Reign Over Me

Reign Over Me
I took a class in graduate school devoted to melodrama in film. I'm not sure what that says about higher education or my own education, but it enabled me to label Reign Over Me concisely as male melodrama, a type of dramatic movie we don't see very often since many people equate "melodrama" with "women's film." Many people also wrongly equate melodrama with hackneyed filmmaking that manipulates an audience to wring tears out of them (thus the term "tearjerker"). The stories are often overwrought and unbelievable, but the point is the effect of the film as a whole. For the most part, Reign Over Me succeeds on a melodramatic level, offering an emotional ride without excess artificiality.

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Anamorph

Anamorph
The serial killer in “Anamorph” shows promise, even if some of his best moves are derivative. The same is true of the film’s director, H. S. Miller, who, in making his feature debut, conjures up a nightmarish atmosphere of dread that owes obvious debts both to David Lynch (particularly the later work) and to John McNaughton (namely his notorious horror show, “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”). Mr. Miller and his co-writer, Tom Phelan, manage to get under your skin largely with borrowed implements, though they receive solid support from Willem Dafoe and the resourceful veteran cinematographer Fred Murphy.

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Dan in Real Life

Dan in Real Life
Most romantic comedies follow conventional formulas that, when they work, can result in a frothy, enjoyable end product - admittedly, not something to challenge the intellect but enough to cause the heart to skip a beat or two. When those formulas turn rancid, however, the result is something like Dan in Real Life. Beneath its aw-shucks, wants-to-be-liked exterior, this is a bankrupt motion picture. It's cloying, artificial, and not the least bit romantic. In its 100 minutes of screen time, it gets only one thing right: that teenage girls will always hate their father, regardless of the provocation.

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King of California

King of California
King of California is the second movie opening this month to feature Evan Rachel Wood and, while it's better than the other one (Across the Universe), it's not that much better. Wood's performance is at about the same level, albeit without the singing. Here's she's paired opposite Michael Douglas, who plays her father. This is the art-house answer to National Treasure - it's about a mentally ill man who believes he has found a treasure map. The movie develops in two pieces - one dealing with the quest for the hidden riches and once concentrating on the relationship between father and daughter. The latter works; the former doesn't. The ending is touching without being too melodramatic.

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Wedding Crashers

Wedding Crashers
Please note: Obvious references to Animal House, Porky's, American Pie, and Old School will not be used in this review. Whether appropriate or not, those titles will not appear.

During the first ten minutes of Wedding Crashers, we are treated to a display of the debauched antics that were staples in comedies of the late 1970s and 1980s. Alas, it's only a tease. Pretty soon, this movie settles into the comfortable groove of telling its story - a by-the-numbers romantic comedy that's far too plot-heavy for its own good. The jokes become farther between and less funny as the filmmakers mistakenly believe that we in the audience actually care about the characters and their romantic entanglements. No cliché goes unmissed as the movie stumbles along its pre-determined trajectory. I'm not going to explicitly reveal the ending, but if you have seen more than one romantic comedy in your day, you'll know what's coming.

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Monster

Monster
An understanding of how society uses - and, more importantly, misuses - the term "monster" offers crucial insight into the intentions of first time filmmaker Patty Jenkins. Without offering justifications or excuses, Jenkins seeks to provide some understanding of the underlying motivation of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who murdered seven men during 1989. She was subsequently tried, found guilty, and executed in 2002. By exploring details primarily from Wuornos' viewpoint (Jenkins spent considerable time with the convicted killer while she was on death row, and uses excerpts from Wuornos' letters for the film's voiceover narratives), Monster eschews the easy path of transforming her into a one-dimensional psycho. Instead, without diminishing the horror of her actions, the picture humanizes Wuornos, developing a three-dimensional character where one might not normally expect to find one.

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Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive
There was a time when David Lynch made coherent, challenging motion pictures. Love it or hate it, there's no doubt that Blue Velvet was one of the most talked-about motion pictures of the 1980s. Some consider it to be a masterpiece, while others view it as exploitative trash. Nevertheless, at least the narrative makes sense. The script requires the viewer to pay attention, but everything ties together in a sensible manner. Something similar could be said about Lynch's next outing, Wild at Heart. It's a little more out there, but still not totally outrageous. Next came "Twin Peaks", the television series that started out as one of the most compelling hour-long dramas ever to air on a network before devolving into silliness. Lost Highway followed on the heels of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, with neither picture telling a linear or comprehensible story. The Straight Story seemed to put Lynch on a different course, but, with Mulholland Drive, the filmmaker is back to his old tricks.

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Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor
To think of uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer and action director Michael Bay is to be reminded of popcorn-and-eye candy trifles like The Rock and Armageddon - movies where flashy special effects and lobotomized scripts are arguably assets. The pairing of Bruckheimer and Bay does not provoke thoughts of a serious epic set against a grand, historical backdrop - and Pearl Harbor illustrates why this is the case. It's a mystery why, with $135 million being spent on this motion picture, a few dollars couldn't have been lavished on the screenplay. The writing (credited to Braveheart scribe Randall Wallace) isn't just mediocre - it's embarrassingly bad. This movie has more howlers than the average comedy - and all of those lines are, of course, unintentionally funny.

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Advocate

Advocate
"A few years ago, a friend sent me a book about the prosecution of animals in the Middle Ages... These trials read like modern courtroom dramas. Since the animals were given a full defense counsel and were prosecuted with the whole rigor of the law, it had all the kind of little tricks that lawyers play to get their clients off. What really intrigued me was reading up about [the] people - the renegade priests, the philosophers, the lawyers, people who actually had very modern ideas."
- Leslie Magahey, writer/director of The Advocate

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Contract Killers

Contract Killers
At dinner, Janes husband collapses and dies, poisoned. She barely maintains consciousness as police and FBI arrive surrounding her house. She escapes and must try to find her would-be killers before they find her. Jane is a contract killer for the CIA with a non-official cover (a NOC). She quickly discovers discrepancies that lead her to believe shes a loose end in a rogue CIA operation. She heads for Trinidad, enlists the help of a tourist (at gunpoint), and enters a bank. Meanwhile, CIA operatives are on her trail, other government figures are involved, and a shadowy West Indian is following her too. Is there any way out?

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Regular Show - Season Two

Regular Show - Season Two
Two 23-year-old friends, a blue jay named Mordecai and a raccoon named Rigby, are employed as groundskeepers at a park and spend their days trying to slack off and entertain themselves by any means.

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Dr. Dolittle 3

Dr. Dolittle 3
Maya Dolittle, the Doctor's youngest daughter, has inherited her father's gift for talking to animals, but so far it's brought her nothing but trouble. So, Maya heads to Durango summer camp to get in touch with her abilities.

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Slashers

Slashers
Japans number one extreme reality show is having its first all-American special! Six lucky contestants, chosen from thousands of applicants, will have the chance to win millions of dollars, and all they have to do is stay alive!

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Call Me Claus

Call Me Claus
The movie starts as a flashback to Lucy Collins as a little girl. Her mother takes the kids to see a shopping mall Santa Claus, who happens to be the real one. Santa is nearing the end of his 200 year reign as St. Nick, and needs to find a replacement, someone who enjoys the Christmas season and it is shown from the heart.

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Babylon 5: The River of Souls

Babylon 5: The River of Souls
Captain Lochley now has solid proof that Garibaldi is a disaster magnet when he comes to the station to meet with one of his new companys subordinates, shes being sued by the owner of an illegal virtual reality holo-brothel and besieged by Soul Hunters looking for one of their soul vessels, this one containing the souls of the long-lost Ralga alien species.

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Night Catches Us

Night Catches Us
In 1976, complex political and emotional forces are set in motion when a young man returns to the race-torn Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age during the Black Power movement.

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