Super Capers

Super Capers
If Super Capers were a multilevel satire, perhaps a spoof of spoof movies, then not being funny would be a brilliant stroke of commentary. Presumably it's just supposed to be the one-layered spoof, in which case not being funny actually doesn't work in its favor.

The story tells the origin of wannabe hero Ed Gruberman (Justin Whalin), who joins the Super Capers to learn how to really fight evil. Along the way, they mimic popular movies and portray superpowers as ridiculous pratfalls instead of badass heroics.

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War Wolves

War Wolves
Caught in a gunfight somewhere in the Mideast, soldier Jake Gabriel and his squad come under attack by a pack of wolfmen. Six months later, Jake is living up in Point Reyes under the assumed name of Lawrence Talbot (oh, how original), working a dead end job in a grocery store and regularly attending AA meetings, even though he still drinks. Turns out that Jake and his squad all survived the werewolf attack, but have all been infected with the lycanthropic virus. Jake is doing his damnedest to suppress his inner wolf, until a duo of elderly military “wolf hunters” catch up with him.

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War of the worlds

War of the worlds
There's a longstanding movie riddle that asks the following question: Is it better to have a mediocre director and a great screenplay, or a great director and a mediocre screenplay? War of the Worlds, Steven Spielberg's entry into the 2005 summer box office derby, can be used as an argument for the latter scenario. To call the script (credited to Josh Friedman and David Koepp) "flawed" might be charitable. The original novel, penned in 1898 by H.G. Wells, seems almost quant by today's standards. Although the changes employed by Friedman and Koepp to modernize the story are adequate in displacing many of the book's events to a contemporary time frame, they result in a tale that is rife with logical errors. War of the Worlds is not watertight; in fact, it leaks like a sieve. But, with Spielberg at the helm, we hardly notice the chop in the water as we're taken on a smooth and somewhat breathless ride.

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Walk the Line

Walk the Line
When I spoke to Roger Ebert shortly before first seeing Walk the Line, he remarked that he knew almost all of Johnny Cash's songs by heart. I cannot make the same claim. I'm familiar with a few of them - mostly those that got radio play - but many of the titles in his catalogue are unknown to me. That didn't impinge upon my ability to enjoy Walk the Line, but the statement is necessary to explain my background. Cash devotees may have a different reaction to this picture. In fact, although I liked it, my bet is that they will love it.

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Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo belongs to a rare genre: the literate motion picture murder mystery/thriller. (Coincidentally, I saw another good example, the Korean Mother, earlier in the week, but this one is better.) It unfolds not with the breakneck velocity of a typical movie of this sort, but with the gradual, unforced, character-based focus of a novel. It relies more on deduction and the pursuit of clues than on sudden twists and surprises. Few viewers, I imagine, will be shocked when the chief villain is unmasked, but this won't limit anyone's enjoyment of the proceedings.

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Dodgeball

Dodgeball
Of course, Dodgeball isn't a true underdog anything, but that's all part of the joke. A blistering satire of feel-good sports movies, this film makes its mark via the most direct route: it lampoons by adopting the tried-and-true "straight" formula and tweaking it a little. The approach works because many sports dramas are borderline unintentional parodies with less tension than a flaccid cable; all the filmmakers of Dodgeball had to do was to follow the plot-by-numbers approach, incorporate some obviously comedic material, and toss in a huge dose of over-the-top earnestness. The resulting product offers about 90 minutes of laughter (although the movie runs out of steam during its final third).

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City of Ember

City of Ember
City of Ember has almost anything one could want from a science fiction-based family adventure film: likeable characters, an imaginative setting, and a fast pace. The third item on that list is notable. Recognizing that children often have limited attention spans, the filmmakers have endeavored to keep City of Ember moving. Exposition, when needed, is delivered briskly and with a minimum of irrelevant information. Dialogue rarely accomplishes anything beyond advancing the plot. The almost complete absence of transition scenes results in a flow that is occasionally choppy. Overall, however, City of Ember will find favor with older children and their parents.

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Bad News Bears

Bad News Bears
Bad News Bears may be the most entertaining remake of the year (thus far), but that's less a statement of praise than it is a condemnation of this class of movies. With a script co-credited to Bill Lancaster, who penned the original 1976 screenplay, Bad News Bears is true to its source, rarely diverging from the earlier film's storyline, and occasionally re-creating entire scenes. There is, however, a difference in tone. The '70s edition of the film was more family friendly than Richard Linklater's one. Gleefully profane and un-PC, Bad News Bears earns its PG-13 rating, and may cause more conservative parents to shy away from bringing younger children to screenings.

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Mother

Mother
Mother is a most atypical murder mystery. This is not only because it features an aging female "detective" who represents a bizarre fusion of Miss Marple and Jane Tennison, but because the surreal style contradicts the normally gritty approach we have come to expect from the genre. The movie opens in an almost comedic fashion (albeit one in which the humor is decidedly macabre) and looks for a short while as if it's going to be a satirical social commentary. From there, however, it gets dark and serious. There are twists aplenty and if some of the deductions arrive too easily as a result of contrived clues and convenient witness testimony, those credulity hurdles are easily vaulted in the name of a good story. Mother delights in confounding viewer expectations. In fact, just when you think it's over, a couple of plot developments remain lurking around the next corner.

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Stay
Going into Stay, I was aware that the director was Marc Forster, the man who made Monster's Ball and Finding Neverland. However, even with that knowledge, it wouldn't have surprised me to see David Lynch's name during the closing credits. Stay is the kind of dreamy, surreal motion picture that delights in messing with its viewers' minds. Ultimately, it's less cryptic than any of Lynch's recent films, since everything is explained (sort of) at the end. The outstanding question, however, is whether or not the resolution satisfies. Forster includes enough clues in the way he presents the narrative for audience members to intuitively figure out the secret, but I couldn't help feeling a little let down when the truth was unveiled. I have seen it before, and on more than one occasion. (I won't mention specific titles here because those who have seen the movie will immediately suspect the twist.)

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Mixed Nuts

Mixed Nuts
There must be something about the combination of Steve Martin and Nora Ephron that doesn't work. Anyone remember My Blue Heaven? (For that matter, does anyone want to remember My Blue Heaven?) Regardless of how dreadfully unfunny that Martin/Ephron collaboration was (she wrote it; he starred in it), it was only a precursor to Mixed Nuts, as unwatchable a motion picture as you're likely to find this Christmas season.

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Cronos

Cronos
Reprinted with permission from The Vampire Gazette, Volume 348, Issue 5, May 1994.

Throughout the ages, human beings have harbored a not-so-secret fascination about our kind. "Children of the night" they call us, romanticizing the price that we pay for immortality. If only they understood the pain, the hunger, the loneliness... But I digress. We are all aware of those things. They are in our blood.

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The Christmas Shoes

The Christmas Shoes
Two separate stories mesh - in the first, a young music teacher, Maggie Andrews, begins dying of a heart condition and her son Nathan tries to get a pair of Christmas shoes for her before she dies. In the second, lawyer Robert Layton and his wife Kate are slowly drifting apart and the matter comes to a head during Christmas when Kate takes over for Maggie for the school choir and declines a job in Roberts firm. When Roberts mother passes away, he begins to reconsider things and his and Nathans paths cross on Christmas Eve as Nathan tries to raise the money for the shoes and Robert tries to get a present for his daughter.

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Miral
A drama centered on an orphaned Palestinian girl growing up in the wake of Arab-Israeli war who finds herself drawn into the conflict.

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Mumford

Mumford
A man gives up his job with the IRS and relocates to a small town named Mumford of which he takes the name and passes it off as his own by being a psychologist. While as a psychologist, Mumford decides to give his patients no holds barred advice which changes his life and that of his patients and the residents.

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Night of the Demons 2

Night of the Demons 2
Angela, the universes most unpleasant party crasher, returns! Angelas sister, Mouse, is taken by her bullying Catholic school classmates to a party at Angelas favorite haunt, and before long, everybodys being turned into demons and only a butt-kickin nun, who wields her ruler like a mighty sword of steel, can save the day.

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