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2004, Sony Repertory, 126 min, Japan, Dir: Katsuhiro Ôtomo

Writer-director Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s follow up to AKIRA is just as brilliantly visualized as that earlier anime classic. In mid-19th-century England, boy inventor James Ray Steam receives a mysterious device from his grandfather with instructions to guard it carefully. When operatives from the O'Hara Foundation arrive to steal it, it becomes clear why: The “steam ball” can be used as a power source for highly destructive weapons. Again dealing with themes of science and militarism, Ôtomo has created a rip-roaring adventure that’s as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. In Japanese with English subtitles.

2002, Miramax Films, 123 min, USA, Canada, Mexico, Dir: Julie Taymor

This biopic of Mexican surrealist artist Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) is a beautiful work of art in itself. Channeling the pain of a crippling injury and her tempestuous marriage to famed muralist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) into her work, Kahlo struggled for recognition but only received it after her death; today her portraits are among the most valuable ever painted in Latin America. With Geoffrey Rush as Leon Trotsky. Production designer Felipe Fernandez del Paso was nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant and memorable work on the film.

2004, Sony Pictures, 127 min, USA, Dir: Sam Raimi

The reluctant webslinger returns in this smash sequel! Two years on, the red-and-blue costume is weighing heavily on Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire). Along with other personal problems, the love of his life, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), is about to marry somebody else, and it seems that no issue of The Daily Bugle newspaper is complete without an attack on Spider-Man. But when a laboratory mishap transforms a scientist into the tentacled menace Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), will the danger be enough to pull Parker and his arachnid alter ego back into the game? This second installment in the Spider-Man film saga was an even bigger hit at the box office and with the critics, and earned a well-deserved Oscar for visual effects. With James Franco.

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