The Girlfriend Experience

The Girlfriend Experience
Steven Soderbergh makes two kinds of movies -- the Hollywood kind and the indie kind. Though let's be straight here: Even Soderbergh's indie films are essentially Hollywood. There's no risk involved with them from a financial perspective, and from the creative side they continue to lend the filmmaker the artsy street cred that allows him to go off and make big fluff films like Ocean's Whatever with impunity.

The Girlfriend Experience comes from the indie side of Soderbergh, a low-budget, quickly-made digital picture starring a cast of non-movie stars (though, in this case, not necessarily non-stars, depending on your knowledge of porn). It's far more enigmatic and challenging than any wide release multiplex picture you'll see these days, but does that automatically mean that it's better than those Hollywood types of movies?

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Dark Streets

Dark Streets
A poetic, rambunctious film that shows no matter how much we see, we never see, and no matter how much things change, the more they stay the same

Breakthrough director Rachel Samuels (“Suicide Club”) teams up with a Broadway A-list choreographer (Keith Young---“Rent”) and composer / music director George Acogny (“Blood Diamond,” “Rabbit Proof Fence,” “The Bone Collector”) to produce a very sweet modern-day musical film noir. The film dances around the mystery thriller genre, eventually poking fun at anybody who thinks there is a why or a wherefore to this story. The plot is as vague as the fuzzy center-focus lensing by cinematographer Sharone Meir.

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Never Back Down

Never Back Down
A violent spectacle sport film of the male persuasion, Never Back Down blends faux-relatable sensitivity with extreme violence, resulting a badly paced formula film. This one’s all about the boys. Edited like a music video (lots, lots of montage), Never Back Down has a heart in there somewhere but it’s buried under so many layers of dumbness it’s difficult to get emotionally involved in the film. The plot concerns an angry young man named Jake Tyler (Sean Faris), who has moved to Orlando, Florida from Iowa when the film begins.

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Woody Allen fans were thrilled when his 2005 feature, Match Point, signaled a return to form for the respected director. That, as much as anything, fueled anticipation for Scoop. There were reasons for optimism. The film, like its predecessor, is set in England. Also, like Match Point, the star is Scarlett Johansson. Alas, Scoop proves to be a disappointment - a return to the uninspired pre-Match Point era that nearly choked Allen's career. A blend of lackluster comedy and lazy plotting, the film feels a lot like bad Hitchcock.

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21 is a perfect example of how something that's "based" on a true story can nevertheless exist mainly in the realm of fiction. While it's true that the source material for the movie, Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down the House relates events that actually happened, screenwriters Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb have fictionalized the entire story, leaving intact only the central idea that a group of MIT students devised a card-counting scheme that allowed them to fleece the Vegas casinos. And, while I'm firm believer in the adage "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, " 21 doesn't spin a good enough yarn to justify all the changes. In fact, when one character indicates to another that he started out smart then got sloppy and stupid, he might have been referring to the script.

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Boys Are Back

Boys Are Back
It is said that films are not made about fully functional families because their stories are inherently uninteresting. The Boys Are Back shows that dysfunction doesn't necessarily equate to compelling. There's nothing terribly wrong with this leisurely paced chronicle of a single father's struggles parenting his two sons, but there's nothing terribly right with it, either. It's well-acted, competently directed, and features some beautiful cinematography (Greig Fraser provides breathtaking shots, especially one of tall grass being prompted by a strong breeze), but the story is ordinary and the emotional involvement is limited. It is often said that melodrama can ruin a motion picture, but that comment typically refers to an excess. The Boys Are Back could benefit from an injection of a little. This is the kind of movie that works best when one relates to it on a primal level more than on a purely intellectual one. Director Scott Hicks, who showed an uncanny ability to walk the line between too much and too little melodrama in Shine, is arguably too reticent in his treatment of this father/sons story.

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Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo
The more things change, the more they stay the same. As we enter the summer of 2003, Walt Disney Pictures reigns supreme as the distributor of the best animated fare. Yet, less than a dozen years after Beauty and the Beast became the first (and thus far only) animated film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, Disney's in-house animated division has degraded to the point where it's a pale shadow of its former self. However, by acquiring the exclusive North American distribution rights for the films of Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki and by entering into a partnership with Pixar Films, Disney has managed to maintain its position atop the mountain, despite furious challenges from Dreamworks and Fox. Without either of those deals – especially the Pixar one – Disney's once unassailable position might have been lost.

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A sample of questions that floated through this reviewer's mind while watching RV... Is the name "Big Rolling Turd" supposed to apply to the RV or the movie? Where's Chevy Chase when you need him? And, considering all the movies not being shown to critics this year, why did the studio choose this one to subject us to?

Have you ever been at a party where a guy starts telling a long-winded, unremarkable story? He thinks it's so hilarious that he guffaws his way through it. The problem is, he's the only one who thinks it's funny. One or two moments might be worth a chuckle, but the thing as a whole is a bore. You want nothing more than to find a reason to get away from this guy and look for someone - anyone - else to mingle with. RV is that story, and Barry Sonnenfeld is the storyteller.

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Mission to Mars

Mission to Mars
Forget The Bonfire of the Vanities. With Mission to Mars, director Brian De Palma has reached a new nadir. Easily the worst movie to date of 2000 (although the year is still young...), Mission to Mars beats out such worthy contenders as Supernova, Eye of the Beholder, and Isn't She Great. Ineptly directed, badly acted, and scripted with an eye towards stupidity and incoherence, the film is worthwhile only to those who are in desperate need of a nap. And, as is often the case when a big budget, high profile motion picture self-destructs, this one does so in spectacular fashion. Sifting through the rubble, the only salvagable element is Ennio Morricone's score - music that, while not among the composer's top work, is infinitely better than anything else in this misbegotten movie.

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eXistenZ, the latest from iconoclastic director David Cronenberg (Crash, Dead Ringers, The Fly), looks at the dangers of virtual reality. The movie seems to have been designed as a cautionary tale, and, as such, contains elements of pointed satire. Unfortunately, the production as a whole has a disjointed feel, and the flaw is compounded by several ill-advised casting decisions, a meandering middle act, and an ending that cheats the audience by employing the kind of plot twist that just about anyone can see coming from a mile away. Because of the potential of the idea and Cronenberg's reputation as a film maker, it's a real disappointment to watch eXistenZ fall apart the way it does.

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Once Upon a Time in China II

Once Upon a Time in China II
Schizophrenic and confused, Once Upon A Time In China none the less was one of the most succesful HK films ever and gave rise to a sequel. Fortunately, this sequel was all of one piece - a sustained drama where the fights take a while to get to, but one never sits in bored anticipation. Expertly acted and made, Once Upon A Time In China II is far less oblique than its predecessor, though far more explicit politically.

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The Machine Girl

The Machine Girl
Ami Hyūga was an average high school girl, trying to lead a normal life but her world came crashing down when her brother Yu and his friend Takeshi Sugihara were killed by bullies led by Sho Kimura. As Ami tracks down Sho, she is surprised to discover the bullies' association with a sinister ninja yakuza family. When she goes after her revenge, she soon finds herself in over her head with her left arm lost as a result. Barely surviving, Ami escapes and seeks out shelter from Takeshi's parents Suguru and Miki Sugihara, two kindly garage mechanics who fit her with a high-powered machine gun prosthetic. With Miki's use of chainsaw, Ami proceeds on a killing spree against the murderers of their loved ones.

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The Tailor of Panama

The Tailor of Panama
Andy Osnard (Pierce Brosnan) is an MI6 spy exiled to Panama after having an affair with an ambassador’s mistress. He wants to uncover something big that will get him back into London’s good graces. Believing Panama to still be corrupt after General Noriega’s reign, and as the Americans have now given the Panama Canal back to Panama, Osnard concludes that if he can find out where the true balance of power surrounding the canal is, London will want him back.

His informant is a tailor, Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), who has a few secrets of his own. Harry's wife, Louisa (Jamie Lee Curtis) is the assistant to the canal's director. Harry is in need of money and doesn’t have the business sense to ask his customers for the money to pay for their suits. Osnard knows that Harry has been lying about his background. He persuades the tailor to spy on his own wife to find out what the President plans on doing with the canal. Pendel agrees and begins spinning stories to keep the money from Osnard flowing.

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Kicking the Dog

Kicking the Dog
Remember that last great summer you had with your friends? The summer you hoped would never end. Kicking The Dog is the story of that summer - a story about real life. Yes, the characters need to make life-changing decisions, but theyre also partying, poking boobs, searching the fridge for emergency lubricants, telling stories about sharing condoms and enjoying other distractions that make spending time with old friends something so memorable youll never find it anywhere else in life - no matter who you meet. Satchem and Julie must decide whether they should pursue their own personal dreams, or stay together, all while telling stories about nipples and wieners. Matt can and will hook up with any girl that crosses his path, including the girl of his brother Robbies dreams. The sexually frustrated Josh finds himself working at the local porn shop while dating the former slut turned good-girl Jen. Soon his interest in fetishes conflicts with her new found morals, leading to some interesting and confusing moments. High schoolers Robbie, Ronald, The Chubby Kid are doing their best to meet girls and decide the big party needs a theme - No-Panties Party. They soon realize the best times are always with your oldest friends and the ones you love the most.

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I Love Karditsa

I Love Karditsa
A leading Greek scholar in the early 70, New York, the first human clones, the Greek Greg Kania, from Karditsa, making Mike Kania. In America in the 21st century, Mike stopped one night for cigarettes and falls victim to theft. Having lost 30,000,000, is faced with the Mafia. To survive, we must go in Karditsa and change places with the clone. Gregory, a typical Greek province, is embroiled in a number of erotic intrigue and look how much money to give free course work. A sexy blonde with a big check is the perfect bait ...

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An armored car guards elaborate plan for revenge is threatened by his relationship with an old friend -- a brilliant and unpredictable television preacher.

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