The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
Having made its UK debut at last year's FrightFest, The Human Centipede has attained a cult-like status by word-of-mouth alone, and with such a diabolically disgusting premise at its centre, it's not hard to imagine why. For those with a weak stomach and no idea of what we speak, you might want to skip the next paragraph.

The story goes that Dutch director Tom Six came up with the idea for The Human Centipede when joking with his friends that surgically attaching the mouth of a convicted paedophile to the anus of a fat truck driver would be a suitable punishment for their crimes, and so from there the concept for The Human Centipede was born. The fact that Six was also one of brains behind the original Big Brother TV format in Holland is unconnected.

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Gran Torino

Gran Torino
Everyone has at least one friend with a racist grandparent. They’ll scream and shout about how the Mexicans are moving into the neighborhood or bitch about the white devils down the street. They’re not out there actively wearing clan hoods or marching in hate demonstrations, but they’re not above dropping the occasional racial slur. Many people tend to excuse racism among the elderly as a product of the way they were raised. “My granny’s from a different time,” your friend will tell you after spending twenty minutes trapped in her kitchen while she blames the Jews for 9/11. “She’s not a hate-monger, she just doesn’t know any better,” your friend will say. Until now, that’s an excuse I’ve never really bought into. But Eastwood makes a rather compelling case for it in his new grandpa gets revenge flick Gran Torino.

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Diary of the Dead

Diary of the Dead
Last night in Toronto a few hundred lucky film-goers got to experience something phenomenal. While people lined Yonge street to catch a glimpse of “Brangelina” down at the Elgin, an eclectic mix of film fans lined the streets around Ryerson University to experience something truly fantastical – the World Premiere of George A. Romero’s “Diary of the Dead”.

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Zodiac

Zodiac
Explaining a mystery is an act of reassurance. It makes us feel that chaos has been defeated, and the forces of order restored. Zodiac, David Fincher's vastly intricate and dazzling drama about the hunt for the serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area starting in 1969, offers no such soothing closure, and that's part of what's haunting about it. It spins your head in a new way, luring you into a vortex and then deeper still, fascinating us as much for what we don't know as what we do. Reenacting one of the most infamous ''cold'' cases in U.S. criminal history, Fincher has broken with the fanciful mode of tawdry baroque opulence he employed in Fight Club, Panic Room, and his first serial-killer outing, Seven. Zodiac is based on piles of documents culled from police records, and it's been made in a style of dogged, almost fetishistic realism, its suspense rooted in the scrappiest tidbits of bureaucratic protocol. Fincher refuses to squeeze the hunt for the Zodiac killer into tidy arcs. The revelations occur where they did, and not where they didn't.

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Easy Virtue

Easy Virtue
From Stephan Elliott, the man who brought us The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert comes Easy Virtue, an adaptation of Noel Coward's play. Written in 1924, this was the playwright's 16th play, and was originally filmed in 1928 by Alfred Hitchcock. The thing about Coward's work, whether in its unexpurgated version or in this new, re-tooled approach, is it's all about the dialogue. (Ironically, the Hitchcock adaptation was silent, resulting in much of the dialogue being excised.) Sure, there's a plot, but it's a secondary element to the lines the actors deliver. Only Oscar Wilde has the same bite. Fortunately, Elliott understands this, which makes Easy Virtue go down smoothly.

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Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints illustrates that it's still possible to do something interesting with a familiar premise. Writer/director Dito Montiel, who has based the film on his memoirs, tells the story of a man who escaped from his "old" neighborhood to find success elsewhere, and hasn't looked back since. Now, with his father on his deathbed, he is trying to bridge a twenty year gap. The movie is not without flaws - editing has left parts of the film feeling choppy, there are a few too many directorial "flourishes," and the modern day segments get short shrift - but the performances are heartfelt and the ways in which Montiel refuses to oversentimentalize the story work.

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8 Women

8 Women
Is it possible to have more fun in a movie theater than with 8 Women, one of the most uplifting and delightful films to have come along this year? The product of French director François Ozon, 8 Women offers as much delicious enjoyment to the viewer as it obviously did to the cast and crew when they were assembling it. Part satire, part comedy, part musical, and part murder mystery, this motion picture criss-crosses genre lines at will, offering just about every kind of pleasure imaginable, guilty or otherwise.

The eight women of the title are Gaby (Catherine Deneuve); her daughters, Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier) and Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen); her mother (Danielle Darrieux); her sister, Augustine (Isabelle Huppert); her sister-in-law, Pierrette (Fanny Ardant); and her two maids, Louise (Emmanuelle Béart) and Chanel (Firmine Richard). These characters are trapped together in a house during a snowstorm with one dead body (Marcel, Gaby's husband) and cut phone lines. Tensions run high, with each woman suspecting the others of being the killer. Secrets, some silly and some shocking, are revealed. Suzon begins acting like Hercule Poirot, and everyone else takes an occasional break to lapse into song and dance. A more enjoyable confection cannot be found.

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Wedding Planner

Wedding Planner
Five minutes into The Wedding Planner, I suspected the film was in trouble. Ten minutes later, I knew it was in trouble. There's only one thing that can sink a movie so fast - bad writing. Even excruciating acting takes longer. Romantic comedies shouldn't be difficult to make, since all but the very best of them follow a tried-and-true formula. All that is required is to get a pair of likable, attractive leads and plop them down in the midst of a narrative that allows them to generate some romantic friction before being split apart by complications then brought back together at the end. Yet, despite having a clear roadmap to use for navigation, director Adam Shankman and his co-conspirators, screenwriters Pamela Falk & Michael Ellis, manage to screw things up. The end result is occasionally so inept and embarrassing that it's almost physically painful to sit through.

On the surface, the selection of actress/singer Jennifer Lopez and one-time heartthrob Matthew McConaughey seems to be good casting. In the past, both have had some success with romantic pairings (Lopez opposite George Clooney in the steamy thriller Out of Sight and McConaughey opposite Jenna Elfman in EdTV), so it's reasonable to expect them to strike a few sparks. Unfortunately, although Lopez is competent, McConaughey looks lost. A city slicker with two sticks would have a better chance of generating heat than these two. The chemistry so crucial to the success of any screen romance is absent. But the central flaw isn't the actors, or even the film's generic premise - it's the script. The Wedding Planner is a perfect example of what happens when the appeal of the two leads cannot overcome the obstacle presented by an irredeemably stupid screenplay.

Mary Fiore (Lopez) is one of the best wedding planners in the state of California. Whenever anyone needs to arrange a lavish wedding, they come to her. Despite her profession, however, she leads an unromantic life, using the motto, "those who can't wed, plan". Things change for her one afternoon when she is saved from being stuck by a runaway garbage dumpster by a handsome doctor named Steve Edison (McConaughey). The two spend a romantic evening together and Mary thinks she may have found Mr. Right - until Steve turns out to be the fiancé of her latest client, Fran Donolly (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras). But, as the planning of the wedding becomes more involved, Mary and Steve's attraction represents a growing impediment.

When I watch a romantic comedy, I do not demand a great deal in the way of originality or inventiveness. This is, after all, a highly derivative genre in which the unexpected is often frowned upon. Romantic tension, not narrative tension, should be the director's goal. However, I do require that the primary characteristics of the characters not be evidence of frontal lobotomies. Throughout The Wedding Planner, people consistently do and say stupid things. It's an epidemic, and no one is spared the ruthless butchering of the screenwriters' witless pens. So Jennifer Lopez gets to crawl around on her knees to avoid an old flame and Matthew McConaughey if offered the opportunity to see what it's like to have a statue's stone genitals crazy glued to his hand. Can comedy get any funnier than that? Meanwhile, the dialogue features more platitudes than can be found in a rack of Hallmark greeting cards. When characters are this dumb, it's impossible to care about their fates; consequently, we have no investment in Mary and Steve's eventual and inevitable union.

Typically, no matter how uninspired a romantic comedy may be, it has the capacity to generate a moment's bliss when the two lovers finally set aside their differences and come together. Not here, though. The Wedding Planner can't even offer such a basic payoff, and that makes the chore of watching it completely thankless. Even the superficial pleasure of gazing at Lopez and McConaughey can't justify this film's existence.

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Open Range

Open Range
Whatever his faults as a filmmaker may be, Kevin Costner certainly understands the Western. Although Open Range is not on the same level as Dances with Wolves, it's a respectable effort that is only slightly marred by the unnecessarily protracted denouement. This is a great two-hour motion picture. Unfortunately, it runs 20 minutes longer than that.

Like most recent Westerns (not that there are an abundance to choose from), Open Range belongs to the "revisionist" category, which is to say that it turns some of the Western conventions upside down. In this film, it's pretty clear who the protagonists are, but they're not morally upright gunslingers wearing white hats. They have pasts that haunt them, and aren't beyond killing for a less-than-pure motive like revenge. Also, the centerpiece gunfight is as chaotic, unpleasant, and gritty as anything ever committed to film. This isn't two people facing each other on a deserted street with tumbleweeds blowing around. It's quick, brutal, and bloody.

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Venus & Vegas

Venus & Vegas
Venus & Vegas: They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas...well it's a whole other matter when you live there! Eric (Eddie Guerra) and Tara (Jaime Pressly), a couple living in Vegas are really in need of a major event -- to help them breakup already! He knows she's dating someone new, but can't let her go. Desperate to win back her heart, and convinced that his "unemployed" status is the cause of all their problems, Eric agrees to join his buddies Stu (Donald Faison) and Alex (Eddie Kaye Thomas), whose principle talents are scamming and avoiding adulthood, and with girlfriend problems of their own, when they discover the easy score of a lifetime-a boatload of casino chips sitting in a warehouse.

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Justified - Season One

Justified - Season One
You can tell a lot about a television series by how much people are talking about it - not whether or not they like it, but if they say anything. In my circle of friends and the people on Twitter I follow, which is almost entirely baseball and football fans and bloggers, there was non-stop chatter about the premiere of Justified. Someone even posted about how his mom had worked in a district attorney's office in Kentucky and that while she was there, there were a few cases with rocket launchers. I received e-mails about how great this show was and how they nailed the bits about Kentucky-living, from the accents all the way down to the buttons on the inseam.

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Nightstalker

Nightstalker
The night sets over Los Angeles and the NIGHTSTALKER speeds through downtown, smoking crack and searching for prostitutes, he finds both. After realizing he cant get what he wants from women, he sets off to feed his unholy hunger by heading into the suburbs of East Los Angeles where he murders and rapes a young woman as she sleeps in her house. Five days later, a young and beautiful beat cop, GABRIELLA MARTINEZ and her older, corrupt partner, FRANK LUIS, answer a call to a home and find the bodies of the young woman and her husband, mutilated and marked by Satanic ritual.

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Make It Happen

Make It Happen
The movie opens in Glenwood, Indiana, where Lauryn Kirk (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) narrates the first few parts. There are no dance schools in Glenwood and Lauryn says goodbye to her brother, Joel (John Reardon) before departing for Chicago to audition for a famous dance school, the fictional Chicago School of Music and Dance. Although Joel, who works as a mechanic in the family garage, is wary of Lauryn's decision to enroll, he eventually gives her his blessing. When Lauryn enters the stage, however, her dance (mostly a hip hop routine) was halted by the judge, who hostilely rejects her, saying that they need to see something more "sensual and feminine".

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Liquid Courage 2

Liquid Courage 2
It is scary going up against a boatful of brutes. How about a quick jolt of Liquid Courage to even the odds?This expansion to Lifeboat adds a new character (Madam Wong) and a few Liquid Courage cards that add to your size in a fight but make you thirsty at the end of the round.

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Made... The Movie

Made... The Movie
Tells the story of an unpopular high school student as she pursues her dream of attaining a coveted spot on the cheerleading team.

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McCartney's Genes

McCartney's Genes
Alex, a 30-something Austin, Texas rocker, spins into early mid-life crisis when he discovers a problem with his sperm. In spite of his ticking biological clock, his younger wife, Jules, has no interest in having children at this time. So, when Alex finds out that his band manager, Claudia, is considering an anonymous sperm donor, he convinces her to choose him instead. Jules acquiesces, but a complicated situation soon careens out of control when an unplanned pregnancy, unrequited love, and a big record deal fall into the mix. What follows is a chain reaction of comedic and sometimes heartbreaking events as Alex juggles his friendship, love life, and a very tentative music career with an imminent child. This delicately built house of cards eventually comes tumbling down, forcing Alex to grow up and compelling the others to rethink lifes priorities. Based on a true story.

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