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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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Shutter Island

Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo | R |



Martin Scorsese’s latest thriller starts out as an over-the-top melodrama about the mysterious disappearance of a female patient at a hospital for the criminally insane. But then a beautiful, freaky dream sequence featuring Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio), the U.S. marshal investigating the case, and his dead wife (Williams) turns the movie into something weirder, deeper and much more entertaining. (As one of the nurses aptly explains, normal isn’t a big part of anyone’s day at an insane asylum.) There’s much to enjoy here while trying to figure out Daniels’ ulterior motive for coming to the asylum, which sits menacingly on a craggy island off Massachusetts. You get bestselling author Dennis Lehane’s flair for pulpy storytelling (Mystic River; Gone, Baby, Gone) combined with Scorsese’s inspired casting and fascination with evil. There’s even a little Hitchcockian suspense thrown into the mix. (No worries, squeamish ones: It’s more disturbing and creepy than flat-out scary.) It’s not exactly the kind of island getaway that brightens the dark slush of winter, but it’s worth the trip.

The Ghost Writer

Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall | PG-13 |


It’s tough to top director Roman Polanski’s real-life drama—he finished this film under house arrest. The thriller is too long but offers some unpredictable twists, as a writer (McGregor) hired to finish the autobiography of a former British prime minister (Brosnan) discovers dangerous secrets. A fun bonus: Cattrall’s spot-on British accent.