Director Robert Schwentke, does a masterful job at making audiences feel that uncomfortable combination of jittery, sleepy, anxious, exhausted, and jumpy, while simultaneously making us care deeply for a grieving mother and her daughter. From the very start there are little clues to the mystery, which, in retrospect, are fascinating details that weave the story together most creatively.

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KING KONG

  • Release Date:  December 14, 2005

  • Rating:  PG-13 (frightening adventure violence and some disturbing images)

  • Genre:  Action Adventure

  • Run Time:  187 min.

  • Director:  Peter Jackson

  • Actors:  Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler

On the heels of his phenomenal success with the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, director Peter Jackson has remade a film classic:  "King Kong." The resulting epic lives up to most expectations, and will further endear Jackson to fans of fantasy, action, and spectacle. 

Why “most” but not all expectations? Because the bar has been raised too high by the leaked reviews promising a tearjerker with the potential to conquer the all-time box-office record set by James Cameron’s "Titanic."  While any such prediction of that type of box-office success is likely to look foolish in retrospect, "King Kong" does deliver plenty of thrills. However, as a promised emotional tour-de-force, it falls short. Better no such promises had been made, so that the film could be enjoyed for what it is – a stunning triumph of computer-generated creatures who threaten and, in Kong’s case, sometimes protect their human counterparts.

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MAD, HOT BALLROOM

  • Release Date:  May 27, 2005
  • Rating:  PG (for mild references to violence and sexuality)
  • Genre:  Documentary
  • Run Time:  105 min.
  • Director:  Marilyn Agrelo

Each year, dozens of New York City schools require some 6,000 fifth-grade students to learn ballroom dancing.  For a total of ten weeks, the kids work with dance teachers, learning a wide array of moves, along with the history of the dances.  At the end of the time, the best dancers are selected by their teachers for a city-wide competition, which takes place over several weeks and finally narrows itself down to the finals – and one school, which takes home the grand prize (a trophy taller than the teachers).  It’s a life-changing event that director Marilyn Agrelo covers with probing insightfulness, but which is sure to leave a smile on your face.  Me, I had to wipe away a few tears.

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MARCH OF THE PENGUINS

  • Release Date:  June 24, 2005
  • Rating:  G
  • Genre:  Documentary
  • Run Time:  85 min.
  • Director:  Luc Jacquet
  • Actors:  Morgan Freeman (narrator)

“March of the Penguins” is a truly beautiful film, and Morgan Freeman’s voice is the perfect addition to this Americanized version.  The musical score is melodic and uplifting, and the cinematography is outstanding – even breathtaking.  In fact, so clear and colorful were the water scenes that I mistakenly assumed they had been digitized.  At times, the narration is overly dramatic, although this is due to the text rather than Freeman’s voice.  For example, Jacquet insists on calling this a love story.  Nine months of monogamy, after which the couple abandons one another – and their child – only to re-mate with another, just months later?  Ah, oui.  But he is French.  It’s a French love story!