Finding Amanda

Finding Amanda
Oh boy. Let me preface this review by saying that I truly go into all films (festival or otherwise) hoping to love what I see on the big screen. During the movie, I will always try my damnedest to find something worthwhile; something positive to say afterwards. But then you get to a film like Finding Amanda and there's really nowhere to go. Aside from a few cute one-liners, this film was a complete disaster -- to the point where I would strongly advise the creators not to screen this anywhere else until more work was done to it. I hate to be that guy, and I seriously have nothing against the filmmakers, but watching this flick felt like slowing down to check out an accident on the freeway. At first, it doesn't look so bad ... but then you get up close and everything is completely demolished.

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Saw 3D

Saw 3D
The Saw films, for better or for worse, have always been more concerned with big ideas rather than little details. Employing an elaborate series of torture devices masquerading as cautionary tales against wavering morality, the gruesome and the macabre have always been cloaked in somewhat thoughtful commentaries on sketchy ethics and selfish natures. Itís this combination of unflinching brutality and overt finger-pointing which drives the series; yet, in a way, itís also what has condemned it to mediocrity. Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, like each of its predecessors, is so consumed with its inventive, big idea judgment scenes that it hardly bothers with the actual mechanics needed for a story to work. Whatís left is a severely fragmented movie weaving principled savagery and awkward, thoughtless dialogue into an ultimately mediocre product. Fitting, yet sad in a way, for the supposed final installment that works overtime trying to tie a cohesive string through all thatís come before.

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Room of Death

Room of Death
Two weeks ago my mac died, and I lost all my saved reviews. But F that, we begin anew. "Room of Death" is a French thriller from 2007. It's also one of the best surprises in a while. Basic cable includes access to some on-demand channels, including "free movies on demand" (nice!). A quick imdb search showed mixed reviews for this pic, but the praise was convincing. I'm glad that I read between the lines, as I may have passed this over.

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Far Cry

Far Cry
Uwe Boll (which is German for ďAppalling FilmmakerĒ) has made a living over recent years (and has angered a great deal of people) by transforming beloved video game properties into epically awful movies. As a result, the cultural landscape has become tragically cluttered with unwatchable motion pictures such as House of the Dead, BloodRayne, Alone in the Dark and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Bollís latest video game adaptation-turned-sign-of-the-Apocalypse is 2008ís Far Cry, which was adapted from the PC shooter of the same name. The lush tropical island setting of the game has been replaced with the Pacific Northwest, and silently sneaking through the forest picking off soldiers has been replaced with abysmal dialogue and brainless, unexciting action scenes. Never thought it would happen, but Boll has reached yet another new low. After showing evidence that he may be improving in 1968 Tunnel Rats, Bollís work is firmly back in the doldrums.

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The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer
Having seen new legal drama The Lincoln Lawyer at the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised.
Based on the best-selling Michael Connelly novel, Matthew McConaughey puts in a career-best performance as charismatic lawyer Micky Haller. He chooses to deal with the Ďscumí of Los Angeles by working out of the backseat of his chauffeured Lincoln Continental with a licensed plate that reads NTGUILTY; which is a situation he never finds any of his clients in. Subsequently this leads us to ask the question - has he forgotten his morals as he defends everyone from bikers to drug-dealers across the notorious city of L.A.?

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Paranoid Park

Paranoid Park
Paranoid Park is a rare breed: a movie about teenagers in which the characters talk like real teenagers, act like real teenagers, and are played by real teenagers. The difference between what's presented in this production compared to what we're used to is striking. Suddenly, the viewer is back in high school, navigating halls clogged with human bodies and trying to stay awake in classes where teachers drone on in monotones. You don't get that feeling from American Pie or Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Of course, director Gus Van Sant's objective with Paranoid Park isn't merely to remind audiences of their lost youth - it's to provide a window into the mind of a protagonist who, as the result of a bad decision and a worse accident, is forced to cope with issues that the average kid never even considers.

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Death Race

Death Race
Whether by coincidence or design, the three week period from August 20 through September 10 has been dominated over the last five years by Jason Statham. In 2004, there was Cellular. In 2005, there was Transporter 2. The 2006 entry was Crank, followed by War in 2007. Now, for 2008, Statham has Death Race, which delivers pretty much what one might expect from a movie of that name: cars and carnage. Statham's films never promise to be something they're not or offer something they don't provide. Death Race is not an exception. Paul W.S. Anderson's (the Alien vs. Predator guy) creation is weak when it comes to things like plot, character, and acting, but it's very good at provoking visceral reactions, and that's largely what the picture's audience will be in multiplexes for.

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Xanadu

Xanadu
How, one might ask, does one begin to defend Xanadu? To start with, by looking at it without any pretensions and seeing it for what it is. Conventional wisdom decrees that Xanadu is a horrible film. In a sense, conventional wisdom may be correct, but it ignores one key ingredient: viewed in the right frame of mind, this movie can be a lot of fun. Age has done for Xanadu what it has done for many critically reviled motion pictures that time has not forgotten: allowed us to look at it a little more kindly and appreciate it for its glorious badness. The film is too energetic, too jaw-droppingly campy, and too silly not to be enjoyed and celebrated on some level. "Cheesy" doesn't even begin to describe it, yet that's at the heart of its perverse charm. Now, that's entertainment!

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Civil Action

Civil Action
Let me begin this review by stating that I am weary of courtroom dramas. This is in large part because of John Grisham, whose popularity has encouraged screenwriters exploring this genre to fall into familiar, predictable patterns. Seen in retrospect, some of the best of these movies (The Verdict, A Few Good Men, Presumed Innocent) no longer look as impressive as they once did. So it was with low expectations that I sat down to watch A Civil Action, the second feature directed by Steven Zaillian (his first was Searching for Bobby Fischer), the screenwriter of Schindler's List. However, Zaillian managed to surprise me by crafting a courtroom drama which is sufficiently different and thought-provoking that I can recommend it with a clear conscience.

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Lost Highway

Lost Highway
Perhaps it's redundant to say that a David Lynch movie is weird (actually, "incomprehensible" might be a better word). Don't ask me to explain Lost Highway; I'm not sure I can. For that matter, don't ask Lynch, either. All he's willing to say is that it's "a 21st century noir horror film" and it's up to viewers to draw their own conclusions. Lost Highway is unusually bizarre even for this atypical director. Co-written by Barry Gifford, the film ventures deeper into the nearly psychotic supernatural than any feature Lynch has previous overseen. And, while not approaching the brilliant level attained by Blue Velvet, Lost Highway is an improvement over the film maker's most recent two outings, Wild at Heart (based on the novel by Gifford) and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

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Street Warrior

Street Warrior
Street Warriors starts off with a hard rock fight montage during which the cast is introduced in a 1970s role call style, which ultimately sets the tone of the entire film, lowbrow fighting and nudity to fill an hour and a half of screen time.

Street Warriors is about a man named Jack Campbell (Max Martini) who has just been dishonorably discharged from the military after spending some time in the military prison for beating his commanding officer during the Iraqi war. Upon his return, Jack suddenly finds that his talents as a close combat fighter when he helps to save an old friend from a group of gangsters. He makes short order of the thugs but finds that the local police do not seem to like him much.

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Regular Show - Season Two

Regular Show - Season Two
Two 23-year-old friends, a blue jay named Mordecai and a raccoon named Rigby, are employed as groundskeepers at a park and spend their days trying to slack off and entertain themselves by any means.

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Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure

Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure
This fabulous adventure follows the blonde-haired diva Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale), musical-theater prima donna from the High School Musical franchise, on her own adventure, as she travels to New York City hoping to make it big. But Sharpay has a hard road ahead, when she realizes that in the real world, leading roles aren't handed over to talented teenagers on a silver platter.

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The Moon and the Stars

The Moon and the Stars
A wealthy Jewish homosexual film producer is making a film based on Puccini's opera Tosca and a famous German diva is cast opposite a difficult English actor. As filming gets under way on a sound stage in Rome, World War II in 1939 escalates around them threatening the film's completion.

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The Big Bad Swim

The Big Bad Swim
The film is an ensemble comedy-drama that focuses on the group of people, each of whom is afraid of the water, that join an adult swim class. Amy Pierson (Paget Brewster) is a calculus teacher going through a divorce with her husband, Paul (Grant Aleksander). Noah Owens (Jeff Branson) is the teacher of the swim class who is battling depression until he meets Jordan (Jess Weixler), a beautiful casino dealer/exotic dancer who wants to learn how to swim. Other members in the class include a cop (Kevin Porter Young), a cocky woman who already knows how to swim (Liza Lapira), and a married couple (Todd Susman and Darla Hill).

Jordan's brother, David (Avi Setton) and his obnoxious friend Hunter (Raviv Ullman) are trying to make a documentary about her.

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King of the Streets

King of the Streets
Rey is a small time drug dealer waiting for a chance to make it in a big way. He is in love with a prostitute, together they share their ups and downs expecting to one day get out of their miserable lives. They continue to struggle until one day they come across an opportunity of a lifetime.

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