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Alliance Films' June '09 Releases

Columbus Day (June 29/09)

Charles Burmeister feature-length debut, Columbus Day follows career criminal John Cologne (Val Kilmer) as he pulls off the heist of his life and subsequently hides out within Los Angeles' Echo Park district. There, John attempts to secure a buyer for his highly illicit (and extremely valuable) merchandise while also reaching out to those closest to him - including his estranged daughter (Ashley Johnson's Alana), his sympathetic ex-wife (Marg Helgenberger's Alice), and his not-so-sympathetic girlfriend (Ivana Milicevic's Cheryl). There's little doubt that Burmeister's ongoing efforts at luring the viewer into the pared-down proceedings fall uniformly flat, as the filmmaker's inability to transform the Kilmer's John Cologne into a figure worth rooting for ensures that the plotless atmosphere becomes oppressive almost immediately. It subsequently goes without saying that John's interactions with the movie's various supporting characters - including a precocious young boy (Bobb'e J. Thompson's Antoine) and an irritable fence (Wilmer Valderrama's Max) - are hardly as fascinating as Burmeister clearly wants/needs them to be, yet, to be fair, John's periodic phone calls to his ex-wife ultimately manage to make a mild emotional impact thanks primarily to the palpable chemistry between Kilmer and Helgenberger. And although the stakes couldn't possibly be higher for Kilmer's laid-back character, Burmeister proves unable to infuse Columbus Day with even a hint of suspense or tension - thus cementing the film's place as a disappointing misfire of not-quite-epic proportions.

out of

Stone of Destiny (June 30/09)

Stone of Destiny tells the true story of four Scottish students - Charlie Cox's Ian Hamilton, Kate Mara's Kay Matheson, Ciaron Kelly's Alan Stuart, and Stephen McCole's Gavin Vernon - who conspire to steal back their country's so-called "Stone of Destiny" from London's Westminster Abbey, with the myriad obstacles that ensue forcing the foursome to make several last-minute changes to their poorly-conceived plans. Filmmaker Charles Martin Smith has infused Stone of Destiny with an unapologetically old-fashioned atmosphere that proves instrumental in initially drawing the viewer into the proceedings, as the admittedly irresistible premise is executed with as shamelessly manipulative a hand as one could envision (which is, given the nature of the material, not necessarily a bad thing). The effortlessly affable vibe is perpetuated by an almost uniformly appealing cast, with Cox's likeable work as the movie's hero supported by an impressive roster of periphery players (including Robert Carlyle, Peter Mullan, and Brenda Fricker). It's only as the film reaches its comparatively uneventful midsection that one's interest begins to dwindle, as Smith bogs the storyline down with a whole host of complications that seem to have been included merely to pad out the running time. The lack of momentum that follows ultimately ensures that the finale isn't quite as rousing as one imagines it's meant to be, with the end result a family-friendly endeavor that just might hold more appeal for those viewers possessing an inherent interest in the subject matter.

out of

About the DVDs: Alliance Films presents both titles with anamorphically-enhanced transfers, and although Columbus Day comes up short in terms of extras, Stone of Destiny boasts a commentary track by writer/director Charles Martin Smith and a behind-the-scenes featurette. It's also worth noting that neither disc features subtitles of any kind, despite claims otherwise from the packaging of both DVDs.
© David Nusair