A Serious Man

A Serious Man
Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men, Fargo) are no strangers to bouts of self examination through filmmaking; the duo are rarely this transparent about their insecurities and interests, however. Their latest film, 'A Serious Man', is a thought-provoking black comedy that examines Judaism and its many traditions and beliefs through the foibles of everyman Larry Gopnik.

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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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Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading
After watching the Coen Brothers spend years mowing their way through genres and upending conventions, one question comes to mind: Is there anything these guys can't do. Common wisdom suggests "no" and, after winning Oscars early this year for No Country for Old Men, expectations have gone from modest to high. However, those anticipating another searing drama/thriller with Burn After Reading may be disappointed. The Coens, as is often their style, have elected to go in another direction. This is a thriller with a high quotient of comedic elements or, if you prefer, a comedy with a high quotient of thriller elements. As is always the case with a production of Joel & Ethan, it's difficult to classify, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.

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Elf
Elf is being hailed in some quarters as the next great Christmas classic. The people making such a pronouncement must have seen a different cut of the movie than the one shown to me. Elf is a feather-light motion picture that embraces the Christmas spirit, but, in the process, forgets that it's trying to be a comedy. Maybe the problem is that Will Ferrell, as outrageous a comedian as there is, is neutered beyond his ability to be funny by the family friendly PG rating. Or maybe it's that the screenplay is pitched at a third grade level. Regardless, Elf is more likely to end up on the snow pile of forgettable Christmas-themed movies than in the vault of memorable ones.

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Teeth
It's often said that there's nothing new in Hollywood. That may well be true, but that doesn't stop writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein from trying in his debut feature. Teeth is not only odd but it's genre-defying. The film doesn't limit its field of choice: it's a black comedy, it's a drama about teen angst, it's a romance gone bad, it's a B-grade horror film, it's an allegory about female empowerment. All this, and in less than 90 minutes. Teeth's take-chances, take-no-prisoners-approach is refreshing but there are times when things become a little too sloppy or a little too campy for the mismatched tones and colliding approaches to fully gel. Still, this is the kind of calling card that gets filmmakers noticed and makes viewers intrigued to see what's next.

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Freshman Orientation

Freshman Orientation
For some movies, timing is everything, but that's one thing Freshman Orientation doesn't have going for it. After languishing in distribution limbo for an astounding three and one-half years (it premiered under the name Home of Phobia at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival), this film has finally arrived in theaters. Unfortunately, it follows in the wake of Superbad, another rude-and-crude teen movie that raises the bar for the genre. In 2004, Freshman Orientation might have been near the top of a lame pack; in 2007, it's behind the curve. The problem isn't the dramatic material which, for the most part, is nicely handled. However, the "outrageous" comedy is consistently unfunny and sometimes bordering on cringe-worthy.

Freshman Orientation starts out on shaky ground, packing the first 30 minutes with a significant percentage of the failed humor. The over-the-top jokes feel forced and are often more awkward than amusing. Fortunately, after the uncertain beginning, the film's gradual shift toward more subtle parody and light drama redeems the final hour. The central relationship is developed with care and the movie addresses the issue of intolerance on college campuses (and, by extension, in society as a whole) without resorting to too much preaching. (There is one overt sermon but the irreverent punch line makes it somewhat forgivable.)

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Serious Man

Serious Man
Masters of audacity, the Coen Brothers continue to amaze with their versatility and, unlike many who have achieved success, they have shown no inclination to slip into a comfortable groove. When one scans their joint resumes, it becomes apparent that, while Joel and Ethan have not always hit pay dirt, their efforts have always been at least interesting. Their latest, A Serious Man, represents another change in course for the brothers, and it will reside in the upper echelon of their titles, although a little below the top.

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Mary Shelly's Frankenstein

Mary Shelly's Frankenstein
"In the last 20, 30 years, [Frankenstein has] been claimed by a whole generation of academics and scholars as a seminal piece of literature of that time. [It's] something which now, post-Freud, they feel reveals so many observations about family life, and incest, father-and-son relationships, and husband and wife relationships. [Frankenstein] speaks loudly to people, partly because it's so elusive. There's no definitive interpretation of it - it's certainly more than just a monster story." - Kenneth Branagh, director of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

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In the Line of Fire

In the Line of Fire
In 1963, Frank Horrigan was among the "best and brightest" of the Secret Service, the personal choice of President Kennedy. On November 22 in Dallas, an afternoon that Horrigan will never forget, he became one of the few living agents to lose a president. Now, decades later and only months before a presidential election (perhaps 1992 or 1996 - we're never told exactly), Mitch Leary (John Malkovich) is stalking the President. Believing there to be an intangible bond between himself and Horrigan (he says they were both betrayed by a government they had once loved), Leary makes contact with the Secret Service agent to discuss his intentions. Following his conversation with the potential killer, Horrigan acts quickly to get himself posted to protection duty. This time, he has no intention of failing and believes that, given the opportunity, he will take the bullet. But Leary has everything on his side -- time, opportunity, and a group of pig-headed behind-the-scenes men at the White House who refuse to alter the President's itinerary no matter how grave the apparent danger is. And, as the election draws closer, Horrigan's chances of averting a second tragedy seem progressively less likely.

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Outside Providence

Outside Providence
Outside Providence is a simple coming of age story, a nostalgia-soaked trip back to the mid-'70s when the social fabric of the American youth was stitched together by sex, drugs, and rock music. The film, despite never venturing into uncharted territory, is funny, warm, and endearing, and features a protagonist who grows on the audience. Because the themes are universal (first love, rebellion against restrictive authority, generational friction), nearly everyone, regardless of their age or gender, should be able to relate to the experiences of Timothy "Dildo" Dunphy.

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Knock Off

Knock Off
On the roster of films not screened for the critical community before their release, there are generally two kinds of entries: bad movies and movies that make bad movies look good. Knock Off, the latest pairing of legendary Hong Kong director Tsui Hark with less-than- legendary Western "actor" Jean-Claude Van Damme (they previously joined forces for Double Team), belongs solidly in the latter camp. This motion picture is almost worth attending for the experience of seeing how low film makers can sink in their never-ending quest to bilk the action picture audience out of a few hard-earned dollars.

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A Plumm Summer

A Plumm Summer
An amiable retro feel permeates "A Plumm Summer," and it's not just because this family film is set 40 years in the past. Montana-set, reality-inspired pic feels like an homage to a bygone era of moviemaking: It takes its time to build character and story, there's hardly a CG effect in sight, and there's nothing high-concept about it. Latter fact reps a significant though not insurmountable marketing hurdle. Expect, at least in the short term, continued fest appearances, where pic has been an audience favorite. DVD prospects, thanks to a recognizable cast, look sunny.

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Paul
In 2009, Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) are two English comic book nerds and best friends who have travelled to America to attend the annual Comic-Con convention and to take a road trip in their RV to visit all the sites of major extraterrestrial importance. At night along the highway they investigate a crashed car and they meet and discover an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who is in desperate need of their help. Although shocked by the appearance of Paul, Graeme agrees to give Paul a ride, but Clive is not happy about the idea. Later, Lorenzo Zoil (Jason Bateman), a shady government agent, arrives at the site of the crashed car and informs his mysterious female superior over the radio that he's closing in on Paul, and she recommends using local law enforcement as back-up. Zoil then recruits two inept FBI agents, Haggard (Bill Hader) and O'Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio), to aid in his mission, without telling them the

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Black Crescent Moon

Black Crescent Moon
WHEN HOME GROWN SHERIFF CHARLIE DEXTON OF TINT WRIGHTSVILLE, TEXAS INVESTIGATES HIS FIRST MURDER AT THE LOCAL DINER HE ENDS UP FINDING MORE THAN HE BARGAINED FOR IN THE TOWN IN HIMSELF.

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Insanitarium

Insanitarium
Metcalfe will play a man who pretends to be crazy in order to save his sister (Sanchez) from being involuntarily hospitalized. Once inside the institute, the siblings discover that a doctor (Stormare) is using his patients like lab rats, forcing them to take a drug that turns them into flesh-eating psychopaths.

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Kill Theory

Kill Theory
A.M. the following morning, only one of them can remain alive. Whoever remains will be allowed to walk away with his or her life. However, if morning comes and more than one are still breathing, everyone dies. Friends and couples must test their trust, as the clock ticks away. Some will fight for love, some to survive but all will change, because deep down...were all killers.

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