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Step Up 3D
Step Up 3D has no right whatsoever to be a good movie, and yet here we are anyway, calling it the best film in the Step Up franchise. If you read my reviews this past week of Step Up and Step Up 2 The Streets, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is damning the third film with faint praise, but it’s not. Step Up 3D is a good movie. Not an instant classic, but a genuine celebration of music, dance, filmmaking, and yes, even 3D, and their power to entertain. Step Up 3D will leave audiences smiling from ear to ear, and probably bobbing their heads in residual rhythm to the movie’s pounding soundtrack. The best part is that you don’t have to feel guilty about it this time. Step Up 3D has its flaws, but for once a movie in this commercially successful but critically maligned franchise actually overcomes its idiosyncrasies, rather than succeeding in spite of them.
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Back in the late ’90s, Alex Proyas was a director that had earned himself a lot of admirers. He had two dark and visually stunning cult hits under his belt with The Crow and Dark City (the latter of which Roger Ebert continues to sing the praises of to this day), before he threw everyone a curve ball and he went in a completely different direction with the rock n roll coming of age movie Garage Days. He followed that with the disappointing Will Smith action sci-fi blockbuster I, Robot. Suddenly no one knew what to think of the guy anymore.
The Chorus is one of those feel-good stories that Miramax Films has become expert in importing. This one is the French equivalent of Mr. Holland's Opus - the inspiring story of how a teacher comes to change the lives of his headstrong students. A popular theme not always done with music (think Dead Poets Society, Dangerous Minds, and The Emperor's Club, to name a few recent examples), this kind of movie often treads a dangerous line between effective drama and overblown melodrama. Fortunately for viewers of The Chorus, it mostly hits the right notes. Either that, or the fact that it's in French dulls the manipulation.
I'll never understand why studios sometimes choose to withhold films from critics. The lack of advance screenings of Aeon Flux establishes an expectation that the film is likely to be tough to sit through. It's the studio's way of throwing in the towel. It's a declaration of "no confidence." Imagine my surprise, therefore, to discover that Aeon Flux is not a bad movie. Okay, it's flawed and isn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it's perfectly watchable, especially if viewed on a low-risk medium like DVD. And it's better than about 1/3 of movies for which distributors hold advance screenings.
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Over the years, the tendency when incorporating Nazis into movies has been to use them as the kind of diabolical villain with whom it's difficult (or at least uncomfortable) to sympathize. The concept that there might have been Nazis in Germany during Hitler's time in power who weren't rotten to the core has largely been avoided as a moral quagmire into which filmmakers have not wanted to venture. Demonization is a more secure and profitable route. Safe Nazis - like the ones used by Steven Spielberg in his Indiana Jones movies - are bad Nazis. Adding complexity to the equation is a daring step that has only recently been attempted by a small but growing cadre of directors. Last year, there was Paul Verhoeven's Black Book. This year, in addition to Good, we have seen The Reader and Valkyrie. Unfortunately, more is needed for success than the desire to make a movie about a Nazi who bears a greater resemblance to a living, breathing human being than to the familiar caricature. Black Book, The Reader, and Valkyrie have it. Good doesn't.
Nil by Mouth
There is a scene in Nil by Mouth, actor Gary Oldman's directorial debut, that is excruciatingly difficult to watch. It's not especially graphic, since the gruesome details take place out of frame, but anyone with an imagination can conjure up an image to chill the blood. The sequence depicts a particularly brutal instance of spousal abuse, and is perhaps only recently rivaled in intensity by a similar occurrence in Once Were Warriors. One might think that movie-goers, inured to explicit on-screen violence, would not flinch at what Oldman presents, but there's a major difference between the decapitations and eviscerations of a Starship Troopers and the savageness of Nil by Mouth – the former plays like a comic book come to life; the latter is shockingly real.
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Mike Nichols, the director of such well-received films as The Graduate and Working Girl, has taken the outrageous 1978 French farce, La Cage aux Folles, and, by tweaking, updating, and Americanizing it, come up with a huge winner. The Birdcage, as it's called, is one of those rare motion pictures with side-splitting laughs where the humor never stays dormant for long. Using the talents of choreographers and set designers who don't know the meaning of "moderation", this movie is a triumph of the stylistically absurd.
The Replacement Killers
''The Replacement Killers'' is such a sleek piece of filmmaking that it suggests the visual equivalent of an ambient dance record. The soundtrack's measured beats and dabs of generically dramatic orchestration are synchronized with the movie's continual gunfire and the gliding camera movements to sustain a mood that is dreamlike and almost lulling.
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Director Joe Dante infuses this science fiction comedy with the visual razzle-dazzle and manic, goofball performances typical of his cartoon-inspired sensibilities. Navy test pilot Lt. Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) has volunteered for a highly dangerous medical experiment. A submersible craft, with Tuck at the controls, is to be shrunk down to molecular size and inserted into the body of a living rabbit.
All or Nothing
The film begins with a day nearing end. Rachel, the daughter in the first family, is shown working in a nursing home. Phil, her father, is shown driving people around in his taxi. Penny, Rachel's mother, is shown working as a cashier at Safeway store alongside Maureen, the mother in the second family. When Penny leaves work, she bikes home to find her eighteen-year-old son Rory in a fight with a local boy for taking his football. Rory is a lazy, obese, ill-mannered teenager who stays home all day and doesn't work. Complications with Rory's obesity arise when after an altercation with a gang of youths playing "Piggy in the Middle", he ultimately runs out of breath, begins to hyperventilate and is hospitalised after suffering a heart attack.
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The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
CW Briggs (Woody Allen) is an insurance investigator who is highly successful, owing to his many connections and ability to think like a criminal. His work does not impress Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), an efficiency expert who butts heads with Briggs over his old-fashioned views. Her advice is usually followed however, because she secretly is in a relationship with her boss, Chris Magruder (Dan Aykroyd), who constantly reassures her that they will be free to pursue their relationship in public once he finalizes his divorce with his wife.
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David Robinson is being shipped off to a penal colony. His wife and kids are allowed to acompany him. A storm strikes the ship and the family (save for one son, Jacob) are trapped below deck. Jacob is raised by pirates, and the family gets out of the boat and on to land, salvaging as much as they can from the boat, including dogs, chickens, and muskets. They learn to survive and build a shelter on land. Then, Jacobs pirates kidnap Emily, the daughter of a sea-captain. She escapes onto the island and becomes a love intrest with Fritz and Ernst. Jacob is reunited with his family during a battle with the pirates over Emily, and she is returned to her father. In the end, the family goes there own ways, some staying on the island, some going home.
Dramatisation of the 1991 perjury trial of former Queensland state Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
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Johnny Wagner is smoked-out pottery student waiting to get off probation. While evading a surprise drug test, Wagner crashes his bike and is knocked unconscious. During his blackout, the legendary Johnny Appleseed appears and urges Wagner to follow in his footsteps by planting seeds. Wagner recruits two long time friends to help him in his quest, a sensitive pyromaniac poet and her brother, a self-serving filmmaker. The three set out into the woods and countryside to plant the seed, marijuana seed that isand so becomes Johnny Appleweed.
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My Fake Fiance
Jennifer and Vince, virtual strangers, find themselves strapped for cash and decide to stage a fake engagement and wedding just for the gifts.
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Masters of Horror: Jenifer
While parked in a remote spot lunching Chinese food with his partner, Detective Frank Spivey saves a disfigured woman called Jenifer from being sliced with a meat cleaver by a deranged homeless man. He feels sorry for the retarded Jenifer, and takes her from an insane asylum and brings her home. Frank becomes obsessed for Jenifer, feeling lust and attraction for her lascivious body. When he realizes that she is a human beast, he moves with her to an isolated old cabin in the woods, with tragic consequences.
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