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February 2009

Film Review - The Echelon Conspiracy

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Last fall’s surprise smash “Eagle Eye” concerned the nightmare of a NSA computer system gone haywire, using the deep technological reach of modern society to control the fate of the human race. “The Echelon Conspiracy” is about the nightmare of a NSA computer system gone haywire, using the deep technological reach of modern society to control the fate of the human race. You see the difference? While “Echelon” walks accidentally (I hope) in very recognizable footprints, this latest take on Bush-era paranoia and cell phone alarm might arrive in theaters somewhat dramatically moldy and short-sheeted in the budget department, yet it’s actually a more rewarding sit than “Eagle Eye” if viewed with minimal attention paid to the details.

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Film Review - Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience

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Sometimes being a film critic is being at constant war with your instincts. This time last year, the “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour” film was hitting screens across the country, with distributor Disney doubling ticket prices and keeping the press away from the final product out of fear of rotten reviews spoiling the moment. I walked in cautious and came out smiling, finding a bouncy performance film that utilized cutting-edge 3-D technology and bubblegum pop theatrics superbly, bestowing the devoted the party atmosphere and you-are-there point of view that formed one heck of a show. Now it’s time for the Jonas Brothers to play the 3-D concert film lottery, and, once again, I have fear.

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Film Review - Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

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If memories could be dialed back to the dark ages of the mid-1990s for a moment, recall that the last time the “Street Fighter” video game empire was adapted for the big screen, it concerned a cartoonishly costumed Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kylie Minogue trying to save the world from the demonic clutches of an infirmed Raul Julia. Unsurprisingly, the film tanked. Now 15 years later, a new challenger has arrived with “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li,” and this production is armed with a few clumsy television actors, Chris Klein, and a member of the Black Eyed Peas. This is not progress.

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Film Review: The Velveteen Rabbit

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Author Margery Williams’s 1922 novel, “The Velveteen Rabbit,” is one of those ageless children’s books that’s so entirely heartbreaking it burns an imprint onto the soul that’s impossible to remove. Adapted throughout the decades for generations of audiences to enjoy, “Rabbit” finds its way back into the limelight with a new feature film that only borrows thematic bullet points from Williams to form its own pass at an age-old tale of love and childhood maturity. A little rough around the edges, the new “Rabbit” is nevertheless successful with the small goals it sets for itself, providing a richly fulfilling movie night for the entire family.

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DVD Review - Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective

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It’s been a treat to watch the 1994 underdog “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” grow from a critical open sore to something resembling a slapstick classic. Along with its deliriously madcap 1995 sequel, “When Nature Calls,” the Ace franchise has developed into a beloved comedic institution, due in great part to Jim Carrey’s fluid, berserk work as the titular animal sleuth. Imagine the ecstasy of a third “Ace Ventura” movie, with the promise of Carrey returning to his career-making role after a 14-year-long absence spent trying to sell himself as a serious actor, ready to slap on the bouffant and spastic mannerisms to conquer the world all over again. Viva la Carrey! 

Would you settle for Josh Flitter instead?

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Wednesday Links

Siskel ebert

Roger Ebert talks Gene Siskel 10 years after his death (suntimes.com)
Fast Food: Ads vs. Reality (thewvsr.com)
The hard economic times hit my old neighborhood (cnn.com)
Want to buy Michael Jackson's old Disneyland crap? (Jim Hill Media)
Brian O reviews the "High School Musical 3" DVD (DVD Talk)
The life and times of the Brookdale Mall (Dumpy Strip Malls)
"Fireproof" DVD commentary is next to godliness (AV Club)
Mountain Dew Voltage (X-Entertainment)
The grand "Funny People" trailer - new Judd Apatow (funnypeoplemovie.com)
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" lands a release date (Dark Horizons)


The Terrace Theater in Robbinsdale, Minnesota (1951-1999)

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Perhaps in this age of the antiseptic multiplex atmosphere and assorted corporate banalities that ensue, the diamond concept of the movie theater as a sort of makeshift cathedral for filmgoing worship doesn’t exist anymore. I know my golden era of cinema awareness came at the twilight of the mall multiplex craze, where I was still able to enjoy a few of the decaying treasures of previous moviegoing trends before their eventual demolition. At the time I visited these gems, I just lived in the moment, barely able to process anything besides purchasing a cheap ticket and an oily bucket of popcorn. Nowadays I yearn for the theaters of my youth, especially when visiting the soulless moviegoer farms that pass for cinemas today.

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DVD Review - Howard the Duck: Special Edition

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There was an outrageous amount of bad cinema released during the 1980s to calcify the senses, but nothing retained the absurdly vitriolic reputation of “Howard the Duck.” A lump of top-heavy comedic/sci-fi filmmaking, the blame for the failure of this messy movie has always been forced onto the bearded shoulders of producer George Lucas, who was torn a new anal cavity by the press and select members of the public for this big screen blunder. After viewing the film, I’m fairly certain Lucas is the least of the picture’s problems. A bloated, mismanaged attempt to mingle brash irreverence and crunchy blockbuster aesthetics, “Howard the Duck” isn’t quite the booming nightmare its reputation suggests, but I defy most viewers out there in DVD land to sit through the entire feature without maintaining a sweaty, alert finger on the fast-forward button.

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Film Review - Madea Goes to Jail

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Times are tough for Tyler Perry these days. With critical accolades in short supply and box office returns slowing to a worrisome degree, it’s time to bust out the old drag routine again to stimulate the faithful. Discounting a microscopic cameo in last year’s “Meet the Browns,” “Madea Goes to Jail” is the first time the titular Georgian hell-raiser has assumed a starring role in three years. I’ll be honest: she wasn’t missed. An unpardonably primitive, repetitive dramedy that promises a farce yet delivers the same tiresome Perry brand of spiritual and empowerment hooey, the “Jail” of the title is more apt as a metaphor for the ticket buyer’s situation than a comic location for Madea to prance around within.

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Film Review - The Rock-afire Explosion

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Nostalgia, the undiluted variety, can assume the form of tender memories that enhance the human experience, providing illumination in the strangest of places. Nostalgia can also foster obsession, either for objects or a return to a supposed simplicity of life that’s impossible to reconstruct in the modern world. “The Rock-afire Explosion” itemizes the efforts of sensitive individuals who ache to grasp the elusive comfort of the past to help brighten their future, only the object of desire at play here might raise a few eyebrows.

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Film Review - Fired Up!

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Actors Nicholas D’Agosto and Eric Christian Olsen are aged 28 and 31, respectively. In the cheerleading epic “Fired Up!,” these men have been hired to play teenagers, which remains the one and only piece of hilarity to be treasured within this terrifyingly miscalculated, nastily adrenalized comedy. Man-boys, nubile girls, sporting hijinks, and beloved actor John Michael Higgins in a cameo; one would think with these tools the filmmakers could’ve invited any reaction from the viewer other than the one they achieve: self-immolation.

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Film Review - Fanboys

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Shot three years ago and soon after became the bruised victim of a heated post-production war that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, the comedy “Fanboys” finally emerges from Harvey Weinstein’s dust-laden vault to placate the faithful who hoped (and eventually kicked and screamed) to one day enjoy this carousel of “Star Wars” references and male bonding humor on their own. The war is over, the movie is available in some form to the general public, and the natural response after viewing? The film wasn’t worth all the fuss it generated.

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Film Review - Must Read After My Death

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Allis was a mother, wife, and frustrated feminist who lived a problematical life of anxiety and depression. When she died in 2001, her children found 300 pages of transcripts, 50 hours of audio recordings, and 200 home movies in the backyard shed with explicit instructions to peruse after her passing. With a fractured family scattered to the four winds, grandson Morgan Dews took over the task of research, finding an entire existence he knew nothing about, documented with alarming precision that revealed deep psychological wounds disregarded long ago.

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Wednesday Links

Muppet

The Muppet Babies visit "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (You Tube)
Theme park designs that never made the cut (Jim Hill Media)
Newsflash: Bai Ling is nuts. (Bai Ling Blog)
There was a Sid and Marty Krofft amusement park? (Creative Loafing)
Chicken in a Can (AV Club)
Brian O reviews "Australia" on DVD (DVD Talk)
An interview with Trace Beaulieu (Express Night Out)
Caution! Zombies Ahead! (Fail Blog)
"He-Man: Secret of the Sword" review (Classic X-Entertainment)


Film Review - Confessions of a Shopaholic

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Is crippling debt and a reckless spending habit ideal fodder for a comedy these days? Is “Confessions of a Shopaholic” so much of a fantasy that audiences can forget the world’s current financial woes and give themselves over to a romantic comedy concerning money troubles? With a stronger picture, sure. As it stands, “Shopaholic” is a trifle with fangs; a brutally insincere, borderline sci-fi excursion into Prada-packed, “chick-lit” distraction, puffed with shameless abandon by the cast and crew, who really seem to be enjoying themselves. The feeling doesn’t rub off the screen.

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