Dinner for Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks
When the Hollywood remake machine surges through Europe, none shall be spared; 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', 'Let the Right One In' and now 'The Dinner Game' have all joined the ranks of localization and reinvention for the English-speaking market. Largely these remakes are unnecessary and smack of how resistant audiences (or perhaps producers) are to embracing foreign film in their original form.

That's not to say that 'Dinner for Schmucks' doesn't have merit in its own right – it does and, as a comedy roll-call of today's great bit-players and stand-up performers, it really brings in the talent. But, honestly, it's irrelevant. Dinner for Schmucks is derivative by its nature and probably never needed to exist in the first place.

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Surf's Up

Surf's Up
The penguin fetish started in 2005 by the unexpected popularity of March of the Penguins comes to a screeching halt with the latest attempt at cashing in on the worn out American love for the wobbly, tuxedo wearing fowls from down south. Surf’s Up is a blizzard of filmmaking foul ups, a perfect storm of blatant pandering and studio screenwriting by committee. It plays like it was written by a third-rate marketing department as a series of happy meal advertisements. It’s barely a movie at all, much less a good one.

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Hereafter

Hereafter
Clint Eastwood fans may, from now on, wish to put their hands over their ears and loudly sing "lalalala" when anyone mentions this film. It is a bizarre and baffling turkey, one of the most purely puzzling features to be released this year so far. How can so much mighty talent – Eastwood directs a script by Peter Morgan, and

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Precious

Precious
Precious (saddled with the unwieldy subtitle: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire) manages the task of being both heartbreaking and heart-warming, all without resorting to the kind of manipulation so often evident in dramas about underprivileged kids trying to improve themselves. There are pitfalls inherent in this kind of story, but indie director Lee Daniels sidesteps them, crafting a feature that is both emotionally honest and stirring. Precious spends time in the urban trenches that are often used as a colorful backdrop for other less true films; here, they are integral to the essence of the characters, places where acts of supreme horror are dismissed matter-of-factly. Ultimately, Precious is a story of one young woman's embrace of self-worth in these circumstances, but that discovery does not come without a price.

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Flightplan

Flightplan
Flightplan is the latest motion picture to take an intriguing premise and flush it into the septic tank. Despite the participation of selective, talented actress Jodie Foster and a screenplay that borrows heavily from The Lady Vanishes, Flightplan can't avoid falling apart during its final half-hour. Instead of an intelligent, inventive finale, we are stuck with the same approach employed by every half-baked thriller. The absurd conclusion would be laughable if it wasn't such a disappointment. And anyone mentioning the words "surprise twist" in association with this film is betraying an ignorance of the conventions of the genre.

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Millions

Millions
If David Lynch and David Mamet can do it, why not Danny Boyle? I'm talking about hard-R directors suddenly producing a film that is suitable for family viewing. Lynch and Mamet both went G several years ago (Lynch with The Straight Story and Mamet with The Winslow Boy); now it's the Trainspotting director's turn. (Actually, the MPAA has given the movie a PG, but the content is appropriate for young teens and pre-teens, and this is likely the closest Boyle will ever come to crafting a kid-friendly motion picture.) Millions is a different sort of endeavor for the British filmmaker, but his fans will not be disappointed by some of the places where it goes.

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Nixon
It's always a tricky proposition to make a motion picture based on recent history -- and the more public the episode, the more difficult it is for the film maker to balance drama with accuracy. This is especially true when that film maker is Oliver Stone, a director known more for self-aggrandizement than for the thoughtful handling of difficult issues. Under Stone, JFK turned into a three-hour paranoid ordeal with a conspiracy theory ten times less plausible than the Warren Commission's "one bullet" hypothesis. Natural Born Killers became a sickening display of indulgent ego-stroking.

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Jumanji

Jumanji
Apparently, the producers of Jumanji wanted this film to be a Jurassic Park for 1995's holiday season. If so, it's a badly misplaced, and ultimately futile, hope. For, although no one would suspect Steven Spielberg's 1993 dino-picture of having a plot worthy of great literature, at least it had a storyline -- something this film is lacking. Jumanji takes approximately one-hundred minutes for four people to play a board game. The result isn't much more fun or involving than watching a few friends play Monopoly. Even the Robin Williams manic humor can't save Jumanji, at least not entirely.

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War, Inc.

War, Inc.
“War, Inc.” is gonzo moviemaking with a bleeding heart. A satirical farce that wants to be “Dr. Strangelove” for the age of terrorism, it is a zany, nihilistic free-for-all that goes soft.

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Governor's Wife, The aka Deadly Suspicion

Governor's Wife, The aka Deadly Suspicion
A manipulative mother increases her plotting to stay in control.

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The Princess & the Marine

The Princess & the Marine
Based on a true story, American Marine Jason Johnson (Goselaar) is sent on assignment to the Emirate of Bahrain. While there, he meets and falls in love with a spirited, lovely young woman, Meriam (Nichols), without realizing she is really a member of the Bahraini Royal Family.

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Frozen River

Frozen River
The film is set in the North Country of Upstate New York, near the Akwesasne ('Where the Partridge Drums) St. Regis Mohawk Reservation and the Canadian border, shortly before Christmas. Ray Eddy (Melissa Leo) is a discount store clerk struggling to raise two sons with her husband, a compulsive gambler who has disappeared with the funds she had earmarked to finance the purchase of a double-wide mobile home. While searching for him, she encounters Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham), a Mohawk bingo-parlor employee who is driving his car, which she claims she found abandoned with the keys in the ignition at the local bus-station. The two women, who have fallen on hard economic times, form a desperate and uneasy alliance and begin trafficking illegal immigrants from Canada into the United States across the frozen St. Lawrence River for $1200 each per crossing.

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What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath
Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer) is living in Vermont with her husband, renowned scientist Dr. Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford). A year previously, Claire had been involved in a serious car accident that leaves gaps in her memory. Combined with her daughter Caitlin's (Katharine Towne) departure for college, this leaves Claire profoundly affected. The Spencers — who have moved into the former home of Norman's father — live next door to the Feurs, who have just moved in and often have loud arguments. Overhearing Mary Feur (Miranda Otto) sobbing one day, Claire becomes concerned. When she sees Mary's husband Warren (James Remar) seemingly dragging something that resembles a body bag in the middle of the night and putting it in the trunk of the car, leaves her to suspect that Mary has been murdered brutally because of the grunting (presumed to be sex) from the previous night.

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Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
The story takes place on a Saturday in Anderson, a crime-infested ghetto in South Central Los Angeles. Members of a local gang, called 'Street Thunder', have recently stolen a large number of automatic rifles and pistols. The film begins the previous night, as a team of heavily armed LAPD officers ambush and kill several members of the gang. In the morning, the gang's warlords swear a blood oath of revenge, known as a "Cholo", against the police and the citizens of Los Angeles.

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Sweet Hostage

Sweet Hostage
An escaped mental patient kidnaps an illiterate teenage farm girl and takes her to his mountain hide-away, where they soon become friends and, eventually, lovers.

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Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Looking for Mr. Goodbar
Theresa is a successful teacher of deaf children during the day but after a short unhappy affair starts to spend her nights cruising bars. Her craving first for sex but later also for drugs leads into increasingly demeaning and dangerous situations completely at odds with her daytime commitment to her children.

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