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March 2009

DVD Review - Cinematic Titanic - Blood of the Vampires

BLOOD title

While Cinematic Titanic has covered relics of bad cinema from its inception, the 1966 period shocker “Blood of the Vampires” offers the screwiest filmmaking thus far. A cheap Philippine production set in 19th century Mexico and then dubbed into English, this feature is an odd one right off the bat. Presenting an excess of comedic targets to feast upon, “Blood” is a worthy offering to the altar of Cinematic Titanic, who, through considerable riffing labor, presents the one and only reason to ever sit through the feature -- perhaps the most unintentionally boring movie ever made.

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Film Review - 12 Rounds

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John Cena made his feature film debut with 2006’s “The Marine,” a dumb-as-rocks actioner lacking sufficient style and kinetic energy to help digest its rancid helpings of explosions and ghastly screenwriting. It certainly played to the primary color level of a professional-wrestler-turned-actor like Cena, but the whole experience was intolerable, failing to join the ranks of the numbing, trigger-happy schlock cinema it was aping. “12 Rounds” returns Cena to the big screen and this time under the guidance of director Renny Harlin, a tattered but venerable action craftsman who knows a thing or two about hokey line readings and fireball evasion.

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Film Review - Monsters vs. Aliens


It’s come to be in the great cinema spectrum that Pixar makes cinema and Dreamworks makes cartoons. These days, I prefer the laughs, and “Monsters vs. Aliens” is a cracking animated comedy that takes wonderful care of its characters and pace, presenting a brisk, frequently hilarious romp that rarely pauses to reflect. The simplicity is refreshing.

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Film Review - The Haunting in Connecticut


If you place “The Haunting in Connecticut” up against the recent output of PG-13 horror films, I would regard it rather highly. As an overall terror experience, it merely passes, but that’s enough these days to warrant a recommendation. Crafted with a believable atmosphere of menace, “Connecticut” manages to break free from heavy iron genre chains and provide a spooky event that might not send the average viewer screaming out of the theater, but it could induce some heavy fingernail chewing during the ride.

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The Tale of "The Abyss" Sets in South Carolina


What’s amazing about James Cameron’s “The Abyss” is not its upcoming 20th anniversary and how it’s become the rare film to last throughout the years as an adventure extravaganza many audiences still treasure and remain in awe of decades later. Actually, what’s amazing about “The Abyss” is that, up to only a few years ago, the elaborate sets still remained in their original place for brave souls to view at the Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant in South Carolina.

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Film Review - Knowing


While “I, Robot” was a massive moneymaker for all participants involved, I don’t know of anyone who exited the theater ecstatic with the results. Well, director Alex Proyas is back on the sci-fi chain gang, this time tackling the apocalyptic thriller “Knowing.” A broad, leisurely jumble of Alfred Hitchcock-style suspense architecture and a dreary, paint-by-numbers Sci-Fi Channel Original, “Knowing” only seems to extract two reactions: nail-biting and eye-rolling. Proyas misjudges the material to both frightening and facepalm results, leaving “Knowing” a frothy brew of pleasing chaos and absolute absurdity.

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Film Review - Best Worst Movie


Cult films are not fashioned out of apple-cheeked willpower, they're born from the hellfires of nonsense; often bloody, messy births that nobody should see coming. The 1990 trainwreck "Troll 2" happens to be one of those diamond feature films that managed to combat tremendous obscurity and the plague of bottom shelf rental store banishment to become an iconic bad movie. But how does a cruddy film stand the test of time? How does something without any sense of quality become more treasured than the average best picture winner? It's all about the fans.

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Film Review - I Love You, Man


With a cast that includes Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, an improvisational-heavy comedic plan of attack, and a plot that touches on the adulthood demands the man-children of the world suffer through, one could come to the conclusion that “I Love You, Man” is another surefire Judd Apatow winner. Sad to report, there’s no Apatow. However, there is John Hamburg, and while the filmmaker’s uneven touch is shamefully visible throughout the picture, he does manage to land more jokes in the win column than he did with his last movie, 2004’s “Along Came Polly.”

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Film Review - Duplicity


Appreciating “Duplicity” is like admiring an antique pocket watch. It’s a gorgeously made production with well-oiled gears and an attractive display, but the mechanics of the filmmaking are the only real significant elements of the movie. The rest of the viewing experience consists of acknowledging cleverness and marveling over forked tongued dialogue exchanges. I definitely enjoyed my time with “Duplicity,” bathing in the exceptional craftsmanship, but I was hardly moved by it.

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Film Review - The Great Buck Howard


While undoubtedly mild sauce compared to the more excitable distractions at the local cinema, “The Great Buck Howard” is nevertheless a charismatic dramedy that’s wise enough to dredge the muddy waters of archetypal entertainment personalities to boost a conventional story of flailing fame and the wonder years of undeveloped twentysomething life. The film is fun to watch, easy on the frontal lobe, and features John Malkovich in a lively performance that’s both masterfully impish and authentically mysterious.

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Film Review - Hunger

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The imprisonment of IRA member Bobby Sands and his eventual call for a second 1981 hunger strike to protest treatment of political prisoners was previously made the subject of the marvelous 1996 Terry George film, “Some Mother’s Son.” George turned the event into high drama, finding inspiration through a domestic perspective to better alleviate the gruesome details of the prison conditions and the dark psychological effect on the young men incarcerated for their controversial cause. Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” boldly heads the opposite direction, grimly recounting the mounting filth and desperate survival instincts as Sands embarked on an incredible test of self-control.

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Film Review - Race to Witch Mountain


This is not Disney’s first encounter with Witch Mountain, and it most certainly won’t be their last. However, it’s their loudest contribution to date. A reimagining of the 1975 motion picture and the 1968 Alexander Key novel, “Race to Witch Mountain” does away with all that pesky character development stuff to put the pedal to the metal and offer family audiences an adventure packed with stunts, gunfire, and one-liners. It’s definitely a vibrant diversion, and kids will undoubtedly be glued to the screen, but the high tech, fist-happy approach leaves much to be desired.

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Film Review - The Last House on the Left (2009)


Over time, director Wes Craven has claimed that his seminal 1972 film, “The Last House on the Left,” was a veiled commentary on Vietnam-era violence and the redaction process of news footage. It was intended as shock in a time that wasn’t equipped for such explicit content and grim storytelling. With viewers stunned into submission, the film became a cult hit, leading to the inevitable remake, albeit 37 years later. What was once an intolerably uneven, crude stunner has now been glossed up, stripped of even the smallest crumb of palatable intention, and pointed directly at the “Saw” and “Hostel” fans that just can’t get enough of that funky suffering stuff.

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Film Review - Miss March


There was a time when comedy troupes had to earn their fame before setting off on a feature film adventure, running the gauntlet of obscurity before glory. Now all it takes is a mild acknowledgment of unity and the next thing you know, a terrible jokefest isn’t far behind. “Miss March” isn’t technically a Whitest Kids U’ Know motion picture, but it might as well be, showcasing filmmakers Trevor Moore and Zach Cregger as the latest obscure sketch comedy wizards to pull a movie out of their hindquarters. It seems I owe an apology to the Broken Lizard: guys, turns out you are no longer the worst unknown jesters to come around and bore mainstream audiences to tears. Hazzah.

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Film Review - Sunshine Cleaning


“Sunshine Cleaning” is a motion picture that succeeds entirely because of the prodigious acting labor from stars Amy Adams and Emily Blunt. Without their efforts to force-feed some deep-seated emotional shading into the film, the picture would be a decidedly hollow indie event, defined by a quirky premise and one-dimensional characterization. Because Adams and Blunt bring their best to the roles, the feature carefully avoids the pitfalls of convention, becoming a familiar story executed with unexpected gravitas.

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Film Review - The Edge of Love


The sizzling embers of forbidden desire cloud the screen in “The Edge of Love,” an overwrought but not entirely unconvincing attempt at a smoldering period romance movie. Blessed with an eager, rightly immodest cast and meticulous production value, “Edge” doesn’t aspire to be anything more than a juicy British wartime soap opera, but when it finds delicious pockets of whispered betrayal, artistic impotency, and cherry-lipped invitation, it adds up to a convincing sit.

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