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TV
Director: Peter Howitt
Starring: Ned Bellamy Scott Bellis Rachael Leigh Cook Nathaniel DeVeaux Nate Dushku Claire Forlani Linda Ko Tyler Labine David Lovgren Douglas McFerran Zahf Paroo Ryan Phillippe Tim Robbins Ian Robison Richard Roundtree Tygh Runyan Yee Jee Tso Rick Worthy Jonathon Young
Genre: Suspense
Theatrical: 2001   Rated: PG-13
Duration: 108
Summary: The term suspension of disbelief was invented for the idea that Ryan Phillippe could be a computer genius. As Milo, a slacker brainiac recruited by smilingly ominous software giant Gary Winston (Tim Robbins) to help build a global communications system, Phillippe still looks like a million bucks. He is also still doing the clenched, pouty grown-up voice that he always uses to show that he means business in this acting stuff (he's nothing if not earnest), and a pair of designer glasses completes the transformation. He's well matched in Antitrust by Claire Forlani, who, in turn, spends time pursing her lips and squinting her dewy eyes as Milo's troubled girlfriend, an artist who proves to be a liability when Milo discovers that Winston is killing off clever competitors like a dot-com führer. Robbins, looking like David Letterman, seems willing to either take his role dead seriously or goof around a bit, but director Peter Howitt doesn't know how to play any of it (the actor was better used as a grinning madman in another flawed paranoid thriller, the underseen Arlington Road). Without any underlying menace or enough satirical bite to keep it interesting, the whole thing slips by passively in a mindless matinee kind of way until the over-the-top finale. Production designer Catherine Hardwicke has had some big, glossy fun creating Winston's campus and ornate private kingdom, and there's the cheapest of kicks in seeing Robbins's Bill Gates taken down publicly, but the film is definitely junior league. --Steve Wiecking


Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Emilie De Ravin
Genre: Suspense
Theatrical: 2005   Rated: R
Duration: 110
Summary: High school collides with hard-boiled film noir in the twisty, cunning Brick. When he gets a mysterious message from his ex-girlfriend, a high school loner named Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mysterious Skin) starts to dig into a crisscrossed web of drugs and duplicity, eventually getting entwined in the criminal doings of a teenage crime lord known as the Pin (Lukas Haas), his thuggish henchman Tugger (Noah Fleiss, Joe the King), and a mysterious girl named Laura (Nora Zehetner, Fifty Pills). Brick has not only the seductive, labyrinthine plot of a crime thriller by Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) or Raymond Chandler (Farewell, My Lovely) but also a dense high-school version of hard-boiled lingo that's both comic and poetic. The movie unfolds with headlong momentum as Brendan manipulates, fights, and staggers his way through layers of high-school society. Gordon-Levitt is excellent; between this and the equally compelling Mysterious Skin, he's left his 3rd Rock from the Sun days behind. Also featuring Meagan Good (Waist Deep) and Richard Roundtree (Shaft). --Bret Fetzer




Director: James Wan
Starring: Leigh Whannell Cary Elwes Danny Glover Ken Leung Dina Meyer Mike Butters Paul Gutrecht Michael Emerson Benito Martinez Shawnee Smith Makenzie Vega Monica Potter Ned Bellamy Alexandra Bokyun Chun Avner Garbi Tobin Bell Hans Raith Oren Koules Laura Marie Gustafson
Genre: Suspense
Theatrical: 2004   Rated: R
Duration: 100
Summary: Adam (Leigh Whannell) wakes up in a dank room across from Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and the body of a guy who has blown his own brains out. Not a happy place, obviously, and it gets worse when both men realize that they've been chained and pitted against one another by an unseen but apparently omniscient maniac who's screwing with their psyches as payment for past sins. Director James Wan, who concocted this grimy distraction with screenwriter Whannell, has seen Seven and any number of other arty existential-psycho-cat-and-mouse thrillers, so he's provided Saw with a little flash, a little blood, and a lot of ways to distract you from the fact that it doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Wan and Whannell (who's not the most accomplished actor, either) pile on the plot twists, which after some initially novel ideas become increasingly juvenile. Elwes works hard but looks embarrassed, and the estimable Danny Glover suffers as the obsessed detective on the case. The denouement will probably surprise you, but it won't get you back the previous 98 minutes.--Steve Wiecking