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Paranormal Activity 2
Video cameras? Check. Spooky noises? Check. Vague nonsense about demons? Correct and present. Annoying characters with slightly wooden acting? Hello, sir. Yes, 2009's low-budget, hype-tastic horror-phenomenon Paranormal Activity is back, to once again make us stare furiously at a static screen and then freak out at the odd rattle of saucepans.
After notching up $195 million across the globe, the reigning champ of the found-footage horror genre was always sequel-bound. However, heavy hearts will remember that the previous title-holder was The Blair Witch Project. That movie's post-modern (and post-quality) follow-up Book of Shadows single-handedly chiselled "don't hack out a rush-job sequel" into the Horror Cliche Commandments, to sit comfortably alongside "don't go down to the basement."
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Rutger Hauer stars as Germanic Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in this bloodthirsty tale of a deadly medieval siege. Set in Northern Italy, Barbarossa plans to capture the regions of South and Centre and recreate the empire, which many years ago belonged to Charlemagne. As deadly clashes break out between the people of the land, fighting for independence and social status, Barbarossa struggles to keep control. Barbarossa’s problems are further exacerbated when a young man from Milan, along with his army of 900 men known as the “Company of Death”, challenge the Emperors reign.
Luc Besson's Angel-A is about as offbeat of a love story as one is likely to find in a movie theater. Think of Wings of Desire crossed with It's a Wonderful Life and crafted applying a film noir style, and you'll have an idea of what the movie offers. There are problems, and these are what keep the picture from attaining the status of an unqualified success. In the first place, it's a talky affair. Sometimes, as in the oeuvre of Besson's countryman, Eric Rohmer, that can be a positive quality, but not here. Besson's dialogue is often inane, occasionally sounding like it is copied verbatim out of a new age self-help manual. Secondly, while there's no denying that Rie Rasmussen cuts a striking figure, she's not the most gifted actress to have graced the screen.
When it comes to remakes, I no longer ask "why?" but merely accept the inevitable. The reason always has more to do with greed and a lack of originality than a desire to re-create something out of affection or as an homage. To a certain extent, a remake of Halloween is as welcome as it is expected. Over the years, bad sequels have bled the concept so dry that it has become almost impossible to remember what it was about the first movie that made it such a touchstone of modern horror. The 2007 version of the film, while vastly inferior to John Carpenter's 1978 original, lets us travel back thirty years through the corridors of memory. Watching the new edition, we re-connect to the brilliance of the old one, even if what's on screen now is only a faded echo. This is not a good movie but, considering what Halloween has evolved into over the course of seven sequels, it's perhaps better than it has a right to be.
Starting out in the Evening
Starting out in the Evening is as much a meditation on the craft of writing as it is a May/December romance. It's a gentle, unhurried drama about how people can connect with each other through conversation, nonverbal gestures, and writing. The pace is slow but the characters have enough depth and texture to keep the film from becoming boring. We understand these people and want to know what happens next. If there's a downside, it's that the ending is perfunctory and in some ways unsatisfying. It can be a problem when a director thinks he has provided closure when he hasn't, and that's what occurs here. There's a critical scene late in the movie that's awkward and unanchored and, while it resolves a major plot thread, it leaves a bad aftertaste.
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End of Violence
Wim Wenders' The End of Violence offers the same type of experience one could expect from sitting through a David Lynch film with a reasonably-coherent narrative (unlike, for example, Lost Highway). Arguably Wenders' most disjointed film to date, The End of Violence is a neo-noir thriller that's really more about social decay and human isolation than it is about government conspiracies, mysterious murders, and missing persons. Unfortunately, it's also too long and too slow, and, by the time the end credits have started rolling, it has lost most of its energy.
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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.
Reservoir Dogs grabs you by the throat and digs its claws in deep. From the moment that the unwitting viewer tumbles into the realm of Lawrence Tierney's gang of eight, they are hopelessly trapped there until the final credits roll. As the first outing for actor/director/ writer Quentin Tarantino, this is a triumph, displaying all the marks of a longtime virtuoso of the genre.
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FOR a movie industry enamored of cartoon heroes, Jim Carrey ought to be a dream come true. With his sparkling, silly grin and his true talent for physical clowning, Mr. Carrey comes as close to being an animated creature as a live actor ever could.
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She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
The second of John Ford's "Cavalry Trilogy", She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is the only one of the three to be lensed in Technicolor. In an Oscar-calibre performance, 42-year old John Wayne plays sixtyish Cavalry Captain Nathan Brittles. In his last days before his compulsory retirement, Brittles must face the possibility of a full-scale attack from the Arapahos, fomented by the recent defeat of Custer and by double-dealing Indian agents. After a series of minor victories and major frustrations, Brittles decides to ride into the Arapaho camp, there to smoke a pipe of peace with his old friend, Chief Pony That Walks (Chief John Big Tree).
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Having struck pay dirt with his 1958 western Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks more or less remade the picture twice in the 1960s. The first of these rehashes was El Dorado, with Rio Bravo star John Wayne back for more. Wayne plays a gunfighter who rides into El Dorado to link up with his old pal, sheriff Robert Mitchum ("It's the big one with the big two!" declared the film's advertisements). Wayne has turned down a job with evil land baron Ed Asner, who'd hoped to drive a family off the land that he needed for its water. That family, headed by R.G. Armstrong, is convinced that Wayne is working with Asner; when Armstrong's son Johnny Crawford dies, Wayne is held responsible, earning him a bullet in the spine from Crawford's sister Michele Carey. A year passes: Wayne returns to El Dorado, in the company of his new saddle pal James Caan.
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Show Stoppers is a comedy-drama set in the world of Greek stepping on a historically black university in Virginia where Greek steppers get as much attention as star athletes.
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Winter of Frozen Dreams
Barbara Hoffman (Birch) is a University of Wisconsin science student. She is a part-time employee at a local massage parlor. She is also a killer. Now all Detective Lulling (Carradine) has to do is prove it.
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The water supply for a large city zoo becomes contaminated with PCP, and the animals go crazy and get loose.
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Look Who's Talking
Mollie Jensen (Kirstie Alley) is an accountant living and working in New York City. The latest client she has been assigned by her firm is a charmingly handsome but shallow, womanizing executive named Albert (George Segal). He seduces her, and although he is married, he embarks on an affair with her, promising to leave his wife for her.
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