The Messenger

  • Directors: Oren Moverman
  • Producers: Benjamin Goldhirsh, Mark Gordon, Lawrence Inglee, Zach Miller
  • Writers: Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, War
  • Actors: Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, Jena Malone

A casualty notification officer for the United States Army enters an ethical dilemma when he gets involved with Olivia (Samantha Morton), the widow of a soldier.

Into the Wild

  • Directors: Sean Penn
  • Producers: Sean Penn, Art Linson
  • Writers: Jon Krakauer, Sean Penn
  • Genres: Adventure, Biography, Drama
  • Actors: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Hal Holbrook, Kristen Stewart

Into the Wild recounts the life of Christopher McCandless, a real-life National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS)|student-athlete at Emory University, as told by his sympathetic sister. In response to his parents, whom McCandless perceives as materialistic, manipulative, and domineering, McCandless destroys all of his credit cards and identification documents, donates $24,000 (nearly his entire savings) to Oxfam, and sets out on a off-road|cross-country drive in his well-used but reliable Datsun towards his ultimate goal: to travel alone to Alaska and experience its nature firsthand. Along the way, he abandons his automobile in the course of a flash flood, to hitchhike after burning the remainder of his dwindling cash supply. He acquires a Perception Sundance 12 open-water kayak and goes down the Colorado River, into Mexico, and later returns to America via freight train to Los Angeles. Taking a circuitous route, he encounters many unconventional individuals along the way, such as a group of hippies, a farm owner (Vince Vaughn), and a lonely leather worker (Hal Holbrook) who offers to adopt and be a grandfather to McCandless. McCandless purposefully trudges onward to his final destination, arriving in the wilds of Alaska nearly two years after his initial departure. He starts living in a “Magic Bus”, used as a shelter for moose hunters. McCandless finds joy in living off the land and begins to write a book of his adventures. As the spring thaw arrives and he seeks to return from the wild, McCandless is cut off from civilization by the torrents of a swelled river one of his few admitted fears is of water. As his food supply of small game dwindles, he resorts to eating indigenous plants. Although he consults a book that he brought along in order to identify edible plants in the wild, he confuses an edible and a poisonous variety, which shuts down his digestive system and causes him to starve to death. In his final hours, he continues to document his demise in a painful and dramatic denouement.

Donnie Darko

  • Directors: Richard Kelly
  • Producers: Adam Fields, Nancy Juvonen, Sean McKittrick
  • Writers: Richard Kelly
  • Genres: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
  • Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Beth Grant, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle

Donnie Darko (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is a troubled teenager in suburban Virginia in October 1988. He appears to be suffering the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. At the start of the film, he has recently stopped taking his medication. His parents, Rose and Eddie (Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne) and his sisters, Elizabeth and Samantha (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Daveigh Chase), are concerned about him. One night at dinner, Donnie and his sister get into a profane argument during which Elizabeth reveals she knows Donnie is no longer taking his medication. Rose confronts Donnie in his bedroom asking him where her little boy has gone and who the stranger is who has taken his place. As she leaves the room, she hears him call her a “bitch” from the other side of the door. Feeling guilty, Donnie resumes taking his medication. On October 2, however, he sleepwalks and meets Frank (James Duval), a man in a menacing bunny costume. Frank tells him that in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds, the world will end. While he is outside, a jet engine mysteriously crashes through the roof of the Darkos’ house, destroying Donnie’s bedroom.

As Eddie drives Donnie to the office of Dr. Thurman (Katharine Ross), Donnie’s therapist, Eddie nearly runs over Roberta Sparrow, also known as “Grandma Death” (Patience Cleveland). A senile old woman who spends her days walking back and forth from her house to the mailbox across the street, Grandma Death whispers in Donnie’s ear that all living things die alone. This greatly troubles Donnie, who worries that life has no meaning.

It is once again October 2. Donnie is in bed, creating a predestination paradox. On this occasion, he chooses to stay in bed, presumably to prevent the harm he caused to several lives in the tangent universe, including Gretchen, the girlfriend he will never meet. Shortly after he goes to sleep, the jet engine from the red eye flight on October 30 crashes through the roof, killing him. In a deleted scene from the director’s cut DVD it is revealed that he was actually impaled by a piece of wood from the broken roof while performing an act of self-gratification, though the removal of this from this film proper makes its canonicity questionable. All the people affected by Donnie’s actions awake as if from a nightmare, having some fragments of memories remaining: Frank, Elizabeth’s boyfriend, subconsciously touches his right eye. Jim Cunningham, perhaps in guilt and remorse for being a pedophile, a hypocrite and phony, awakens crying. As Donnie’s body is taken away, Gretchen, having never met Donnie, rides by the Darkos’ house on her bicycle. She learns from a neighbor boy what has happened and waves to Rose, who is smoking a cigarette. There is an air of mutual recognition between them.