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Love and Other Drugs
Love and Other Drugs, an end-of-the-year release that came out of nowhere, divided the preview audience at the advance screening I attended. Complaints about the film seemed mostly to stem from its perceived manipulation of the audience, how it does everything possible to pull at your heartstrings, and how it doesn't succeed because it's trying too hard. And I get where those complaints are coming from. I understand why some people will be turned off by this emotional story that uses dark humor and lots of sex in exploring two damaged people. But I'm not one of the naysayers. For me, Love and Other Drugs was an easy pill to swallow, a smartly written love story featuring terrific performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. It's a real breath of fresh air and a welcome departure from the silly recycled rom-coms we're subjected to far, far too often.
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More of a twisted drama with horrific elements (featuring the torture and kidnapping of the flawed protagonist in the film’s final act), Godspeed feels almost like it could be as at home on the stage as it is in the cinema. Investigating the failures of modern religion and the essence of the soul, director Robert Saitzyk and co-scripter Cory Knauf’s (who also provides a razor thin, clarifying performance)piece is full of philosophical character confrontations and nicely scripted contemplation before violence and anger consume its landscape in its penultimate moments.
Across the Universe
Theater-trained Julie Taymor's phantasmagoric story of young lovers caught up in the counterculture as seen through the prism of Beatles songs is a wildly ambitious undertaking, and her reach exceeds her grasp for a good half of its two-hour and 10-minute running time. But the other half is breathtaking, simultaneously visually inventive and vividly attuned to the broad streak of melancholy that runs through some of the sunniest pop hits of the 1960s.
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Girl with a Pearl Earring
Girl with a Pearl Earring is the first feature for director Peter Webber. Most freshman filmmakers don't come close to Webber's level of accomplishment, and (not to take anything away from him) some of the credit must certainly be parceled out to the cast and the cinematographer, Eduardo Serra. Girl with a Pearl Earring offers sumptuous visuals and compelling drama effectively intermingled in a pleasing, satisfying production. The director has crafted the film with great care, composing each frame like a painting with respect to color, light, camera placement, and texture. Girl with a Pearl Earring could be silent and it would still be an amazing achievement. Indeed, the dialogue is sparse, which forces the performers to do most of their acting with expressions and body language - something Scarlett Johansson (who can also be seen in Lost in Translation) excels at. By reading her eyes and face, we understand her thoughts.
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The Skeleton Key is the latest of the new breed of PG-13 "horror" movies that emphasize atmosphere and "boo" moments over gore. This film, which is not a re-make of a Japanese production (as many of these pictures are), maintains an internal logic that allows the viewer to follow the storyline without becoming confused or losing interest. There are weaknesses - the narrative traverses a predictable trajectory, the pacing is uneven, and there are times when the action goes over-the-top. But the heroine is smarter than the average horror movie scream queen and the ending doesn't cheapen proceedings. (Actually, one could argue that the ending is the best thing about The Skeleton Key.)
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Alice and Martin
When it comes to movies about dysfunctional family relationships and emotionally damaged individuals, few active filmmakers do a better job than veteran French director André Techiné (whose films, especially Wild Reeds, have been modest art-house successes in this country). As in his 1993 masterpiece, Ma Saison Preferee, Techiné uses the canvas of his latest picture, Alice and Martin, to explore the delicate and uncertain balance of the relationships between lovers, siblings, and parents and children in an unstable family environment. The film is also about the price of obsessive love and the way in which secrets and their associated guilt have the capacity to poison everything they touch.
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Few screen romances are as touching, as tragic, and as life affirming as the one shared by Nick (Robert Carlyle) and Karen (Juliet Aubrey) in director Michael Winterbottom's Go Now. While the film is ultimately about the effects of multiple sclerosis upon both a body and a relationship, Go Now is not the exercise in depression the material might make it seem to be. Winterbottom, who took an equally unsentimental approach to his adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure, avoids numerous melodramatic pitfalls on the way to making Nick and Karen's experiences with the disease real, believable, and manipulation-free. By including a copious amount of lowbrow humor and occasionally using black-and-white freeze-frames with amusing captions, Winterbottom never allows Go Now to become too much of a downer.
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In 1992, Walt Disney Pictures, riding a wave of euphoria generated by its recent animated successes, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, tried to do something that was met by critics with skepticism: revive the live-action musical. Filmmakers took an in-house script in turnaround and commissioned composer Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman to pen about a half-dozen songs. Choreographer Kenny Ortega (whose duties in that role included Xanadu and Dirty Dancing) was brought on board to direct. The stars underwent weeks of dancing and martial arts training, and all were allowed to sing their own parts. (There is no truth to the rumor that Marni Nixon dubbed Christian Bale.) Newsies was born, only to die an ignominious death. After bombing on opening weekend, the film was pulled from most theaters, resulting in a final box office take of less than $3 million. It has been described by many as Disney's greatest failure. Unexpectedly, however, it found a following on home video, where its surprising popularity allowed the taint to dissolve from its image.
Wag the Dog
"Why does a dog wag its tail? Because the dog is smarter than the tail. If the tail was smarter, it would wag the dog."
Hollywood and Presidential politics - perfect together. Anyone who doubts this simple maxim will face a challenge to their opinion when they see Wag the Dog, the hilarious new satire from director Barry Levinson. For, although this film is one of the funniest comedies of the year, it also carries a serious, thought-provoking message about the relationship between politics and mass-market entertainment. This is one of Levinson's best films, and the screenplay, co-penned by noted writer David Mamet (along with Hilary Henkin), is brilliantly on-target.
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One of the most popular superhero teams in comic book history finally comes to the screen in this big-budget adaptation of the long-running Marvel Comics series. Psychic Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) leads a school of skilled mutants called X-Men, a peacekeeping force to safeguard the world against a race of genetically mutated humans known as Homo Sapiens Superior. However, Magneto (Ian McKellen), a mutant with a powerful magnetic charge, has also begun to organize a team to strike first against what he believes to be a threat from humanity.
Matty Demaret (Barry Pepper) is the son of a mob boss, but he is used as little more than an errand boy. His relative and friend Chris (Andy Davoli) shares this urge to be part of something bigger, and Matty finally convinces his father to give him a job, with the help of his father's right-hand man Teddy (John Malkovich). Matty and Chris get their friend Johnny Marbles (Seth Green) to fly up to retrieve a bag full of money for Matty's father Benny "Chains" Demaret (Dennis Hopper), as there have been mysterious shortages in their money lately.
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A Knight's Tale
Set in late Medieval Europe in the 1370s, the story begins with the protagonists and squires, William (Heath Ledger), Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk), discovering their master, Sir Ector (Nick Brimble), dead of bowel problems in the middle of a jousting tournament. He was ahead "three lances to none" and merely had to finish the final round to win the tournament and be awarded the money that was to buy food for them all. While Wat and Roland resign themselves to destitution now that they no longer have Sir Ector's employment and protection, William Thatcher takes the armour, and more importantly the helmet, from Sir Ector's body and poses as the noble to finish the match. William's inexperience is evident, as he receives a lance blow to the face mask, but regardless wins the tournament (and the money) due to Ector's previous lead. This gives William the idea that, with proper training, he and his companions could make a living in jousting. For a month, William trains with the help of Roland and Wat to improve his balance and aim. After many tries Will is able to joust properly and is therefore ready to compete.
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In present-day Antioch, former minister Travis Jordan still lives, after losing his faith in God three years before when his beloved wife was murdered and the criminals never found. Suddenly, miracles happen in the little town: the new veterinarian's son survives a van accident without a single scratch; Travis' dog Max revives after being buried, twice; a paraplegic walks; a scarred teenager and her police officer father (brain tumor) heal, outside and inside. In all the events, either a group of three men wearing black were seen nearby, or only their tall, blond (possible) leader, who seems to want everyone to know, "he is coming". Very soon after this a scruffy, gentle-mannered newcomer arrives; Brandon Nichols implies through his healing work and preaching that he's Jesus Christ or a better version of a messiah. The local population worships Brandon, while Travis and Morgan feel that something is wrong and conduct an investigation, disclosing that evil has possessed the town dwellers.
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Danny - a lonely factory worker, intimidated by life - is battered and humiliated in front of his kids in a random act of violence. His already bleak existence sinks further into the abyss. On the verge of total breakdown he decides to fight back. He meets a group of night-club doormen who take him in and give him the confidence to stand his ground. As he is drawn deeper into their world he becomes embroiled with the local gangland boss, setting in motion a chain of events with shockingly brutal consequences.
Vada Sultenfuss is obsessed with death. Her mother is dead, and her father runs a funeral parlor. She is also in love with her English teacher, and joins a poetry class over the summer just to impress him. Thomas J., her best friend, is allergic to everything, and sticks with Vada despite her hangups. When Vadas father hires Shelly, a makeup expert, in his funeral parlor, and begins to fall in love with her, Vada is outraged and does everything in her power to split them up.
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Never Back Down 2
Four fighters different backgrounds come together to train under an ex MMA rising star and then ultimately have to fight each other and the traitor in heir midst.
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