Armored

Armored
Armored follows Ty Hackett (Columbus Short), an Iraq war vet who must raise his adolescent brother Jimmy (Andre Jamal Kinney) on his own after their parents die. He gets a job at Eagle Shield Security, the same armored truck company that his dad worked for. His godfather and mentor Mike Cochrane (Matt Dillon) also works there. Faced with mounting bills, foreclosure and the possibility that his kid brother will end up in foster care, Ty becomes a begrudging accomplice in Mike's devious master plan.

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a brilliant movie for the future of film in a variety of ways that I suspect no one involved with the film will want to celebrate. For example, I suspect that hopeful movie critics for years to come will be given it as a test of their abilities. It's a tricky movie to critique. I also have my suspicions that a wide variety of film classes will make great use of it. Should we turn the sound off and examine scenes for any number of the methods and modes of film creation, this is a movie with much to teach. It is, without the slightest hint of question, a beautiful and masterfully constructed film. It is also the best silk purse example of a film I've had to suffer through since Gods & Generals.

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Whatever happened to the delight and, if you'll excuse the term, the magic in the "Harry Potter" series? As the characters grow up, the stories grow, too, leaving the innocence behind and confusing us with plots so labyrinthine that it takes a Ph.D from Hogwarts to figure them out. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" still has much of the enchantment of the earlier films, but Harry no longer has as much joy. His face is lacking the gosh-wow-this-is-really-neat grin. He has internalized the secrets and delights of the world of wizards, and is now instinctively using them to save his life.

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X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand
Much as they did with Bryan Singer's first entry in the X-Men film franchise, the fanboy community has spent the last year or so coiled with dread and anticipation over X-Men: The Last Stand, which opens Friday. While it is nowhere near the disaster that the naysayers and axe-grinders would have you think, the third (and, by most accounts, final) X-Men film is not as rewarding or complete an experience as it should have been.

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S.W.A.T.: Firefight

S.W.A.T.: Firefight
Why Sony waited eight years to make a sequel to the 2003 hit S.W.A.T. is beyond me. It's not like fans have been crying or creating letter writing campaigns, begging for a follow-up for the past decade. Naturally, though, a DTV sequel isn't a bad move for Sony. The original was a pretty solid rental hit, warranting some kind of sequel. But again, why wait so long?

Perhaps producers were simply waiting for a decent script to come their way. Or perhaps it's because the DTV market is booming right now. The budgets are getting bigger, the production design is getting better, the casts are stronger, and the stories seem to actually be trying new routes or heading in original directions. Not every DTV sequel works, but the market is improving and evolving.

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Beat that My Heart Skipped

Beat that My Heart Skipped
The Beat that My Heart Skipped is director Jacques Audiard's re-imagination of James Toback's Fingers. Although Audiard and his co-writer, Tonino Benacquista, have retained the premise and some of the ideas of the original, this is, for the most part, a different take on the material. In fact, some of the most important thematic aspects of this film are not evident in Fingers. The Beat that My Heart Skipped is about one man's attempt to walk the tightrope between two divergent aspects of his life, and the ways in which his indecision causes him to fail at both. It's a tale of maturity and self-discovery. Whether or not it has a "happy" ending depends on your perspective. There is no ambiguity about what happens at the conclusion, but Audiard leaves it up to the viewer to put it into perspective.

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Celebrity

Celebrity
Woody Allen's 1998 feature entry, Celebrity, is arguably his weakest film in half a decade, failing to reach the level of entertaining mediocrity attained by such middle-of-the-road features as Mighty Aphrodite and Deconstructing Harry, and falling far short of the mark established by Everyone Says I Love You and Bullets Over Broadway. That's not to say that there's nothing worthwhile in Celebrity. In fact, some of the sequences in this black-and-white, episodic ensemble piece are riotously funny, but there aren't enough good moments to counterbalance the negatives. As a result, Celebrity turns out to be a minor footnote on this year's holiday film release roster. (It is also another disappointment for Miramax Films, which has been suffering through an awful year.)

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Apollo 13

Apollo 13
For those too young to recall the tragic events of November 22, 1963, one of the most stark and enduring images of a lifetime came on a frigid afternoon in January 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up while skyrocketing heavenward. By that time, shuttle flights had become routine, and few gave much thought to the possibility of something going wrong. After the accident, NASA was forced to re-evaluate its plans while everyone who had watched considered their own mortality. Not since April of 1970 and Apollo 13 had the United States' space program encountered this kind of disaster -- except in that case, no lives were lost.

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Congo
Since the release of Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton has become a Hollywood staple. Rights to each new novel are quickly optioned, and the resulting film is on the market as soon as ILM can get the special effects done. Congo is the fourth adaptation of a Crichton novel in two years (following Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, and Disclosure), all of which performed well at the box office. Given its position in the summer blockbuster race, it's unclear how this latest picture will do, but one thing is certain: this is easily the worst filmed version of anything penned by the prolific author.

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Gargoyle

Gargoyle
Here’s a confession: if not for my affinity for Michael Pare, who dominated the direct-to-video action genre in the ’90s and was an A-list movie star in the ’80s (“Streets of Fire” being one of his more famous roles), the low-budget Creature Feature “Gargoyles” wouldn’t rate anywhere near a 2-star grade. But Pare is the star of this little ditty, and as such I’m prone to like it more than I would normally.

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Dragon Tiger Gate

Dragon Tiger Gate
I am convinced that comic-to-film adaptations are possibly the single most difficult movies to make. There have been countless failures in Hollywood and Hong Kong over the years. It may have to do with audience expectations not being met, a colossal misinterpretation of the source material or just plain old bad filmmaking. Hollywood finally got wise to an extent by pairing talented filmmakers with both obscure and mainstream comic book heroes. They have been riding high on a string of successes that began with BLADE and looks to continue with 300. But as the recent release of GHOST RIDER has proven, there is no magic formula and for every success there are at least two critical, if not commercial flops. Unfortunately, Hong Kong’s DRAGON TIGER GATE falls into this latter category.

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Quigley Down Under

Quigley Down Under
Tom Selleck stars as American cowboy archetype Matthew Quigley in Simon Wincer's outback western Quigley Down Under. Answering an advertisement placed by Australian cattle baron Elliot Marston (Alan Rickman) to come to the rugged and uncivilized Australian countryside and shoot dingoes, Quigley finds himself halfway around the world, only to find that Marston wants to exploit his talents as a sharpshooter in order to wipe out the Aborigine population.

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Never Die Alone

Never Die Alone
Hardened criminal and drug dealer King David (DMX) is returning to New York, where he can find redemption by settling an old score with drug lord Moon (Clifton Powell) and always talking about a woman named Edna. As David walks through New York, he meets up with old acquaintances and momentarily passes by Paul (David Arquette), a failing journalist.

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Lucas
Lucas is a promising kid, bright, inquisitive, knowledgeable, industrious, but for a boy aged 14 those qualities dont count for much socially, his daily life in high school is a brave but hopeless struggle against cruel ridicule (nicknamed leukoplakia) and abuse on account of his frail figure, miniature size and athletic ineptitude, while any demonstration of precocious erudition is frowned upon by his ignorant, dumber peers and seniors, fortunately with one remarkable exception the studly football team captain, generally known as Cappie, gallantly protects the shrimp and as soon as he gets to know Lucas appreciates his mind and courage, eager to learn from him. The arrival of an attractive new girl in his school and neighborhood proves a mixed blessing Maggie becomes his best friend and companion, admiring his many talents, but inevitably she soon falls for Cappie the other way, so now his big brother and protector seems little Lucass rival, however hard the hunk tries to stay friends...

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Last of the Dogmen

Last of the Dogmen
Modern bounty hunter Lewis Gates is hired to track down three dangerous fugitives who have escaped into the Montana wilderness. When the fugitives are found murdered, Gates has a mystery on his hands. Accompanied by anthropologist Lillian Sloane, Gates ventures further into the mountains and discovers an isolated settlement inhabited by a Native American tribe thought to have been wiped out by white settlers a century earlier. The two gradually begin to gain acceptance within the tribe, but when Gates vengeful ex father-in-law, Sheriff Deegan, leads a posse into the mountains, Gates and Sloane must prevent the tribe from being massacred a second time.

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