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Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy
After almost 30 years, Disney has made the bold move to continue the story of Tron rather than reboot the original film. Yes, they're claiming that Tron: Legacy is a film that new eyes, who've never seen the clunky-yet-pioneering original film, can latch onto, but I honestly can't imagine seeing this new film without some sort of context. Sure, we're all overly familiar with the idea of a virtual world, but the Tron world needs a little more explanation than that and I fear that some things might get lost in translation, but I suppose that's not my job to worry about.

What viewers will get, regardless of their relationship with the 1982 film, is a thrilling, moving 3D adventure that will leave you wanting more. Whereas 3D has quickly become a dirty, corporate word, Tron: Legacy's use of the new technology to bring the audience directly into this very specific and unique world makes this movie a completely immersive experience.

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Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2
Please be advised that this review contains some spoilers. You should be happy to know Iron Man 2 more or less wins its battle with "sequelitis," managing to successfully squeeze a hodgepodge of storylines and characters into one two-hour adventure while still keeping the narrative focus sharply on Tony Stark (played once again with unbridled aplomb by Robert Downey, Jr.). Iron Man 2 doesn't always successfully balance all of these moving parts, but considering how wildly it could have gone off the rails (think Schumacher's Batman sequels), it's a significant and highly entertaining accomplishment on the part of Marvel Studios and director Jon Favreau.

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The International

The International
German filmmaker Tom Tykwer never saw a glass partition he didn’t want to film, yet there’s something bracing about watching his reflex glossiness (see Run Lola Run, Heaven) applied to a pure genre exercise. This particular Parallax View knockoff has been directed with an almost mathematical sleekness: The gods always descend on cue, and the gripping central set piece answers the question “How many people can trail an assassin around the Guggenheim without being spotted?”

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The Prestige

The Prestige
"The secret impresses no one," Michael Caine's character reminds his proteges in The Prestige. In other words, you better have something else up your sleeve besides actual "magic" because magic is lousy entertainment. It's cold and impersonal and usually has no dramatic heft. Most magic tricks are performed at a quick pace because the whole thing depends on a moment's misdirection and because if it didn't go by quickly, no one would ever sit for it. Even when it's successful, a magic trick earns nothing but a polite clap. Christopher Nolan should have thought harder about this, because his film has the same deficiencies. All of its energy goes into structure and the concealment of hollow secrets. The film's backbone is an elaborate timeline that moves backwards, splits into two threads and then wobbles forward again, leaving the actors without a leg to stand on. Nolan's much-enjoyed puzzleboard picture Memento had a reason for its structural acrobatics, but The Prestige just wants to challenge the memory and attention of the audience. This isn't a movie, it's a game of Concentration.

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In the Electric Mist

In the Electric Mist
In the world of movies that have gone straight to DVD, In the Electric Mist was a surprise. Typically a movie of this caliber would have at least had a limited release before a DVD release. Unfortunately, the only place this one was seen prior to its DVD debut was at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2009.

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XXX: State of the Union

XXX: State of the Union
Where's the Kryptonite?

What many movie producers fail to realize is that one of the keys to making a superhero interesting is to give him an Achilles heel - Kryptonite, so to speak. And one of the big problems with XXX: State of the Union is that the protagonist is essentially invincible. He has no weaknesses. During those rare moments when he finds himself in a tight scrape, we have no doubt he will come out blasting. This isn't Indiana Jones, with his numerous too-human failings. This is The Terminator, only without the snappy one-liners and the weird accent. How can there possibly be suspense when the outcome is never in doubt?

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Visitor

Visitor
It's a pleasant thing to encounter occasionally a movie in which people are portrayed as decent (if flawed) individuals. In The Visitor, there are no human villains. No one wears a black hat. The antagonist is The System - the nameless, faceless arm of a bureaucracy that flexes its muscles and crushes whoever happens to be in its grip at the time. In this case, it's the Immigration Department, but it might be any of thousands of government and private organizations where the "human element" has been eliminated in favor of procedures. However, while the struggle against The System forms an important aspect of The Visitor, this is much more about the growth of one man who discovers that the island of solitude is a cold and lonely place.

We all know Richard Jenkins even if we don't recognize the name. He's a character actor who has appeared in supporting roles with increasing regularity since the early '80s. The Visitor, written and directed by The Station Agent's Thomas McCarthy, gives Jenkins a rare lead part and he brings to it a mixture of pathos and wit. The chief pleasure of The Visitor is in watching Jenkins' character, Walter Vale, grow. Jenkins never overplays the role, opting for a low-key approach that makes the one scene where Walter boils over all the more effective. A lot of heart goes into the performance; when Walter encounters something that gives him a brief flurry of happiness, we smile with him.

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Miss Congeniality

Miss Congeniality
If there were lingering doubts that the time has come to write an obituary for Sandra Bullock's days as a leading lady, Miss Congeniality should dispel them. Trailing in the wake of a string of duds, the most recent of which were the un-releasable Gun Shy and the not-much-better 28 Days, Miss Congeniality marks the latest wrong step in a career that once burned brightly. But the days of Speed and While You Were Sleeping are long past. Bullock must bear the responsibility for Miss Congeniality's failure - not only is she the star, but she's the producer, as well. It's impossible to absolve someone when they wear those hats - some of the disapprobation goes to director Donald Petrie (Grumpy Old Men), but the lion's portion is reserved for Bullock.

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Running with Scissors

Running with Scissors
Running with Scissors is not a pleasant movie. The problem isn't that it's a downer, although it is, but that it's a tiresome trek into familiar territory populated by one-dimensional stereotypes. Perhaps calculating that more is better, Running with Scissors features not one but two dysfunctional families (in movies, there is no room for the so-called "normal" family). Nearly every supporting character with a speaking part is either an oddball or a freak. Had David Lynch been at the helm, the movie might have been weird enough to be entertaining, but director Ryan Murphy's approach is so stagnant that the picture has overstayed its welcome before the running length is half over.

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Interview

Interview
Interview is a remake of the 2003 Theo Van Gogh film of the same name. Van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004 by a Muslim extremist, had planned to helm the English-language version himself. In his absence, Steve Buscemi stepped in. The finished print not only follows the basic storyline of the original but includes a number of subtle nods to Van Gogh. (The two most readily identifiable: a truck with the logo: "Van Gogh Moving" on the side and a cameo by Katja Schuurman, the star of the 2003 version.) By sticking to the template provided by Van Gogh, Buscemi adopts not only the strengths but the weaknesses of the original and that makes the result a mix of the good and not-so-good.

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Nobody's Fool

Nobody's Fool
Nobody's Fool is about as sublime a motion picture as is likely to come out of Hollywood. With a structure that contravenes the norm, this film concentrates on character first, letting the plot fall naturally into place. Situations are forced on neither the film's inhabitants nor on those in the audience. It's rare to sit through a drama and not feel manipulated, but the feelings generated by Robert Benton's movie are entirely natural, and likely to bring a smile to the heart.

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Oscar and Lucinda

Oscar and Lucinda
Ralph Fiennes is carving out a nice niche for himself in the genre of period piece romances. For his followup to the Academy-beloved The English Patient, he has once again turned to a love story, this time directed by accomplished Australian film maker Gillian Armstrong (Little Women). Despite some obvious overplotting, Oscar and Lucinda is a mostly effective and often affecting motion picture that touches our hearts while daring our minds to balk at its implausible coincidences.

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Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!

Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!
Satin Records, who twenty years prior had rejected Eddie and the Cruisers last album, A Season in Hell, launches an "Eddie Lives!" campaign to make more money from his image in a publicity stunt, despite them not believing he is alive. The record label re-releases the band's first album, which becomes an even bigger hit than it had on its first release. As seen in the first film, the "lost recordings" from Season in Hell are released and become yet another hit album. In fact, Eddie Wilson is living, and had simply slipped away following the car crash in which he was believed killed. By that stage in his life, he simply wanted to leave music behind him. The newly generated constant spotlight surrounding his supposed death angers the reclusive rocker, by now living in Canada as a construction worker under the name Joe West.

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Just Another Day

Just Another Day
Follows a day in the life of two men living at either end of the music game. A successful rapper, A-Maze, is dealing with the pitfalls and trappings of his success and facing new challenges in the music business to get a check while the other, Young Eastie, is a young man struggling in a harsh world that is threatening to destroy him.

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Jack Falls aka Paul Tanter's Jack Falls

Jack Falls aka Paul Tanter's Jack Falls
Former undercover police officer Jack Adleth returns to London seeking those who tried to have him killed in Amsterdam.

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Mortal Thoughts

Mortal Thoughts
Cynthia comes forward to talk to detective John about the murder of her best friends husband. The story is told as a series of flashbacks... James was a bullying, verbally and physically abusive husband. His wife Joyce has, on a number of occasions, expressed her intention to kill him. One night when all three are at the fair, Joyce has a row with James, and Cynthia helps James back to the van. But later he was found dead...

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