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Merlin and the War of the Dragons

Merlin and the War of the Dragons
Debatable if worth the time to watch it, but has its good sides. Starting with the bad ones. Low budget in everything. While not a crime by itself, one is left to wonder if scenes of murdering someone by sticking a sword under his armpit are best left out. Constant impression that the whole acting crew is maybe 20 people...

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Caprica

Caprica
In the '70s, it was seen as a middling Star Wars rip-off, its story of hmans fleeing a deadly robot race nothing more than an excuse for cheap, made-for-TV effects. Now, three decades later, a revamped Battlestar Galactica has been hailed as one of the small screen's significant accomplishments. With the five-year run of the original series now over and done with, creative team Ronald D. Moore and David Eick are prepping a new franchise that will follow the technology that gave birth to the android threat and the oddly contemporary battle between faiths and cultural diversity that surrounds the science. And from the 90-minute pilot movie for Caprica, it looks like the pair has parlayed their talents into another winner.

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Murderball

Murderball
As a tale of human courage and personal triumph, Murderball works. As a sports documentary, it falls short of the mark. Fortunately, Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro's crowd-pleasing movie (it won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at Sundance) is more about the former than the latter. The failure of the in-game sequences (which amount to only a small percentage of the overall running time) does little to detract from Murderball's most important observations.

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This Film Is Not Yet Rated

This Film Is Not Yet Rated
It's long past time that a filmmaker has shown the courage to expose the MPAA Ratings Board for what they are: censors working under the guise of servants to the public good. For those who have followed the ins-and-outs of the MPAA over the years, Kirby Dick's exposé, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, won't offer many shocking revelations. However, for those who naively believe the MPAA is offering a helping hand to filmmakers and parents alike, prepare to be aghast. In a little more than 90 minutes, Dick explores the hypocrisy of the way the MPAA treats sex, nudity, violence, and profanity; provides insight into the arbitrary and secretive ratings process; and names names those men and women who comprise the ratings and appeals committees.

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Pink Panther

Pink Panther
There are only two reasons to see The Pink Panther, and neither has anything to do with Steve Martin or his bastardization of Inspector Clouseau. The first is the opening credits cartoon - no matter how bad the movie, at least the title character, playing practical jokes to the tune of Henry Mancini's unforgettable theme, doesn't disappoint. But it's a sad thing when the best part of the movie comes before the movie starts. Then there's an opportunity for viewers to see Clive Owen as James Bond - sort-of. In the lone semi-inspired bit, Owen appears as a dapper British secret agent with plenty of gadgets and a penchant for derring-do. (The Pink Panther, which has been sitting on shelves for a while awaiting its prime February release date, was filmed at time when Owen was considered to be the front-runner to replace Pierce Brosnan. Had that happened, this movie would have scored a coup. Since it didn't, this becomes an odd footnote.)

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Patch Adams

Patch Adams
What is the difference between a bad melodrama and a good one? The key lies in the emotional response. If the viewer feels that he or she is being forced into reacting in a particular way because of "button pushing," the film makers have erred. While manipulation is almost always mandatory in a melodrama, it should be accomplished in such a way that no one in the audience is conscious of it at the time. Emotional high points should evolve naturally out of the plot; the storyline should not be constructed around those moments. Movies like Forrest Gump and Titanic capture the finer aspects of melodrama. Failed efforts like Patch Adams spend too much time trying to reduce the audience to tears through a series of cheap, transparent ploys.

This is yet another of those "based on a true story..." feel-good movies that's designed to make us believe that there are two kinds of human beings - free-spirits (who are the good guys) and establishment-types (who are inevitably villains). The title character, played by Robin Williams in one of his familiar dramatic/comedic turns, is a mental patient, who, during his stint in the Fairfax State Psychiatric Ward, decides that he wants to go to school to become a doctor. So, upon his release in 1971, the 40-something year old man enrolls in the Virginia Medical University. However, while the teachers preach book learning and emotional detachment, Patch believes that to treat a disease, the physician should connect with his patients. While his attitude is embraced by some of his fellow students, including a pretty co-ed named Carin Fischer (Monica Potter), Dean Walcott (Bob Gunton) forbids Patch to have contact with real patients, and, when he disobeys, he finds himself in danger of being thrown out of medical school.

The film is directed by Tom Shadyac, who helmed the first Ace Ventura movie, and written by Steve Oedekerk, who was behind the camera for the second (the pair also teamed up on the Eddie Murphy remake of The Nutty Professor). While these two arguably have some skill at comedy, they have little or none when it comes to drama. Patch Adams isn't much more than a series of overdone emotional scenes connected by a conventional plot line. Anyone interested in exploring a better approach to the same basic ideas should check out The Doctor, in which William Hurt plays a surgeon who learns about the coldness of the medical profession when he becomes a patient. In Patch Adams, there are moments of supposed emotional warmth as Patch connects with dying patients, towering sadness as he recites poetry over the coffin of a lost friend, and triumph as he overcomes the forces aligned against him. And, as is seemingly obligatory in this kind of film, there's a big speech at the end - one that makes Al Pacino's tirade in Scent of a Woman seem subtle by comparison. (It is perhaps worth noting, however, that few of the film's jokes involves flatulence, so maybe Shadyac and Oedekerk are trying to display some maturity.)

Robin Williams, who won an Oscar for his beautifully-understated role in Good Will Hunting, wavers between being effective and going over-the-top. From time-to-time, he has genuinely funny moments (when Patch Adams goes for comedy, it's not half bad), but, for the most part, the dramatic aspect of his performance is off. He's forcing the audience's emotional response. And, although attempting to replicate his work in Dead Poets Society, Williams is working with a script that isn't as polished, so some of his scenes come across as overwrought instead of heartbreaking.

The supporting cast is peppered with familiar faces. Monica Potter, most recently seen in the Prefontaine biography, Without Limits, is Patch's much younger girlfriend. Daniel London is the first of his student converts. Philip Seymour Hoffman (the prank phone caller in Happiness) is Patch's straitlaced roommate. Bob Gunton is Dean Walcott, the personification of evil. Michael Jeter is Patch's mental ward cellmate. Irma P.Hall is a nurse at the hospital where Patch works his magic, and Peter Coyote is a cranky cancer patient who becomes one of Patch's greatest successes.

Patch Adams is slated for a Christmas Day release, presumably because Universal Pictures believes audiences are more susceptible to this kind of half-baked storytelling during the season of good will. However, with the even more cloying Stepmom arriving on the same day, there's bound to be a run on Kleenexes. Patch Adams is the kind of film that will work for an audience that's just interested in having an emotional experience (with a happy ending) without caring how obviously or clumsily they are manipulated. I find this sort of sledgehammer film making to be offensive, but there are those who enjoy it. Somehow, though, I don't think there are enough viewers with such a low quality threshold to right Universal Pictures' floundering financial ship. Patch Adams is another miscalculation by a studio that hasn't done much right all year

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Mummy
The Mummy is pretty silly stuff. But that's okay when you consider that, beneath all the action/adventure and horror trappings, it's actually a comedy. Think of a big-budget, high profile effort in the vein of Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness with less camp and better special effects. The Mummy never takes itself seriously, and neither should we. It's a good thing it is funny because, as a thriller, it's an underwhelming effort. I suppose there are times when The Mummy makes an attempt to get the adrenaline pumping, but it never tries too hard. In the end, it's the self-mocking aura that save this film from being a waste of two hours.

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Music of Chance

Music of Chance
On the way to New York City, James Nashe (Mandy Patinkin) stops by the side of the road to offer a lift to a beat-up and bedraggled stranger. This man turns out to be Jack Pozzi (James Spader), a professional gambler. As the two get to talking, Pozzi tells Nashe of a recent robbery that lost him the ten-thousand dollars he was going to use in an upcoming "sure thing" poker game. Intrigued by the idea of some quick, easy money, Nashe offers Pozzi a proposition. He'll advance the ten-thousand if all profits get split fifty-fifty. The deal is struck and the two are off to the rural Pennsylvania residence of Flower and Stone (Charles Durning and Joel Grey), where the games begin.

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Crime Fiction

Crime Fiction
Will you kill for a good story? If you are James Cooper, a 28 year old copy editor with dreams of literary stardom, you will. After all, your girlfriend was just crowned the voice of a new America by the New York literati, and you waste your days editing third-rate textbooks in a dreary Chicago basement. Your first book got panned. Your agent just dumped you. You have no future. But when your girlfriends corpse ends up sprawled beneath your bedroom window, you finally know what to write about. Crime Fiction is the story of murder, betrayal and outrageous artistic fortune.

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The Conclave

The Conclave
The Conclave is a courtroom style drama that takes place in Rome in 1458, five years after the fall of Constantinople to Islam. It follows the story of twenty-seven-year-old Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia as he fights to save both his career and his life in his first papal conclave.

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Karla
True story about a woman who falls in love with a violent rapist and murderer. Karla Homolka marries Paul Bernado despite already having aided him in the rape and murder of her younger sister. Through their marriage he brags to her about other rapes he commits and involves Karla herself in the sexual assault and murder of three female victims. Told from Karlas point of view.

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Red Planet

Red Planet
In 2056 AD, Earth is in ecologic crisis as a consequence of pollution and overpopulation. Meanwhile, automated interplanetary missions have been seeding Mars with atmosphere-producing algae for twenty years as the first stage in terraforming the planet. When the oxygen quantity produced by the algae is inexplicably reduced, the crew of Mars-1 investigates, and must continue the mission of terraforming the planet for human colonization.

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Heart Like a Wheel

Heart Like a Wheel
Shirley Muldowney is determined to be a top-fuel drag racer, although no woman has ever raced them before. Despite the high risks of this kind of racing and the burden it places on her family life, she perseveres in her dream.

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Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock
Three students and a school teacher disappear on an excursion to Hanging Rock, in Victoria, on Valentines Day, 1900. Widely (and incorrectly) regarded as being based on a true story, the movie follows those that disappeared, and those that stayed behind, but it delights in the asking of questions, not the answering of them.

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Indecent Proposal

Indecent Proposal
A young couple very much in love are married and have started their respective careers, she as a real estate broker, he as an architect. She finds the perfect spot to build his dream house, and they get loans to finance it. When the recession hits, they stand to lose everything they own, so they go to Vegas to have one shot at winning the money they need. After losing at the tables, they are approached by a millionaire who offers them a million dollars for a night with the wife. Though the couple agrees that this is a way out of their financial dilemma, it threatens to destroy their relationship.

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Monsters, Marriage and Murder in Manchvegas

Monsters, Marriage and Murder in Manchvegas
A maniacal slasher is on the loose in the normally peaceful town of Manchvegas. Will the Manchvegas Outlaw Society (M.O.S.), a spirited group of adventurous entrepreneurs, be able to solve the case? More important, will Marshall, leader of M.O.S., start dating Jenny, his cute second-in-command?

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