Predators

Predators
This review contains some SPOILERS. Predators is the latest variation on the classic short story The Most Dangerous Game where hunters become the hunted. Opening like a Saw film, a group of strangers wake up in a remote location to find themselves pawns in a deadly game devised by their mysterious captor. They must forge an uneasy alliance with each other if they're going to survive. This seemingly disparate group has one thing in common: they're all killers.

American mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody) is a lone wolf who nevertheless finds himself taking on a leadership role in the group. The other members include: Isabelle (Alice Braga), an Israeli military sniper; Stans (Walton Goggins), a convicted serial killer; Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), a Mexican drug cartel enforcer; Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), a Russian special forces commando; Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), an African death squad member; and Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a Yakuza enforcer. The only one who appears out of place is Edwin (Topher Grace), a disgraced doctor.

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The Way Back

The Way Back
“The Way Back” is said to be about gulag escapees who, during World War II, trekked to freedom on a 4,000 mile journey from Siberia to India. I’m well aware that there are many true stories from that time about the triumph of the human spirit, but this particular story seems utterly impossible to me. Maybe it’s because the film is based on an autobiographical book that has, for all intents and purposes, been debunked. Or maybe it’s because director Peter Weir has flip flopped on the issue, on the one hand stating that the film is essentially fictional while on the other hand dedicating the film to those who made that journey. Then again, it could be something as simple as the way the film was written and shot. Whatever the case, this is one of the few World War II films that truly does seem like a work of fiction.

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Eight Below

Eight Below
When you see the phrase “inspired by a true story,” you assume the accompanying movie will have the intimate perspective of someone affected by adversity. Eight Below, Disney’s sled dogs in peril picture, is a case of false advertising. You get a true story only told by someone rattling off headlines and first paragraphs: “Dogs Abandoned in Snow,” “Owner Sad About Dogs Missing.” The only adversity worth following, which the movie doesn’t cover, is how Paul Walker kept his dreamy tan in the Arctic cold.

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The Dark Lurking

The Dark Lurking
That statement may well be true, but The Dark Lurking takes place underground. Beats me what they were thinking, but that's just one of many confusing aspects of this slapdash sci-fi/horror entry. It is a conglomeration of imagery co-opted from better films and one of the most poorly written scripts I've seen in a long while.

Outpost 320, located deep under the surface of an unnamed planet, is a scientific bunker that performs mysterious experiments on human subjects. Something has gone drastically wrong, and bizarre monsters have emerged to massacre most of the people inside. The government has locked the place down and the survivors, along with a rescue team sent down to investigate, must maneuver through level after level of mayhem to have a chance at escape.

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After the Wedding

After the Wedding
Over the past 15 years with Lars von Trier as its poster boy, Danish cinema has gained an international reputation as cynical and severe. The humor is grim, the drama is grimmer, and the production values are ascetic. So After the Wedding is a fresh and welcome change. Although it doesn't stray far from the "back to basics" Dogme 95 filmmaking values promoted by von Trier (handheld cameras, no artificial lighting, etc.), this melodrama is hopeful and optimistic. It shows that human beings are capable of good things and the defining characteristic of a modern man is not moral corruption.

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Catch and Release

Catch and Release
Catch and Release is a confused, disjointed motion picture that tries to be many things and succeeds in being none. In less than two hours (although it feels considerably longer), writer/director Susannah Grant cobbles together nearly every imaginable plot, element, and device except the kitchen sink (although she manages to get the bathtub in there). Despite possessing a few effective and affecting scenes, Catch and Release is a mess and the methods it uses to bring closure to its diverse storylines feel trite and contrived. Leaving the theater, I was struck with a sense that the movie not only could have been better, but it should have been so.

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Land and Freedom

Land and Freedom
One of the most consistent makers of excellent motion pictures during the 1980s and 1990s has been Ken Loach. With a resume highlighted by such unforgettable titles as Hidden Agenda, Riff-Raff, Raining Stones, and Ladybird, Ladybird, Loach is recognized as the kind of director who will face challenges without backing down. His provocative, idea-rich movies are always populated by believable characters, and his latest offering, Land and Freedom, is no exception. With this movie, however, Loach has moved out of his familiar territory of modern-day England, turning the clock back to 1936 Spain to tell the story of one group who stood against General Franco and his fascist supporters.

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Othello

Othello
It seems that hardly a year goes by without a new cinematic adaptation of one of Shakespeare's plays, and, of late, Kenneth Branagh's name has become intimately entwined with that of the Bard. While Branagh, who helmed Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and is now working on Hamlet, does not sit in the director's chair for this latest version of Othello, he is very much in evidence on screen in the key role of Iago.

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Haunting

Haunting
The original The Haunting, a low-budget 1963 haunted house film from director Robert Wise, is a chilling little movie that offers a primer in scaring audiences without graphic bloodshed. It's a lesson that has largely been ignored by filmmakers over the past two decades, at least until the arrival of this summer's The Blair Witch Project, one of the most innovative horror films in a long time. Now, along comes a remake of The Haunting, this time helmed by Jan de Bont (Speed, Twister), a director who doesn't known the meaning of subtlety. He makes the fatal mistake of showing and telling too much (although he keeps the blood-and-gore quotient low), transforming his movie's final half-hour into an unintentionally hilarious self-parody.

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Cutthroat Island

Cutthroat Island
Renny Harlin, whose previous directorial efforts include Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, seems fond of big, explosive action pictures. Unfortunately, excepting his debut (the middle film in the Die Hard trilogy), plot coherency hasn't been a particularly important attribute of his movies. Cliffhanger was little more than a series of spectacular stunts linked together by a paper-thin story. If anything, the strands of logic in Cutthroat Island are even thinner. Fortunately, as a spectacle for the eye and ear, this high seas adventure is more than capable of capturing its audience's attention. Holding it for more than two hours is a different matter altogether...

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Alias - Season Three

Alias - Season Three
The third season of Alias found super spy Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) waking up in Hong Kong with a monster hangover and two years in the future with nary a memory. What's worse, her world has been turned upside-down with the evil Sloane (Ron Rifkin) now a world-famous humanitarian and philanthropist, and, even worse, her true love Vaughn (Michael Vartan) married to a seemingly great gal. Nice way to go back to work, eh? After coming up with one heck of a cliffhanger in season 2, Alias proceeded a bit aimlessly through these 22 episodes, and as a result, the parts were truly greater than the whole.

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Blackout

Blackout
Three people from different walks of life find themselves trapped inside a stalled elevator. What at first seems like an inconvenience rapidly escalates into a nightmare.

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The Brøken

The Brøken
Gina McVey is a radiologist who is enjoying dinner one evening with her family and her boyfriend Stefan when a mirror shatters for no apparent reason. After a few moments, no one thinks much of it, but the next day Gina is leaving work and she sees something even more troubling—a woman who looks just like her, driving a car identical to her own. Curious, Gina sneaks into the doppelganger's apartment and sees a photo of herself and her father in the hallway. Seriously rattled, Gina runs out and drives away, only to get in an accident that lands her in the hospital. After she's released, Gina asks Stefan if she can stay with him, but while he looks the same, his personality and behavior are quite different from the way she remembers him, and she begins having vivid nightmares, which become all the more terrifying when the same horrific images begin popping up in her waking hours.

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Countdown: Jerusalem

Countdown: Jerusalem
A journalist searches for her daughter as a series of catastrophic disasters push a destabilized society toward the brink of global war.

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3 Steps to Heaven

3 Steps to Heaven
A bereaved woman adopts multiple disguises to track down the last three people to see her boyfriend before he died.

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Broken Bridges

Broken Bridges
A fading country music star (Keith) returns to his hometown, where he reunites with his childhood sweetheart and also meets his 16-year-old daughter for the first time.

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