And their lyrically rebellious relationship is at the center of this critical smash, the finest film from writer-director Jane Campion since “The Piano” (there are those who feel it even tops that 1993 gem). Indeed, “Bright Star” could do for 27-year-old Abbie Cornish, who plays Fanny Brawne, what it did for “The Piano’s” Holly Hunter—namely, win her an Oscar.

Here is what The New York Times’ A.O. Scott had to say about this rising bright star: “The movie really belongs to Brawne, played with mesmerizing vitality and heart-stopping grace by Abbie Cornish...Ms. Cornish has, at 27, achieved a mixture of unguardedness and self-control matched by few actresses of any age...She’s as good as Kate Winslet, which is about as good as it’s possible to be." --Guy Flatley

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THE INFORMANT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Damon, Lucas McHugh Carroll, Eddie Jemison, Rusty Schwimmer, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Bakula

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Scott Z. Burns

Warner Bros.

He’s cool, agile, clean-shaven, blessed with golden hair, the baby blues of a choir boy and a killer smile women find hard to resist. That’s the Matt Damon we’ve come to know and love.

But who’s this? I’m talking about that gauche chub over there, the guy with the crazed grin, the one proudly sporting dorky glasses, an unruly brown pompadour and moth-eaten moustache. The loser who’s dying to join in the conversation with the winners, to be noticed and respected at nearly any cost.

Why, it’s Matt Damon! At least, that’s the persona Damon takes on in the character of  Mark Whitcare, a brainy, ambitious biochemist who, in the 1990s, ascended to a managerial position at a lysine developing company.

Weirdly enough, this scenario by Scott Z. Burns is based on events that actually took place at Archer Daniels Midland in Decatur, Illinois and eventually became the source for business reporter Kurt Eichenwald’s 2000 book, “The Informant.”  (Among the changes made by director Steven Soderbergh in this serious but playful adaptation is an exclamation point after Eichenwald’s title, plus a mischievous, constantly surprising spin on the narrative.)

Here’s what happened--or seemed to happen—to change Whitcare’s life from dull to thrillingly dangerous. Bored sick with his daily routine as a decently paid nobody, he pieced together a scheme that would bring him the prestige he secretly craved, a plan that would transform him from nerd to a red-hot, if covert, celebrity.

Convinced that the highly creative business practices of his employers were illegal, he shared his concern with the FBI. In short, he became a whistle-blower and a spy, a passionate sleuth spending tons of time in the company of ego-stroking, information-gobbling, secret agents.

The same agents, alas, who grew suspicious of Whitcare’s motives and methods, and eventually came to view him as crazy or crooked, or both. If you want to know their final verdict on Whitcare’s sanity and morality, as well as their assessment of his contribution to the cause of whistle-blowing and  identity-switching, catch  “The Informant!” if you can. --Guy Flatley

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