The Runaways

The Runaways
Attitude goes a long way. That statement actually ends up explaining the short-lived successes of all-girl rock outfit The Runaways as well as that of the titular film. Both had the capacity for greatness but fell short and if it wasn't for the image and posturing, both would likely be just as forgettable. Instead, the new film from writer/director Floria Sigismondi (who previously worked in and around the music video scene) is stylish, fast and disposable with enough smeared lipstick and running eyeliner to make your typical pop starlet blush.

At the centre of what is essentially a sexed up teen rock-drama are Kristen Stewart, who most teens will recognize for her lead role in the Twilight films, and Dakota Fanning, the doe-eyed blonde child star of just about every horror-thriller in want of a doe-eyed blonde child star.

Fanning finally ditches her precocious and plucky ways with a darker role that may well alter her image permanently. Likewise Stewart portrays rock legend Joan Jett with edge and vitriol as she powers into the spotlight as songwriter and guitarist of The Runaways a manufactured rock outfit with some actual chops. Fanning falls into the line-up after eccentric slime ball manager Kim Fowley (a wonderfully hammy and flamboyant Michael Shannon) takes a shine to her and puts her vocals to the test.

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Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed
There are moments - few and far between, admittedly - when Something Borrowed briefly shines. Alas, those isolated instances aside, the movie is largely a waste of time. A tortured romantic comedy constructed on an uncertain foundation of artifice, this adaptation of Emily Griffin's novel routinely fails to escape the decaying orbit of familiar romantic comedy clichés. At the same time, it gives the false impression of somehow being different than and superior to the less sophisticated members of the genre. A successful romantic comedy should offer breezy wish fulfillment as sweet and airy as cotton candy. Something Borrowed is overlong and at times tedious; the taste is gritty and lingers unpleasantly.

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King of California

King of California
King of California is the second movie opening this month to feature Evan Rachel Wood and, while it's better than the other one (Across the Universe), it's not that much better. Wood's performance is at about the same level, albeit without the singing. Here's she's paired opposite Michael Douglas, who plays her father. This is the art-house answer to National Treasure - it's about a mentally ill man who believes he has found a treasure map. The movie develops in two pieces - one dealing with the quest for the hidden riches and once concentrating on the relationship between father and daughter. The latter works; the former doesn't. The ending is touching without being too melodramatic.

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Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist
You know there's a problem when the most interesting character in a film called Oliver Twist is a supporting woman named Nancy. Technically sound and surprisingly faithful to its source material, Roman Polanski's version of Oliver Twist comes across as uninspired and flat. Only two performances - that of Leanne Rowe as Nancy Sikes and Jamie Foreman as Bill Sikes - have energy. The biggest deficiency is Barney Clark, whose performance as the title character vacillates between befuddlement and artificial weepiness (rarely have I seen more crocodile tears). For the story to work, sympathy with Oliver is mandatory, but Clark's acting and Polanski's direction keep the character at arm's length. I cared about Nancy and wanted Bill to get his comeuppance, but Oliver seems inconsequential.

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Bride and Prejudice

Bride and Prejudice
At first, the marriage between classical British literature and Bollywood musical would seem doomed to failure. But this particular match, arranged by Gurinder Chadha, finds a surprisingly rich field of common ground. Bride and Prejudice is bright, colorful, and exhilarating, and brings new dimensions to a story that has been told so many times that it's astounding to recognize that someone has found a fresh perspective. I don't know what Jane Austen would have thought of the film, but I enjoyed it.

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Good Bye, Lenin!

Good Bye, Lenin!
There's certainly no shortage of rich threads woven into the tapestry of Good Bye, Lenin! Wolfgang Becker's movie (produced by Stefan Arndt, who has been involved in everything by Tom Tykwer, from Run Lola Run to Heaven) offers the touching story of a devoted son's sacrifice for his mother, albeit with a couple of inventive twists. The story confronts the perversion of perception and the manipulation of reality. And, as if that isn't heady enough material, it tackles the confusing national identity crisis suffered by Germans when the Berlin Wall came down. Like twins reunited after a long separation, there was an awkward re-acclimation process that few films are interested in exploring. (Perhaps it takes a German filmmaker to do the issue justice, or perhaps to even recognize it at all.)

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Hustle & Flow

Hustle & Flow
Hustle & Flow takes a clich? and imbues it with new life through the virtues of directorial flair and talented acting. For most of its running time, Hustle & Flow follows familiar patterns, deviating only during a third act that brings the street's grit into what initially appears to be a happily-ever-after fairy tale. Never fear, though - writer/director Craig Brewer respects his characters too much to leave them in an unredeemed state.

Terrence Dashon Howard, who can also currently be seen in Crash, has the lead role of DJay, a pimp with a heart as gold as one of his teeth. DJay shares a house with his three hookers, all of whom have different relationships with him. Nola (Taryn Manning), the youngest, views DJay as a father-figure. Because of her age and skin color (she's white), she has the best earning power. Shug (Taraji P. Henson), carries a torch for DJay, and he for her. Because she's pregnant, she's not on the street. Lexus (Paula Jai Parker) is arrogant and confrontational, and her attitude frequently rubs DJay the wrong way.

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Nixon
It's always a tricky proposition to make a motion picture based on recent history -- and the more public the episode, the more difficult it is for the film maker to balance drama with accuracy. This is especially true when that film maker is Oliver Stone, a director known more for self-aggrandizement than for the thoughtful handling of difficult issues. Under Stone, JFK turned into a three-hour paranoid ordeal with a conspiracy theory ten times less plausible than the Warren Commission's "one bullet" hypothesis. Natural Born Killers became a sickening display of indulgent ego-stroking.

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Mallrats

Mallrats
As promised, Jay and Silent Bob are back. The quirky duo who hung around in the background of Kevin Smith's 1994 debut feature, Clerks, have returned to the screen for the followup, Mallrats, the middle picture of the so-called "New Jersey Trilogy." (Although ostensibly taking place in the Garden State, Mallrats was filmed almost entirely in Los Angeles and Minnesota.) In many ways, this new movie is a less original, not-as-funny, full color redressing of Clerks. Despite a broad range of effective comedy and a decent laugh-per-minute ratio, Mallrats is likely to be a moderate disappointment for anyone who guffawed their way through the previous film.

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Dead Set

Dead Set
Its eviction night at the Big Brother house, but something very strange is happening the dead are coming alive and attacking the living. When zombies attack all of the audience outside, the Big Brother contestants are unaware of the death outside the fan-proof (and zombie-proof) big brother house until the shows runner, Kelly, comes into the house and warns them of the doom outside. Stuck with even less contact with the outside world, the house-mates must sneak out of the house to get supplies, without being seen by the zombies.

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Elephant

Elephant
The film opens with Mr. McFarland (Timothy Bottoms) driving erratically down a residential street on the way to drop off his son, John (John Robinson). John notices damage to the car and realizes that his father is drunk, so John instructs him to move to the passenger seat and let him drive.

The camera then follows students as they walk down the hallways, talk to friends, and go to class. Many characters are shown in long tracking shots that do not turn away. Alex (Alex Frost) and Eric (Eric Deulen) are shown being bullied at school by the so-called jocks, one of whom diverts a teacher and then throws a spitball at Alex during science class. Later, Alex and Eric are shown at home ordering weapons from a website and receiving a rifle in the mail. While Alex is taking a shower, Eric gets in with him. He claims that he has never kissed anyone before, and the two kiss. The two are later shown formulating an attack plan. The next day, Alex and Eric prepare for the shooting, then make their way to school in silence in Alex's car.

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Hard Luck

Hard Luck
The confusion begins when Lucky (Wesley Snipes) is released from prison and tries to lead a respectable life despite his troubled past. Lucky once or twice reflects on the wisdom of his grandfather who supposedly told him "sometimes without bad luck, it would seem you don't have any luck at all." This theme is supposed to be manifested throughout the film. Shortly after his release from prison, Lucky tries to get back on his feet but inexplicably ends up a victim of Hurricane Katrina's wrath, and loses his newly found life. After moving back to New York, Lucky is dealt another blow when the government withdraws funds for his yoga and samba dance classes which he uses to try to keep kids off of the streets. This unfortunate event leads to Lucky enduring the bad influences of two old friends from his past life as a criminal, who lure Lucky to a strip club under the false pretense of a friend's birthday. When a drug deal with some dangerous mobsters goes bad, Lucky is now on the run with a feisty Puerto Rican stripper from the strip club, Angie (Jackie Quinones), and over $500,000 in American currency, which is wired with marking dye.

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Leadbelly

Leadbelly
The life of Blues and folk singer Huddie Leadbetter, nicknamed Leadbelly is recounted. Covering the good times and bad from his 20s to 40s. Much of that time was spent on chain gangs in the south. Even in prison he became well known for the songs he had composed and sung during and before the time he spent there.

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Dedication

Dedication
Henry Roth obsessive-compulsive, somewhat misanthropic, a writer of childrens books. His illustrator and only friend, Rudy, dies after a fabulously successful collaboration on Marty, the Beaver. Henry is under contract to produce another Marty book for Christmas sales. His publisher, Arthur Planck, assigns penniless, lovelorn illustrator Lucy Reilly to work with Henry. Shes sought by her ex-boyfriend Jeremy, who dumped her two years ago but shows up apologetic, having dedicated his new book to her. She and Henry go to a house on the shore to work. Will love bloom amid the rocks, or is Henry a bump on Lucys road to Jeremy? Rudys voice, from the grave, gives Henry counsel.

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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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Moon
With only three weeks left in his three year contract, Sam Bell is getting anxious to finally return to Earth. He is the only occupant of a Moon-based manufacturing facility along with his computer and assistant, GERTY. The long period of time alone however has resulted in him talking to himself for the most part, or to his plants. Direct communication with Earth is not possible due to a long-standing communication malfunction but he does get an occasional message from his wife Tess. When he has an accident however, he wakens to find that he is not alone. He also comes to realize that his world is not what he thought it was.

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