The Woodsman Anchored by a carefully studied, thoroughly compelling performance by Kevin Bacon, this portrait of a recently paroled pedophile still at war with his old demons is so thoughtful and provocative that we cannot help but become engrossed. Directed and co-written (from a play by Steven Fechter) by recent NYU Film School graduate Nicole Kassell, it is neither a stern cautionary tale about the predators among us, nor a hand-wringing plea for sympathy. In tackling a touchy subject, the first-time filmmaker stirs us to examine our own fears and prejudices. For Bacon--who builds an ex-con's wall of wariness around his character, Walter, but gives us frequent glimpses into his torment--this is a dramatic triumph. For us, it's the harrowing vision of a divided soul. With Kyra Sedgwick as a hard-shelled co-worker who has an affair with Walter and rapper Mos Def as the suspicious Philadelphia police detective who badgers him. --Bill Gallo
White Noise Michael Keaton plays Jonathan Rivers, a widower whose late missus is reaching out from the Great Beyond, but there's nothing at all scary about White Noise, which goes bump in the night so often it's easy to mistake it for clumsy. An infomercial for something called Electronic Voice Phenomenon, which supposedly allows you to hear the dead through untuned radios and TV sets, this isn't terribly scary and doesn't make much sense either: Jonathan doesn't hear or see just dead people on his TV screen, but live people too, right before they meet their maker. The presence of Keaton allows the most forgiving filmgoer to view White Noise not as a supernatural thriller, but as a sort of comic-book movie to be taken lightly. There are odd allusions to Batman, and, like Bruce Willis' reluctant hero in Unbreakable, Jonathan discovers he has the power to rescue the doomed, rushing to car accidents and abandoned warehouses glimpsed on the monitors. Don't think this was the point, but whatever; it's nice to see Keaton, regardless. --Robert Wilonsky
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.