The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight
It isn't an overstatement to call The Dark Knight the most sophisticated and ambitious work of its kind. Superior to all three Spider-Man installments and even its amazing predecessor in terms of conceptualization, writing, acting, and direction, Nolan's follow-up to Batman Begins is a dark, complex and disturbing film, not the least of which because it grafts its heroics onto the blueprint of actual reality rather than that of spandex-clad supermen. And while such a distinction may make little difference to those already eagerly anticipating the return of the caped crusader, suffice it to say that The Dark Knight qualifies as the first official comic book adaptation that truly succeeds in being a great artistic achievement in its own right.

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About a Boy

About a Boy
Talk about an unenviable task... Universal Pictures has chosen About a Boy to be a sacrificial lamb, electing to open it on May 17, opposite Attack of the Clones. Maybe they're hoping that movie-goers disappointed by sell-outs at the latest Star Wars sequel will buy a ticket to this movie. Or maybe it's counter-programming, although the desire to see the Star Wars movies cuts across racial, class, gender, and generational boundaries. It's too bad that the distributor has matched About a Boy against such an undefeatable opponent - this movie is deserving of more exposure than it's likely to get. It may not be a "must-see" blockbuster, but it's better than a lot of what passes for summer entertainment.

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Everything Must Go

Everything Must Go
As their careers develop, many comedians yearn to cross over into serious dramatic roles, if only on occasion. This has happened with John Cleese, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, and Adam Sandler. Some are more successful than others, but expectations play as big a part in the actor's reception as the actual performance. Everything Must Go is not Will Ferrell's first "straight" part (previous serious - or at least semi-serious - endeavors include Stranger than Fiction and Winter Passing), but it's the first time he has consciously leeched all but the most subtle humor from his character. There are not a lot of laughs in Dan Rush's directorial debut, nor are there intended to be. Rush keeps the tone as light as possible, but no one would mistake this for anything other than a quirky, character-based drama.

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First Sunday

First Sunday
Based purely on the misleading trailers that herald First Sunday's arrival in theaters, one might be forgiven thinking this is another dumb comedy about individuals characterized by a shortage of brain cells. However, while the film occasionally falls into sit-com traps, it aspires to be more than the marketing clips lead us to believe. This is the directorial debut of noted playwright David E. Talbert, and it mixes comedy with drama to generally good effect. There are awkward moments and the ending feels excessively contrived, but there are things to like about First Sunday, most of which are not hinted at in the trailers and TV commercials.

In a way, it's surprising that the movie was cast adrift into the January wasteland rather than being released before Christmas. The themes of redemption and family that highlight First Sunday are perfect December fare. (One assumes the presence of two African American-centered holiday movies created fears of flooding the marketplace.) At any rate, while First Sunday isn't a home run, it makes more solid contact than what one normally expects from this time of the year.

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Miracle

Miracle
February 22, 1980. For hockey fans, that day will be forever remembered. "The Miracle on Ice," as it became commonly known, was to some a battle in the Cold War and to others the greatest upset in sports history. But to those who played in the game, it was validation and an opportunity to move on to win an Olympic gold medal. In the United States, hockey has always been the runt of the major sports litter, trailing football, baseball, and basketball in popularity. But, for a few days in Lake Placid 24 years ago, it was suddenly, briefly bigger than all of its siblings.

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In the Valley of Elah

In the Valley of Elah
The last scene of In the Valley of Elah may be the most ridiculously ham-fisted and over-the-top moment in all of 2007’s supposed prestige cinema. This image is so blatant and cheesy that it makes one wonder whether director Paul Haggis’ success with Crash was some kind of fluke. In fact, the film as a whole raises that question. Crash was not the most subtle film, but its clever structure and finely tuned character moments camouflaged many of its weaknesses. The same cannot be said of In the Valley of Elah, which takes two hours to make an oh-so-obvious point: war dehumanizes human beings. Is there anyone alive over the age of 12 who doesn’t know that?

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Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Certain ideas are excellent material for short features on programs like Saturday Night Live or In Living Color. Properly padded, it's possible that a few of those premises could even make passable 1/2 hour television programs. However, stretching things beyond a certain point courts disappointment. Take Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, for example, where the comic momentum sputters long before the running time has elapsed.

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Brassed Off!

Brassed Off!
Unemployment is a bane almost everyone can appreciate -- a universal affliction that becomes a sobering reality for many people during even the best of economic times. And, while the loss of each individual job is traumatic, that's nothing compared to what happens when the livelihood and identity of an entire community are jeopardized by a round of mass layoffs. Brassed Off!, written and directed by Mark Herman, takes a look at the plight of the British coal miner -- a dying breed. Once, mining was a thriving industry in rural England, with whole towns built around each mine. But, during the early 1980s, the Tory government began converting the country to nuclear power. The resulting drop in demand devastated the coal industry, with hundreds of pits being closed and a quarter of a million miners made "redundant."

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Resident Evil

Resident Evil
Inside the Hive, a top-secret genetic research facility owned by the Umbrella Corporation located beneath Raccoon City, a thief throws a vial of the T-Virus into a lab causing it to escape into the air vents. The vial breaks and the facility's artificial intelligence, the Red Queen, detects possible infection. It seals the Hive, trapping and killing everyone inside.

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Extreme Dating

Extreme Dating
In this action-comedy, four twenty-something friends are looking for love and having no luck. While on a ski trip, one of them finds passion with a beautiful girl after a random accident on the icy slopes. The others quickly conclude that the extreme circumstances of the accident were what caused love to bloom. They decide that the path to true love is to purposely set each other up on extreme dates with the objects of their affections. After a couple of near-successes, they go for broke by planning an elaborate kidnapping scheme that cant miss. But the hired kidnappers turn out to be ex-cons with a plan of their own, and the extreme date escalates out of control. The remaining friends must now rescue the captives, while desperately trying to avoid the long arm of the law. Obstacles pop up left and right, as the adventure gets wilder and wilder. The pursuit eventually takes us back to L.A., where secrets begin to get exposed.... In the end, will extreme dating lead to true love?

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As Good as Dead

As Good as Dead
Seeking revenge for the murder of their religious leader, fundamental loyalists kidnap and torture the man they believe responsible, but the ensuing clash of right vs. left ideologies quickly reveals that they may have the wrong man, which puts them on a path toward a shocking twist.

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Summer School

Summer School
A high-school gym teacher has big plans for the summer, but is forced to cancel them to teach a bonehead English class for misfit goof-off students. Fortunately, his unconventional brand of teaching fun field trips begins to connect with them, and even inspires ardor in some.

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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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Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Follows Justin Bieber with some footage of performances from his 2010 concert tour.

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Living & Dying

Living & Dying
Two killers turn the tables on a trio of robbers when they find themselves in a hostage situation. Surrounded by the police, the robbers must become the heroes before the killers execute everyone.

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