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The Eagle is a reassuringly old-fashioned 'swords and sandals' romp directed by Last King of Scotland-helmer Kevin Macdonald. Shot at the same time as 2010's similarly-themed Centurion, the studio held onto The Eagle for nearly a year to avoid a schedule clash, and for good reason, as both films share similar DNA.
Inspired by 'The Eagle of the Ninth', a much-loved kid's historical adventure novel by Rosemary Sutcliff, both The Eagle and Centurion feature the mysterious disappearance of a Roman legion in northern Britain at the heart of their tales - but told from different angles - with The Eagle being more of a direct adaptation of the source material.
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There is a tendency to pile on someone when they are down, and in the case of Tom Cruise it seems he may have abetted some of that with his freakishly self-righteous behavior in the public eye. His capital with his audience has been severely diminished, then, due to his public persona taking such precedence over his screen one. Add to that the incredibly risky and failing enterprise of his purchase of a stake in United Artists after his unceremonious release from his longtime production partner, Paramount. His first film for UA, Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs (2007) was a flop. His newest one, the troubled Valkyrie, directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men), has had its release delayed a few times now. So what a pleasant surprise it is to report that Singer and Cruise deliver one solid thriller that could help launch Cruise back into critical favor if not necessarily commercial success.
“Haunters” offers a twist on the usual superhero tale, with Korean stars Kang Dong Won (“Secret Reunion”) and Ko Su (“White Night”) as two troubled men blessed with special powers facing off against each other in a deadly battle. The film marks the debut of Kim Min Suk, who previously scripted and worked as an assistant on director Kim Jee Woon’s wonderful kimchi Western “The Good, The Bad, The Weird”. Combining action, drama and a thoughtful exploration of what can turn a man into a monster, the film was a major commercial hit in Korea, holding onto the top box office spot for an impressive two weeks.
The film begins following Cho (Kang Dong Won, in his last film role before carrying out his army service), a young one legged man, twisted by a childhood of abuse, his parents having tried to kill him due to his having odd and terrifying mind control powers. Barely considering himself human, Cho keeps away from any kind of social contact, living by manipulating others with his psychic abilities. His quiet life comes crashing down when his path crosses with Kyu Nam (Ko Su), a simple though kind hearted man working in a pawn shop he tries to rob, who for some reason seems unaffected by his powers. After the failed heist results in the gruesome death of Kyu Nam’s father figure pawn shop owner (Byun Hee Bong, also in thriller “The Game”), he sets about bringing Cho down and making him pay for his crimes.
The Ant Bully is a sore disappointment to anyone hoping for a turnaround to the recent downward quality spiral of animated films. In fact, this movie may represent a new nadir for 3D animation. Although it's pretty enough to look at (although nowhere near as exquisitely rendered as Pixar's Cars), the storyline - a cobbled-together stew of moralizing and pointless action sequences - is an insult to anyone with more than a second-grade education. Young kids may find The Ant Bully appealing, but nearly everyone else, including parents forced to sit through the movie, will understand the difference between a "family film" and a "children's film," and why this picture belongs in the latter category. How I long for the days of quality insect-oriented animated entertainment like Antz and A Bug's Life.
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City of Ember
City of Ember has almost anything one could want from a science fiction-based family adventure film: likeable characters, an imaginative setting, and a fast pace. The third item on that list is notable. Recognizing that children often have limited attention spans, the filmmakers have endeavored to keep City of Ember moving. Exposition, when needed, is delivered briskly and with a minimum of irrelevant information. Dialogue rarely accomplishes anything beyond advancing the plot. The almost complete absence of transition scenes results in a flow that is occasionally choppy. Overall, however, City of Ember will find favor with older children and their parents.
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Poker is one of those games that, unless you're a die-hard, is a lot more fun to play than to watch. Nevertheless, because on-line poker sites have become so popular in recent years, there has been a upsurge in TV poker shows. The unfortunate byproduct of this "poker revolution" is that Hollywood has decided to get into the mix and, in true big studio fashion, filmmakers have nailed down the formula (which is loosely based on the long-standing one for the sports movie) and don't deviate from the template. Deal is the kind of mess that results from this slavish lack of creativity. The film has more of a checklist of clichés than an actual script and, when it comes to the cast, director Gil Cates Jr. is scraping the bottom of the barrel. There's no compelling reason to see Deal. Everything it offers is familiar to the extent where even though it's not a remake, it feels like one.
Reno 911!: Miami
Reno 911!: Miami represents an argument against taking 22-minute TV comedy shows and expanding them to 80-minute feature films. Something that entertains over a short period when watched from the vantage point of a couch or a recliner does not necessarily offer a comparably enjoyable experience when expanded and lengthened. It can be done - see South Park and Monty Python for counter-examples - but those are not the norms. As a TV show, Reno 911! is diverting and amusing; as a motion picture, it's overlong and wears out its welcome. The film offers some solid laughs, but not enough to justify sitting through 80 minutes of the faux cops' antics.
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Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
I am unquestionably not a member of the target demographic for Ken Kwapis' (He Said, She Said) The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but that didn't prevent me from enjoying it. Although there's plenty of manipulation to be found in this motion picture, that doesn't obscure the inherent humanity of the characters and the sense of emotional honesty that underlies their circumstances. Plus, the film features four strong leading performances from up-and-coming actresses who, at least from the evidence presented here, deserve to become stars. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants contains its share of flaws, but they are not significant enough to mute my enthusiasm for it.
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James and the Giant Peach
Almost everything that was true of 1993's Nightmare Before Christmas holds for 1996's James and the Giant Peach. Based (rather faithfully) on Roald Dahl's children's story, this movie uses a combination of live-action sequences and stop-motion animation to tell the tale of a lonely boy, James (Paul Terry), who finds love during a bizarre, transatlantic voyage in the innards of a gargantuan peach. His companions on the journey are a grasshopper, a centipede, a spider, an earthworm, a glow worm, and a ladybug. In the hands of Henry Selick, who directed Nightmare, this weird story has been transformed into a playful, visually arresting experience with more than a few allusions to The Wizard of Oz.
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In this drama, an Australian teen tries to move beyond his rural roots in the Outback to become a musician.However, he gets distracted from his dream by the appearance of a rebellious new student at his school, whose beauty is matched only by her daring. He tries to match her bravado, but his attempt gets him arrested, putting his goals in danger.
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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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Elder Aaron Davis (Steve Sandvoss), a young Mormon from Pocatello, Idaho, is sent to Los Angeles with three other missionaries to spread the Mormon faith. They move into an apartment next to openly gay party boy Christian Markelli (Wes Ramsey) and his roommate Julie, an aspiring singer. Christian and Julie work as waiters at Lila's, a trendy restaurant owned by retired actress Lila Montagne (Jacqueline Bisset).
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Blood on Satan's Claw
Horror thriller set in 17th century England about the children of a village slowly converting into a coven of devil worshipers.
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Five Children and It
It is a Psammead, an ancient, ugly and irritable sand fairy the children find one day on a secret beach at their uncles mansion. It grants them one wish per day, lasting until sunset. But they soon learn it is very hard to think of really sensible wishes, and each one gets them into unexpected difficulties. Magic, the children find, can be as awkward as it is enticing.
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How to Rob a Bank
Jinx has coasted through life oblivious to the world around him and without a care in the world. His life is thrown into a spin when he gets caught in the middle of a bank heist and is forced to arbitrate this intense situation between the thieves and the police.
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Newly arrived in an up-market housing development, quiet ten-year-old Devon doesnt quite fit in. Ignoring the urgings of her social-climbing father, Devon chooses the company of Trent, who mows the estates lawns, rather than of the girls her own age. Their friendship grows during her visits to his trailer home, but although it is completely innocent it is obvious that it would be unacceptable to the residents if they found out.
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