This Is It

This Is It
It took an early, dramatic death to end Michael Jacksonís decades-long professional and personal freefall. Jacksonís passing transformed the hours of rehearsal footage that form the basis of This Is It from special-features fodder for a concert DVD into possibly the most anticipated performance film of all time. Sony paid an astonishing $60 million for the footage, hoping to cash in on a public salivating for anything Jackson-related. High School Musical film-series director Kenny Ortega cobbled the footage together into a strange beast that alternately suggests Outtakes: The Movie! and D.A. Pennebakerís Original Cast Album: Company, another intriguing behind-the-scenes look at the agony and the ecstasy of the creative process.

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Next
Nicolas Cage is a magician with a secret: he can see into the future - only two minutes into it, mind, but it's enough to guarantee plenty of bullet-dodging in this far-fetched thriller. FBI bigwig Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) reckons Cris (Cage) can stop a terrorist bomb, but he'd rather chase moist-lipped teacher and current object of his visions, Liz (Jessica Biel). Fun time-twisting gives way to tedious implausibility in this miscast, continuity-troubled blot on an already soiled record of Philip K Dick adaptations.

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Hanna
Moving ever further away from the high-lit reputability of Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, director Joe Wright seems hellbent on proving he's a high-powered action stylist in Hanna. This sort of reverse-image, quasi-intellectual cousin to Luc Besson's The Professional stars the exceptional Saoirse Ronan as the daughter of a CIA op, raised to be the perfect soldier spy, who's unexpectedly forced to cope with a world she doesn't know and a lethal female adversary from her father's past. At once enticing and a bit dubious, this arty thriller looks to ride its sterling cast and unusual kicks to decent midrange box office.

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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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Sherrybaby

Sherrybaby
It's a rare thing when an individual performance defines an entire film, but it happens once or twice per year. Such is the case with Sherrybaby, the feature debut of Laurie Collyer. A simple tale of one woman's attempts to re-connect with her young daughter, Sherrybaby is elevated from the level of a TV drama by the sheer

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Silent Hill

Silent Hill
When it comes to movies based on computer games, Silent Hill is not the Holy Grail, but it's a step in the right direction. The film is overlong, with too many unnecessary scenes (a lot of the movie seems like pointless running around), but it packs in a few scary moments and offers a nicely ambiguous conclusion. In Silent Hill, atmosphere trumps storyline. The movie is creepy throughout, but the plot seems designed primarily for those with "insider" knowledge of the game. It takes a lot of thought to decipher, and I'm not sure all the clues are there. Nevertheless, I understood enough of what was going on not to feel completely lost, although I don't know if I could explain everything in a convincing fashion.

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Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge
Romantic comedies are a dime-a-dozen, and most of them fail because they pursue slapstick while losing sight of the characters. Because The Cutting Edge doesn't fall into that trap, it results in an enjoyable lark. Despite a recycled plot, this appealing motion picture is likely to be embraced by everyone who enjoys a little romance.

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Richard III

Richard III
Richard III - it's Shakespeare that has nothing to do with Kenneth Branagh. Actually, at first glance, this film doesn't appear to have anything to do with the Bard's play, either. Opening in a 1930's England war room with a tank crashing through a wall, one is immediately struck by the realization that, whatever this movie is doing, it certainly isn't preserving the story's original time frame. However, while the sets and costumes have been moved to a mythical, Nazi-like pre-WWII England, the dialogue, characters, actions, and themes remain unchanged from the original text by Shakespeare. While this curious clash between a near-modern setting and the much older source material might seem confounding, it actually serves to energize the play, as well as making it more palatable to present-day audiences.

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Muriel's Wedding

Muriel's Wedding
The previews for Muriel's Wedding liken this latest Australian import to two of its predecessors, Strictly Ballroom and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. These are inaccurate, not to mention misleading, comparisons. Those expecting something light and airy from this tragic-comedy are in for an unpleasant surprise, for, while Muriel's Wedding has its moments of exhilarating humor, it is, as often as not, downbeat and even mean-spirited.

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Happy Gilmore

Happy Gilmore
When it comes to golf comedies (not a very popular genre, apparently), the film residing at the dubious pinnacle is Rodney Dangerfield's Caddyshack. Happy Gilmore, the new release featuring Saturday Night Live alum Adam Sandler, tries gamely to attain Caddyshack's level. Alas, this picture just isn't on par with the passable 1980 farce. Sandler's movie is worth a few laughs, but not many of the comic sequences are original, and even fewer are inspired.

I feel compelled to mention that this is undoubtedly Sandler's best outing to date. However, considering the quality of his other films -- Airheads, Mixed Nuts, and Billy Madison -- that's not an especially impressive statement. Nevertheless, despite the mediocrity of Happy Gilmore, it's apparent that Sandler has some aptitude for physical comedy, which puts him on a significantly higher plane than, say, Pauly Shore.

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Harlem Blues

Harlem Blues
When Ishmael is released from prison, he is forced to return to the life on the streets that he thought he had left behind. Determined to survive, he trains as a professional fighter, and struggles to stay out of the world of gangs, drugs and turf war.

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In the Cut

In the Cut
Following the gruesome murder of a young woman in her neighborhood, a self-determined woman living in New York City--as if to test the limits of her own safety--propels herself into an impossibly risky sexual liaison. Soon she grows increasingly wary about the motives of every man with whom she has contact--and about her own.

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Five Moons Plaza

Five Moons Plaza
Nowadays. The day before his retirement Judge Saracini under the threat of a gun receives an envelope with an old 8mm film. The film shows the cold blooded killing of five men and the abduction of another. It is previously unknown footage of the kidnapping of the President of the Italian Christian Democratic party Aldo Moro and the brutal murder of his escort in Rome on March 16th, 1978.

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Dead End

Dead End
On Christmas Eve, a father named Frank Harrington (Ray Wise) is driving through California with his family consisting of his wife Laura (Lin Shaye), his son Richard (Mick Cain), his daughter Marion (Alexandra Holden) and her boyfriend Brad (Billy Asher), to have Christmas dinner at the home of Frank's mother-in-law. Frank decides to drive through an unknown shortcut using a secondary road, where horrific events follow his family.

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G.I. Jane

G.I. Jane
When a crusading chairperson of the military budget committee pressures the would be Navy secretary to begin full gender integration of the service, he offers the chance for a test case for a female trainee in the elite Navy SEALS commando force. Lt. Jordan ONiel is given the assignment, but no one expects her to succeed in an inhumanly punishing regime that has a standard 60 dropout rate for men. However, ONiel is determined to prove everyone wrong.

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Intersection

Intersection
Vincent Eastman has to choose between his wife of 16 years, Sally, or his new love, Olivia. Frequent flashbacks explain the background to the marriage and the affair.

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