Matchstick Men

  • Directors: Ridley Scott
  • Producers: Ridley Scott, Steve Starkey, Sean Bailey, Jack Rapke, Ted Griffin
  • Writers: Novel, Eric Garcia, Screenplay, Ted Griffin, Nicholas Griffin
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama, Crime, Thriller
  • Actors: Nicolas Cage, Alison Lohman, Sam Rockwell, Bruce Altman, Bruce McGill

Roy Waller (Nicolas Cage) is a troubled con artist residing in Los Angeles, California. Alongside his partner and protégé Frank Mercer (Sam Rockwell), Roy operates a fake lottery, selling overpriced water filtration systems to unsuspecting customers; in the process, Roy has collected over one million dollars and has developed a crush on Kathy (Sheila Kelley), a cashier at a local supermarket. Roy suffers from several mental disorders, including agoraphobia, mysophobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and a tic disorder—not to mention the fact that he yells, “Pygmies” whenever something surprises or upsets him. After Roy experiences a violent panic attack, Frank suggests he see a psychiatrist, Dr. Harris Klein (Bruce Altman).

Klein provides Roy with medication, and in therapy has Roy recall his past relationship with his ex-wife, Heather (Melora Walters), who was pregnant during the time of the divorce. By Roy’s behest, Klein informs Roy that he called Heather and found out that Roy has a fourteen year-old daughter, Angela (Alison Lohman). Roy and Angela meet and Angela quizzes Roy regarding his life and occupation. Her cheerful personality rejuvenates him, and Roy thus agrees to work with Frank on a long-term con: Their target is Chuck Frechette (Bruce McGill), an arrogant businessman whom the duo decides to con with the Jamaican Switch.

A year later, Roy has become a salesman at a local carpet store, which Angela and her boyfriend one day wander into. Roy confronts Angela but ultimately forgives her, realizing that he is now honest, coping with his mental disorders in a healthy manner and leading a much happier lifestyle as a respectable citizen. Angela reveals that she did not receive her fair share of the cut from Frank, and that it was the only con she ever pulled. Angela and her boyfriend depart and Roy returns home to his new wife Kathy (the cashier he had a crush on), who is now pregnant with his child.

A Christmas Carol

  • Directors: Robert Zemeckis
  • Producers: Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis
  • Writers: Screenplay, Robert Zemeckis, Story, Charles Dickens
  • Genres: Animation, Drama, Family, Fantasy
  • Actors: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn

A Christmas Carol is a Victorian morality tale of an old and bitter miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of one night. Mr. Scrooge is a financier/money-changer who has devoted his life to the accumulation of wealth. He holds anything other than money in contempt, including friendship, love and the Christmas season. But an encounter with the ghostly figure of Jacob Marley sets the stage for a mysterious and magical encounter with three phantasmic beings to help him realize the true magic of Christmas itself.

Beowulf

  • Directors: Robert Zemeckis
  • Producers: Steve Bing, Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis
  • Writers: Neil Gaiman, Roger Avary
  • Genres: Animation, Action, Adventure, Fantasy
  • Actors: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Crispin Glover, Robin Wright Penn, John Malkovich, Brendan Gleeson, Alison Lohman

Set in Denmark, the film opens with King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) celebrating the construction of his new mead hall, Heorot. The noise of the celebration echoes into Grendel’s (Crispin Glover) cave and torments him. In a mad fury, Grendel breaks into the hall and kills many people. After being challenged by Hrothgar, Grendel runs off into the night. Back at his lair, Grendel is admonished by his unseen mother for attacking the humans and possibly inviting retribution. She calms down after Grendel tells her that he did not harm Hrothgar.

Meanwhile, Hrothgar closes Heorot and proclaims that he will give half of his kingdom in gold to any man who can defeat Grendel. Beowulf (Ray Winstone) and his men arrive by ship from Geatland and convince Hrothgar to reopen Heorot. Beowulf’s credibility is challenged by Unferth (John Malkovich), the King’s most trusted advisor. Beowulf proceeds to tell a tall tale of how he slew several sea serpents in a past adventure to convince the people of Heorot that he is capable of killing Grendel. Hrothgar offers Beowulf his Golden drinking horn, a trophy taken after a battle with the dragon Fáfnir, in the event that Grendel is destroyed.

Beowulf and the dragon fall to the shores far below. The dragon reverts to the golden man of Beowulf’s dream, whom Beowulf realizes is his son. Beowulf then dies in Wiglaf’s arms. The latter, still refusing to believe his friend is anything but a hero, finally listens to Beowulf’s confession.

Contact

  • Directors: Robert Zemeckis
  • Producers: Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey
  • Writers: Novel, Carl Sagan, Screen story, Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Screenplay, James V Hart, Michael Goldenberg
  • Genres: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, William Fichtner, John Hurt, Angela Bassett, David Morse

Dr. Arroway is a scientist for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. She and her colleagues listen to radio transmissions in hopes of finding signals sent by extraterrestrial life. Government scientist David Drumlin eventually pulls the funding from SETI. After eighteen months of searching, Ellie is able to gain funding from reclusive billionaire industrialist S.R. Hadden, which allows her to continue her studies at the Very Large Array in New Mexico.

Four years later, with Drumlin applying pressure to close SETI, Arroway finds a strong signal repeating a sequence of prime numbers, apparently emitting from the Vega star. This announcement causes both Drumlin and the National Security Council, led by National Security Advisor Michael Kitz, to attempt to take control of the facility. As Arroway, Drumlin and Kitz argue, the team at the VLA discover a video source buried in the signal: Adolf Hitler’s welcoming address at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Arroway and her team postulate that this would have been the first significantly-strong television signal to leave Earth’s atmosphere, which was then transmitted back from Vega 26 light years away.

The project is brought under tight security and its progress is followed fervently worldwide. President Bill Clinton and Drumlin give a television address to downplay the impact of the Hitler image, while Arroway learns that a third set of data was found in the signal; over 60,000 “pages” of what appear to be technical drawings. Government specialists are unsuccessful in attempting to decode the drawings, which is eventually decoded by Hadden. He explains that the pages are meant to be interpreted in three dimensions, which reveals a complex machine that which allows for one human occupant inside a pod to be dropped into three rapidly spinning rings.

Ellie considers these answers and falls unconscious, finding herself on the floor of the pod where she is being repeatedly called by the machine’s control team. She learns that from all external vantage points, she and the pod merely dropped straight through the Machine. Ellie insists that she was gone for approximately 18 hours, but her recording devices only show static. Kitz resigns as National Security Advisor to lead a Congressional committee to determine if the Machine was a fraud by Hadden, who had the resources to set up an elaborate hoax, but has since died. Ellie is accused of collaborating with Hadden; she asks them to accept her testimony on faith. Kitz and White House Chief of Staff Rachel Constantine together reflect on the fact that Ellie’s recording devices contained 18 hours of static. Ellie is given continued grant money for the SETI program at the Very Large Array.

What Lies Beneath

  • Directors: Robert Zemeckis
  • Producers: Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke
  • Writers: Sarah Kernochan, Clark Gregg
  • Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diana Scarwid

Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer) enters a new phase of her life after a serious car accident leaves gaps in her memory. She is married to the renowned scientist Dr. Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford). Shortly after arriving in a new lakeside house in Vermont that once belonged to Norman’s scientist father, her daughter Caitlin leaves home to go away to college. One day when Claire is working in the garden she hears loud sobbing coming from over the fence. It turns out to be her neighbor, Mary Feur (Miranda Otto). She seems terrified and Claire is very concerned, thinking that her husband is beating her. Norman tells her not to worry. Claire wakes in the middle of the night, and looks out of the window. She sees Mary’s husband Warren (James Remar) dragging what looks like a body bag out into the boot of his car. By the time Claire had woken Norman, there was nothing left to see.

The next day, Claire decides to investigate by taking a basket of flowers and wine to the house as a “Welcome Gift”. After nobody answers the door she walks round the side of the house and makes a startling discovery; a woman’s sandal with a dark stain on it… She collects the sandal, and returns to the front door to leave the basket there. Warren returns as she is leaving the basket, and Claire explains why she was there and asks where Mary is. Warren gives a vague answer which leaves Claire even more worried.

In the Near Future: It is Winter and Claire is seen placing a single red rose on the grave of Madison Elizabeth Frank, but not the grave of Norman.

The Polar Express

  • Directors: Robert Zemeckis
  • Producers: Robert Zemeckis, Gary Goetzman, Steve Starkey, William Teitler, Tom Hanks, Jack Rapke, Chris Van Allsburg
  • Writers: Novel, Chris Van Allsburg, Screenplay, Robert Zemeckis, William Broyles Jr
  • Genres: Animation, Adventure, Family, Fantasy
  • Actors: Tom Hanks, Leslie Harter Zemeckis, Eddie Deezen, Chantel Valdivieso, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, Steven Tyler, Michael Jeter

The Polar Express is a story of a young boy (Daryl Sabara) on Christmas Eve who is hoping for belief in the true spirit of Christmas. He suddenly hears some noise from downstairs and runs to investigate. Seeing a shadow of what appears to be Santa Claus, he soon discovers that it is his parents. He runs back to his room and looks through magazines and encyclopedias for confirmation of Santa Claus and the North Pole, but to no avail. Hearing his parents coming, he runs back to bed and pretends to be asleep while his parents whisper about how he had once stayed up late listening for Santa Claus. About an hour after they leave, a magic train called The Polar Express pulls up in front of his house. He is invited aboard by the train’s mysterious conductor (Tom Hanks) to journey to the North Pole. Though he initially hesitates, he boards the train after it starts to move.

On the train, the boy encounters a group of other children who are on their way to see Santa Claus, including a pretty young girl, a know-it-all and a lonely little boy. The boy also encounters a mysterious hobo (Tom Hanks), who lives on the top of the train, as well as the engineer and fireman (Michael Jeter). They must all overcome a variety of obstacles; at one point, a herd of caribou block the tracks. Later, the cotter pin holding the throttle together breaks. The train, now out of control and with the Hero Boy, Hero Girl Nona Gaye, and the Conductor standing on the front, then reaches “Glacier Gulch,” an area with steep downhill grades. The three must hold on tightly as the train speeds through Glacier Gulch and onto a frozen lake. The train tracks are frozen under the ice, and as a result, the Conductor must guide the engineer and the fireman towards the other side of the lake as the ice breaks up behind them

The children return to the train, and the conductor punches letters into each ticket. These letters spell some form of advice (such as “Learn,” “Lead,” or “Believe” for the Know-it-All, Hero Girl, and Hero Boy respectively.) As the train leaves, the Hero Boy discovers the pocket of his robe torn and the bell missing. He returns home, saddened by the loss of the bell, but is cheered when he sees that Santa had already arrived at Billy’s house. On Christmas morning, his sister finds a small present hidden behind the tree after all the others have been unwrapped. The boy opens the present and discovers that it is the bell, which Santa had found on the seat of his sleigh. When the boy rings the bell, both he and his sister marvel at the beautiful sound; but because their parents no longer believe in Santa Claus or Christmas, they do not hear it. The last line in the movie repeats the same last line from the book: “At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

Cast Away

  • Directors: Robert Zemeckis
  • Producers: Jack Rapke, Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, Tom Hanks
  • Writers: William Broyles Jr
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama
  • Actors: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt

Chuck Noland (Hanks) is a time-obsessed FedEx systems analyst, who travels worldwide resolving productivity problems at FedEx depots. He is in a long-term relationship with Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt), whom he lives with in Memphis. Although both want to get married, Chuck’s busy schedule causes problems. The couple’s Christmas with relatives is interrupted by Chuck being summoned to resolve a problem overseas.

While flying through a violent thunderstorm somewhere over the southern Pacific Ocean, apparently having flown off course, an incident occurs on Chuck’s aircraft which results in it crashing into the ocean. Saved by an inflatable life-raft, Chuck floats for some time in the storm before being washed up on an island.

It soon becomes clear that the island is uninhabited, and Chuck’s early attempts to make visual signals for any searching aircraft, and to escape the island in the remnants of his life raft are fruitless.

After several FedEx packages from the crashed plane wash up on the island, Chuck begins to open them, looking for items to use for his survival. He finds a number of potentially useful items but leaves one package, painted with a pair of wings, unopened.

During a failed attempt to make fire, Chuck receives a deep wound to his hand. In anger he throws several objects, including a Wilson volleyball from one of the FedEx packages. A short time later he draws a face in the bloody hand print on the ball, naming it “Wilson” and talking to it as if it were a person.

Chuck then travels to the address on his unopened package to deliver it. The house is empty so he leaves the package at the door and departs, stopping at a remote crossroads. A woman passing by in a truck explains where each road leads. As she drives away, Chuck stands at the crossroads, apparently trying to decide which direction to go. He then notices a pair of wings painted on the back of the woman’s truck: the same as those on the unopened parcel. The film ends with Chuck watching the departing truck with a faint smile.