By transplanting the classic haunted house scenario into space, Ridley Scott, together with screenwriters Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, produced a work of genuinely original cinematic sci-fi with Alien that, despite the passage of years and countless inferior imitations, remains shockingly fresh even after repeated viewing. Scott's legendary obsession with detail ensures that the setting is thoroughly conceived, while the Gothic production design and Jerry Goldsmith's wonderfully unsettling score produce a sense of disquiet from the outset: everything about the spaceship Nostromo--from Tupperware to toolboxes-seems oddly familiar yet disconcertingly ... well, alien.Nothing much to speak of happens for at least the first 30 minutes, and that in a way is the secret of the film's success: the audience has been nervously peering round every corner for so long that by the time the eponymous beast claims its first victim, the release of pent-up anxiety is all the more effective. Although Sigourney Weaver ultimately takes centre-stage, the ensemble cast is uniformly excellent. The remarkably low-tech effects still look good (better in many places than the CGI of the sequels), while the nightmarish quality of H.R. Giger's bio-mechanical creature and set design is enhanced by camerawork that tantalises by what it doesn't reveal.On the DVD: The director, audibly pausing to puff on his cigar at regular intervals, provides an insightful commentary which, in tandem with superior sound and picture, sheds light into some previously unexplored dark recesses of this much-analysed, much-discussed movie (why the crew eat muesli, for example, or where the "rain" in the engine room is coming from). Deleted scenes include the famous "cocoon" sequence, the completion of the creature's insect-like life-cycle for which cinema audiences had to wait until 1986 and James Cameron's Aliens. Isolated audio tracks, a picture gallery of production artwork and a "making of" documentary complete a highly attractive DVD package. --Mark Walker
Widely acknowledged as a true cult classic of modern American cinema, Heathers has captured the imaginations of troubled teenagers the world over with its acerbic satire of the sugar-coated high school movies of the 1980s... At Westerburg High School, an elite clique of snobby girls known as Heathers reign supreme. Smart and popular, Veronica (Winona Ryder, Stranger Things) is a reluctant member of the gang and disapproves of the other girls' cruel behaviour. When Veronica and her mysterious new boyfriend, J.D. (Christian Slater, True Romance), play a trick on the clique leader, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), and accidentally poison her, they make it appear a suicide. But it soon becomes clear to Veronica that J.D. is sociopath intent on vengefully killing the school s popular students. She races to stop J.D., clashing with the clique's new leader, Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), and leading to an explosive final confrontation with her troubled former lover. Directed by Michael Lehmann, Heathers pushed the teen comedy into dark and nightmarish territory and is distinguished by the career defining central performances of its stars Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. The film is presented here in an exclusive 30th Anniversary 4K restoration with a wealth of extra material, providing unprecedented insight into the making of this hilarious and shocking film. SPECIAL FEATURES: New restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative by Arrow Films High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation Original 1.0 mono audio and optional 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing Audio commentary by director Michael Lehmann, producer Denise Di Novi and writer Daniel Waters Newly filmed interview with director Michael Lehmann A newly filmed appreciation by the writer, actor and comedian John Ross Bowie (The Big Bang Theory) Pizzicato Croquet, composer David Newman and director Michael Lehmann discuss the music of Heathers How Very: The Art and Design of Heathers, production designer Jon Hutman, art director Kara Lindstrom and director Michael Lehmann discuss the look of Heathers Casting Westerberg High, casting director Julie Selzer discusses the casting process for Heathers Poor Little Heather, a new interview with actress Lisanne Falk Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads, an archival featurette with extensive cast and crew interviews providing an in-depth look at the making of Heathers Return to Westerberg High, an archival featurette providing further insight into the film s production Original trailers Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Robert Sammelin FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing by Bidisha, Anna Bogutskaya and an archival interview with cinematographer Francis Kenny
WorrickerSince September 2011 the public every day reads of encroachments on their liberty which are justified in the name of security. David Hare's trilogy ripped from the headlines focuses on the internal divisions and arguments which have been raging inside an increasingly controversial intelligence community. Page EightJohnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) is a long-serving MI5 officer. His boss and best friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon) dies suddenly leaving behind a contentious file whose explosive contents threaten the stability of the organisation. Meanwhile a seemingly chance encounter with Johnny's striking next-door neighbour and political activist Nancy Pierpan (Rachel Weisz) seems too good to be true. Johnny is forced to walk out of his job and then out of his identity to find the truth. Turks and CaicosJohnny Worricker (Bill Nighy) is hiding out from his work at MI5 on the tax-exile island paradise Turks and Caicos. Trouble comes knocking when an encounter with a CIA agent (Christopher Walken) forces him into the company of some dubious American businessmen. Claiming to be on the islands for a conference on the global financial crisis Worricker soon learns their shady activities extend far beyond luxury hotels.When one of them turns up dead it's their financial PR (Winona Ryder) who seems to know more than she's letting on. But will she help Johnny come to an understanding of what these men do and why they're here? As evidence linking them to Prime Minister Alec Beasley comes to light Worricker must act quickly if he is to survive. Salting the BattlefieldJohnny Worricker and Margot Tyrrell are now on the run together across Europe going from town to town in Germany. But Worricker knows his only chance of resolving his problems is to return home and confront his nemesis - the prime minister Alec Beasley. To do this he's going to have to bring to light some unsavoury facts about the prime minister's financial and business arrangements. But Worricker is haunted by the suspicion that he's not the only person out to undermine the prime minister. Special Features: Page Eight: Interviews with Cast and Crew Turks and Caicos: Making of Salting The Battlefield: Moving On making of
The flaws are easily forgiven in this beautiful version of Louisa May Alcott's novel. A stirring look at life in New England during the Civil War, Little Women is a triumph for all involved. We follow one family as they split into the world, ending up with the most independent, the outspoken Jo (Winona Ryder). This time around, the dramatics and conclusions fall into place a little too well, instead of finding life's little accidents along the way. Everyone now looks a bit too cute and oh, so nice. As the matron, Marmee, Susan Sarandon kicks the film into a modern tone, creating a movie alive with a great feminine sprit. Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire) has another showy role. The young ensemble cast cannot be faulted, with Ryder beginning the movie in a role akin to light comedy and crescendos to a triumphant end worthy of an Oscar. --Doug Thomas
All six films in the 'Alien' franchise. In Ridley Scott's 'Alien' (1979) the crew of the Nostromo starship are on their way back to Earth after completing a mission when they are diverted to a planetoid to investigate a cryptic message. While exploring an abandoned spacecraft on the planet, they come across a store of unhatched eggs. When one of the eggs releases a mysterious creature that leeches on to a crew member's face, the others bring him back on board to recover from the ordeal. Little do they know that they have also brought on board an alien lifeform that will kill anyone or anything that gets in its way. In James Cameron's sequel, 'Aliens' (1986), sole survivor from the Nostromo Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) awakens after 57 years in stasis, and with a team of Space Marines in tow she returns to the planetoid now named LV-426 to investigate the loss of contact with the terraforming colony in residence. In David Fincher's dark 'Alien 3' (1992), Ripley crash lands on an old prison planet used to house convicted murderers - but she's not alone. When Ripley discovers her body is being used to carry an alien queen she faces a difficult decision to save humanity and sacrifice herself. In Jean-Pierre Jeunet's 'Alien Resurrection' (1997), 200 years after Ripley died bearing the alien queen, a group of scientists successfully produce clones of both her and the alien. The United States Military, hoping to use the queen to breed aliens to study, fail to keep the clones locked up and they escape. It is not long before the new Ripley is forced to team up with a gang of smugglers to repel the alien clones that are set on destroying life on Earth. In 'Prometheus' (2012) Scott returns to direct a new cast of Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce. After finding fragments of alien DNA, a team of scientists known as The Company travel into space aboard the state-of-the-art Prometheus spacecraft to investigate the origins of human life on Earth. Their journey takes them into the darkest corners of the universe - but, to their horror, their inquisitive nature ends up posing a threat to the future existence of humankind. The scientists now find themselves tested to their mental and physical limits as they fight a desperate battle to preserve the future of the human race. Finally, in 'Alien: Covenant' (2017), set as a sequel to 'Prometheus' (2012), the crew of the Covenant discover a planet they believe to be paradise, but when they actually start to investigate they find a dark and dangerous world inhabited by a colony of creatures who are less than pleased to see the.
Before making Batman, director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton teamed up for this popular black comedy about a young couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) whose premature death leads them to a series of wildly bizarre afterlife exploits. As ghosts in their own New England home, they're faced with the challenge of scaring off the pretentious new owners (Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones), whose daughter (Winona Ryder) has an affinity for all things morbid. Keaton plays the mischievous Beetlejuice, a freelance "bio-exorcist" who's got an evil agenda behind his plot to help the young undead newlyweds. The film is a perfect vehicle for Burton's visual style and twisted imagination, with clever ideas and gags packed into every scene. Beetlejuice is also a showcase for Keaton, who tackles his title role with maniacal relish and a dark edge of menace.--Jeff Shannon
Titles Comprise: Alien: The terror begins when the crew of the spaceship Nostromo investigates a transmission from a desolate planet and makes a horrifying discovery a life form that breeds within a human host. Now the crew must fight not only for its own survival but for the survival of all mankind. Aliens: Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley the only survivor from mankind's first encounter with the monstrous Alien. Her account of the Alien and the fate of her crew are received with skepticism until the mysterious disappearance of colonists on LV-426 lead her to join a team of high-tech colonial marines sent in to investigate... Alien 3: Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the lone survivor when her crippled spaceship crash lands on Fiorina 161 a bleak wasteland inhabited by former inmates of the planet's maximum security prison. Ripley's fears that an Alien was aboard her craft are confirmed when the mutilated bodies of ex-cons begin to mount. Without weapons or modern technology of any kind Ripley must lead the men into battle against the terrifying creature. And soon she discovers a horrifying fact about her link with the Alien a realisation that may compel Ripley to try destroying not only the horrific creature but herself as well. Alien Resurrection: Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) died fighting the perfect predator. Two hundred years and eight horrific experiments later she's back. A group of scientists have cloned her along with the alien queen inside her hoping to breed the ultimate weapon. But the resurrected Ripley is full of surprises for her creators as are the aliens. And soon a lot more than all hell breaks loose! To combat the creatures Ripley must team up with a band of smugglers including a mechanic named Call (Winona Ryder) who holds more than a few surprises of her own.
Edward Scissorhands achieves the nearly impossible feat of capturing the delicate flavour of a fable or fairy tale in a live-action movie. The story follows a young man named Edward (Johnny Depp), who was created by an inventor (Vincent Price, in one of his last roles) who died before he could give the poor creature a pair of human hands. Edward lives alone in a ruined Gothic castle that just happens to be perched above a pastel-coloured suburb inhabited by breadwinning husbands and frustrated housewives straight out of the 1950s. One day, Peg (Dianne Wiest), the local Avon lady, comes calling. Finding Edward alone, she kindly invites him to come home with her, where she hopes to help him with his pasty complexion and those nasty nicks he's given himself with his razor-sharp fingers. Soon Edward's skill with topiary sculpture and hair design make him popular in the neighbourhood--but the mood turns just as swiftly against the outsider when he starts to feel his own desires, particularly for Peg's daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Most of director Tim Burton's movies (such as Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice and Batman) are visual spectacles with elements of fantasy but Edward Scissorhands is more tender and personal than the others. Edward's wild black hair is much like Burton's, suggesting that the character represents the director's own feelings of estrangement and co-option. Johnny Depp, making his first successful leap from TV to film, captures Edward's child-like vulnerability even while his physical posture evokes horror icons like the vampire in Nosferatu and the sleepwalker in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Classic horror films, at their heart, feel a deep sympathy for the monsters they portray; simply and affectingly, Edward Scissorhands lays that heart bare. --Bret Fetzer On the DVD: Tim Burton is famed for his visual style not his ability as a raconteur, so it's no surprise to find that his directorial commentary is a little sparse. When he does open up it is to confirm that Edward Scissorhands remains his most personal and deeply felt project. The second audio commentary is by composer and regular Burton collaborator Danny Elfman, whose enchanting, balletic score gets an isolated music track all to itself with his remarks in-between cues. Again, for Elfman this movie remains one of his most cherished works, and it is a real musical treat to hear the entire score uninterrupted by dialogue and sound effects but illuminated by Elfman's lucid interstitial remarks. Also on the disc are some brief interview clips, a "making of" featurette and a gallery of conceptual artwork. The anamorphic widescreen print looks simply gorgeous. --Mark Walker
Martin Scorsese does not sound like the logical choice to direct The Age of Innocence, an adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel about the manners and morals in New York society in the 1870s. But these are mean streets, too, and the psychological violence inflicted between characters is at least as damaging as the physical violence perpetrated by Scorsese's usual gangsters. At the centre of the tale is Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), a somewhat diffident young man engaged to marry the very respectable May Welland (Winona Ryder). But Archer is distracted by May's cousin, the Countess Olenska (a radiant Michelle Pfeiffer), who has recently returned from Europe. As a married woman seeking a divorce, the Countess is an embarrassment to all of New York society. But Archer is fascinated by her quick intelligence and worldly ways. Scorsese closely observes the tiny details of this world and this impossible situation; this is a film in which the shift of someone's eyes can be as significant as the firing of a gun. The director's sense of colour has never been keener, and his work with the actors is subtle. --Robert Horton, Amazon.com
Former drug enforcement agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham: The Expendables) is a family man who moves off the grid with his daughter to a seemingly quiet bayou backwater to escape his troubled past. However Broker's world soon becomes anything but quiet once he discovers that an underbelly of drugs and violence riddles the small town. Soon a sociopathic methamphetamine kingpin Gator Bodine (James Franco: Spiderman) puts Broker and his daughter in harm's way forcing Broker back into action in order to save his family and the town. Supported by an all-star cast including Winona Ryder (The Iceman Black Swan) Kate Bosworth (Movie 43 Superman Returns) and Rachelle Lefevre (White House Down The Twilight Saga) Homefront is adapted for the screen by the legendary Sylvester Stallone (The Expendables Rambo) and is the directed by Gary Fleder.
Finally on Blu-ray the ultimate collection featuring all four Alien films and every special feature ever released! Titles Comprise: Alien: The terror begins when the crew of the spaceship Nostromo investigates a transmission from a desolate planet and makes a horrifying discovery a life form that breeds within a human host. Now the crew must fight not only for its own survival but for the survival of all mankind. Aliens: Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley the only survivor from mankind's first encounter with the monstrous Alien. Her account of the Alien and the fate of her crew are received with skepticism until the mysterious disappearance of colonists on LV-426 lead her to join a team of high-tech colonial marines sent in to investigate... Alien 3: Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the lone survivor when her crippled spaceship crash lands on Fiorina 161 a bleak wasteland inhabited by former inmates of the planet's maximum security prison. Ripley's fears that an Alien was aboard her craft are confirmed when the mutilated bodies of ex-cons begin to mount. Without weapons or modern technology of any kind Ripley must lead the men into battle against the terrifying creature. And soon she discovers a horrifying fact about her link with the Alien a realisation that may compel Ripley to try destroying not only the horrific creature but herself as well. Alien Resurrection: Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) died fighting the perfect predator. Two hundred years and eight horrific experiments later she's back. A group of scientists have cloned her along with the alien queen inside her hoping to breed the ultimate weapon. But the resurrected Ripley is full of surprises for her creators as are the aliens. And soon a lot more than all hell breaks loose! To combat the creatures Ripley must team up with a band of smugglers including a mechanic named Call (Winona Ryder) who holds more than a few surprises of her own.
Richard Benjamin's off-beat 1990 comedy Mermaids found Cher at the peak of her big-screen form. She plays Mrs Flax to the manner born. The eccentric mother feeds her two daughters on hors d'oeuvres and sticks a pin in the map to decide the family's next destination when her love affairs have run their course. When they reach New England, however, events--and an unlikely but amiable suitor (Bob Hoskins)--interrupt her self-centred progress and bring the facts of life home to roost with a vengeance. It's a well-made comedy with good performances from Cher and Hoskins, although neither of them is particularly stretched. There is also enough tension in the relationship between Mrs Flax and her eldest child to make it poignant as well as funny. As the Flax daughters, Winona Ryder (neurotic, unworldly Charlotte) and Christina Ricci (swimming-mad "fishhead") show plenty of the promise which has since made them two of America's most appealing film actresses. Stuffed with authentic 1960s detail, Mermaids is actually a modern "woman's picture" which affirms the often precarious bonds of family relationships. On the DVD: Presented in widescreen format, optimised for high-resolution television sets, Mermaids is a vibrant visual treat for anybody with an affection for 1960s kitsch and fashion. The picture quality is superb and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sharp; some cracking dialogue has to share the sound waves with thumping hits of the day and, over the final credits, Cher's global smash hit rendering of "It's in His Kiss". But apart from a multilingual choice of soundtracks and subtitles and the original theatrical trailer, there are no extras. --Piers Ford
The Salem witch hunts are given a new and nasty perspective when a vengeful teenage girl uses superstition and repression to her advantage, creating a killing machine that becomes a force unto itself. Pulsating with seductive energy, this provocative drama is as visually arresting as it is intellectually engrossing. Arthur Miller based his classic 1953 play on the actual Salem witch trials of 1692, creating what has since become a durable fixture of school drama courses. It may look like a historical drama but Miller also meant the work as a parable for the misery created by the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings of the 1950s. This searing version of his drama delves into matters of conscience with concise accuracy and emotional honesty. Three passionate cheers for Miller, director Nicholas Hytner and costars Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. --Rochelle O'Gorman
Martin Scorsese's lavish period piece, an achingly beautiful adaptation of the classic novel. No filmmaker captures the grandeur and energy of New York like Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas). With this sumptuous romance, he meticulously adapted the work of another great New York artist, Edith Wharton, bringing to life her tragic novel of the cloistered world of Gilded Age Manhattan. The Age of Innocence tells the story of Newland Archer (My Beautiful Laundrette's Daniel DayLewis), whose engagement to an innocent socialite (Heathers' Winona Ryder) binds him to the codes and rituals of his upbringing. But when her cousin (Dangerous Liaisons' Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives in town on a wave of scandal after separating from her husband, she ignites passions in Newland he never knew existed. Swelling with exquisite period detail, this film is an alternately heartbreaking and satirical look at the brutality of oldworld America. Features: New, restored 4K digital transfer, approved by director Martin Scorsese, with 5.1 surround DTSHD New interviews with Scorsese, coscreenwriter Jay Cocks, production designer Dante Ferretti, and costume designer Gabriella Pescucci Innocence and Experience, a 1993 documentary on the making of the film Trailer PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O'Brien
Titles Comprise:Alien: The terror begins when the crew of the spaceship Nostromo investigates a transmission from a desolate planet and makes a horrifying discovery, a life form that breeds within a human host. Now the crew must fight not only for its own survival, but for the survival of all mankind.Aliens: Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley, the only survivor from mankind's first encounter with the monstrous Alien. Her account of the Alien and the fate of her crew are received with skepticism, until the mysterious disappearance of colonists on LV-426 lead her to join a team of high-tech colonial marines sent in to investigate...Alien 3: Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the lone survivor when her crippled spaceship crash lands on Fiorina 161, a bleak wasteland inhabited by former inmates of the planet's maximum security prison. Ripley's fears that an Alien was aboard her craft are confirmed when the mutilated bodies of ex-cons begin to mount. Without weapons or modern technology of any kind, Ripley must lead the men into battle against the terrifying creature. And soon she discovers a horrifying fact about her link with the Alien, a realisation that may compel Ripley to try destroying not only the horrific creature, but herself as well.Alien Resurrection: Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) died fighting the perfect predator. Two hundred years and eight horrific experiments later, she's back. A group of scientists have cloned her, along with the alien queen inside her, hoping to breed the ultimate weapon. But the resurrected Ripley is full of surprises for her creators, as are the aliens. And soon, a lot more than all hell breaks loose! To combat the creatures, Ripley must team up with a band of smugglers, including a mechanic named Call (Winona Ryder), who holds more than a few surprises of her own.
Tea With Mussolini (Dir. Franco Zeffirelli 1999): Florence 1934. A diverse group of cultured ladies meet for tea each afternoon: Lady Hester Random widow of the British Ambassador to Italy Arabella an artist and singer Georgie the exuberant American archaeologist and the brash and uninhibited Elsa. One of their fold Mary becomes surrogate mother to a young boy Luca and he is soon virtually adopted and brought up by the group of ladies. But the shifting political climate begins to have serious consequences for this unconventional community and the maturing Luca must face up to a personal challenge of independence. How To Make An american Quilt (Dir. Jocelyn Moorhouse 1995): Berkeley graduate student Finn (Winona Ryder) is spending the summer at the home of her sparring grandmother and great aunt (Oscar-winners Ellen Burstyn & Anne Bancroft). Their house is a quiet haven where Finn intends to finish her latest thesis and think over a marriage proposal. But when she meets sexy smoldering Leon things begin to get complicated. As she wrestles with her decision the women in her grandmother's quilting bee confide to her the stories of the loves that shaped their own lives. ""How to Make an American Quilt"" brings unbridled passion true love betrayal joy and heartbreak vividly to life in a touchingly funny cinematic tapestry that celebrates finding your way and following your heart.
From Disney and creative genius Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland, The Nightmare Before Christmas) comes the hilarious and offbeat Frankenweenie, a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor hanesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life - with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor's fellow students, teachers and the entire town learn that getting a new leash on life can be monstrous. Complete with electrifying bonus features, Frankenweenie is alive with enchanting fun for the whole family. Special Features: Original Short Captain Sparky vs The Flying Saucers Miniatures in Motion: Bringing Frankenweenie to Life Frankenweenie Touring Exhibit Original Live Action Frankenweenie Short Plain White T's Pet Semetary Music Video
With dizzying cinematic tricks and astonishing performances, Francis Coppola's 1992 version of the oft-filmed Dracula story is one of the most exuberant, extravagant films of the 1990s. Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder, as the Count and Mina Murray, are quite a pair of star-crossed lovers. She's betrothed to another man; he can't kick the habit of feeding off the living. Anthony Hopkins plays Van Helsing, the vampire slayer, with tongue firmly in cheek. Tom Waits is great fun as Renfield, the hapless slave of Dracula who craves the blood of insects and cats. Sadie Frost is a sexy Lucy Westenra. And poor Keanu Reeves, as Jonathan Harker, has the misfortune to be seduced by Dracula's three half-naked wives. There's a little bit of everything in this version of Dracula: gore, high-speed horseback chases, passion and longing.
Feverish worlds such as espionage and warfare have nothing on the hothouse realm of ballet, as director Darren Aronofsky makes clear in Black Swan, his over-the-top delve into a particularly fraught production of Swan Lake. At the very moment hard-working ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) lands the plum role of the White Swan, her company director (Vincent Cassel) informs her that she'll also play the Black Swan--and while Nina's precise, almost virginal technique will serve her well in the former role, the latter will require a looser, lustier attack. The strain of reaching within herself for these feelings, along with nattering comments from her mother (Barbara Hershey) and the perceived rivalry from a new dancer (Mila Kunis), are enough to make anybody crack and tracing out the fault lines of Nina's breakdown is right in Aronofsky's wheelhouse. Those cracks are broad indeed, as Nina's psychological instability is telegraphed with blunt-force emphasis in this neurotic roller-coaster ride. The characters are stick figures--literally, in the case of the dancers, but also as single-note stereotypes in the horror show: witchy bad mummy, sexually intimidating male boss, wacko diva (Winona Ryder, as the prima ballerina Nina is replacing). Yet the film does work up some crazed momentum (and undeniably earned its share of critical raves), and the final sequence is one juicy curtain-dropper. A good part of the reason for this is the superbly all-or-nothing performance by Natalie Portman, who packs an enormous amount of ferocity into her small body. Kudos, too, to Tchaikovsky's incredibly durable music, which has meshed well with psychological horror at least since being excerpted for the memorably moody opening credits of the 1931 Dracula, another pirouette through the dark side. --Robert Horton
Nina (Portman) is a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother Erica (Hershey) who exerts a suffocating control over her. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side - a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.
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