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December 2008

Film Review: While She Was Out

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“Desperate Housewives” meets drive-in exploitation cinema in “While She Was Out,” another cringing reminder how the era of true sleaze dried up decades ago. Trying to merge a chase film with little bursts of suburban paranoia, the picture whimpers around, attempting to stall long enough to fulfill a contractual feature-length running time. The goal is achieved, but the movie is a chore to sit through.

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Film Review: Milk

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“Milk” is compassionate, enraged, evocative, and upsetting. I can’t believe Gus Van Sant directed it. After eight long years of cinematically picking lint out of his bellybutton, Van Sant returns from the void of his scarf collection with this noble bio-pic, a film awash with colorful characters and a pinpoint recreation of a time and place in history that would forever change the world, all started with one man’s desire to feel acceptance in the most vulnerable of spaces: the soul.

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Film Review: Nothing Like the Holidays

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“Nothing Like the Holidays” is a Puerto Rican Christmas movie, with emphasis on the PUERTO RICAN. A flavorful banquet of yuletide neuroses, a ticket to “Nothing” should come with a seat belt to best endure the roller coaster of melodrama that makes up the majority of this dramedy. It just wouldn’t be Christmas if there wasn’t a group of actors pushed into a room together with thin characterization, forced to fight for limited screentime.

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Film Review: Wendy and Lucy

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Director Kelly Reichardt has established herself as a keen observer of behavior, preferring extended takes of actorly response to augment her overall goal of profound minimalism. Reichardt is a gifted visual composer and a dream with actors, but a little from this filmmaker goes an awfully long way. “Wendy and Lucy” steps further into Reichardt’s cinematic meditation, yet shows her straining to reach lofty emotional goals.

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Film Review: Delgo

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The background information for “Delgo” lists a production schedule of an astounding five years. After watching this offering of CG-animated fantasy fluff, I’m curious as to why it took so long to assemble what comes off as a routine family film experience; a film of almost dogged mediocrity. “Delgo” finally hits screens after such an extensive delay, but there still lacks a single compelling moment in the film to recommend an immediate viewing.

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Film Review: Cadillac Records

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Parts of “Cadillac Records” surface as warm reminders of a timeless musical era. Most of “Cadillac Records” comes across as a miserable “Saturday Night Live” skit without the benefit of a sleep-deprived audience to feign approval. A musical bio-pic of the famed Chess Records blues factory of Chicago, “Cadillac” is a frustratingly thin depiction of songwriting euphoria and industry deception; the film preferring to convulse recklessly to paint a crude mural of legendary artists when an old fashion heapin’ of focus was in order.

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Film Review: Punisher: War Zone

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One of the many complaints that greeted the 2004 adaptation of the Marvel Comics bruiser “The Punisher” was the lack of...ya know, punishing. Well, Hollywood has heard the cries of those dear comic book fanboys, bringing on “Punisher: War Zone,” and all this baby does is punish. Sadly, the real suffering is inflicted on the audience, who might respond to the sheer carnage of this update, yet are forced to endure directorial blunders sprayed all over the picture before the reward of the unholy hurt.

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Film Review: Frost/Nixon

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To best savor the intellectual showdown “Frost/Nixon,” one has to accept actor Frank Langella’s coagulated, faintly vampiric take on the disgraced 37th President of the United States. It’s a phlegmy, Herman Munster approach to an impersonation, bending the performance into near cartoonish realms of awkward mimicry. Fortunately, it’s the only hiccup in Ron Howard’s crisp motion picture; a literate, riveting war of minds that manages to examine a well-worn historical footprint without feeling fatigued in the slightest.

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Film Review: My Name Is Bruce

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As a heroic figure of genre entertainment, it’s impossible to top Bruce Campbell for larger-than-life depictions of masculinity blended with a touch of cowardice. The charismatic star of the “Evil Dead” movies is perhaps the most self-aware of cult celebrities and nothing underlines his crooked sense of worth more than “My Name Is Bruce,” a spirited romp of self-deprecation and beheadings that might not hold appeal to the ordinary viewer, but remains absolute catnip to Campbell fans.

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Film Review: Nobel Son

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Matching the mess made of his August opener “Bottle Shock,” writer/director Randall Miller returns to cinemas with the equally-as-troubled “Nobel Son.” Well, return is a strong word, since “Son” was shot three years ago and is barely seeing a legitimate theatrical launch. Frankly, I can’t blame the distributor: this bogus cutting-edge thriller is obnoxious and repellent in any direction it stands, mistaking distasteful tonal changes for cinematic razzle dazzle.

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