Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Battles around in "Narnia" sequel

*** out of ****

Based on C.S. Lewis' timeless book series, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" is the second installment and just as entertaining as 2005's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

Taking place a year later, the Pevensie children are settling back into their normal life in London.
Older siblings Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) seem to have put Narnia behind them, while younger Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and youngest Lucy (Georgie Henley) are aching to go back.

The younger ones get their way, being transported back to Narnia, only this time they travel through a subway station.

And the mode of transport isn't the only new thing to have happened since last visiting Narnia. Although only one year has past, 2,300 years have elapsed in Narnia time, and the once magical land is left in shambles.

The Narnians are near extinction thanks to the human Telmarines.

The Telmarine race is in chaos. Prince Caspian's (Ben Barnes) evil uncle, King Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), tries to assassinate Caspian after his wife (Alicia Borrachero) bears a boy who will become his successor. Caspian narrowly escapes his uncle's deadly clutches and runs off to Narnia for help.

Caspian promises to restore peace in Narnia if he can get his place back on the royal throne.

With the help of the Pevensies, Caspian rounds up all of the surviving mystical creatures in Narnia to rebel against Miraz and bring civility back to the land.

Even with more spectacular scenery, thrills, battles, creatures and carnage, "Prince Caspian" is slightly less impressive than it's predecessor. In lieu of the magical mysticism, we get more action.

Director Andrew Adamson ("The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe") has become more tactful with his crafty camerawork, sweeping across the beautiful landscapes.

Almost two-and-a-half hours, the same length as the first film, "Prince Caspian" noticeably needs trimming.

The battle scenes are intense, epic and gargantuan. Edited superbly, one or two scenes could have been trimmed along with some dialogue and unneeded new characters.

The writing team of director Adamson, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely return. The script delves a little too deep into the hierarchy of the land, and some humor also is missing.

"Prince Caspian" has a much darker and savage tone compared to the first, focusing less on the characters and more on politics and battles.

Peter Dinklage ("Death at a Funeral," "Nip/Tuck") as new character Trumpkin, a dwarf with dry wit, is a welcome addition. Eddie Izzard ("The Riches") also visits the world of Narnia as the voice of the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep, who is reminiscent of Shrek's Puss In Boots (Adamson also directed the first two "Shrek" movies). Hopefully at least one of the two will return for the next installment, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," which is set to sail in 2010 and will be guided by new director Michael Apted ("Enough," "The World Is Not Enough").

The magnificent child actors that play the Pevensie children are marvelous and Castellitto is menacing as Miraz. Barnes, however, comes off too timid as the warrior Prince Caspian.

Not as perfect as the original, a faithful adaptation with rousing battles and likable characters makes "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" a summer blockbuster must-see.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

'Speed Racer' runs out of gas early on

*1/2 out of ****

"Speed Racer" is a candy-colored film that is more style than substance. Too long and confusing for young ones, too feverish and hip for most adults, "Speed Racer" runs off course.

Based on a Japanese cartoon series and popular comic, "Speed Racer" now takes a turn as a $100 million blockbuster.

In a film that possibly utilizes more green screen for its perfectly fine balance between cartoon and CGI than any other, "Speed" may go fast, but the film still is a drag.

Set in a futuristic society, Emile Hirsch is Speed Racer, a kid who has racing on his mind and in his blood. His Pops (John Goodman) builds race cars and his brother Rex (Scott Porter), one of the best racers in the world, drives them. However, things change when Rex dies in a tragic accident. Unfazed, Speed gets behind the wheel of his brother's car, the Mach 5, and vrooms-off.
One of the most precocious racers on the track, Speed catches the menacing eye of racing entrepreneur Royalton (Roger Altman).

Royalton shows Speed the dark truth about racing with a daunting ultimatum: Speed drives for Royalton or never races again.

With the help of the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox) and Taejo Togokahn (Korean pop-star Rain), Speed is determined to bring down the evil Royalton and bring credit back to the sport he loves so much.

The kaleidoscope visuals are equivalent to having Starbursts bombard your cornea. Trying to recreate the sugar-rush cartoon effect, "Racer" succeeds in essence, but not as a whole, playing out like a video game that has you searching for a controller.

In their first non-"Matrix" directorial effort in years, the Wachowski Brothers sputter-out with "Speed Racer." The camera work and creativity is top-notch, but feels uncontained. The race scenes are a rollercoaster ride on the crazy tracks that you might find inside a Hot Wheels box, but in between not much transpires.

"Speed" is a film that focuses more on visuals than acting. The cast looks the part, but still acts like the one-dimensional characters they are portraying. Emile Hirsch squints in concentration in front of the green screen with the mega-pixels doing the rest of the work. Christina Ricci, who plays Speed's girlfriend Trixie, nicely compliments Hirsch.

Paulie Litt, who plays little brother Spritle, fails to be energetic, though his role is of a hyper, sugar-crazed kid. Matthew Fox is dead behind the eyes, delivering the most monotone performance of the decade as the highly secretive Racer X.

The most animated performance comes from the Racer family's pet monkey, Chim Chim, who even upstages a pro like Susan Sarandon. Still she can't make the childish dialogue fly off the page as caring Mom.

Perhaps the film is too far ahead of its time. "Speed Racer" might win all of the races, but by the time he completes the first leg, the movie is low on gas.

"Iron Man" ushers in blockbuster season

***1/2 out of ****

All that glitters is iron as "Iron Man," the first summer blockbuster of 2008, starts off the season with a gigantic bang.

It was only a year ago that "Spider-Man 3" took theaters by storm in what was dubbed the "summer of the threequel," with the third installments of the "Shrek," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Ocean's," "Rush Hour" and "Bourne" franchises. This summer could be dubbed the "start of a summer series" with the coming of "Get Smart," based on a TV show, "Mama Mia!," a musical and "Wanted," a novel. "Iron Man" comes from a comic series and is one of the best films of the year so far.

Stan Lee's creation, Iron Man first made his appearance in comic books in 1962. Unlike most of the superheroes of the time, Iron Man was one of the first to have no real superpowers other than an invincible suit. Always a second-tier Marvel superhero, it shouldn't be long until Iron Man becomes a household name.

Robert Downey Jr. plays the main character Tony Stark. Stark is a genius engineer/billionaire/playboy who lives in a futuristic house on the coast of Malibu. His fortune comes from Stark Industries, a company that sells high-tech military weapons capable of mass destruction.

On a return trip back home from showing weapons to an army in Afghanistan, a group of terrorists, led by Raza (Faran Tahir), kidnap Stark and hold him in captivity. They want him to build a Jericho missile for their group with help from fellow captive Yinsen (Shaun Toub). What Tony builds isn't a missile, but another weapon entirely. He manufactures a makeshift suit of iron equipped with flamethrowers and rocket technology to fly.

Eluding his kidnappers after an exhilarating shoot 'em up thrill ride, Stark arrives home with a conscience crisis from seeing his weapons being used against the people that they are supposed to protect.

After a snazzy red and gold paint job and some creative engineering adjustments, Stark suits up as Iron Man to protect the world from the harm that he created.

Downey plays the role with a slick ease, comical not cynical and has fun with the part while engaging the audience with enjoyment as he gets adjusted to the suit's gadgets.

The Oscar-caliber cast is exquisitely perfect. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Stark's breezy, sarcastic assistant/love interest Pepper Potts. Terrence Howard is Stark's right-hand man and military pal Jim Rhodes. Jeff Bridges plays Obadiah Stane, Stark's shady business partner.

Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby ("First Snow," "Children of Men") along with newcomers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway wrote the screenplay that captures the drama and development that most films lack, and supply a dose of comedy and action. The ending, however, misses the same ingenious spark as the rest of the film.

The countless special effects are some of the best to date and extraordinarily seamless with the reality of the scene.

Move over Spider-Man and Superman, "Iron Man" is flat out an all-around crowd-pleaser.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Helen Hunt reappears with new film

*** out of ****

Academy Award-winning actress Helen Hunt seemingly has fallen off the movie map since 2000's "Cast Away" and "What Women Want." Hunt makes her comeback not only as an actress, but as a first-time feature film producer, writer and director with "Then She Found Me"

The film stars Hunt as April Epner, a New York schoolteacher who goes into a mid-life crisis after multiple hits of fate.

The first is her inability to conceive a child naturally with her biological clock ticking. The second hit catches April off guard when her husband, Ben (Matthew Broderick), who works at the same school, unexpectedly leaves her. The third hit is her adoptive mother, Trudy (Lynn Cohen), passes away and, if that isn't enough, April's birth mother, Bernice (Bette Midler), decides to re-enter April's life. Then, a gentlemanly Brit named, Frank (Colin Firth), a father of one of April's students, unexpectedly enters her life.

Well directed, the movie has both April and the audience feeling overwhelmed with all of this happening and on board for a charming ride.

April has a hard time believing the bouncy Bernice, a semi-famous morning talk show host, is her mother, a woman who never is entirely honest about the story of April's adoption and her birth father.

When April finally settles in with the idea of Bernice being her mother and her newfound romance with Frank, a new problem arises: April finds out she is finally pregnant, but with Ben's baby. Ben, trying to come back into the picture as the father, brings complications to her romance with Frank.

Sorting through life with the help of each of these characters and her non-adopted brother Freddy (Ben Shenkman), "Then She Found Me" is a realistic look into making the best of what life gives you, even if it appears to be the worst.

"Then She Found Me" boasts a fabulous cast of actors who rarely are seen in films anymore, including Bette Midler, whose last appearance was in the underwhelming 2004 remake "The Stepford Wives."

Colin Firth ("Bridget Jones's Diary") is fine as the single father Frank, but the role isn't much of a stretch from his previous work. Matthew Broderick gives a rare dramatic performance as April's husband, who is finally ready to accept responsibility. Two-time Oscar nominee Midler fits her role like a glove as the over-the-top Bernice, who generates the film's biggest laughs.

Hunt marvels as April in a difficult role that reconfirms her status as an Oscar-winning actress. As a director and writer she pulls it off. Starting as a comedy, the film is a little rocky, but the fairly smooth transition into drama is where it excels.

The brave screenplay doesn't feel like a studio product, like most films of its genre today. The movie provides a content down-to-earth ending that caps off a satisfying journey. One of the better movies of its class in a long time, "Then She Found Me" truly is a find.

"Baby Mama" is a bundle of joy

*** out of ****

Baby movies seem to be all the rage in Hollywood. "Baby Mama" is a comedy that shows us the lighter side of pregnancy. While we confirmed this from last year’s "Knocked Up", "Waitress" and "Juno", unlike "Baby Mama" all of these films had a sober edge. "Mama" takes the sugary-sweet approach making it less memorable than the other films. However, it sure doesn’t skip on the laughs, providing many knee slapping moments.

From "Saturday Night Live"’s Weekend Update, the comedic duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have taken different career paths. Fey became a successful award-winning TV actress on NBC’s "30 Rock". Poehler stuck with "SNL" and took supporting scene-stealing roles in comedies like "Blades of Glory" and "Shrek the Third" to name a few.

In "Baby Mama" the laughable duo reteams again oozing with comedic chemistry.

Fey plays Kate Holbrook, a slightly altered version of her neurotic "30 Rock" character, Liz Lemon. Vice President at a Philadelphia organic supermarket chain; years of climbing up the corporate ladder, single Kate realizes all that is missing in her life is a baby. After many failed attempts at conceiving, 37-year-old Kate whose chances of becoming pregnant are one in a million, resorts to surrogacy.

When finding out that the hefty fee for a surrogate is $100,000, Kate wittily replies to clinic’s owner Chaffee Bicknell (Sigourney Weaver), “It costs more to have some one born than to have someone killed.” Chaffee casually rejoinders, “It just takes longer.”

Here is when Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler) a loud trailer park slob comes into play as Kate’s surrogate. While it seems hard to believe that a woman like her could pass the clinic’s screening process, Angie agrees to help Kate achieve her dream of becoming a mother.

But after Angie and her common-law boyfriend Carl (Dax Shepard) break-up, Angie, who has no clue on the rules of pregnancy, moves in with the welcoming Kate.

While living together, Angie teaches Kate how to let loose while Kate teaches Angie how to grow up; their clashing personalities provide many laughs in this female buddy comedy. Not serious or offensive to anyone, Baby Mama’s message shows that there are multiple ways of obtaining a child and no choice is the wrong one.

Lone writer Michael McCullers ("Saturday Night Live", "Austin Powers 2-3", "Undercover Brother") also makes his directorial debut. Predictable but fun, McCullers adds in some curveballs that you never see coming, that involve Angie not being entirely truthful with Kate.

A big strong supporting cast adds to the movies fun. Weaver is comical as the extremely fertile clinic owner. Shepard has his share of humorous one-liners. Romany Malco ("Weeds", "The 40 Year Old Virgin") is the amusing door-holder at Kate’s building who becomes Angie’s confidant. Maura Tierney ("ER") adds snarky quips as Kate’s sister along with Holland Taylor ("Two and a Half Men") as her mother. Siobhan Fallon also has a brief part as the teacher at a Lamaze class with an Elmer Fudd accent, one of the movie’s funniest scenes.

Gregg Kinnear is a big player in the film as Kate’s love interest who mixes in some drama. Steve Martin however, is the weakest actors as Kate’s over-the-top hippie boss with most scenes not fitting in with the rest of the film.

The pairing of two of the funniest women today, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, is what makes this movie an event to see. The scenes without them together are usually the frailest. Thankfully about 90% of the time they are side-by-side. Fey plays the same role type of a buttoned-up character with an everyday charm. Poehler on the other-hand is a loud-mouth, shrill, obnoxious character that somehow manages to find a place in our hearts.

A smart light comedy, "Baby Mama" is certainly a bundle of joy.

EXCLUSIVE Interview with "Trailer Park of Terror"'s Nichole Hiltz and Director Steven Goldmann

(Stevn Goldman, far left, and Nichole Hiltz, center, at the Philadelphia Film Festival for their film "Trailer Park of Terror").

At the 17th Philadelphia Film Festival I got the chance to chat with the director, Steven Goldmann, and star, Nichole Hiltz, of the upcoming humorous horror flick "Trailer Park of Terror".

Part of the Film Festival’s Danger After Dark (aka DAD) series, "Trailer Park of Terror" is a countrified entertaining thrill ride. Goldmann who’s directed hit music videos for stars like Bruce Springsteen, Shania Twain and Faith Hill, makes his second feature length film.

Nichole Hiltz plays the lead, Norma, a Southern Trailer Park killer. With numerous supporting roles on hit films and TV shows like the FX hit series, "The Riches" and is to star in the upcoming USA Network show, "In Plain Sight".

Based off of the popular comic book series that started in 2002, "Trailer Park of Terror" captures much of the comic’s essence.

Quite a leap from country music videos to comic book horror, Steven Goldmann was drawn to the film because, “After the Kelly Preston family film Broken Bridges and country music videos, my fear was that I was going to get pigeonholed. I didn’t pick music videos, they picked me. I wanted to take my career in a different direction.” He also added, “With this I was able to build something from the ground up and make it appeal to a wider audience.” Nichole Hiltz joined onto the project for most of the same reasons. In a role that would have most actresses’ running in the opposite direction, Nichole took the role of Norma saying, “I’m ballsy and not scared. Truthfully, at first, I didn’t want to take the role. It was risky and could have killed my career if it wasn’t done right. It was the teen Norma and her back-story, seeing where she came from, that really drew me in. The first draft was much darker and tragic. It is every actress’ dream to play a comic book character.”

Originally created as a horror anthology Goldmann said, “No one wanted an anthology. They have a history of not doing well. Exceptions are Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone which had bigger followings. Trailer Park only has a cult following of 500,000 readers an issue.”

According to Goldmann the filming took a brief 18 days, “On the last four days I was rushing through it on a golf cart going through the three sets that we had running. I would never want to experience something like this again because I am a perfectionist. I wish I had more time on some things, but overall I am happy on how it turned out.”

Nichole also felt the stress being a lead actress, “There is a lot more pressure to carry a film. You either go for it or not. As they say there are no small parts and you have to commit to everything.” Hiltz also took a lot away from the production. “This is the first time I had to stick up for a role. Being cast as a female horror character is different and difficult in an almost all male cast. I had to put my foot down. Norma is my baby.”

Finally when I asked if they had plans for us to see more of Norma and friends in the future? “I have every intention,” says Steven Goldmann, “This is the first movie in a while that has memorable and marketable monsters.” Nichole Hiltz already seems up to the challenge of reprising the role, “I hope for a sequel. I will fight anyone who tries to take her away from me.”

For more on the comic and film "Trailer Park of Terror" visit

17th Annual Philadelphia Film Fest Overview

(L-R: William H. Macy, Fiona Glascott and Jason Ritter at Philly Film Fest for their film, "THE DEAL")

The place to see an outstanding number of 243 feature length films and 108 short films, wasn’t Cannes or Sundance, but at the 17th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival (April 3rd-15th). Adding close to 100 feature length films more than last year, the Philadelphia Film Festival has become the largest film showcase on the East Coast.

Housing independent films with unknown to well-known actors such as William H. Macy, John Leguizamo, Elle Fanning, Matthew Broderick, Meg Ryan, Bette Midler, Jason Ritter, Patricia Clarkson, LL Cool J, Saffron Burrows, Tyrese Gibson and Felicity Huffman are a few familiar faces you will see on screen during the festival. Festivals like these are an excellent opportunity to view amazing films on the big screen and spread the word for them to have a chance at theatrical release.

As an added bonus to going to film festivals, the attendees get the rare and unique opportunity to meet the director and stars after many of the films. There to help promote the movie, audiences are given the chance to ask questions during Q&A’s that are fun and insightful. Among other things such as parties and free promotional giveaways are events like educational seminars on how films receive funding as well as a critics roundtable where the professionals give their critique on the films playing.

This year I got to view some of the most talked about movies at the festival. Most lived up to the hype and hopefully will get the recognition that they deserve.
  • American Teen
    **1/2 out of ****
    USA, 2008, 95 minutes
    Dir. Nanette Burnstein
    "American Teen" is a documentary that gives an insightful but ultimately tired look on High School life, chronicling the lives of High School Seniors in small town Warsaw, Indiana. The film focuses on Hannah, an artistic outsider; Colin, a friendly basketball jock; Megan, the school’s popular bully; and Jake, the nerd, tackling peer, family and college pressures with some expected and unexpected outcomes.
    Academy Award nominee director Nanette Burnstein gives each of the students an equal amount of face time and knows where and how to cut to the next High-schooler for a seamless transition. Periodic animated vignettes that attempt to paint an image of what the teenagers are saying are awkward. "Teen" has spark and reality, but the same message has been played out many times before.

    Dangerous Parking
    ***1/2 out of ****
    Great Britain, 2007, 109 minutes
    Dir. Peter Howitt
    Starring: Peter Howitt, Saffron Burrows, Sean Pertwee, Rachael Stirling, and Tom Conti
    Director, writer, producer and star, Peter Howitt brings to us the dramatic and hilarious "Dangerous Parking"; a film dangerously close to perfection. Howitt is Noah Arkwright, a cynical drug and alcohol addicted filmmaker. Noah narrates the out-of-order visual film that gives the true feeling of Noah’s abstract thinking and personality. Following his marriage to cellist Claire (Burrows), detox, and his fight with cancer, eccentric Noah keeps us laughing with pessimism and internal thinking throughout.
    Peter Howitt wonderfully adapts Stuart Browne’s novel in a stunning directorial. Howitt takes on the task and succeeds at making the audience enjoy such an unlikable character with quick wit and charisma. Burrows gives one of her best performances as Noah’s wife as well as the supporting Pertwee and Stirling as his friends.
    The choice of going out-of-order works well, all coming together in the end. However, the beginning is quite confusing and some dramatic scenes are hindered by not fully understanding what lead up to them. Overall, "Dangerous Parking" is a success with no major violations.

    Deadline U.S.A.
    *** out of ****
    USA, 1952, 87 minutes
    Dir. Richard Brooks
    Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ethel Barrymore, Kim Hunter and Martin Gable
    A blast from the past, "Deadline U.S.A." is a nostalgic noir from 1952. Bogart stars as Newspaper editor, Ed Hutcherson who tries to save his paper from being bought out in a matter of days while bringing down mobster, Thomas Rienzi (Gable) in a shocking expose. Dealing with layoffs and closings of newspapers, the message is still prevalent today in this exciting crime drama.

    The Deal
    *** out of ****
    Canada, USA 2008, 100 minutes
    Dir. Steven Schachter
    Starring: William H. Macy, Meg Ryan, Jason Ritter, Fiona Glascott, LL Cool J and Elliot Gould
    Based on the book by Peter Lefcourt, William H. Macy adapts and stars in this Hollywood comedy. Playing an out of luck producer, Charlie, who swindles an executive, Deidre (Ryan), at a troubled studio to green-light his nephew’s (Ritter) script on the Jewish English statesman Benjamin Disraeli. Changing the script from a serious drama into an action comedy, they cast black action star (LL Cool J), who recently converted to Judaism as Disraeli for funding. Numerous setbacks and delays including a terrorist kidnapping and other chaos provide abundant laughs.
    Macy and Ryan are at the top of their comedic game. Ritter along with Fiona Glascott as the female lead add well to the script. LL Cool J is the deal-breaker as a dim-witted action star adding lots of Jewish humor as Elliot Gould guides him as his equally clueless Rabbi.

    Phoebe in Wonderland
    **** out of ****
    USA, 2008, 96 minutes
    Dir. Daniel Barnz
    Starring: Elle Fanning, Patricia Clarkson, Felicity Huffman and Bill Pullman
    Fanning is brilliant as the titled character, Phoebe Lichten, an imaginative young girl who has trouble with following the rules. Phoebe is obsessed with Alice in Wonderland, having visions of the characters pop-out throughout her day, much like her mother (Huffman) who is writing a book on Alice. As coincidence has it, her school is putting on the play Alice in Wonderland, run by the eccentric new drama teacher (Patricia Clarkson). While Phoebe is fine during rehearsal, her behavior outside of the theater is worsening in this extremely moving picture on what is and isn’t “normal” from the perspective of children and adults.
    Desperate Housewives star Huffman shines as Phoebe’s mother while Clarkson plays a strong supporting hand. Pullman skillfully undertakes the part of Phoebe’s father. Director and writer Daniel Barnz makes a powerful debut that will certainly leave viewers in marvel.

    Son of Rambow
    **1/2 out of ****
    USA, 2007, 95 minutes
    Dir. Garth Jennings
    Starring: William Poulter, Bill Milner, Jules Sitruk, Jessica Stevenson and Adam Godley
    Set in the ‘80s, "Son of Rambow" is a sweet and funny family film that is enjoyable for all ages. Milner stars as the 11-year-old Will who has never seen a film in his life due to his religion of the Plymouth Brethren and strict leader (Godley). When school bully Carter (Poulter) decides to enlist Will into making a homemade version of First Blood to enter into a young filmmaker competition, the two set off with their video camera to make an action film. Reminiscent of the recent Be Kind Rewind, "Rambow" falls into the same pitfall: building a film off of one joke. However, "Son of Rambow" handles the problem much more properly by adding a dramatic element of friendship and religion to aid the film.
    Writer and director Garth Jennings ("Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy") who drew experiences from his own childhood adds a lot of heart to the film. Jennings draws fantastic performances from his young actors. Younger audiences certainly needn’t see Rambo to get the joke, but the older audiences will enjoy the references.

    Summer Scars
    ½ a * out of ****
    Great Britain, 2007, 75 minutes
    Dir. Julian Richards
    Starring: Kevin Howarth, Ciaran Joyce, Amy Harvey, Jonathan Jones, Darren Evans, Christopher Conway and Ryan Conway
    "Summer Scars" is a suspense-less thriller and drama with little emotion and sense. Kevin Howarth plays Peter, a stranger that stumbles upon six fourteen year old friends that cut school to hang out in the woods. Deciding to help Peter find his dog, it isn’t until Peter takes out a gun that they realize he has a different agenda. Peter supposedly is trying to teach the kids life lessons as they are about to reach adulthood. The chance of escape comes multiple times, but the brain-dead kids make the worst possible decisions to propel the plot that in the end is pointless.
    The kids have a long way to go in acting. Howarth is the highpoint to the film as the stranger. Director Richards never seems to know where to go with the film that would make a better short, than feature length, which it barely is at 75 minutes. Bad acting, plot, writing and ending makes "Summer Scars" one of the worst of the fest.

    The Take
    **1/2 out of ****
    USA, 2007, 96 minutes
    Dir. Brad Furman
    Starring: John Leguizamo, Rosie Perez, Bobby Cannavale and Tyrese Gibson
    "The Take" is about family man Felix De La Pena (Leguizamo) who’s held at gunpoint as a thug, Adell (Gibson), kidnaps Felix while on duty as an armored truck driver. After stealing the money, Adell shoots Felix, leaving him for dead. Felix miraculously survives albeit personality changes. The police (Cannavale) not being helpful in finding the culprit, the now violent Felix is hell-bent on finding the perp. Driving away his wife (Perez) and children in the process, The Take is a gritty and dark crime drama.
    Leguizamo gives one of his best performances but seems to be trying a bit too hard. Academy Award nominee Perez, on the other hand, does a fine job with a natural aura. Cannavale plays the average cop figure and Gibson is dead weight.
    The plot is contrived and far from original with one or two glaring plot holes. For a low-budget flick, Furman brings some style and nice editing to make it worth checking out.

    Trailer Park of Terror
    **1/2 out of ****
    USA, 2008, 91 minutes
    Dir. Steven Goldmann
    Starring: Nichole Hiltz, Lew Temple, Brock Cuchna, Myk Watford, Matthew Del Negro and Trace Adkins
    From the Reading, P.A. based comic books; "Trailer Park of Terror" stars Nichole Hiltz as the headstrong beauty Norma who’s to leave the trailer park life behind her with boyfriend Aaron (Cuchna). When things start looking up, they soon come crashing down when fellow trailer-parkers Marv (Temple) and Roach (Watford) kill him. Running away, Norma encounters, The Man (Adkins), fueling her rage, giving her a rifle to take revenge on her trailer park neighbors. Cut to twenty years later when a group of six troubled teenagers and their pastor (Del Negro) get in a car accident during a thunderstorm coming home from a retreat. Seeking shelter in the nearby trailer park, they meet a now awry Norma who offers them shelter for the night. This is if they survive the night as monster zombie rednecks start picking off the kids one by one.
    This not-for-everyone B-movie, filled with dark humor, a country rock-n-roll soundtrack and blood is an entertaining ride. Famed country music video director, Steven Goldmann, certainly breaks away from his roots with the help of screenwriter Timothy Dalton in this Predictable but fun southern terror.

***1/2 out of ****
Great Britain, 2007, 107 minutes
Dir. Stephen Walker
Hilarious and heartfelt, Young@Heart is a documentary following a choir of senior citizens that sing….Rock N’ Roll? Originated in Northhampton, MA, the choir has toured the world and the film documents them preparing for their next tour.

Laughs are inevitable watching these old folks (whose average age is 81) sing everything from Sonic Youth to Coldplay to James Brown. Heart strings are pulled in scenes when a couple of the choir members fall fatally ill, but ultimately "Young@Heart" is a feel good flick for any age. By the time the film is over it makes you feel, well, young at heart.

Last year the festival hosted the likes of hit films such as Away from Her and La Vie en Rose, both Oscar nominated and winning pictures respectively. While it is unsure what films this year will be lucky enough to reach such a broad audience, there is enough picks worthy enough to reach such a status. For the ones that don’t, many are still worth searching out for.