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December 2010

Film Review - Blue Valentine

BLUE VALENTINE Still 1

Charting the origin and termination of a volatile relationship, “Blue Valentine” elects to carry intense dramatic weight through improvisation, capturing the authenticity of the moment by allowing the actors to feel out the perimeter of their characters. The effect can be wearisome, clouding the intriguing atmosphere of the film, stealing attention away from the fractured essence of the piece so actors can flail about, killing vital intimacy by being so aware of the camera.

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Blu-ray Review - Barry Munday

BARRY MUNDAY Still 2

Take a cursory glance at the comedy “Barry Munday,” and it might appear as an extended “Napoleon Dynamite” riff, delving into the lives of those cursed with social awkwardness, bad hygiene, and budget clothes. Mercifully, the picture submits a little more effort than cruel mockery, struggling to extract a sense of profound characterization out of surface mannerisms. It’s an oddball feature lacking a fine point to tie it all together, but it spotlights a cast game to try something new for a change, committing to the aimlessness with endearing slack-jawed concentration.

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Blu-ray Review - The Year of Getting to Know Us

YEAR OF GETTING TO KNOW US Still 1

The Jimmy Fallon we know today is the host of a successful late night talk show, working diligently five nights a week to entertain America with his genial goofball wit and amusing competitive streak. The Jimmy Fallon viewed in the indie “The Year of Getting to Know Us” (shot in 2007) is a man at the end of his acting career, attempting to pull off an angsty role well beyond his skill level, working with professionals behind the camera who show no command over basic storytelling essentials. I think Jimmy Fallon is better off being silly on late night television.

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Film Review - Gulliver's Travels (2010)

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS Still 1

Perhaps I’m not up on my Jonathan Swift as well as I should be, but was there actually a scene in the novel, “Gulliver’s Travels,” where our titular hero, after spotting an inferno raging in the heart of the Lilliput kingdom, decides the only act of firefighting he’s capable of is to urinate all over the building and surrounding Lilliputians, creating a drippy, yellow mess? A climatic musical number where Gulliver leads the Lilliputians in a hopping rendition of Edwin Starr’s “War”? A scene where a Lilliputian soldier is accidentally plunged into Gulliver’s anal cavity after the giant is knocked to the ground?

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Film Review - The King's Speech

KING'S SPEECH Still 1

An assured crowd-pleaser, “The King’s Speech” struck me most pointedly as a depiction of friendship between two men. There’s plenty of history and period nuance to reflect upon, but the heart of the film lies with two individuals making a connection despite a monumental royal divide. In an era of broheim nonsense, where the idea of male companionship means watching three louts suck down tall boys and grunt about their grim sex life while improvising inept one-liners, it’s refreshing to find a film observe a union of intelligence and vulnerability, set against the backdrop of turbulent world events.

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Film Review - Somewhere

SOMEWHERE Still 1

In 2003, Sofia Coppola wrote and directed the indie smash, “Lost in Translation.” An ode to pains of attraction and the loneliness of fame, the picture hit commanding emotional and stylistic chords as it established an enchanting sense of fading melancholy. “Somewhere” is an aesthetic cousin, again traveling through the glittery void with famous people sinking deeper than they realize, finding salvation in companionship and unspoken affections. As to be expected with a director essentially repeating herself, the results are considerably less poignant, with Coppola forgoing the challenge of developing emotional bonds to wallow in a tedious world of Hollywood superficiality.

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Film Review - Little Fockers

LITTLE FOCKERS De Niro and Stiller

There’s a bit of medical anal play tucked snugly into the first five minutes of the sequel, “Little Fockers.” No greetings and salutations, just, boom, right into the butt to give the fanbase exactly what they want. Skillful writing, sharp comedic performance, and endearing domestic reflection are tossed aside here, permitting the picture a wide berth to engage the autopilot function and make these millionaires even richer. Who needs a challenge at this point? Just comedically snake a tube up a stranger’s ass, and watch the box office light up with willing customers. What better way to spend the holiday season.

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Film Review - True Grit

TRUE GRIT Jeff Bridges

With “True Grit,” Joel and Ethan Coen bring to the screen their take on archetypal western storytelling, lassoing together a leathered tale of spur-jangly redemption and cold-blooded murder, effectively evoking an age of weathered men and stark violence. The picture is gorgeous, unexpectedly humorous, horrific, and delightfully saddle sore, mustering the precise amount of Coen-askew flourish to accurately place their fingerprints on a well-worn tale. In a most deflating film year of unspeakable mediocrity, “True Grit” is a welcome adrenaline shot of widescreen artistry and chewy personality, adding another trophy to the crowded mantle of these filmmaking masters.

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Film Review - Made in Dagenham

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What’s this? An ode to feminism that doesn’t including the anthemic wail of “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin? Thanks to a leap back in time, “Made in Dagenham” avoids such cloying nonsense, depicting a war cry for equality with a melodramatic, but engrossing screenplay that portions much of the emotional texture to the actresses involved, led by star Sally Hawkins, who’s note-perfect as the leader of an unexpected army.

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Film Review - Casino Jack

CASINO JACK Still 1

“Casino Jack” isn’t the life story of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but merely the highlight reel of his final moments of supposed power. It’s just enough to offer filmmaker George Hickenlooper (who passed away in October) a few showy acts of desperation and bravado, stitching together a feature film about a man representative of Washington ills, but a figure not worth the screen investigation. Endeavoring to outwit the headlines, Hickenlooper attempts to turn Abramoff’s wonderland of lies into screen jazz, making a flashy, but void film in the process.

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Film Review - TRON: Legacy

TRON LEGACY Garrett Hedlund

It’s almost impossible to consider it’s been 28 years since Disney’s “TRON” provided a new language of special effects to the industry, bonding scruffy visual peculiarity to a story of awkward heroism, set inside a forbidding digital landscape of programs at war. Though a box office underperformer in 1982, “TRON” developed into a sizable cult hit over the years, boosted by the retro smooch of its groundbreaking use of CGI and endearing quarter-fingering arcade appeal. “TRON: Legacy” is most certainly a continuation of the original, yet the new picture endeavors to find its own footing as an epic of unreality, creating an immense electronic realm of peril to encourage a fresh generation of “TRON” devotees.

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Film Review - How Do You Know

HOW DO YOU KNOW Paul Rudd

“How Do You Know” is a James L. Brooks film that plays like a parody of a James L. Brooks film. It’s an overly mannered, emotionally void romantic comedy, ideal for viewers who aren’t on the hunt for common sense when it comes to the oily mechanics of love on the silver screen. Straining to coast on charm, the picture instead belly flops immediately, massively overestimating the appeal of the cast and the tender overtones of the script. Heck, even the camerawork is bungled in this insufferable motion picture. I can’t believe Brooks signed off on it.

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