Bitch Slap

Bitch Slap
Bitch Slap is neither the worst film ever made, nor the best. Obviously, that can be said about most films, but as you walk away from Bitch Slap, the most likely and accurate review might resemble, "Well, that didn't completely suck." Clearly, it's referencing classic, B-grade women's exploitation films, chock-a-block with sexy vixens kicking ass and shedding clothes in glorious slow-motion. The problem, however, is that it's as badly crafted as it is occasionally clever, a poor man's Sin City, with no real sense of how to walk the tightrope between well-executed irony and stupid, cornball homage. That said, for all the men in the audience, there's plenty of cleavage, blood and action-packed lesbian make-out sessions; for all the women, well, there's probably something to be said about female empowerment and all-around bad-assery.

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
It's not that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, exhumed after 19 years to be the fourth in this series, is bad, exactly. But it's undeniably creaky.

At its world premiere in Cannes, the audience cheered it in advance, even breaking into a wordless singing of its theme tune. But they ended up laughing at moments that weren’t intentionally funny, and they seemed listless for long spells. Their response at the end was polite but muted.

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Conviction

Conviction
Take a real-life feel-good story about personal heroism and use it as the basis for a generic screenplay. Lather on some prestige. Hire an Oscar-winning actress and a bunch of supporting performers with nominations on their resumes. Promote the hell out of it using words like "inspirational", "incredible", and "uplifting". What's the result? A Best Picture hopeful? Or a watered-down marriage between The Hurricane and Erin Brockovich? Perhaps both. Certainly, the true story behind Conviction is worthy of telling (although one could argue that a documentary presentation would be a better choice), but the resulting film is so bland and predictable in its rhythms that, excepting the participation of a couple of big-name actors, it would be at home on a second-tier cable channel. Conviction is watchable, certainly, and delivers the expected rush when the foregone conclusion arrives (the narrative trajectory is as formulaic as that of any romantic comedy), but any hard-hitting drama has been diluted and repackaged as something that will not stir lingering feelings. In terms of its overall emotional appeal, it's a little like an anorexic sibling to The Blind Side.

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Together

Together
The provocative and challenging Together is the sophomore effort from director Lukas Moodysson. Show Me Love, his feature debut, achieved a certain amount of worldwide acclaim during its international theatrical run during late 1999 and early 2000. Now, Moodysson is back with a much different kind of story that features the same focus on character interaction. The hallmarks of Show Me Love -- the believability of the protagonists and the urgency of their emotions - are very much in evidence throughout Together.

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Batman and Robin

Batman and Robin
With Batman and Robin, the fourth entry in the recent Batman movie series, the profitable franchise appears poised to take a nosedive. This film, which places yet another actor in the batsuit, has all the necessary hallmarks of a sorry sequel -- pointless, plodding plotting; asinine action; clueless, comatose characterization; and dumb dialogue. Sadly for all the batfans who have been waiting with baited breath for this one, Batman and Robin has become the latest blight on the long summer movie season.

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Phantom

Phantom
It's probably unfair to characterize The Phantom as a Batman-wannabe, since Lee Falk's comic book creation predated the Caped Crusader. Nevertheless, as far as motion picture adaptations are concerned, Michael Keaton first stepped into his suit seven years before Paramount Pictures released this movie. And, since both superheroes lack recognizable super powers and wear costumes, the connection is obvious. It should be noted, however, that while Batman's form-fitting suit looks a lot more stylish than The Phantom's cheesy purple outfit, appearance isn't everything -- this film is more fun than Tim Burton's 1989 atmosphere-soaked, empty-headed yarn.

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Naked
Mike Leigh has always been known as a creator of exceptional, insightful character studies. Often, his films do little more than trace activities in the life of a person or persons over a several-day period. However, whereas comedies such as Life is Sweet and High Hopes showed Leigh's whimsical side, Naked is anything but charming. This movie is brutal and raw, and its sense of humor comes with a serrated edge.

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Immortal Beloved

Immortal Beloved
Those who prefer more than a token of historical fact in their biopics may be less-than-enamoured with Immortal Beloved, an erratic look at the life of Ludwig van Beethoven (played by Gary Oldman). Writer-director Bernard Rose is obviously more concerned with telling his version of the tale than in remaining anchored in reality. Nevertheless, as the old saying goes, "Don't let the facts stand in the way of a good story."

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Out of Sight

Out of Sight
In the middle of the summer movie season, when most films are designed with the intelligence of a seven year-old for viewers with the attention span of someone even younger, it's refreshing to find a picture like Out of Sight, which is not only smart, but a great deal of fun, as well. I enjoyed watching this movie more than Deep Impact, Godzilla, and Armageddon put together. Directed by one-time wunderkind film maker Steven Soderbergh (whose sex, lies, and videotape put him on the map big-time), Out of Sight will inevitably turn out to be one of the best thrillers of the year.

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Say Anything

Say Anything
Say Anything is one of the best in a long line of teen romance movies, if not the best. Unlike many of its fellow genre entries, it is not filled with crude sex jokes, nudity, a lobotomized population, and poorly-defined subplots. And, while the broad strokes of the storyline are familiar, the details are what make this movie special -- smart, well-developed characters, believable situations, and a solid emotional investment for us in the film's people and circumstances. There's nothing exploitative or condescending in Say Anything's approach -- it tells it like it is, with subtle humor and carefully-modulated pathos, capturing the nuances of teenage love in a way that few other screen productions can boast.

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8 Mile

8 Mile
The film begins with main character Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith, Jr. at a local rap battle MCd by Smith's friend David "Future" Porter. A nervous Rabbit chokes at the mic and exits the competition.

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Grind
While the rest of his high school graduating class is heading to the same old kind of college, skateboarder Eric Rivers and his best friends, Dustin, a goal-oriented workaholic, and misfit slacker Matt have one last summer roadtrip together to follow their dream of getting noticed by the professional skateboarding world—and getting paid to skate.

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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
It is a dark time for the resistance and Skynet is on the verge of going online, the events of the last movie has changed nothing and John must now battle a new Terminator called the T-X. As before, the resistance was able to send another T-800 as a protector for John, and its still a question of which one will reach him first...

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Breathing Lessons

Breathing Lessons
A married couple review their lives and renew their love for one another while driving to a friends funeral.

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First Knight

First Knight
Merlin, Excalibur and all things supernatural are out of this picture, as King Arthur, aged and war-weary is forced to go to battle one last time against the traitor Prince Malagant, whilst in the meantime his new bride Guinevere and new knight Sir Lancelot betray the king in their own way.

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