The Way Back

The Way Back
ďThe Way BackĒ 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. Iím 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 itís because the film is based on an autobiographical book that has, for all intents and purposes, been debunked. Or maybe itís 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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Zoom
Someone in a charitable mood might consider Zoom to be a kids' film. To the extent that such a label indicates there is nothing of value or interest for adults, it's apt. However, it's difficult to imagine what might appeal to a younger audience. When it comes to action, comedy, and drama, three words apply: lamer, lamer, lamest. Tim Allen, upon whose shoulders this sorry production rests, is still playing the same basic character he essayed when Tim the Tool Guy was on top of the TV ratings heap. He's Santa Claus in a leotard. This is a misfire of heroic proportions, and the only reason it's not the worst movie in theaters this weekend is because Pulse opened the same day. (Lucky film critic that I am, I got to see them back-to-back.)

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After Sunset

After Sunset
After the Sunset is a mess, but it's a breezy, fun mess. No one is ever going to mistake this for great art, but it has a charismatic cast, moves with an effortless pace, and, in the end, almost makes you forget that it doesn't do anything memorable. The film contains elements of a heist movie, a mismatched buddy picture, a sultry romance, and a James Bond thriller. There are all the requisite double-crosses, and a twist at the end that a blind man can see coming. After the Sunset doesn't accomplish any of its aims exceptionally well, but it does them with just enough élan to keep the majority of the audience involved and entertained. And, if one's interest starts to wane, there's plenty to look at. Veteran cinematographer Dante Spinotti captures the natural beauty of the Caribbean with almost as much flair as he shoots Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek. With two such photogenic actors, no viewer need ever be bored.

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Catch Me if You Can

Catch Me if You Can
Catch Me if You Can is the closest director Steven Spielberg has come to making a comedy since 1979, when his 1941 bombed at the box office. A jaunty caper movie inspired by real-life events, Catch Me if You Can never takes itself or its subjects too seriously, and contains more genuinely funny material than about 90% of the so-called "comedies" found in multiplexes these days. It also helps that in his two leads, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, Spielberg has actors who are capable of switching effortlessly between drama and comedy. The result is an enjoyable, although not ambitious, holiday outing.

Catch Me if You Can details the somewhat fictionalized tale of Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), who, between the ages of 16 and 21, was the world's most successful con artist. Not only did he successfully pose as an airplane pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer, but he cashed more than $2.5 million worth of fraudulent checks. Now, nearly four decades after being brought down, Abagnale is one of the foremost authorities on corporate security.

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Shrek 2

Shrek 2
A certain amount of credit must be given to the filmmaking team behind Shrek 2 for overcoming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and producing an entertaining motion picture. That obstacle is the ending of the original Shrek, which neatly wrapped up every conceivable aspect of the story, leaving little room for a sequel. Originally, Shrek had been designed as a one-off movie, but, when it became a huge hit, Dreamworks decided that a second installment was warranted. However, with Shrek and Princess Fiona married and living happily ever after as ogres, some creative brainstorming had to be done to arrive at a sequel-worthy concept.

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Two Lovers

Two Lovers
With Two Lovers, director James Gray has remained geographically within his comfort zone (New York City), but has moved textually away from the crime and corruption-laced stories that have marked his previous efforts. This is strictly a character-based drama, and a strong, affecting one at that. The simplicity of the story is what imbues it with power. On some level, it speaks to everyone who has been in love, wished they were in love, or doubted the nature of their love. Two Lovers is about the nature of love and a recognition that sometimes following the fantasy is not the way to happiness. In the movies, romantic love conquers all. In

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Phantom of the Opera

Phantom of the Opera
I have never been a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's phenomenally popular stage musical version of The Phantom of the Opera, so it will probably come as no surprise that the film adaptation, which is faithful to its inspiration, left me feeling underwhelmed. Truth be told, I am not fond of Lloyd Webber's style of music, and The Phantom of the Opera suffers from a multitude of problems, not the least of which are poor writing and an uneasy marriage between a gothic setting and big-production musical numbers. The tale of the Phantom is softened considerably in an attempt to keep things from becoming too depressing.

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Importance of Being Earnest

Importance of Being Earnest
The chief pleasure to be found in any version of Oscar Wilde's play, The Importance of Being Earnest, is the dialogue, and Oliver Parker's re-interpretation is no different. All of the great lines are here: "The very essence of romance is uncertainty", "To lose one parent...may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness", "Thirty-five is an attractive age. London is full of women of the highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years", "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his", "Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever." The downside to Wilde's delight in toying with language is that he doesn't pay much attention to details like characterization or plot development. To the degree that these are present, they are afterthoughts, included simply to provide structure.

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Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil

Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil
The story is not linked to the first part of the series. Instead, it focuses on a fictional explanation for the Ryanggang explosion in 2004, in which an unexplained mushroom cloud occurred in North Korea.

After reconnaissance satellites detect a large, three-stage Topol intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a nuclear weapon in North Korea, which can strike anywhere in the continental United States, a fictional United States President Adair T. Manning (Peter Coyote) orders a team of U.S. Navy SEALs to destroy the missile and the launch site. The team led by Lieutenant Robert James (Nicholas Gonzalez).

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Breakfast on Pluto

Breakfast on Pluto
A glamorously made-up Patrick "Kitten" Braden (Cillian Murphy) pushing a baby in a pram and flirting insouciantly with construction workers, introduces her life story. Intricately plotted, the film is divided into over 30 brief chapters, each titled onscreen and written in the voice of main character, who is often shown writing autobiographically-inspired fiction within the film.

In the fictional Irish town of Tyrellin, near the border of Northern Ireland in the late 1940s, cartoon robins narrate via subtitles as Baby Patrick's mother abandons him on the doorstep of his father, Father Liam (Liam Neeson), who places him with an unloving foster mother. A young Patrick (Conor McEvoy) is shown donning a dress and lipstick, much to the chagrin of his foster family. Patrick is accepted by his close friends Charlie, Irwin and Lawrence, as well as by Lawrence's father, who tells Patrick that his biological mother looked like blonde American movie star Mitzi Gaynor and ran away to London.

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Midnight Clear

Midnight Clear
A recently homeless and jobless loser, a senior citizen estranged from her family, a mother of one dealing with her husbands brain damage, a gas station owner stuck in a job he hates, and a youth pastor feeling irrelevant face depression and loneliness on Christmas Eve. As they cross paths and experience random and minor acts of kindness, their lives are changed forever.

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Funny Games U.S.

Funny Games U.S.
The film begins with a loving family - George Farber (Tim Roth), his wife Ann (Naomi Watts), his son Georgie (Devon Gearhart) and their dog, arriving at their lake house. Their next-door neighbor, Fred (Boyd Gaines) is seen with two young men, Peter (Brady Corbet) and Paul (Michael Pitt), who seem to be their friends or relatives. The two young men come over to borrow eggs. Ann is in the kitchen cooking while George and Georgie are outside by the lake, tending to their boat. They seem friendly, and they use Georgeís golf club. When the men depart with the eggs they soon return with them broken. After asking for more eggs which also end up broken, Ann becomes frustrated, but when George tries to force the men to leave, Peter breaks George's leg with the golf club and they take the family hostage. Ann goes to call for help on the family's cell phone, but finds it unusable, having been earlier dropped in the sink by Peter. Paul then guides Ann on a hunt to find the family's dog, which he had killed with George's golf club. When the family's other neighbors arrive for a visit, Ann passes the two men off as friends until the visitors leave.

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Borstal Boy

Borstal Boy
Brendan Behan, a sixteen year-old republican, is going on a bombing mission from Ireland to Liverpool during the second world war. His mission is thwarted when he is apprehended, charged and imprisoned in Borstal, a reform institution for young offenders in East Anglia, England. At Borstal, Brendan is forced to live face-to-face with those he perceived as the enemy, a confrontation that reveals a deep inner conflict in the young Brendan and forces a self-examination that is both traumatic and revealing. Events take an unexpected turn and Brendan is thrown into a complete spin. In the emotional vortex, he finally faces up to the truth.

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Treasure of Tayopa

Treasure of Tayopa
Modern day western about an expedition led by Winters to find a lost treasure in the Mexican badlands. Psycho Trapani turns the search into a bloodbath.

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Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy Theory
Mel Gibson is a New York taxi driver, who has a strange habit. He makes complicated scenarios of conspiracies and publishes them in a newsletter sent out to five recipients. He keeps doing that, until something unbelievable happens One of his conspiracy theories turns out to be real, and so he finds himself chased by the man hiding behind the whole thing.

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Life
In the mid-1990s, two inmates bury the burned bodies of two lifers at Mississippis infamous Parchman Farm a third old-timer relates their story. Theyd served 65 years for a murder they didnt commit, framed by a local sheriff while buying moonshine whiskey for a Manhattan club owner to whom they owed money. In flashbacks we see this odd couple thrown together (Ray is a fast-talking con man, and Claude is a serious man about to start work as a bank teller), the loss of Rays watch (sterling silver, from his daddy), the murder and trial, the hardships of Parchman, and the love-hate relationship of Claude and Ray as they spend 65 years bickering and looking for a way to escape.

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