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For a filmmaker who's known for making ultra-violent genre fare, Robert Rodriguez has never failed to balance his cinematic machismo with his softer, more kid-friendly role as a father, taking time out between bloodbaths to create something for both his family and ours. Shorts is perhaps Rodriguez's best and most inspired young-adult film since the original Spy Kids. Whether this is faint praise or a legitimate compliment is entirely up to your taste, and quite possibly your age, but there's little doubt that this sci-fi fairy tale is the perfect piece of back-to-school entertainment for children and their young-at-heart parents.
Much like a biker or skateboarder launching off some physically near-impossible ramp, attempting some unparalleled feat of mid-air contortion in defiance of gravity, X-Games 3D could only ever succeed or fail spectacularly. Unfortunately, much like Jake Brown's epic, 50-foot fall that went so widely viral last year, the quasi-documentary plummets to the ground with a dull, hollow thud. Like any good trick in extreme sports, the concept worked in theory: Take the most dangerous, visually captivating collection of games imaginable and film their greatest moments in eye-popping 3-D. The problem, however, is threefold…
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J.J. Abrams and Paramount's revival of the big-screen Star Trek franchise feels in many ways like one of the sci-fi plotlines that would've shown up on the old 1960s television show. Are these new versions of Kirk, Spock, and the rest some kind of evil doppelgangers? Have they been possessed by an alien intelligence that is making them act so strangely and out of character? Or perhaps Doctor McCoy's long-held fear of the transporter has finally come to fruition, and the crew of the Enterprise has beamed back to us as mere duplicates of themselves -- soulless ciphers of the people we've known and loved all these years.
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I admire filmmakers who take chances and defy expectations. Admittedly, that sort of thing doesn't always work, and there are flaws aplenty in After.Life, but the criss-crossing between drama, thriller, and horror is nothing if not arresting. It is also unsettling. In the end, no matter how you look at it, the whole thing doesn't quite come together. There are gaps when the film fails to play by the rules of its own internal logic, and this will frustrate some viewers. Yet the echoes of After.Life linger in the memory long after the impressions of countless safe cookie-cutter productions have faded.
For Vin Diesel, starring in XXX is a wonderfully smart career move. Too bad neither "wonderful" nor "smart" are applicable adjectives to describe this film. XXX is proof positive that it's easier to fail than succeed with the James Bond formula, and that films without the "real" 007 probably shouldn't try. If there's one thing that XXX offers, it's the opportunity to see what a Bond film might be like with a Sylvester Stallone-type action hero in the lead role. Think Rambo crossed with A View to a Kill.
Shall We Dance?
Shall We Dance? is a remake of the 1997 Japanese feature by the same name. Penned and directed by Masayuki Suo, that film was an unexpected pleasure - a feel-good feature that wasn't weighed down by the unnecessarily cloying melodrama and manipulation that often accompanies such endeavors. The movie was so beloved amongst art-house goers that Miramax, who snapped up the North American rights, commissioned a re-make. And, to further enhance anticipation of the new version, they declined to make the Japanese original available on home video. Now, some seven years later, we finally get to see how screenwriter Audrey Welles (The Truth About Cats and Dogs) and director Peter Chelsom (Serendipity) see this story unspooling. To say that it's not worth the wait is an understatement.
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Look at Me (Comme une image)
At first glance, Look at Me appears to be a standard French drama about a dysfunctional family. All the elements are in place: the domineering father whose celebrity status has made him indifferent to the needs of his family, the meek trophy wife, the overweight daughter who craves her father's unavailable affection, and several outsiders who find themselves drawn into an unstable orbit around these people. Yet first glances can be deceiving. Yes, this is a dysfunctional family drama, but it's also something more profound. Look at Me takes aim at the common human character flaw of self-absorption and examines how we no longer seem to communicate with one another. And, as is typical of her work, director Agnès Jaoui (she co-wrote Un Air de Famille for director Cedric Kapisch) gives us plenty of smart dialogue and accents her drama with black humor.
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For today's audiences, for whom the 1980s are ancient history, how is it possible to generate interest in a Prohibition-era period piece set in the town of Idlewild, Georgia? First-time director Bryan Barber has what he hopes is the answer: gather a cast of dynamic performers and develop a soundtrack that relies not upon blues and jazz standards of the day, but on hip-hop music (not unlike the approach used by Baz Luhrmann in Moulin Rouge). Unfortunately, while Barber has assembled some of these pieces, he has ignored a critical one. His script is a shaky affair - not really the kind of material that provides a solid foundation. It is riddled with clichés and includes a number of jarring transitions. Despite the best efforts of Barber the director, he never quite overcomes the shortcomings of Barber the writer.
Mad Love is a flawed movie that can't decide whether it wants to be a drama about mental illness, a tale of teen romance and rebellion, or a road picture. It's not that these three are necessarily mutually exclusive, but Mad Love's agenda makes them so. Because the movie is so concerned about not alienating its youthful target audience, it doesn't take risks. Everything has been watered down to maintain the PG-13 rating that will allow 15 and 16-year olds into theaters without their parents.
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One hallmark of great cinema is that, even when the story is tragic, a viewer can leave the theater both reflective and satisfied. Jude, Michael Winterbottom's ambitious, big-screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy's heartbreaking classic, Jude the Obscure, fits perfectly into that category. This is a film of tremendous scope and emotional depth that uncovers the soul of a novel and brings it to life on the screen.
In every way that matters, Jude is faithful to its print inspiration. The rhythm of some of the dialogue has been changed to make it sound more natural to contemporary viewers, and a number of minor characters have been deleted, but the story arc is rigorously true to Hardy's vision. One of the great strengths of the novel is that it centers on two believable, sympathetic characters. Jude effectively captures not only their humanity, but their uniqueness, fashioning a delicate rapport between them and the audience.
Surfer, Dude is the story of Steve Addington, a soul-searching surfer who experiences an existential crisis when no waves come for over a month, whilst at the same time a virtual reality game is created emulating surfing, that completely freaks him out, and he refuses sponsorship.
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Mac, the two fisted savy cop finds that hes being saddled with a new partner, a known burn out, to work with him on a new and difficult case. The new partner is, Ellis, an amazing detective, one who puts Sherlock Holmes to shame with his lightning fast deductions. Ellis has a couple of problems. He keeps assuming the personalities of entire casts of Television shows. This can be a problem when people begin shooting at them.
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A Far Off Place
The witty Nonni and the stuck-up city-boy Harry are the only ones to survive a massacre of a gang of poachers among the gamekeepers family on his lonesome farm in the savanna. Now the ruthless murderers are after them as the only witnesses. Without a means of transportation, the only way to escape is to walk through 2000 kilometers of Kalahari desert with the help of the African bushman Xhabbo. On the months-long journey ahead they not only become good friends against their differences, but also realize that every one of them has strength and skills that are required to survive.
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Kull the Conqueror
A barbarian named Kull unexpectedly becomes a king after an old king (whom Kull has just killed in a battle) gives his crown to him. But direct heirs of a killed king, trying to topple Kull and regain the throne, bring an old witch-queen Akivasha back to life. Their plan backfires, however, as Akivasha is going to allow their lords - demons - to rule the kingdom. The only thing that can stop her now is a breath of the god Volka.
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Love in the Nick of Tyme
Sexy salon owner Tyme Prentice (Terry Dexter) has a problem that any woman would envy choosing between her on-again off-again boyfriend, jazz musician Marcelles Wynters (Morris Chestnut) and the handsome and charming neighborhood UPS man, Harvey (played masterfully by newcomer Andre Pitre). RB star Avant, American Idol finalist, Trenyce Cobbins, actress Ellia English(The Jaime Foxx Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm), and C.O.C.O. Brown round out this stellar cast. With show-stopping new music by RB songstress Vivian Green, this magical production is entertainment at its finest. For a fun-filled evening of laughter and romance, make time for David E. Talberts Love In The Nick Of Tyme.
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Lord of the Flies
After a plane crash in the ocean, a group of military students reach an island. Ralph organizes the boys, assigning responsibilities for each one. When the rebel Jack Merridew neglects the fire camp and they lose the chance to be seen by a helicopter, the group split under the leadership of Jack. While Ralph rationalizes the procedures, Jack returns to the primitivism, using the fear for the unknown (in a metaphor to the religion) to control the other boys, and hunting and chasing pigs, stealing the possession of Ralphs group and even killing people.
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