The Mechanic

The MechanicArthur Bishop (Jason Statham) is a mechanic, a professional assassin, one of the best. He's so good that when his organization hires him to take out his own mentor (Donald Sutherland), he goes about the job with his usual detachment and efficiency.

But even hitmen have hearts and souls, and Bishop is no different. The closest thing he has to a relationship is a prostitute he visits on a regular basis, and he has begun to dream of escape. Instead he digs himself further in when he takes on Harry's son Steve (Ben Foster) as his apprentice, just so he can have someone to talk to.

Simon West's remake of the original Charles Bronson thriller is exactly what you might expect, exchanging introspection and suspense for amped up action sequences, giving up on existentialism for nihilism. On the other hand, taken in itself, it's not a bad modern action film, with at least an interest in characters, even if it doesn't know where to put that interest.

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Ocean's Thirteen

Ocean's Thirteen
Just like Vegas' hottest new casino, Ocean's Thirteen comes packed with a host of slick, highly-stylized visuals and enough clean-cut cool to entice any ordinary Joe off the street to empty his pockets in hopes that the atmosphere alone with hypnotize him to a point where he'll walk out broke without feeling any pain whatsoever. The summer's threequel theme returns this weekend with a third installment stuffed full of Hollywood's favorite A-list stars and, although it's far superior to the mis-managed mess that was Ocean's Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen doesn't quite top the fun and suspense of the original (and when I say 'original,' I mean the Ocean's Eleven from 2001, not 1960). It's fun, it's campy and it's worth the gamble -- that's if you don't mind shoddy character development, regurgitated gags and an unrealistic story.

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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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Criminal

Criminal
Criminal is an English-language remake of the little-known (at least in these parts) Nine Queens, a 2000 film from Fabian Bielinsky. First-time director Gregory Jacobs and his co-writer, "Sam Lowry" (actually a pseudonym for Steven Soderbergh), have streamlined the movie for American audiences, quickening the pace and eliminating a few of the complexities. At the same time, they have left some scenes virtually unchanged. The result isn't as compelling as Nine Queens, but it's a respectable caper movie in the tradition of The Sting and David Mamet's Heist.

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Perfect Stranger

Perfect Stranger
What would happen if a late-night, D-grade direct-to-cable thriller excised all of the raunchily enjoyable elements and managed to attract an A-list cast? The result might be shockingly like Perfect Stranger, a movie so inane that it fails to rise to the level of "good trash." Like Hannibal Rising, this is one of those dumb thrillers where's it's tough to decide which element is worse: the direction, the editing, the acting, or the writing. There are times when a movie like Perfect Stranger can achieve the status of a "guilty pleasure" - assuming there's plenty of sex and nudity to go along with the purple prose and cheap twists. In this case, however, the lurid elements have been neutered, resulting in a production that's not much fun.

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Monster

Monster
An understanding of how society uses - and, more importantly, misuses - the term "monster" offers crucial insight into the intentions of first time filmmaker Patty Jenkins. Without offering justifications or excuses, Jenkins seeks to provide some understanding of the underlying motivation of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who murdered seven men during 1989. She was subsequently tried, found guilty, and executed in 2002. By exploring details primarily from Wuornos' viewpoint (Jenkins spent considerable time with the convicted killer while she was on death row, and uses excerpts from Wuornos' letters for the film's voiceover narratives), Monster eschews the easy path of transforming her into a one-dimensional psycho. Instead, without diminishing the horror of her actions, the picture humanizes Wuornos, developing a three-dimensional character where one might not normally expect to find one.

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Kill Bill (Volume 2)

Kill Bill (Volume 2)
Two things are readily apparent about Kill Bill Volume 2. First, unlike its predecessor, this is a complete movie. It stands on its own. It is possible to see and enjoy Volume 2 in a way that was not true of Volume 1. Viewed in retrospect, the first installment now seems like an easily discarded prologue. The real meat is in Volume 2. Secondly, Quentin Tarantino needs a new editor - someone who can convince him to make the really hard cuts. Sally Menke, who has held that post for all of Tarantino's movies, couldn't/wouldn't/didn't convince the ego-centric filmmaker that eliminating about 30 minutes of filler from Kill Bill Volume 2 would have made it a leaner, meaner motion picture. The running time is 130 minutes; it should have been about 1:30.

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Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl

Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl
Certain historical periods provide rich and varied soil for the cultivation of motion picture storylines. The twilight of the Roman Empire is one. The American Civil War is another. World War II marks a third. And a fourth is the Chinese "Cultural Revolution," which spanned roughly a decade from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. This time of great upheaval, which was started by young ideologues forcing their harsh political views on the entire populace, led to frightened men and women denouncing others to save themselves. The events of those ten years have given rise to a number of stirring, powerful motion pictures, including Farewell My Concubine and To Live. Now, Xiu Xiu can be added to that list. This is a devastating and unforgettable portrait of hopeless love and the corruption of innocence set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution.

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Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle
For anyone who wept hopelessly at the tragic romance of The English Patient, Message in a Bottle is the movie you have been waiting for. In addition to being a beautifully-photographed motion picture with a solid (albeit melodramatic) storyline and good acting, it's also Kevin Costner's bid to once again be taken seriously in the wake of several unfortunate career choices (capped off by the disastrous The Postman). Playing the lead in a "safe" movie like this (it is, after all, based on a bestselling novel) is a wise move on Costner's part, for, while Message in a Bottle will have limited appeal among males (it's a "chick flick"), women will appreciate the way the story touches their hearts and opens their tear ducts.

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Blonde Ambition

Blonde Ambition
The city that never sleeps is about to meet the girl that doesn't quit. Jessica Simpson stars as Katie Gregerstitch, a small-town Oklahoma beauty who's come to New York to visit her long-time boyfriend. But after finding him in the arms of another woman, Katie decides to lose her cheating man and to find herself. With the help of two scheming co-workers (Andy Dick and Penelope Ann Miller) , she lands a job at a top construction firm where she meets and falls for a great guy (Luke Willson) with an even greater secret. Now, nothing is going to stop this go-getter from getting exactly what her heart desires in the romantic comedy that proves you can't keep a bright, beautiful down-home girl down.

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The Shipping News

The Shipping News
The film makes a multitude of changes from the book, notably: Quoyle had two daughters in the novel, but only one in the film; in the film he does not begin working as a reporter until after arriving in Newfoundland; and a number of characters, such as the younger Buggit family, were deleted or merged.

It climaxes with a storm which destroys the Quoyle's ancestral family home and almost drowns the Gammy Bird's editor Jack Buggit, caught in the rope of a lobster pot while fishing. Buggit is thought to have drowned but is actually in a state of shock resulting from hypothermia. He regains consciousness during his wake in front of a large crowd of mourners, central to the theme of rebirth in the optimistic ending of the story.

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A Guy Thing

A Guy Thing
Karen (Selma Blair) and Paul (Jason Lee) are about get married. However, after his bachelor party, Paul wakes up next to Becky (Julia Stiles), a dancer at the party. Assuming they slept together, Paul rushes Becky out of his apartment and hopes never to see her again. He tries to cover up the connection for the few days before the wedding. Unfortunately, Becky unexpectedly shows up around town and turns out to be Karen's cousin. Even worse, Becky's ex-boyfriend cop Ray had Becky followed and photographed. Becky and Paul meet again to steal those pictures from Ray's apartment. Further problems arise with family and friends consistently showing up at the wrong times. Crabs, dirty underwear in the toilet tank, a horny best friend, and a best man/brother who is in love with the bride all provide for a comical week of wedding preparations.

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The Battle of Shaker Heights

The Battle of Shaker Heights
The plot revolves around Kelly Ernswiler (Shia La Beouf), a young war reenactment enthusiast, who works at his local store with love interest Sarah (Shiri Appleby) and his friend, Bart Bowland (Elden Henson) as they use military strategy against high school bully Lance (Billy Kay). Kelly's father, Abe (William Sadler), works with drug addicts, being clean himself for over 5 years, which is scorned by an angry Kelly, who, when told this, replies, "So what? I've been clean the whole time." His mother, Eve (Kathleen Quinlan), is a commercial artist who works out of their garage and is desperate for Kelly to forgive his father. When confronted as to when he is going to forgive him, Kelly replies, "I'll forgive him when I can go to college. But I can't, can I, because he used all my college fund to buy Mexican Black Tar." Kelly is furious at his father for the torture he put him through.

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Sexual Life

Sexual Life
Disparate individuals rationalize their infidelities.

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Plenty

Plenty
Susan Traherne has been irreparably changed by her wartime experiences as a Resistance fighter. She sets out in the post-war world to make her way to what she wants, no matter who is hurt, or how.

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Desert Saints

Desert Saints
The nature of temptation. Banks is a hit man, the best, usually working for Latin American drug cartels. He picks up solitary women, uses them briefly for a job, then kills them. Hes in the Southwest, headed toward Mexico, when he picks up Bennie, a woman leaving an abusive marriage, going to Paradise, Arizona. The film follows three tracks Bankss slow recruitment of Bennie, the set-up for the hit at a swank resort in Mexico, and the FBIs close pursuit of Banks, whom they want alive in hopes hell rat out his bosses. Bennie may not be who she seems, and there may be a chink in Bankss tough-guy armor. Guns, money, and a chance at Paradise...

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