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I Am Number Four
For someone who has never seen another movie, I Am Number Four might be an astounding experience, cobbling together bits and pieces of other, better productions as it does. It's very loud, very fast paced, and very derivative. Like a casserole made from leftovers, the storyline contains stringy, overcooked bits of teenage dramas (a.k.a. "afterschool specials"), superhero adventures (especially origin stories), romances, buddy movies, cheesy science fiction, monster flicks, and action/adventure stuff. The problem isn't just the lack of originality evident in I Am Number Four, but that it cherry-picks well-known material and presents it with the intelligence and elegance of a fifth grade drama production. This is a "greatest hits" album from a cover band so bad they couldn't even play a bar mitzvah. And, while the film is designed as the first installment of a hoped-for franchise, it feels more like a T.V. pilot circa 1990. The recycling goes as deep as the dialogue, which is a mangled and blended refrain of clichés.
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Paul Blart: Mall Cop
After stumbling through a lackluster first 30 minutes that features all the tepid humor one might reasonably expect from a mediocre comedy, Paul Blart: Mall Cop does something unexpected: it becomes watchable, perhaps even passably enjoyable. That's because this movie elevates its objective from lampooning mall security guards to satirizing one of Hollywood's biggest genres: the action/crime movie. In particular, Die Hard. To be sure, the iconic 1988 Bruce Willis film has been the subject of numerous big-screen parodies during the past two decades, but none has succeeded as well as this one. Considering the dubious quality of many of them, that could be considered damning with faint praise. And, although Paul Blart is by no means great cinema, there is amusement to be uncovered as we watch Kevin James bumble his way through actions oh-so-similar to those navigated with more blood, sweat, profanity, and dead bodies than Willis. Too bad there's no "Yippekayay...," but this is rated PG.
Paul Blart (Kevin James) is a rent-a-cop at a North Jersey mall. He doesn't get to carry a gun but he has a Segway to ride around on. Paul's ultimate dream is to join the New Jersey State police force, but hypoglycemia has thus far prevented him from completing the physically draining entrance exam. There's another point of
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Sluggish. Torpid. Boring. Those three words (and more) can describe The Yellow Handkerchief, a stultifying road trip movie whose inept screenplay is only partially counterbalanced by a trio of nice performances. There's only so much a talented actor can do with a poor script, and this represents an extreme case. The movie clocks in with a running length of 102 minutes but it feels like it lasts as long as the gestation period for a human baby.
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Flags of Our Fathers
Flags of Our Fathers is Clint Eastwood's homage to the honored dead of World War II as well as a meditation upon how an icon is formed. Based on the book by James Bradley and Ron Powers, the movie centers around the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the key late war conflicts in the Pacific Theatre. However, unlike other films that have trodden similar ground (in particular, the John Wayne vehicle The Sands of Iwo Jima), Eastwood's movie does two things differently. First, it uses the Saving Private Ryan approach to battle (not surprising, since Steven Spielberg is a producer) by showing all the blood and viscera older war movies kept hidden. Secondly, it intercuts the Iwo Jima sequences with those happening Stateside several months later, where key events are transpiring.
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If you have a powerful desire to see Jennifer Aniston's bare butt, The Break-Up is not to be missed. But if the former Mrs. Pitt's posterior isn't high on your list of sights to see, the film is better left to unspool in theaters unviewed. The Break-Up is like Danny DeVito's The War of the Roses, but without the wit, the acid, and the blacker-than-black humor. In fact, The Break-Up is most effective when it lumbers into the realm of melodrama, which it does a few times too often for something being touted as a "romantic comedy." For a movie with that label, there's surprisingly little romance, and less comedy. There may be a laugh or two sprinkled throughout but, for the most part, on those occasions when the script tries to be funny, the attempts are thin and awkward. More surprising, however, is the fact that The Break-Up doesn't try hard or often to solicit chuckles. There are times when its seriousness is almost unsettling.
Saw is for hard-gore horror aficionados only. To appreciate Saw in its full gory, you have to have a penchant for productions that bask in the traditions of the Grand Guignol. While most of the film relies more on psychological tension and terror, there's plenty of gut-churning, visceral violence, especially during the final 15 minutes. That's the time period when James Wan's otherwise compelling feature goes a little too far over the top, veering out of its David Fincher-inspired darkness into the realm of self-parody. There's lots of blood, plenty of hysteria, and perhaps one twist too many. On the strength of a grippingly original concept and 90 strong minutes of building action, Saw gets a recommendation, but only if you like this kind of thing.
Fun with Dick and Jane
Have you ever gone through the painful experience of watching someone who was once good at something try to recapture their past glory? It can be in sports, acting, writing, or any number of vocations. That's the dubious opportunity Fun with Dick and Jane offers viewers. Jim Carrey tries to turn back the clock and venture into Ace Ventura mode, without realizing that he's no longer the comedian he was a dozen years ago. In the interim, he has matured to the point where we no longer accept him in this kind of role. (Even Adam Sandler, Carrey's heir apparent, has moved into more serious pictures.) Stranger still, the film contains dark undercurrents and elements of melodrama that clash with Carrey's attempts to resurrect the zaniness and physicality of his past. Much of the film's comedy feels muted; Fun with Dick and Jane isn't a lot of fun.
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I Am Love
I Am Love falls into the select category of films that are easier to admire than like. Director Luca Guadagnino's arm's length approach to the story creates a buffer between the audience and the main character - something that works well during the first half but fails to create the emotional resonance to provide the second hour with its full power. For I Am Love to succeed on all levels, one needs to empathize with Tilda Swinton's Emma, but the stylistic choices made by Guadagnino keep the viewer in the position of a detached observer. As good as Swinton's performance is, and it's very good, it is difficult to connect with Emma. In many ways, I Am Love becomes an exercise in studying technique and, while that's something scholars and film students may appreciate, it's not the most fulfilling way to approach a production for the average movie-goer.
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Mighty Joe Young
When Mighty Joe Young first reached screens in 1949, nearly everyone recognized it as an attempt to re-create the magic and mystique of King Kong. Many of the same people were involved -- Ernest B. Schoedsack in the director's chair, Robert Armstrong (Carl Denham in Kong, Max O'Hara in Joe Young) in a leading role, a story by Merian C. Cooper, stop-motion animation by Willis O'Brien -- but lightning didn't strike twice. Mighty Joe Young received a lukewarm reception when it was first released, and, years later, few would label this particular monster movie a "classic."
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East meets West as the Japanese Yakuza battle drug lords and the LAPD in the streets of Los Angeles...
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The 4th Tenor
Eternal bachelor Lupo plays the comical presenter to the musical acts in his own Italian restaurant Serenade Caf
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Keeping the Faith
Father Brian Finn (Edward Norton) has been dedicated to his calling since he was a child and now shares the duties of a New York parish with an older priest, Fr. Havel (Miloš Forman). Rabbi Jacob "Jake" Schram (Ben Stiller), best friends with Brian since childhood, is the youngest rabbi at his Reform synagogue; his lack of effort to find a wife often results in his mother (Anne Bancroft) and other women of his congregation setting him up on blind dates, much to his dismay. The two men show a close bond, even in their professions, where the two are planning the opening of a jointly sponsored community center. In its earlier days, the friendship included a third party. Via flashbacks and reminiscent musings, Anna Reilly (Jenna Elfman) is introduced: she met Jake and Brian in middle school, after beating up a bully who was picking on them. The three enjoyed attending ballgames, playing sports, and riding the subway around the city together, as well as getting into typical mischief. Unfortunately, Anna's father got a new job that resulted in the Reillys moving cross-country to California.
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Country Blue aka On the Run
Young and in love, she broke the law... the law broke her.
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Dawning takes place at a Northern Minnesota lake cabin where a brother and sister visit their father and step-mom. As the first night unfolds with uncomfortable small-talk and tension, tragedy strikes as the beloved family dog is found mortally wounded. Almost immediately a stranger, potentially under the spell of some un-seen presence, appears in the cabin and tells the family that he has come to save them...but from what? The mans arrival upsets what at best was only a tentative balance and the pretense at civility begins to crumble. Soon, their lack of trust in each other and their inability to cope with any new pressure exposes their weaknesses and what the stranger has started, whatever is waiting in the dark may finish.
In the mid-1990s, two inmates bury the burned bodies of two lifers at Mississippis infamous Parchman Farm a third old-timer relates their story. Theyd served 65 years for a murder they didnt commit, framed by a local sheriff while buying moonshine whiskey for a Manhattan club owner to whom they owed money. In flashbacks we see this odd couple thrown together (Ray is a fast-talking con man, and Claude is a serious man about to start work as a bank teller), the loss of Rays watch (sterling silver, from his daddy), the murder and trial, the hardships of Parchman, and the love-hate relationship of Claude and Ray as they spend 65 years bickering and looking for a way to escape.
Ricky is the hottest water-ski instructor around and he has just be rehired by his former employercamp to whip up attendance. But the camp is in serious financial trouble and the owner of a rival, more popular, camp wants to buy them out. Therefore they will have to engage in a mean, winner-takes-all competition that will settle the row once and for all.
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