Below is a collection of nutshell reviews that went into Kansai Scene's What's Showing guide


Monster’s Ball
Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger

A guy languishes on death row while his missus is having it off with one of the guards: from such unlikely premises are giants born. This is a powerful and moving film full of finely nuanced acting and plot surprises. See it.
****four stars

My Life as a House

Turgid drama of a malfunctioning family in which drug abuse is equated with homosexuality as symptoms of delinquency, and conservative schlock values save the characters from themselves. Pass the bucket.
*one star5

Director: John Woo
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Beach, Christian Slater

The gore hits the fan in this creaky wartime tale of white man-Navajo bonding under fire. It would be moving if the real Navajo hadn’t been treated so badly after the war. Some compensation in the acting.
**two stars

High Crimes
Director: Carl Franklin
Starring: Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Jim Caviezel

Slightly formulaic but engaging courtroom thriller in which lawyer Ashley Judd defending accused special ops hubby stumbles into a closet full of dirty-war skeletons. Freeman is on top form.
***Three stars

Ice Age
A mix of Shrek, Monsters, Inc, and Saving Private Ryan. Bug-eyed CG motley crew of animals flee glaciers and seriously un-nice sabre-toothed tigers to return a human child to it’s folks in a ripping yarn for kids of all ages.
****four stars

The Pledge
Director: Sean Penn
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Robin-Wright Penn, Aaron Eckhardt

A small child is murdered and detective Nicholson pledges to catch the killer. Atmospheric but unthrilling thriller in which director Penn descends from his ivory tower to tell us that life can be brutal. Thanks for the tip, Sean.
**two stars

The One
Director: James Wong
Starring: Jet Li, Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham

Matrix-esque, high-kicking Kung Fu pic in which Li battles incarnations of himself across the multiverse to become The One. If you demand a good plot and good acting, skip it, if you like lots of kicking, see it.
**Two stars

Aoi Haru
Director: Toyota Yoshiaki
Starring: Matsuda Ryuhei

A bitter-sweet portrayal of a group of high school furyo (delinquents) battling the monotony of school. Might give you a hint as to what’s going on in the minds of the high school kids slumming around town.
***Three stars

Shiroi Fune
Director: Nishikiori Yoshinari
Starring: Nakamura Asami, Hamada Takashi

A refreshing tale of a tiny school in Shimane and a huge white ferry which passes by the window of the school everyday. A must-see for burnt-out teachers doing a bit of soul-searching.
***Three stars

A Drowning Man
Director: Ichio Naoki
Starring: Kataoka Reiko, Tsukamoto Shinya

A simple yet surreal love suspense of a slowly dying marriage. Through Bunuelesque dislocations of time and reality it tells you what happens if you find your partner drowning in the bathtub.
****four stars

The Sum of All Fears
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Starring: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell

Box office blockbuster in which Baltimore is nuked by terrorists and good guy Ben Affleck has to save the world from nuclear destruction. Hollywood takes on big issues and comes out looking silly.
***Three stars

The Hole
Director: Nick Hamm
Starring: Thora Birch; Embeth Davidtz; Daniel Brocklebank

Four school chums venture into an abandoned underground shelter … only one comes out alive and she’s in deep trauma. So, what happened in the hole? You’ll have to watch it to find out.
***Three stars

Review by Chris Page

e-mail Psilocybe P. Pook: