Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex
Based on the DC Comics gunslinger, Jonah Hex follows the eponymous scar-faced bounty hunter (Josh Brolin) as he is enlisted by President Ulysses S. Grant (Aidan Quinn) and Lt. Grass (Will Arnett) to track down the terrorist Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), a former Confederate officer hellbent on destroying the U.S. government. Hex is already out for revenge against Turnbull for slaying his wife and child and leaving his face grotesquely disfigured. Now he can kick his ass for America, too!

Jonah Hex could have made for a hell of a movie if done well, but instead it turned out to be one hell of a mess. Its notorious reshoots aside, the film's clearly had a tomahawk taken to it in the cutting room resulting in a movie that, at a mere 81 minutes, is the epitome of barebones. This is a movie that apparently lacked a uniform vision from its inception of what it should be tonally. It's part spaghetti western, part supernatural tale, part action film, part black comedy and doesn't quite work as any of them.

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Crank High Voltage

Crank High Voltage
"He's strong to the finish, 'cause he eats his spinach…"

Usually the above jingle would culminate, naturally, with: "He's Popeye the sailor man!" But it comes to mind when discussing the highly entertaining Crank High Voltage not only because of the film's overtly cartoonish approach, but also for its main character's constant reliance on an external energy source in order to get the job done. Of course, whereas our favorite cockeyed sailor only needed a can of green vegetables in order to pummel Bluto, High Voltage's Chev Chelios requires something a bit more modern -- namely electricity, and lots of it.

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The Poughkeepsie tapes

The Poughkeepsie tapes
Shot in a strict documentary style, The Poughkeepsie Tapes recounts the story of the Water Street Butcher, a serial killer who terrorized Poughkeepsie, NY for over ten years starting in the early 90s. Eventually the butcher made a minor slip-up and several battalions of SWAT came calling, but he was already long gone when they arrived. Instead, what they found in his abandoned house was an enormous, meticulously cataloged library of VHS tapes in which he had documented his entire career in murdering. The Poughkeepsie Tapes winds its way through the killer's story by giving us interviews with cops, FBI agents and the friends and family members of the victims, and also includes extended clips from the actual video library, so we can see exactly what happened to the victims, not just leave it to imagination. Needless to say, this is all bullcrap. The Poughkeepsie Tapes is the new Blair Witch, a carefully constructed piece of faux realism -- the longer it goes on, the more obvious it becomes, but I'm happy to say that doesn't detract from the fun.

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Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning
It's not a bad idea for an indie film: Two sisters, still dealing as adults with the aftermath of their mother's suicide when they were children, are stuck in dead-end jobs. Then one of them gets the idea to stop cleaning rich people's houses for a living, and to start a business cleaning up crime scenes instead. That's the basic idea behind Christine Jeffs' Sunshine Cleaning, starring Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin.

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All the Real Girls

All the Real Girls
All the Real Girls is an anti-Hollywood romance; a tonic for all those weary of the usual cinematic overglamorization of love. Anchored deep in the bowels of reality, this movie proves that love can be just as affecting and effectively realized when it is between two well-drawn, well-grounded characters as when it occurs in the fantasy realm inhabited by 90% of the romances (whether dramas or comedies) available on the market. All the Real Girls is slow moving and low key, and, when the final credits roll, you feel like you have spent nearly two hours in the company of a few real people, not constructs of a writer's imagination.

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Bad Santa

Bad Santa
Bad Santa's Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) is the kind of guy who makes Scrooge look like a generous, mild mannered eccentric. With a character as thoroughly unlikable as this, you know immediately that Bad Santa is not going to be just another modern-day version of A Christmas Carol. It has two modes: dark and darker, and dares to do some things with the Christmas motif that haven't been done since Norman Rene's Reckless. Realistically, however, what else would you expect from a movie directed by Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Ghost World) and executive produced by the Coen Brothers?

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Elegy
Elegy, based on Philip Roth's The Dying Animal, provides an incisive perspective of how a person's inability to believe in love destroys a single, fragile chance at happiness. The movie tells the poignant tale of how one man - intelligent, urbane, and witty - represents his own worst enemy when it comes to relationships. Borrowing text liberally from the source material, screenwriter Nicholas Meyer's script not only chronicles the relationship, but provides insight into the mind of the protagonist. We recognize that the love affair is both inevitable and doomed, but watch anyway to see if somehow these two will find away to overcome their self-imposed obstacles.

David Kepesh is a professor of cultural criticism with a history of having short affairs with female students. His latest would-be conquest is Consuela Castillo (Penélope Cruz), the daughter of Cuban immigrants. Consuela, by David's admission, is a beautiful woman who is aware of her beauty but "isn't sure yet how to use it." It doesn't take long before David and Conseula are lovers but, unlike his previous bed-mates, this turns into more than a one-night stand. He begins to feel something for her that he hasn't ever before experienced, and it makes him jealous and distrustful. His best friend, George (Dennis Hopper), urges him to end the relationship before Consuela humiliates him by leaving him for someone younger. And, while David doesn't heed George's advice, he engages in behavior that guarantees the affair will not last. His obsession about the age difference makes David certain Consuela will eventually discard him, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. His insecurities, not her proclivities, endanger any future they might have.

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U.S. Versus John Lennon

U.S. Versus John Lennon
As a snapshot of the U.S. cultural scene during the late 1960s and early 1970s, The U.S. Versus John Lennon is a success. As an opportunity to hear some of Lennon's solo songs within a political context, the movie works. Unfortunately, as a piece of investigative journalism designed to elaborate on the antagonism between Lennon and the Nixon administration, the film comes across as superficial and none-too-satisfying. Those hoping for something hard-hitting won't find it here. This is strictly on the level of what one might uncover during a VH1 special.

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RV
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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Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado about Nothing is Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of one of Shakespeare's better-known comedies. Centered around two romances - Hero (Kate Beckinsale) and Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), and Benedick (Kenneth Branagh) and Beatrice (Emma Thompson) - the story follows these very different courtships. For Hero and Claudio, it's love at first sight and, as with any immediate attraction, they have a lot to learn about each other. Beatrice and Benedick, on the other hand, have known each other for quite some time and it takes a little none-too-subtle prodding from their friends to help them realize and admit their feelings.

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Firebreather

Firebreather
All Duncan wants is to be a normal kid in a normal school. Until he realizes he is something very far away from normal.

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The Ranch

The Ranch
Their stories are different... but their profession is the same.

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Like Dandelion Dust

Like Dandelion Dust
Two police officers knock on the door of a home and a drunk man answers. This man is Rip Porter, and he lives at the house with his wife Wendy Porter. The police say they are checking in on a domestic disturbance, and when they walk upstairs, they find Wendy injured by Rip's hand. They then arrest Rip, and he spends the next seven years in prison. It is unknown that if domestic assault was Rip's only crime, but he is an alcoholic and may have had a prior criminal record.

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Man on the Moon

Man on the Moon
A biopic based on the life of Andy Kaufman, an eccentric comedian who went onto enjoy a career as lovable foreign car mechanic Latka Gravas on TVs Taxi and later gained infamy as an inter-gender wrestling champ. The film studies some of Kaufmans comedy antics as well as his personal life and his relationship with his manager George Shapiro, his best friendpartner Bob Zmuda and his girlfriend Lynne Margulies.

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Matching Jack

Matching Jack
A woman struggles with her sons illness and her husbands infidelity, but, after a chance encounter with an Irish sailor and his son, her life is turned upside down in a love story that defies explanation and breaks all the rules.

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Middle of Nowhere

Middle of Nowhere
An irresponsible mother blows her eldest daughters college fund on her youngest daughters modeling campaign.

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