From the mythical Orpheus to Say Anything's Lloyd Dobler, the line between dangerous obsession and adorable pursuit has always been blurry; it takes a confident storyteller to convince an audience to fear or swoon over such a love-struck lead. With the intimate Uruguayan film Gigante, writer-director Adrián Biniez has a long way to go to persuade us his hero, burly security-camera overseer Jara, is not one step away from jail. Jara's obsession lies with cleaning lady Julia; he watches her constantly from the camera feed that's his main job to scour. Too shy to engage her, he instead follows her around, making rituals of shadowing the object of his affection and even secretly "protecting" her. It sounds creepy, for sure, but Biniez triumphs in converting us to Jara's side and hoping his one-way view opens up to envelop him in love. — Justin Strout
The Stoning of Soraya M. (NR)
Seriously, Hollywood — Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side? Really? Add to that the rest of the Best Actress always-runs nominated this Oscar year, and I gotta ask this: Where was Shohreh Aghdashloo's nomination? If anyone deserved that little gold ego-placation award, it was her for her performance in the superb, powerful and, sadly, underseen The Stoning of Soraya M. The film, directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, is a scathing look at how women are treated under Islamic-based Sharia law, where, as in this case, a woman accused of adultery can easily be proven guilty and, amid thunderous applause, be put to death by the archaic act of stoning. The Stoning of Soraya M. is a truly haunting, unforgettable and anger-inducing masterpiece that'll make you scream, "Where are the human rights activists to stop these atrocities?" — Louis Fowler
MPI Home Video
Writer-director Cédric Klapisch brings a Woody Allen sensibility to Paris, penning a love letter to the very act of loving and living there — and without Paris, je t'aime's self-consciousness. Pierre (Romain Duris) will die without a heart transplant, and his sister (Juliette Binoche) flies in to care for him during the search. The whole experience, and the presence of Binoche's three children, has opened Pierre's eyes to the beauty and liveliness around him, which sounds utterly trite, except that Klapisch provides escape routes when the touchy-feely meter reaches the red zone. Those routes are in the form of alternate storylines involving a professor and his student (Inglourious Basterds' Mélanie Laurent), a market worker and his ex-wife, and a boat adventure. Deep, it's not. But Paris hits a nerve that feels like a breath of life. — Justin Strout
If, say, Step Up 2: The Streets is the movie version of video game Dance Dance Revolution, then Bandslam is Rock Band 2. Bandslam is utterly unoriginal and follows the well-worn path established by earlier treacly teens-and-their-dreams films like the recent Fame remake. This one does try to shake things up a little by adding a real rock vibe to the proceedings, complete with cameos by CBGB's and David Bowie; too bad they don't do it any good. By casting a duo of Disney Channel darlings (Vanessa Hudgens and Alyson Michalka) who are about as rock 'n roll as, well, anything on the Disney Channel, it cancels out the what could have been a nice change of pace for kids who are continually inundated with this pap. As usual, instead, the filmmakers just wanted to sell soundtracks and T-shirts. Everyone's gotta sell out sometime, right? — Louis Fowler
The costumes were amazing and added to the brilliant production.
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.