The Eagle

The Eagle
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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Give 'em Hell, Malone

Give 'em Hell, Malone
Way back all those many days ago at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, I got a chance to take an early look at Give ‘Em Hell Malone, the noir thriller starring Thomas Jane and Ving Rhames. For all intents and purposes this is a review of the film, though I’m not calling it as such because the film isn’t finished. As we speak probably nothing is happening because Hollywood types generally nap around 3:30pm as I write this, but no doubt during business hours tomorrow people will be talking, wheeling, dealing and trying to weasel more money into or out of the project. What’s missing now is some time in the edit bay, color timing and correction, and a few more music cues. Other than that, the experience is probably pretty close to the final product – unless of course some more money can be put into the film.

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Jackass 3D

Jackass 3D
Before seeing Jackass 3D, I only knew the franchise by reputation. I never watched the show or saw the first two movies. I was familiar with the premise: guys torture themselves for our amusement. The intellectual in me (tiny as he may be) always scoffed at the subject. “What a sad commentary on the state of entertainment in post-modern American (cue snobbish laugh)”. But then I remember that I watch Tosh.0 every week and seeing the self-inflected misfortunes of others makes me giggle. With that in mind, I went to see Jackass 3D and got exactly what I expected. While the 3D is only used effectively for about a quarter of the film’s sketches (particularly the first and last sketch), most of the gags are clever and some of the gags will make you gag. But there is no mistaking Jackass 3D, even if this is the first time you’ve stared into their abyss of pain.

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The Combination

The Combination
I have a confession to make. When I first saw the promotional material for The Combination - featuring tough looking gangster kids looking all broody and punchy - I groaned inwardly. My first impression was that it was going to be a film that tried to “turn a mirror on Australian society”, but ended up inducing cultural cringe instead.

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Miracle at St. Anna

Miracle at St. Anna
Recently, Spike Lee was in the news feuding with Clint Eastwood about the absence of black servicemen in Eastwood's recent Iwo Jima duology. According to Lee, Eastwood ignored history in Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima by not making any of the American characters black. Eastwood succinctly responded by suggesting that Lee should "Shut [his] face." One could argue that Lee's reason for making his complaint public was to garner publicity for Miracle at St. Anna, the controversial filmmaker's World War II tale about black soldiers in the European theater. Knowing Lee to be as passionate as he is outspoken, I prefer to believe his words are reflective of his feelings rather than just sound bites useful for the promotion of a film. Maybe the distributor (Disney/Touchstone) feels otherwise.

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Beowulf

Beowulf
The legend of Beowulf, a mythical hero whose exploits were recounted in an 8th century epic poem, has gained unprecedented popularity some 1250 years after it was first told. With the success of The Lord of the Rings, which (along with the Harry Potter phenomenon) opened Hollywood's eyes to the potentially huge audience for big, bold fantasy movies, the inevitability of productions like this became established. Still, it's surprising that Beowulf has attracted so much attention, with three films released in recent years and another one on the way. Of all the cinematic variations on the theme, however, none is more ambitious and over-the-top than this one, the brainchild of director Robert Zemeckis and his screenwriters, Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman.

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Breach

Breach
No matter how compelling and intriguing a real-life story may be, it doesn't necessarily translate into an equally compelling and intriguing motion picture. Breach is a case in point. Based on the widely publicized case of turncoat FBI agent Robert Hanssen, which dominated headlines in late February 2001, the movie succeeds at being a thriller with few thrills. With an end that is predetermined (and revealed to anyone who might be in the dark in the opening scene, a news clip of John Ashcroft announcing Hanssen's arrest), there's little room for suspense. Billy Ray's chronicling of Hanssen's capture has its high points, but it's a little on the dry side. Thank god for Chris Cooper.

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Pitch Black

Pitch Black
It's Vin Diesel week! Suddenly, this largely unknown actor, whose only significant credits were a part in Saving Private Ryan and some voice work in The Iron Giant (as the title character), is a hot commodity with significant roles in two films opening the same day. Diesel fans are strongly advised to see both Boiler Room and Pitch Black, as they show different aspects of the actor's range. In Boiler Room, he's a regular guy working a regular job. In Pitch Black, he goes into full Arnold Schwarzenegger mode, flexing his muscles, grunting, and uttering the occasional one liner. It's not an especially challenging part, but Diesel handles it with aplomb.

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Basic Instinct 2

Basic Instinct 2
Who would have imagined that the most appropriate word to describe Basic Instinct 2 would be "boring?" This plodding, pretentious follow-up to 1992's hit replaces Paul Verhoeven's lurid, over-the-top style with the leaden rhythms of Michael Caton-Jones (Rob Roy), a director who doesn't have a clue what a Basic Instinct movie should be about. By emerging from the niche in the exploitation genre carved out by the original, Caton-Jones has rendered the material inert. It's nearly impossible to endure the two hours that comprise Basic Instinct 2's running length not because it's dumb (although it is) and not because it's poorly acted (which it also is), but because it's lifeless. For anyone not jacked up on caffeine (minimum of two cups of strong coffee required), this is a guaranteed sleep-inducer.

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P.S. I Love You

P.S. I Love You
If you want an insightful movie about the grieving process, check out Grace Is Gone, which explores how a suddenly single father must cope not only with the loss of his wife but must face telling his daughters that their mother is not coming home. Grace Is Gone is sincere and touching; P.S. I Love You is the cinematic equivalent of a Celine Dion song. Since there are plenty of people who love Dion's sappy, whiny warbling, there will no doubt be a sizable audience that will fall for the treacle dished out by P.S. I Love You. Aside from the inept August Rush, there probably isn't a more clumsily manipulative motion picture out there this holiday season than P.S. I Love You.

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Boys Don't Cry

Boys Don't Cry
On December 30, 1993 in Falls City, Nebraska, two men, John Lotter and Tom Nissen, shot and killed 21-year old Teena Brandon, along with two of her friends, Lisa Lambert and Philip Devine. Brandon, a young woman undergoing hormone therapy in preparation for a sex change operation, had been living as a man ("Brandon Teena") for a number of years, and had presented herself as such to Lotter and Nissen, with whom she became friendly. When they learned the truth, they reacted violently, humiliating Brandon in front of his girlfriend, Lana, then kidnapping and raping her. After Brandon reported the incident to the police, Lotter and Nissen resorted to murder. Because of the lurid details surrounding the case (sex, lesbianism, a woman masquerading as a man), the "Teena Brandon/Brandon Teena murder" fed national news headlines, so there's not much mystery about how Boys Don't Cry, a slightly fictionalized account of the story, ends. The fascination with the tragic film is in seeing how the situation develops.

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The Chronicles of Riddick

The Chronicles of Riddick
So says a character named Aereon in the opening moments of "The Chronicles of Riddick," a futuristic battle between a fascist misfit and a fascist master race. The opening shot shows a gargantuan steel face that looks like Mussolini after a facelift, and when the evil Necromongers rally to hail their Lord Marshal, it looks like they've been studying "The Triumph of the Will."

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Pathology

Pathology
The intro shows a camera recording faces of corpses, with their mouths being moved by medical students. This gives a glimpse of the personality of the characters later introduced as well as their behavior towards the deceased.

A group of residents studying pathology devise a lively game: to see which of the six of them can commit the perfect undetectable murder.

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FairyTale: A True Story

FairyTale: A True Story
Based on factual accounts, this is the story of two young girls that, somehow, have the ability to take pictures of winged beings... which certainly causes quite a stir throughout England during the time of the first World War. Everyone, except the girls who think its quite normal, are excited about this photographic proof that fairies exist... even the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini pay the girls a visit.

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Guns
A South American gunrunner uses an island in Hawaii as his base of operations. A squad of beautiful government agents is sent to put him out of business.

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Left Behind

Left Behind
Rayford Steele is an airline pilot whose relationship with his wife has gone sourhe ponders having an affair with an attractive flight attendant, Hattie Durham. In the midst of a flight to London, a number of their passengers mysteriously disappear, and chaos takes hold as a number of vehicles on the ground and in the air are suddenly unmanned. Meanwhile, Buck Williams, a television journalist, is pondering the rash of sudden disappearances as he works on a report about Dr. Chaim Rosenzweig, an Israeli scientist who has devised a formula that would make any soil on earth easy to cultivate. However, Buck wonders if theres more to Rosenzweig than he first imagined when he discovers the doctor is in cahoots with two multi-millionaires who plan to broker the invention to promote their own agenda of international domination.

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