By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
Buck Naked Arson -- If John Hughes had attempted a remake of Rashomon during his Brat Pack period of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, the result might have resembled writer-director Amy Snow's indie comedy-drama -- except that Hughes's version likely would have been funnier, better acted and more tonally consistent. On the night of their high school graduation, two couples are apprehended in a wooded area after the dousing of a minor fire. An authoritarian forest ranger (William Russ), determined to discover the cause of the blaze, grills Grant (Shiloh Strong), a straight-arrow type who's bound for a military academy; Becca (Christine Lakin), his would-be actress girlfriend; Janey (Azura Skye), a cynical smart-mouth; and Willy (Rider Strong), the sort of hyperactive geek that Anthony Michael Hall used to play. Who started the fire? Who cares? Snow switches points of view from one interrogation to the next, which does little to generate interest in thinly written characters, and almost nothing to enhance the trite and predictable story. (J.L.)
The Canary Yellow Bicycle -- A teacher from the provinces accepts a position at an Athens elementary school, where he takes a personal interest in an almost illiterate youngster. Dimitris Stavrakis directed and co-wrote this Greek family drama.
Citizen Kane -- If you've never viewed Citizen Kane on the big screen, you owe it to yourself to catch the WorldFest screening, because this is the way Orson Welles wanted you to see it. And, indeed, this is the best way to see it. Like its central character, newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane, the movie is most impressive when it appears larger than life. Critic Pauline Kael has described Welles's 1941 debut feature as "the one American talking picture that seems as fresh now as the day it opened." She's right, and that, more than anything else, is what separates it from others that have been labeled classics. Unlike Potemkin or The Birth of a Nation, Citizen Kane has nothing of the stale or stately about it, nothing that smacks of required reading or museum artifact. It's a bold American masterwork, with a rude vigor in its vernacular and an indefatigable zest to its storytelling. It's a whoopee cushion slipped under the seats of those grim-faced academics who would insist that art is serious stuff. (J.L.)
City Paradise -- From China, a drama about an ambitious young man who leaves his wife and family behind in the countryside while he seeks his fortune in the big city.
The Compensation -- An elderly Sri Lankan man, distraught over the recent death of his wife, confesses to a triple murder that occurred decades earlier. It's up to the police to decide whether he's been driven mad by his bereavement or if he's indeed telling the truth.
Dieu Seul Me Voit -- Winner of a 1999 Cesar (the French equivalent of an Academy Award) for Best First Feature, Bruno Podalydes's romantic comedy deals with the trials and tribulations of a befuddled young man who operates a boom microphone at a television station.
Dinner and a Movie -- An idealistic young filmmaker, eager to direct a documentary about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, tries to finance her project by producing a reality-TV show about dating. Marianne Hagan, Mike Dooly, Anita Gillette and the late Paul Bartel are featured in Lisa Kors's indie comedy.
Everything for a Reason -- Greek-American filmmaker Vlas Parlapanides spins a seriocomic, semiautobiographical story about a writer who lives with his parents, turning out screenplays while waiting for his big break. He's determined not to be distracted from his goals, even when he falls in love with a virginal young woman who agrees to a no-strings, no-sex relationship.
Face the Music -- After being dumped by their record label, members of a struggling band desperately vie for attention by faking the death of their lead singer. Tyler Christopher and Elena Lyons head the cast of Jeff Howard's indie comedy.
Friends and Family -- Offering a slightly different definition for the term "made men," Kristen Coury's comedy focuses on two gay lovers who just happen to be a mob family's top hit men.
F-Stops -- In this movie-within-a-movie, a recent film school graduate takes drastic steps to prove his genius by making a "half fiction, half real-life gangster road picture" with a cast of eager young unknowns.
The HMS Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition -- Documentarian George Butler (Pumping Iron) figured just one film wouldn't be enough to document the astonishing adventures of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew aboard the HMS Endurance. So he made two: a 40-minute, IMAX-format version for those content with a Cliffs Notes account, and this longer, more richly detailed feature, eloquently narrated by Liam Neeson. In 1914 Shackleton set out to be the first to traverse the Antarctic continent. Six weeks into their journey, however, he and his 27-man crew were trapped in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea. Drawing upon diaries of crew members and the extraordinary still photos and movies shot by photographer Frank Hulrey, the film vividly details daily life aboard the immobilized ship. After ten months, the pressure of the ice crushed the Endurance, and the men were forced to pitch camp for five months on a massive ice floe. Then their real problems began. Through sheer force of will, every member of the Endurance expedition survived. Butler refrains from facile speculation but suggests a provocative explanation for this miracle: Some men simply refuse to die. (J.L.)