Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005): Advent Children is a sequel to the immensely popular Playstation video game Final Fantasy VII. This time, rather than make a game, the good people at Square-Enix have made a movie telling the story of what occurred two years after the events of that game. Final Fantasy VII is arguably the most popular and beloved game in the long running series and the ending to the game was one which caused a good deal of discussion and interpretation. The fact that this movie was made completely discredits my firmly held interpretation of what the ending really meant. Of course.
Two years later the world is recovering from Meteor and Cloud Strife (the hero) runs a delivery business but is emotionally isolated from his friends. There is a disease or a plague affecting many citizens called Geo-Stigma. Cloud is attacked on the road back home by some men who look suspiciously like the villain Sephiroth from the video game, except that Sephiroth is dead. They keep asking about "mother", who we know to be the cells of the alien Jenova. Shortly after, these men kidnap several of the children who are living with Cloud as part of an orphanage of sorts. As Cloud is the hero of the game and a legendary character, we know that he will seek to rescue the children as well as fight against whatever plot is brewing.
The movie is fairly good and it feels like the cinema scenes from the video games, but the animation is so far beyond what has been seen in any of the games. Visually, Advent Children is stunning. In terms of telling a story, the presentation is a little disjointed and feels like the drips and drabs we get during the game, but the movie has quite a few action sequences, references to the game (both in terms of music as well as characters) and we get to see all of the characters from Final Fantasy VII get involved. For fans of the game, this movie is a dream come true. I do not think Advent Children will work nearly as well for those who are not familiar with the game even though there are enough references to back story for the casual viewer to pick up some of the previous storylines. There is also a special feature on the first disc which is a 20 minute retrospective of the main storypoints of FFVII. All the same, this is a visual treat and as a fan of the Final Fantasy series, this is worth watching. Advent Children is the movie that Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within could have been.
Inside Man (2006): This Spike Lee joint has to be ranked as one of Lee's best movies. Inside Man is a tight heist caper. The movie stars Clive Owen as the leader of the thieves who have broken into the Manhattan Trust Bank with the "perfect" plan. He creates a hostage situation and seals off the bank. Denzel Washington is the police detective and hostage negotiator who has been called in to try to end the situation. Denzel is smooth and confident, but he is also on the bad side of the police administration because of some indiscretion in the past. Jodie Foster has a small role as somebody brought in by the owner of the bank to ensure that he is not embarrassed by some of the contents of the bank. The film has very little fluff and tightly plots its way forward to a resolution, though the viewer is unsure of what will be the result. I was riveted to the screen. Foster, Washington, and Owen are all on the top of their game and it is with this sort of small role that Foster really shines. Inside Man will be forgotten come awards time, but it is worth a rental and a second look.