Opens Fri Aug 19
Hey—you know what's funny? Airports! Why, they've been providing material to comedians for decades! And hey—you know what's terrifying? Airports! And Wes Craven exploits both emotions in his new thriller, Red Eye.
Lisa (Rachel McAdams) is a desk manager for a bigwig hotel and—despite her absolutely silly apprehension about flying—she's returning home on (yep) the red eye flight. When Jackson (Cillian Murphy) catches her attention in the airport, flirtation—and some pretty funny airport humor—ensues. So Lisa's pleasantly surprised when she has a cozy seat next to the newly acquainted hottie, at least until he drops the bomb: He's a terrorist operative, and if she doesn't do what he wants her to do, her beloved daddy will die a knifey death.
The first three-quarters of Red Eye, surprisingly enough, are patiently paced, with Craven managing to get some adrenalin pumping with an onslaught of detail-oriented thrills. But the moment the characters leave the plane, you should probably exit the theater as well—it's here that the film deflates into laughable knife battles and the script tailspins into ridiculous plot developments. But up until then, Red Eye's pretty good—and there're plenty of dreamy close-ups of Cillian Murphy, too. JENNA ROADMAN
Opens Fri Aug 19
A depressing portrait of a woman's downfall—now with almost no insight! The woman in question is Stella (Natasha Richardson), who's the wife of a psychiatrist; though her marriage is already creaky, things really tank when her husband moves them onto the grounds of his new workplace—an asylum—at which point Stella becomes a poster child for worst-case-scenario bored wifedom.
One can sympathize somewhat for the affair Stella carries on with an admittedly hot inmate, but she started to lose me when she persisted in the passionate affair—even after finding out that the guy's incarceration is the result of not only killing his wife in a jealous rage, but beheading her and cutting out her eyes. Stella then goes on to become the living portrait of every foolhardy decision a woman can make; the only conceivable shred of an excuse for Stella's behavior is that she's a product/victim of the '50s, with all its repression and misogyny. But to the modern woman (or any modern audience), that's not enough—throughout Asylum, I kept thinking, "Stella, please do something smart!" But she didn't. And when the main character in a film like this is absolutely unsympathetic, what's the point? MARJORIE SKINNER
Opens Fri Aug 19
Junebug is a classic tale of a city mouse going country. When prodigal son George (Alessandro Nivola) brings his glamorous girlfriend home to meet the redneck fam, tension is inevitable. Well-heeled Madeline (Embeth Davidtz) is used to winning the affection of those around her, so she's drawn up short by the blunt, skeptical responses of George's mother, Peg (Celia Weston). Davidtz endows Madeline with a rich kid's combination of worldliness and a sense of entitlement, while Weston pays spectacular homage to hard-boiled small-town moms everywhere.
Meanwhile, George's brother, Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie, who here revises his role as The O.C.'s "surly outsider Ryan" to Junebug's "surly outsider with a Southern accent and molester 'stache"), simultaneously resents and desires Madeline, a fact unnoticed by Johnny's wide-eyed, pregnant wife. In other words, there's a lot of drama goin' on, and Junebug hinges on the ability of its actors to convey a remarkable range of emotion with a relatively taciturn script. But while the script isn't anything special, the cast's compelling acting results in a modest, thoughtful film that quietly exceeds the low standards it sets for itself. ALISON HALLETT