The debut feature from filmmaker Shane Carruth—who wrote, directed, photographed, edited, scored, and stars—Primer is a psychological sci-fi thriller about a group of four tech entrepreneurs. Toiling away in a garage, the quartet have successfully created error-checking systems for their clients. But their recent work seems to have created an unexpected and seemingly impossible side-effect. Suddenly, two members of the group realize they are in possession of a device that can double, or perhaps even quadruple, the space-time continuum of anything that enters it. What at first seems like a windfall of astronomical proportions eventually proves to be much more than they bargained for, as the duo attempt to manipulate time to their financial—and emotional—benefit.
A handful of disparate characters, both adults and children, find themselves navigating the tricky waters of intimacy in this award-winning independent comedy drama. Richard (John Hawkes) is a recent divorcé who is alternately exhilarated and terrified with his life and the world around him. While he believes great things are in store for him, he's also become so despondent about his wife's departure that he attempts to set his hand on fire. Richard meets Christine (Miranda July) at the shoe store where he works; Christine likes to paint a picture of herself as a stylish and confident video artist, but in truth she supports herself as a driver with a car service for the elderly, and she'd very much like to meet someone special. As Richard and Christine fumble their way into a relationship, Richard's two sons have issues of their own. Seven-year-old Robby (Brandon Ratcliff) has met someone in an Internet chat room who responds to his naïve and scatological perceptions of sex, while 14-year-old Peter (Miles Thompson) finds himself on the receiving end of unusual and unexpected attention from two girls in his class.
Darren Aronofsky scripted and made his directorial debut with this experimental feature with mathematical plot threads hinting at science-fictional elements. In NYC's Chinatown, recluse math genius Max (Sean Gullette) believes "everything can be understood in terms of numbers," and he looks for a pattern in the system as he suffers headaches, plays Go with former teacher Sol Robeson (Mark Margolis), and fools around with an advanced computer system he's built in his apartment. Both a Wall Street company and a Hasidic sect take an interest in his work, but he's distracted by blackout attacks, hallucinations, and paranoid delusions. Filmed in 16mm black-and-white, the Kafkaesque film features music by Clint Mansell (of the UK's Pop Will Eat Itself band).
Tom Tykwer directed this German thriller in which Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) handled a smuggling job, delivered the loot, collected the payment, left the bag on the subway, and now has 20 minutes to gather 100,000 deutsche marks or confront the wrath of his boss, local criminal Ronnie (Heino Ferch). Desperate, Manni phones his girlfriend Lola (Franka Potente) who immediately runs downstairs and through Berlin streets to the bank run by her father (Herbert Knaup). However, she's rejected and leaves minus money. When she goes to meet Manni, he's holding up a supermarket, and she's shot by the cops. In a destiny device familiar to readers of Ken Grimwood's acclaimed novel Replay, the story begins anew with different outcomes. In one version, Lola robs the bank and takes her father hostage; in another, there's casino cash to be won. All Lola-Manni scenes were in 35mm, while scenes without them were shot in video. Other cinematic techniques on display here include whip pans, jump cuts, slow and fast motion, split-screen, intercut color and black and white, segment titles, and animation.
Director Sini Anderson's documentary The Punk Singer profiles musician and outspoken feminist Kathleen Hanna, who was one of the central figures in the riot grrrl movement as the leader of the band Bikini Kill. The filmmakers utilize a wealth of archival footage, as well as interviews with Hanna, to tell her story, and explain why she retreated from the spotlight.
Cleo from 5 to 7 (Cleo de cinq a sept), per its title, concentrates on two hours in the life of a woman. Those hours are desperate ones, in that Cleo, a pop singer, awaits the results of her tests for cancer. Director Agnès Varda stages the film in "real" rather than subjective time, its various episodes divided into chapters, using significant Tarot cards. During the allotted time, Cleo visits her friends, tries to sing her worries away, spends money, and cries.
In the year 2029, the world has become interconnected by a vast electronic network that permeates every aspect of life. That same network also becomes a battlefield for Tokyo's Section Nine security force, which has been charged with apprehending the master hacker known only as the Puppet Master. Spearheading the investigation is Major Motoko Kusanagi, who—like many in her department—is a cyborg officer, far more powerful than her human appearance would suggest. And yet as the Puppet Master, who is even capable of hacking human minds, leaves a trail of victims robbed of their memories, Kusanagi ponders the very nature of her existence: is she purely an artificial construct, or is there more? What, exactly, is the "ghost"—her essence—in her cybernetic "shell"? When Section Six gets involved in the case, she is forced to confront the fact that there is more here than meets the eye, and that the Puppet Master may hold some of the answers she seeks. But little does she know that he has been seeking her as well.
Anyone who lives in an urban area immediately notices when they visit a rural community that the night seems much darker and stars that they never notice in the city shine brightly. With the invention of the electric light, man was able to reorient his day without reference to the time of day and the rising and setting of the sun, but what are the consequences of a life without stars in the sky and no escape from light? Filmmaker Ian Cheney explores the issue of light pollution and its many unexpected consequences in this documentary The City Dark. The film includes interviews with astronomers, scientists and medical researchers who discuss the impact of our brightly lit cities on wildlife, human health and the study of the stars, and what can be done to change our course.
The creative team behind Being John Malkovich—director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman—return with this equally offbeat comedy, in which Kaufman himself becomes the leading character. Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is a gifted but profoundly neurotic screenwriter who, after the success of Being John Malkovich, has been hired to write a script adapted from the nonfiction book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. But while Charlie is obsessive about his work, he's also intensely paranoid, given to deep depression, socially inept, and terrified of talking to women, qualities which are making it difficult to get on with his work or hold on to his tenuous relationship with girlfriend Amelia (Cara Seymour). Meanwhile, Charlie's identical twin brother, Donald Kaufman (also played by Cage), has shown up to move in with his brother. Emotionally, Donald is Charlie's polar opposite—a loudmouthed, over-confident, superficial party animal who has an easy way with the ladies. Donald has decided to follow his brother's footsteps and take up screenwriting as well, but embracing the dictates of screenwriting tutor Robert McKee (Brian Cox), he's cranking out a cliché-ridden serial-killer thriller when not busy making time with new girlfriend Caroline (Maggie Gyllenhaal). As Donald blazes through his screenplay, Charlie slowly picks away at his story, in which author Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) chronicles John Laroche (Chris Cooper), a scruffy but devoted plant enthusiast who tries to save rare species of orchids by stealing them from their natural home in the swamps of Florida. As John and Susan become better acquainted, they find themselves attracted to one another; similarly, Charlie finds himself increasingly fascinated with Susan, and finds himself falling in love with her, even though he's only seen her photo on the dust jacket of her book. Charlie arranges to meet Susan, but is too nervous to confront her face to face, so he sends Donald (who has just scored a seven-figure deal for his script) in his place, while he attends a screenwriting seminar held by McKee. Adaptation also featuresTilda Swinton, Judy Greer, and Stephen Tobolowsky.
An astronaut miner extracting the precious moon gas that promises to reverse the Earth's energy crisis nears the end of his three-year contract, and makes an ominous discovery in this psychological sci-fi film starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey. For three long years, Sam Bell has dutifully harvested Helium 3 for Lunar, a company that claims it holds the key to solving humankind's energy crisis. As Sam's contract comes to an end, the lonely astronaut looks forward to returning to his wife and daughter down on Earth, where he will retire early and attempt to make up for lost time. His work on the Selene moon base has been enlightening—the solitude helping him to reflect on the past and overcome some serious anger issues—but the isolation is starting to make Sam uneasy. With only two weeks to go before he begins his journey back to Earth, Sam starts feeling strange: he's having inexplicable visions, and hearing impossible sounds. Then, when a routine extraction goes horribly awry, it becomes apparent that Lunar hasn't been entirely straightforward with Sam about their plans for replacing him. The new recruit seems strangely familiar, and before Sam returns to Earth, he will grapple with the realization that the life he has created may not be entirely his own. Up there, hundreds of thousands of miles from home, it appears that Sam's contract isn't the only thing about to expire.
Lars von Trier's black comedy The Boss of It All (Direktøren for Det Hele) concerns an IT company owner who—in need of a figurehead to "hide behind" when confronted with employee problems—invented the personage of a CEO during the startup period for his corporation. The scheme worked for a surprisingly long period, but when the time arrives to sell the business, massive problems arise—for the prospective buyers insist on only negotiating with the CEO, in person. Thus, the owner further extends the ruse, by hiring a down-and-out actor to impersonate the chief officer. With Direktøren for Det Hele, von Trier uses a new means of filmmaking for this film: Automavision, whereby filming is done with an "automatic randomized camera" that selects the shots. It became a means for von Trier to "clean up" his approach to directorial work and reconnect with his own love of filmmaking.
An alien assumes the form of an alluring female (Scarlett Johansson) and prowls the streets of Scotland, leading lonely and unsuspecting men to their doom in director Jonathan Glazer's surreal adaptation of Michel Faber's genre-bending novel of the same name.