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The Tempest

The Tempest
Oscar nominee Julie Taymor (director of Across the Universe and the Broadway rock musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) scripted and directed this visually inventive adaptation of the William Shakespeare play, The Tempest. Changing the gender of the leading role from male to female, Taymor cast Helen Mirren as the sorceress Prospera (p.k.a. Prospero).

Playing up the story's mystical elements, Taymor brings The Tempest to life as a fantasy thriller, but one marred by tonally inconsistent forays into broad comedy. In the tale, the vengeful Prospera has been stranded on a remote isle for 12 years, where she's raised her daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones, way too old to pass for 15), whom she plots to restore to her rightful position within the aristocracy of Milan. Prospera seeks to avenge herself on her treacherous brother Antonio (Chris Cooper), who usurped her duchy, and his conspirator, King Alonso (David Strathairn).

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Everybody's Fine

Everybody's Fine
The marketing for Everybody's Fine would have you believe that the film is a heartfelt dramedy about a widowed father coming to terms with the fact that his scattered children have, in a sense, outgrown him. From the smiling faces on the poster, or the liberal use of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" throughout the trailer, one might expect a balanced combination of laughter and tears meant to simultaneously move and uplift theatergoers. In truth, however, Everybody's Fine is all tears and no laughter, perhaps the saddest and most joyless film released in the last several months. Any quirkiness or levity implied in the marketing is entirely the invention of clever editing and musical choices. The film itself is an unrepentant, lump-in-the-throat drama that works emotionally yet ultimately fails with regard to its storytelling.

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Dance Flick

Dance Flick
Probably the only thing that people are wondering about the Wayans’ Dance Flick is whether it’s closer to Don’t Be a Menace or White Chicks. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure everyone already knows the answer. For whatever reason, the Wayans’ brand of comedy has fallen off from the Ivory tower it was perched on in the mid-90s. Maybe time has passed them by while failing to innovate, maybe they stepped too far back from the cutting edge, maybe having every member of their family contribute creatively waters down the humor. Who knows. What’s for sure is that Dance Flick falls flat.

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1408
Confession time: Not only have I read (literally) every story ever written by Stephen King (some of 'em two or three times), but I've also seen (literally) every movie inspired by his books. Some of 'em four or five times. I discovered the man's work around the time I was 13 -- and I devoured his early paperbacks like a junkie devours his drug of choice. I was hooked. All through high school and college and "grown-up" life, if there was a new King paperback out there, I had to have it. Most I liked, some I truly did not, and I few I really went crazy for. And since I'm even more of a movie geek than I am a passionate reader, I'm always pretty excited to sit down with a new cinematic adaptation. (And no amount of Dreamcatchers will ever change that.)

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Alexander

Alexander
To sum up Alexander in three words, I would choose the following: three-hour miscalculation. Although some aspects of Oliver Stone's sword-and-sandals epic are worthy of mention (and even praise), they are dwarfed by the missteps and examples of bad judgment. Instead of delivering a mainstream tale of battle and glory along the lines of Gladiator, Stone decided to re-imagine the great Alexander as a Hamlet-like figure. Rather than developing the title character as a larger-than-life individual whose flaws give him a more rounded personality, Stone turns Alexander into a character who is defined by those flaws. He is weak, indecisive, plagued by self-doubt, and obsessed. It's not credible that a man of this nature could conquer 90% of the known world by the age of 32, and therein lies Alexander's conundrum. By de-mythologizing Alexander, Stone has turned him into an unbelievable individual. We accept great deeds from great people, not from sniveling whiners.

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Without a Paddle

Without a Paddle
Want to know why Paramount Pictures is struggling? Watch Without a Paddle and you'll gain some insight. At least the film understands what it is, as is indicated by the steaming pile of excrement that appears 2/3 of the way through the proceedings. By then, we don't really need the clue, but it's appreciated. About the only way to make things worse would have been to add Tom Green to the cast.

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Xanadu

Xanadu
How, one might ask, does one begin to defend Xanadu? To start with, by looking at it without any pretensions and seeing it for what it is. Conventional wisdom decrees that Xanadu is a horrible film. In a sense, conventional wisdom may be correct, but it ignores one key ingredient: viewed in the right frame of mind, this movie can be a lot of fun. Age has done for Xanadu what it has done for many critically reviled motion pictures that time has not forgotten: allowed us to look at it a little more kindly and appreciate it for its glorious badness. The film is too energetic, too jaw-droppingly campy, and too silly not to be enjoyed and celebrated on some level. "Cheesy" doesn't even begin to describe it, yet that's at the heart of its perverse charm. Now, that's entertainment!

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Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible
The first star vehicle of the summer of 1996 is also the first major disappointment of the season. Mission: Impossible, the big screen resurrection of the popular late-'60s/early-'70s series, fails to generate much in the way of excitement or intrigue. This globetrotting adventure looks like an opportunity for Tom Cruise to play James Bond -- a role he is totally unsuited for. The writing for last year's 007 return, Goldeneye, isn't a lot better than that for Mission: Impossible, but, as an action hero, Pierce Brosnan is considerably more debonair and charismatic than Cruise.

There's no Bond in Mission: Impossible. Instead, the lead character is Ethan Hunt, the point man for Jim Phelps' IMF (Impossible Missions Force). Phelps (played by Jon Voight, not Peter Graves) receives assignment messages from his boss, Kittridge (Henry Czerny), via video transmissions rather than old-fashioned tapes. His group's latest job is to prevent something called a "NOC list" from falling into the hands of an international arms dealer (Vanessa Redgrave). If placed on the open market, the NOC list would put every United States deep cover agent in danger of exposure. However, when they embark on this mission, the IMF runs straight into an ambush where everyone is killed except Hunt and Phelps' wife, Claire (Emmanuelle Beart). Because he survives the carefully-orchestrated massacre, Hunt is suspected of turning traitor.

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Minus Man

Minus Man
Hampton Fancher's The Minus Man is a methodical, chilling excursion into the mind of a serial killer. And, like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, it seeks to explore, not to exploit. Those on a quest for complete understanding won't find it here. The purpose of The Minus Man is not to answer questions and tie up everything into a neat package. This is a character study, not a psychological profile. Yet, based on everything I have read about serial killers ranging from Jack the Ripper to the Son of Sam, Fancher's portrayal is on target.

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George of the Jungle

George of the Jungle
I suppose there are a lot of Generation Xers who harbor a certain fondness for the old TV cartoon George of the Jungle, which ran on Saturday mornings in the late '60s and early '70s (apparently, there were only 17 episodes produced, but they were rerun so often that it seemed like a lot more). As a result, it was only to be expected that in this era of re-hashing TV products for the big screen, someone would stumble upon George. The outcome is a live-action re- interpretation of the cartoon that, despite changing numerous details, remains faithful to the spirit of its inspiration. However, perhaps the most surprising thing about this movie is that it's far more entertaining than one might reasonably expect given the premise.

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BloodRayne II: Deliverance

BloodRayne II: Deliverance
Newton Piles (Chris Coppola), a reporter on assignment for the Chicago Chronicle, has come to the town of Deliverance, Montana, to record tales of the Wild West. The peaceful and quiet town is expecting the arrival of the first Transcontinental Railroad in one week. Along with the railroad however, arrives an unwelcome and deadly guest, a vampiric Billy the Kid. Using the railway, the 357-year old Transylvanian vampire is building an army of cowboy vampires to take over the country and create a vampire kingdom in the New World. Billy and his horde go on a rampage, slaughtering townspeople and rounding up children. Billy spares Newton’s life and promises Newton the greatest story ever told.

Billy's plans hit a snag when Rayne arrives in the town. Rayne is a Dhampir, the product of an unnatural union between a vampire and a human: she wields all the powers of a vampire, yet none of the weaknesses. Born over a century earlier in Romania, Rayne has hunted vampires for a long time and now she sets her sights on Billy.

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The Body

The Body
Dr. Sharon Golban (Williams) finds an ancient skeleton in Jerusalem in a rich man's tomb. Coloration of the wrist and leg bones indicates the cause of death was crucifixion. Other signs, include a gold coin bearing the marks of Pontius Pilate and faint markings around the skull, lead authorities to suspect that these could be the bones of Christ. The different reactions of politicians, clerics, religious extremists—some prepared to use terror to gain their ends—to the religious, cultural and political implications of the find, make life difficult and dangerous for the investigators as they seek to unearth the truth.

Father Matt Gutierrez is assigned by the Vatican to investigate the case and to protect the Christian faith. Troubled by his case, he comes to understand that it is the Church that he is protecting and not the faith.

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Beethoven's 2nd

Beethoven's 2nd
The Newton family live in their comfortable home, but there seems to something missing. This hole is filled by a small puppy, who walks into their home and their lives. Beethoven, as he is named, grows into a giant of a dog... a St Bernard. Doctor Varnick, the local vet has a secret and horrible sideline, which requires lots of dogs for experiments. Beethoven is on the bad doctors list.

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Lies in Plain Sight

Lies in Plain Sight
Lies in Plain Sight tells the story of Eva and her blind cousin Sofia (Martha Higareda), who were inseparable as children, with Eva the loyal companion who helped Sofia through her tough adolescent years. When Eva suddenly commits suicide, Sofia rushes home to her father, Hector (Benito Martinez), and Evas parents, Marisol (Rosie Perez) and Rafael (Yul Vsquez), to find answers. But the more she delves into Evas life, questioning her past boyfriends Ethan (Chad Michael Murray) and Christian (Christoph Sanders), the more Sofia realizes that their childhood was actually filled with dark, disturbing secrets.

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Margarette's Feast

Margarette's Feast
A black and white, surreal and silent comedy. Pedro has a dream of giving his wife an unforgettable birthday feast.

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Mobsters

Mobsters
The story of a group of friends in turn of the century New York, from their early days as street hoods to their rise in the world of organized crime. As their crime empire expands, they have to deal with many problems, including their own differing opinions on how to run their business, the local Godfather, and the psychotic Mad Dog Coll.

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