Cemetery Junction

Cemetery Junction
Cemetery Junction is Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's attempt to do for British youth what the likes of Diner, The Big Wednesday, Stand By Me and Dazed and Confused have done so successfully for our American counterparts. That is to create a feel-good coming-of-age drama that deals with the trials and tribulations of growing up in a sensitive, honest and entertaining manner.

However, while they manage to mix comedy and drama as effortlessly as they did on TV's The Office, the pair are rather less successful in terms of creating character and dialogue on this occasion, with their first celluloid effort filled with two-dimensional characters spouting cliche after cliche.

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Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
There are moments in “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army,” Guillermo del Toro’s profligate sequel to “Hellboy,” capable of delighting even the most jaded, comic-book-weary summer-blockbuster conscript. (That would be me.) Lately we have seen plenty of big, asphalt-smashing street battles between hero and nemesis — Tim Roth and Edward Norton, hopped up on military growth hormones, hurling cars across Harlem in “The Incredible Hulk”; Charlize Theron and Will Smith enacting some kind of meteorological superhero S & M in “Hancock” — but nothing quite like the scene in which Ron Perlman’s Hellboy, a baby in one hand and an oversize gun in the other, mixes it up with a giant, angry plant.

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The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code
CANNES, France, May 17 — It seems you can't open a movie these days without provoking some kind of culture war skirmish, at least in the conflict-hungry media. Recent history — "The Passion of the Christ," "The Chronicles of Narnia" — suggests that such controversy, especially if religion is involved, can be very good business. "The Da Vinci Code," Ron Howard's adaptation of Dan Brown's best-selling primer on how not to write an English sentence, arrives trailing more than its share of theological and historical disputation.

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Turistas

Turistas
Turistas is the first film from 20th Century Fox’s new “youth-oriented” division Fox Atomic. If Turistas is symptomatic of what they’ll be offering, “youth-oriented” apparently means violent, gory, rated-R torture movies. Well, that’s not really fair. The film takes quite awhile to get to the violence and gore; before that it’s mostly excessive drinking and gratuitously exposed boobs. Hi kids!

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Chaos
In Seattle, detective Quentin Conners is unfairly suspended and his partner Jason York leaves the police force after a tragic shooting on Pearl Street Bridge, when the hostage and the criminal die.

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Rango
The first animated film from ILM is also the first memorable motion picture of 2011. Also, in a break from Hollywood's incessant race to surcharge parents to death by releasing anything bearing the "family film" moniker in 3-D, Rango is available in 2-D and only in 2-D. Watching this movie unfold may remind viewers why 2-D is not an inferior format. The image pops with clarity and color. It's bright and vivid. And it's a lot easier to lose oneself in the world crafted by the filmmakers without the unwelcome and unnecessary accessory of a pair of cheap plastic glasses. Rango is the poster child for those who are anti-3-D, and a great reminder that genuine creativity doesn't need a gimmicky crutch to appeal to audiences.

Rango is a celebration of the Western. It's a comedy but, like Blazing Saddles (although without the R-rated edge), it exposes a deep, abiding love for and knowledge of the genre. Working in concert, director Gore Verbinski, screenwriter John Logan, and composer Hans Zimmer have developed a tapestry that's stitched together using references to every great movie to come along during the Western's heyday. The dialogue incorporates lines (or variations thereof) from the past. Shot selection mimics classic moments. The music utilizes recognizable cues and, at times, imitates entire themes. All of the Western motifs and clichés are employed, from the showdown at high noon to the lonely tumbleweed being hurried along by a dusty wind. One of the villains, the ominous Rattlesnake Jake, bears more than a passing resemblance to Western Legend Lee Van Cleef. And The Man With No Name makes a cameo (with Timothy Olyphant doing a passable Clint Eastwood imitation).

Although Rango's primary marching orders pertain to Westerns, the film occasionally branches out to reference other famous moments. One high octane scene begins with bats replacing gunships to the tune of "Ride of the Valkyries" before transforming into a Western version of an ILM touchstone: the Death Star trench battle from Star Wars. For older viewers, Rango offers dozens of "spot the reference" instances to go along with a screenplay that's characterized by a depth and intelligence one rarely finds in non-Pixar animated fare. For younger viewers, there are plenty of dizzying action sequences peppering a fast-moving, energetic story.

Rango (voice of Johnny Depp) is a lizard living in a home aquarium until an accident strands beside a highway in the middle of a desert. Seeking water, he strikes out into the forbidding territory and finds Dirt - the town of Dirt, that is. It's a miniature version of an Old West frontier settlement for talking animals. Rango fits right in. There are badgers, toads, owls, and possums. The mayor (Ned Beatty) is a turtle. The most fearsome gunslinger is a snake. Rango establishes his reputation as a hero through a combination of bluster and happenstance. In a showdown with a hawk, he gets lucky. An accident brings down a disused water tower on top of the bird. However, Dirt's problems are not solved; as the new sheriff, it falls to Rango to discover what has happened to the town's water supply, which has dried up, leaving fields and mouths equally parched.

The voice acting is top-notch, with Johnny Depp taking top billing as the occasionally wisecracking Rango. Like Mike Meyers, Depp has a chameleon-like voice and is not easily recognizable without his Captain Jack accent. Support comes from an eclectic group that includes Isla Fisher (as Rango's tart-tongued love interest, Beans), Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Ray Winstone, Ned Beatty, and Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake. Rango's adventures are related by a Greek chorus of sorts. Dressed in sombreros, they play appropriate music and wonder out loud how long it will be until Rango dies.

The screenplay is pitched at a more sophisticated level than is the norm for a non-Pixar animated film. The plot is more complex, there are multiple villains, and there are existential moments (although nothing as extreme as what viewers experienced the last time Verbinski and Depp collaborated: Pirates of the Caribbean 3). While much of that will go over the head of the average child, there's plenty of whiplash-inducing action, with two standout sequences: Mr. Rango's Wild Ride and the bat attack. The only "missing" kid-friendly element is the ubiquitous animated song, and it isn't missed.

It's tempting to argue that Rango is a richer experience for adults than for children because there's so much more in the film for viewers with significant cinematic experience. Nevertheless, the movie has been assembled with a wide audience in view and at no time is it exclusionary of any demographic. In fact, the humor is so broadly accessible that five-year olds and eighty-year olds will often laugh at the same jokes. In terms of quality, Rango is the kind of movie one expects to see during the high profile summer or year-end seasons. It's to the benefit of movie-goers that it rides into multiplexes during one of the most barren stretches in recent memory. The story is about ending a drought, and that's precisely what Rango accomplishes.

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In Search of a Midnight Kiss

In Search of a Midnight Kiss
The average romantic movie is all about "happily ever after." It's about the promise of a romance that lasts for eternity, about soulmates who find each other in a world where the odds are stacked against them. In Search of a Midnight Kiss has a different agenda. This film is all about the moment: how an intense connection can occur between two ships that pass in the night. It's about the heady intersection in the lives of two lonely people who may never again see each other but, in the instance, there's nowhere else they would rather be and no one else they would rather be there with. In Search of a Midnight Kiss is wonderfully romantic and romantically bittersweet. It's not about forever; it's about now.

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Bed of Roses

Bed of Roses
While Bed of Roses lacks the freshness of When Harry Met Sally and the smart sensuality of Before Sunrise, it nevertheless possesses enough intelligence and energy to lift it into the upper echelon of "traditional" modern romances. And, with so many of today's recent love stories originating from Jane Austen's pen, something like Bed of Roses can offer a contemporary change of pace.

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Nanny Diaries

Nanny Diaries
Tone is the most noteworthy aspect of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's The Nanny Diaries. In adapting the best-selling 2002 novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, the husband-and-wife team behind American Splendor have tried to keep their quills sharpened. The movie's attitude toward its subject matter is witty and satirical, at times (although not frequently enough) bordering on acerbic. Most of the film takes place in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where fathers and mothers are too busy with work and their own neuroses to worry about their children, so they pawn them off to nannies. Set in this self-contained, self-important bubble of a world, The Nanny Diaries makes pointed comments about the de facto class status that exists and the absurdity of a situation in which immigrants from other countries must leave behind their children to be cared for by others so they can come to the United States and babysit the sons and daughters of strangers. However, while the film's satirical approach reaches its target, The Nanny Diaries is weak dramatically, and that limits its overall effectiveness.

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Johnny English

Johnny English
Would you believe... that Johnny English is the most amazingly funny satire ever made about spies? [No.] Would you believe... that it's a pretty funny spoof of the Bond movies? [No.] Would you believe... that it's a sporadically amusing lampoon in the same vein as Austin Powers? [No.] Would you believe... that it's basically a dog that should have been released in August with all of the other late-summer refuse? [Yes.]

I didn't have high hopes for Johnny English. After all, there have been so many 007 parodies in the last few years that the genre is oversaturated. (In fact, with Die Another Day, even the "legitimate" Bond movies have gotten into the act. That movie was as close to self-parody as the venerable series has gotten since The Man with the Golden Gun.) If there was cause for optimism, however, it had to do with Rowan Atkinson, the gifted British comedian behind such ventures as "Black Adder" and "Mr. Bean." Sadly, although Atkinson can remove his trousers from underneath a bathing suit on national TV, he can't invigorate this overused premise. Johnny English is a tamer Austin Powers crossed with "Get Smart," with very little in the way of effective humor.

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Maryam

Maryam
An Iranian-born teenager living in suburban New Jersey thinks of herself as simply an American until anti-Iranian sentiment erupts in her community after American hostages are held in Iran.

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The Lost City

The Lost City
Fico Fellove (Andy García) is the owner of El Tropico, a swank nightclub in late 1950s Havana. Fico lives for his family and his music, but the harsh realities of dictator Batista’s regime threaten to destroy both. Brother Ricardo (Enrique Murciano) becomes a Communist while brother Luis (Nestor Carbonell) joins the democratic opposition. His father Federico (Tomas Milian), a well-respected university professor, believes that Batista should be replaced by constitutional means.

When Ricardo is arrested for anti-regime activities and threatened with execution, Fico calls upon an old prep school friend, now a police captain (Captain Castel, played by Steven Bauer), for help. Due to the intercession of Captain Castel, Ricardo is released from jail. Although Fico suggests that Ricardo should go to Miami or

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Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Hellbound: Hellraiser II
The movie opens with a flashback of Captain Elliott Spencer (Doug Bradley) playing with the Lament Configuration box. When Spencer "solves" the puzzle, he is transported to Hell and transformed into the Cenobite called Pinhead.

The movie shifts to the present. Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) wakes in the Channard Institute, a psychiatric hospital, and is questioned by Homicide Detective Bronson (Angus MacInnes). The police have searched the Cotton home and discovered a bloody mattress, confiscating it as evidence. Kirsty meets Dr. Phillip Channard (Kenneth Cranham) and his assistant Kyle MacRae (William Hope). Kirsty briefly recounts her family tragedy, as featured in the first film. Kirsty begs Bronson to burn the mattress, thinking her evil stepmother, Julia, might use it to return from Hell.

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Joe Versus the Volcano

Joe Versus the Volcano
Joe versus the Volcano is a fable which opens with somewhat surrealistic scenes of the dehumanization of Joe Banks job and work environment (at a company whose product rather literally screws people) with imagery that seems to have been inspired by the classic film Metropolis. Joe is diagnosed with an incurable disease, quits his dehumanizing job, and accepts an offer to briefly live like a king, die like a man - but to fulfill his agreement he must willingly jump into a live volcano on the island of Waponi Woo in order to appease the volcano god. En route to the island, Joe meets a series of interesting characters in NYC and LA, then boards a yacht, captained by Patricia Graynamore. During the voyage Joe and Patricia survive disaster, fall in love, and finally arrive at the island where they face their destiny.

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Mozart and the Whale

Mozart and the Whale
A dramatic-comedy, inspired by the lives of two people with Aspergers Syndrome, a form of autism, whose emotional dysfunctions threaten to sabotage their budding romance. Donald is a good-natured but hapless taxi driver with a love of birds and a superhuman knack for numbers. Like many people with AS, he likes patterns and routines. But when the beautiful but complicated Isabel joins the autism support group he leads, his life - and his heart - are turned upside down.

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Nothing Personal

Nothing Personal
Alone in her empty flat, from her window Anne observes the people passing by who nervously snatch up the personal belongings and pieces of furniture she has put out on the pavement. Her final gesture of taking a ring off her finger signals she is leaving her previous life in Holland behind. She goes to Ireland, where she chooses to lead a solitary, wandering existence, striding through the austere landscapes of Connemara. During her travels, she discovers a house that is home to a hermit, Martin.

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