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July 2008

Film Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

MUMMY 3 still

The latest “Mummy” film, coming a full and unforgiving seven years after the last “Mummy” film, is actually not much of a film at all: it’s a deafening, blinding department store Blu-ray demo reel that’s spun wildly out of control. It takes a herculean effort to be known as the least appetizing entry in the “Mummy” franchise, but then again, a studio isn’t exactly fishing for quality when they hire Rob Cohen to direct.

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Film Review: [Rec]

REC still

The simple way to categorize the Spanish horror experience “Rec” (as in the record button on a camera) is to compare it to “Cloverfield” or George Romero’s “Diary of the Dead.” While the association is not fair to this modest production, it’s an accurate placement to describe what exactly the audience is going to witness: a demonic, barnstorming, cinema verite horror experience that pulls few punches, fears no genre taboo, and reaches for the throat with delightful intimidation.

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Film Review: Chris & Don: A Love Story

CHRIS & DON still

Perhaps best known as the inspiration and co-author of the musical “Cabaret,” Christopher Isherwood was a beloved writer and critical fixture of the gay scene in Hollywood, proudly living his dream of artistic and sexual freedom. However, there was a force in his life more powerful than writing, even breathing at times: Don Bachardy.

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DVD Review: CJ7

CJ7 still

Stephen Chow is a rare breed on the filmmaking scene. With such cult hits as “Shaolin Soccer” and “Kung Fu Hustle,” Chow has amassed a library of heavily-augmented slapstick smashes, each stranger than the next. Perhaps weary of making silly stuff for older crowds, the multi-faceted moviemaking machine turns his attention to the family mob with the cute, zany, and extremely bizarre sci-fi comedy, “CJ7.”

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DVD Review: Doomsday - Unrated Edition

Doomsday still

After creating “Dog Soldiers” and the mesmerizing horror bonanza “The Descent,” writer/director Neil Marshall has built up quite an impressive reservoir of good faith with both fans and critics. He’s a smart filmmaker; a fresh talent working the levers on genres that need every ounce of intelligence they can possibly vacuum up. However, “Doomsday” is a misfire for Marshall; a vivid production giving him a plump budget to pursue his deepest widescreen dreams, yet he loses control of this violent free-for-all immediately after takeoff.

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Film Review: The X-Files: I Want to Believe

X-FILES still

Hard to believe, but it’s been a full decade since the last “X-Files” picture, “Fight the Future,” hit the big screen to enthusiastic response, plunging the then-running television series even further into ferocious alien disturbances and its own vast sci-fi mythmaking quest. It’s a different world for the “X-Files” brand these days, and “I Want to Believe” reflects the change of pop culture weather, turning inward to produce a spooky drama for the fans this time around, not multiplex mass acceptance.

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Film Review: Step Brothers


“Step Brothers” is a terrifically amusing movie, but it never reaches pulse-quickening hilarity. It’s a confusing misfire, considering this is the new Will Ferrell film, reteaming with longtime collaborators John C. Reilly and director Adam McKay, and plays with a story that requires the star to act like a huffy child for 90 minutes. Seriously, it’s damn strange that “Brothers” isn’t funnier.

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Film Review: Lost Boys: The Tribe


While monumentally dated in nearly every facet of production, 1987’s “The Lost Boys” has held on to become a beloved cult film and the widely recognized starter pistol for the whole “Corey” phenomenon. Joel Schumacher’s ode to vampires, red camera filters, and hetero Rob Lowe worship still beguiles to this day; a horror/comedy with real genre teeth, outstanding performances, and a flavorful, haunting soundtrack.

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Film Review: Brideshead Revisited


“Brideshead Revisited” is a museum piece, perhaps the most famous tale of isolation and stunted emotion around. It’s a fragile story that requires attentive direction, for any false move in interpretation will result in a complete dramatic malfunction. Facing incredible odds against it, this pass at conquering “Brideshead” is a worthy offering to the period-piece gods, presenting British aristocracy with the perfect edge of contempt and illicit sexual behavior shaped with the true angle of guilt. 

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Film Review: Man on Wire


Philippe Petit was a man who thrived on adventure, or at least the composition of it. Petit was a gifted street performer, great on a unicycle and able to awe crowds with his sleight of hand, but he always had his eye on a bigger impression: an act that would merge the beauty of his skills with the publicity befitting a king. It was a calling that drove him to undertake a harrowing act of physical dexterity that would forever solidify his place in New York City popular culture: in 1974, Petit attempted to cross between the World Trade Center towers on a tightrope.

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Film Review: Death Defying Acts


After the contact high that Christopher Nolan’s brooding magician yarn “The Prestige” cooked up a few years back, it’s absurdly disappointing to watch Gillian Armstrong’s “Death Defying Acts” fail to match the same beat. This is a romantic film, not antagonistic, but let’s be truthful here: if its period and presents acts of staged deception, it hard to top Nolan’s whirlwind thriller.

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Film Review: Baghead


“Baghead” is a picture where intent and execution are so blurred, I’m not even sure how to properly process it. Purportedly a member of the DIY “mumblecore” movement of cinema (a.k.a. “discreetly unprofessional”), “Baghead” is much too slipshod to be labeled anything but a forgettable, tiresome pass at evoking horror and comedy, tarted up under the tent of sleepy independent film obviousness.

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Film Review: Revisiting The Mummy and The Mummy Returns



I generally regard 1999’s “The Mummy” and its 2001 sequel, “The Mummy Returns,” as blatant disasters of recent cinema. The two pictures are boisterous beasts of CG-heavy nonsense, basted in a claustrophobic “summer entertainment for all!” sauce of cheap thrills, ghastly acting, and abysmal screenwriting.

So, it seemed like a perfectly rational idea to venture out into the miserable world and screen both movies again in advance of the upcoming sequel nobody actually asked for, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”

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Film Review: The Dark Knight


It’s been three lengthy years since “Batman Begins” clobbered the big screen, and the wait for the next chapter in this saga has been interminable. What director Christopher Nolan achieved with “Begins” was superhero tonality on an inspired, chilling scale; it was cartoon vigilantism turned into a mesmerizing metropolitan dirge, masterfully executed in a manner that made previous attempts to bring Batman to life seem juvenile and insincere.

Well, “The Dark Knight” eats “Begins” for breakfast.

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Film Review: Mamma Mia!


It was only a year ago when I suffered utter disdain for “Hairspray,” a shrill, overdirected musical comedy that I found merciless in its unpleasantness. Turns out all it was missing was the music of ABBA; “Mamma Mia!” is the same vintage of shrill, overdirected musical comedy, yet it breaks free of self-conscious bondage to kick off a suitably electrifying big-screen pajama party of dancing, singing, and devotion to all things Europop.

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Film Review: Space Chimps


“Space Chimps” is many things, but the one advantage it lacks is a sizable budget. If you’re a respectable production that wants to be taken seriously and can’t even scrounge up the coin to license Yello’s 1985 hit “Oh Yeah,” instead electing to use a tinny sound-alike…that should be the first clue that something is seriously awry with the movie.

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