Dinner for Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks
When the Hollywood remake machine surges through Europe, none shall be spared; 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', 'Let the Right One In' and now 'The Dinner Game' have all joined the ranks of localization and reinvention for the English-speaking market. Largely these remakes are unnecessary and smack of how resistant audiences (or perhaps producers) are to embracing foreign film in their original form.

That's not to say that 'Dinner for Schmucks' doesn't have merit in its own right – it does and, as a comedy roll-call of today's great bit-players and stand-up performers, it really brings in the talent. But, honestly, it's irrelevant. Dinner for Schmucks is derivative by its nature and probably never needed to exist in the first place.

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The Bank Job

The Bank Job
The workmanlike title “The Bank Job” is a nice fit for this wham-bam caper flick. Efficiently directed by Roger Donaldson from a busy script by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, it fancifully revisits the mysterious whos and speculative hows of a 1971 London vault cleanout on Baker Street labeled the walkie-talkie robbery. (The thieves squawked on the airwaves like crows.) It was headline news and, then, with a wave of the official wand, it was hush-hush. That’s one story, anyway.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Here in the unenchanted world of ordinary moviegoing, it has been about two and a half years since “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” the first installment in Walt Disney and Walden Media’s mighty “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise. In wartime England, where the Pevensie children live when they’re not consorting with talking lions and battling witches, a year or so has gone by. But in Narnia itself, to which the four plucky Pevensies return in “Prince Caspian,” the second movie in the series, centuries have passed, and everything has changed. The grand hall where Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy were made monarchs of the realm has fallen into ruin, and the friendly woodland creatures with their homey British accents and computer-animated fur seem to have vanished from the scene.

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Hanna
Award-winning director Joe Wright creates a boldly original suspense thriller with “Hanna,” starring Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan (“The Lovely Bones,” “Atonement”) in the title role. Raised by her father (Eric Bana of “Star Trek”), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland, Hanna’s upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin.

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Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock
In 1976, the year of the American bicentennial, the tall ships sailed from Europe to America and back again. But a smaller event was, in its way, no less impressive. In a blind taste-testing held in France, the wines of California’s Napa Valley defeated the best the French had to offer — and all the judges were French! A bottle of the winning American vintage, it is said, now rests on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution.

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Ghost Town

Ghost Town
Ghost Town is one of those romantic comedies that never quite clicks. At times, its humor is effective, provoking chuckles and laughs. At other times, the comedy feels forced and awkward. The romantic element is equally hit-and-miss. The chemistry that emerges between the leads during the film's second half is largely absent from the first 45 minutes. And the premise, rich with promise and pregnant with possibilities, is reduced to a plot device that allows Ghost Town to turn into a low-rent, modern-day version of A Christmas Carol.

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John Tucker Must Die

John Tucker Must Die
The gulf is vast between what the studio wants us to think John Tucker Must Die is and what it really is. The marketers and publicists would have us believe this is a dark, edgy teen comedy about a band of two-timed girls taking revenge on the school's biggest hunk. Unfortunately, Betty Thomas' film is neither dark nor edgy (although it occasionally tries masquerading in those categories), nor is it particularly funny. (Anything close to amusing can be found in the two-minute trailer.) Predictable and familiar, it feels during its best moments like the neutered offspring of Mean Girls and Can't Buy Me Love. But any goodwill the film builds up during its first 80 minutes evaporates in the last ten, when it resorts to moralizing and universal redemption. I know this is supposed to be a fantasy, but when I was in high school, my dreams never came complete with sermons.

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Angel-A

Angel-A
Luc Besson's Angel-A is about as offbeat of a love story as one is likely to find in a movie theater. Think of Wings of Desire crossed with It's a Wonderful Life and crafted applying a film noir style, and you'll have an idea of what the movie offers. There are problems, and these are what keep the picture from attaining the status of an unqualified success. In the first place, it's a talky affair. Sometimes, as in the oeuvre of Besson's countryman, Eric Rohmer, that can be a positive quality, but not here. Besson's dialogue is often inane, occasionally sounding like it is copied verbatim out of a new age self-help manual. Secondly, while there's no denying that Rie Rasmussen cuts a striking figure, she's not the most gifted actress to have graced the screen.

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Jumanji

Jumanji
Apparently, the producers of Jumanji wanted this film to be a Jurassic Park for 1995's holiday season. If so, it's a badly misplaced, and ultimately futile, hope. For, although no one would suspect Steven Spielberg's 1993 dino-picture of having a plot worthy of great literature, at least it had a storyline -- something this film is lacking. Jumanji takes approximately one-hundred minutes for four people to play a board game. The result isn't much more fun or involving than watching a few friends play Monopoly. Even the Robin Williams manic humor can't save Jumanji, at least not entirely.

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Jawbreaker

Jawbreaker
For the first time in more than a decade, teen films are all the rage. Stars from TV shows like "Dawson's Creek" and "Party of Five" are crossing over to the big screen in droves, resulting in such lackluster fare as Can't Hardly Wait and She's All That. With a built-in audience of millions who hang out at multiplexes every Friday and Saturday night, these movies, despite being lackluster and underwritten, are guaranteed money-makers. They all use similar formulas - variations on the themes that John Hughes toyed with in the '80s. Every once in a while, however, a teen film comes along with a dark streak and something of an edge. In 1989, it was Heathers. Now, in 1999, it's Jawbreaker.

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The Cat's Meow

The Cat's Meow
It is November 15, 1924, and among those boarding the luxury yacht Oneida in San Pedro, California are its owner, publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, and his mistress, silent film star Marion Davies; Ince, whose birthday is the reason for the weekend cruise, and his mistress, starlet Margaret Livingston; Charlie Chaplin; English writer Elinor Glyn; and Louella Parsons, the film critic for Hearst's New York American.

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When a Man Falls in the Forest

When a Man Falls in the Forest
The intertwining lives of three men reveal that each deal with his problems in different, self-destructive ways.

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Eat Your Heart Out aka Skinned Alive

Eat Your Heart Out aka Skinned Alive
In the heart of New York City, men are dying in very violent ways. They are being torn up and ripped apart...and eaten. The only connection is that they all die after hiring a prostitute. And searching for love in this city is Jeffrey...Jeffrey is a sad and lonely man. He hates his job, he hates his life and all he wants is a woman to shower with love and affection. Socially awkward and fearing rejection, Jeffrey finds his companionship with hookers. In a bizarre twist of fate, Jeffrey hires this hooker and almost instantly they fall madly in love. Now he has to find out just how much he is willing to accept in the name of true love...She is feeding on the men of New York City...and there is a lunatic that is hunting her down...and caught in the middle is Jeffrey, who only wanted to love and be loved.

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The Weight of Water

The Weight of Water
A newspaper photographer, Jean, researches the lurid and sensational axe murder of two women in 1873 as an editorial tie-in with a brutal modern double murder. She discovers a cache of papers that appear to give an account of the murders by an eyewitness. The plot weaves between the narrative of the eyewitness and Jeans private struggle with jealousies and suspicions as her marriage teeters.

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A Time to Kill

A Time to Kill
In Canton, Mississippi, 10-year-old Tonya Hailey is viciously brutalized by two white racist rednecks -- James Louis Pete Willard and Billy Ray Cobb. Almost immediately after Tonya is found and rushed to a hospital, Pete and Billy Ray are found at a roadside bar, where they had been bragging about what they did to Tonya. Tonyas understandably distraught and enraged father, Carl Lee Hailey, remembers a case from a year ago, when four white men raped an African-American girl in a nearby town, and got acquitted. Carl is determined to not let that happen in this case. While deputy Dwayne Powell Looney is escorting Pete and Billy Ray up a flight of stairs to a court room, Carl emerges from the buildings basement with an assault rifle, and he kills Pete and Billy Ray for what they did to Tonya. Carl is later arrested at his house by African-American sheriff Ozzie Walls, and Carl is scheduled to be placed on trial. Despite the efforts of the NAACP and local African-American leaders to persuade Carl to choose some of their high-powered attorneys, Carl wants to be represented by his friend Jake Tyler Brigance, who has a wife named Carla and a daughter named Hannah. Presiding over the trial is white judge Omar Noose, and the prosecution attorney is Rufus Buckley, who would like nothing more than to win the case and swim in the publicity that a win would generate, because Rufus realizes that a murder conviction could help him gain higher office. Helping Jake on the case are his former law professor Lucien Wilbanks, fellow attorney Harry Rex Vonner, and law student Ellen Roark. Ellen has had experience with death penalty cases, and thats exactly what Rufus may be seeking. To start things off, Noose denies bail and denies Jakes petition for a change of venue. Carl has also been fired from his job. Billy Ray Cobbs brother Freddie Lee Cobb wants revenge on Carl, so Freddy gets the help of the Mississippi branch of the KKK, led by Mississippi grand dragon Stump Sisson. Carls wife Gwen tells Carl that a doctor has said that because of Pete and Billy Ray, Tonyas reproductive organs are damaged enough to where she wont be able to have kids when she grows up. That night, a KKK member is found trying to plant a bomb under Jakes porch. Jakes secretary Ethel Twitty and her husband Bud are also attacked by the KKK. Still, Jake, Harry, Lucien, and Ellen continue to help Carl. On the day the trial begins, there is a riot outside the court building between the KKK and the areas African-American residents, and Stump Sisson is killed by a molotov cocktail that was dropped from a roof by one of Carls sons, who was not seen dropping it. Freddy and the KKK start burning crosses throughout Canton, and one of the crosses burns Jakes house down while Jake and his family are not home. As a result, the National Guard is called to Canton to keep the peace during the trial. But Freddy is not about to let that stop him. While Freddy continues his efforts to get revenge on Carl for Billy Rays death, Carls attorneys put everything theyve got into Carls defense.

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Meek's Cutoff

Meek's Cutoff
The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon team of three families has hired the mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a short cut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants must face the scourges of hunger, thirst and their own lack of faith in each others instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as the natural enemy.

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