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August 2009

Review - Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios Florida


When I finally received the opportunity to board the “Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit” roller coaster at Universal Studios Florida today, I figured the event might be an intricate prank assembled by my enemies to humiliate me further. Since its “opening” on August 19th, “Rockit” has been nothing but trouble to ride, enduring a series of vague technical glitches that have routinely thwarted my angelic plans to partake in the excitement. Additionally, Universal employees have been sinisterly trained to shoo away any potential inquiry of service during down periods with squawks of “it might not open today” or “it doesn’t look good.” And then I would learn the coaster opened for business 15 minutes I left. Arg.

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Film Review - Big Fan

BIG FAN Patton Oswalt Corrigan

“Big Fan” is being pushed to audiences as the sizzling dramatic debut for comedian Patton Oswalt, lovable cherubic star of “The King of Queens” and the voice of Remy in “Ratatouille.” While a forceful piece of acting sure to widen Oswalt’s horizons, “Big Fan” also strikes a devilish, queasy tone worth savoring. It’s a wicked play on professional sports and its professional, dogmatic appreciators. While shackled by a paltry budget, “Big Fan” manages to slip under the skin and play cleverly with topical issues of misguided moral fiber.

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Film Review - Taking Woodstock


Looking to tap into the buoyant mood as America celebrates the 40th anniversary of the music festival of music festivals, “Taking Woodstock” transports the viewer not to the center of the muddy hippie hullabaloo, but a few weeks earlier. An origin story of sorts, Ang Lee’s summery film is a hodgepodge of legendary sights and sounds, and for an hour it plays fresh and stimulating. But only for an hour.

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Film Review - Adam

ADAM hugh dancy rose byrne

I’m positive there’s a finer way to showcase the nuances of Asperger’s Syndrome than anything the new film “Adam” manages to come up with. While respectful to the disorder, the picture is nonetheless disinterested in anything that would enliven the experience beyond the severely clichéd or overacted. It’s a gentle romantic dramedy, but misfires at every turn, making for a tedious motion picture that minimizes a fascinating subject.

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Blu-ray Review: Adventureland


I'm positive "Adventureland" had a breathtaking original screenplay. The finished product hints at the magnificence of a layered, nuanced piece of writing that captures the bewildered minimum-wage happenings a cluster of young people encounter on their way to the finality of adulthood; however, very little of that character shading and dramatic ambition survived the brutal journey to the screen. It’s fantastic to observe "Adventureland" reach out and seek a timeless youthful uprising feel, but the film's eventual realization is a crushing disappointment.

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Film Review - Inglourious Basterds


“Inglourious Basterds” isn’t a World War II movie, it’s a Quentin Tarantino World War II movie. Turning his fiendish screen alchemy to the combat genre, “Basterds” slides perfectly in line with the rest of Tarantino’s funky filmography, returning stupendous dialogue, dense plotting, anachronistic soundtrack selection, and fire-breathing performances to the screen. Perhaps not as whirlwind as the marketing suggests, “Basterds” heads elsewhere for inspiration, finding the art of intimidation and espionage even more thrilling than straightaway slaughter. It’s a patient, layered, stupefying doozy of a motion picture. Once again Tarantino has come to bend the staples of cinema, and the results are characteristically spectacular.

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Film Review - Zombie Girl: The Movie


Emily Hagins has loved movies for her entire life. Cinema has filled her soul, helped to form an unbreakable bond with her mother Meghan, and catapulted her artistic aspirations beyond mere passive observation. Emily Hagins is ready to make her first movie: the blood-and-guts zombie epic, “Pathogen.” It’ll take a large cast, citywide locations, endless hours of shooting, and a DeMille-like concentration on the finer points of storytelling. Emily is ready to achieve her lifelong dream. Emily is 12 years old.

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Film Review - Post Grad

POST GRAD Alexis Bledel

After returning home from a screening of the dramedy “Post Grad,” I was quite surprised to learn that the film wasn’t based on a book or a television series. It was just a screenplay, credited to Kelly Fremon, which makes the distracted, overstuffed narrative all the more confusing. 1/3 post-collegiate woe, 1/3 wacky family suburban comedy, and 1/3 tepid romantic yearn, “Post Grad” hopes to be many things to many different audiences. It’s a meandering mess of a motion picture, enlivened by a few performances, but ultimately, and quite aggressively, ineffectual and dreary.

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Film Review - Shorts

SHORTS still

I understand that writer/director Robert Rodriguez wants to give his R-rated instincts a rest on occasion, focusing on family entertainment to delight his numerous offspring and his own inner child. With 2001’s “Spy Kids,” it appeared the new direction was going to become an artistic boon for Rodriguez, allowing the filmmaker to expand his horizons. And then “Spy Kids 2” chipped the paint job, “Spy Kids 3-D” sneezed on the cake, and “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl” made life just a little more difficult to live. “Shorts” is the latest round of juvenile antics from Rodriguez and advances his wasteful behavior, denting a promising filmmaking career on yet another crude distraction that plays much too obnoxiously.

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Film Review - X Games 3D: The Movie

X GAMES 3D still

Before “X Games 3D: The Movie,” I knew next to nothing about the event that brings together the stars of “action sports” to rumble in front of thousands of advertisements…I mean fans. If it’s possible, I know even less about the X Games after watching this documentary. A deadly paced, sloppy parade of egos and stunts, “Movie” plays directly to the fanbase, who will be the only ones able to hurdle the slapdash nature of the direction and savor the airborne money shots.

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Blu-ray Review - The Last Starfighter: 25th Anniversary Edition


Perhaps one of the lesser known features from the summer blockbuster class of 1984, “The Last Starfighter” has developed a devoted cult following over the last 25 years. A handsome sci-fi adventure with an enchanting pioneer spirit, “Starfighter” is one of the few successful Spielberg clones, administering the usual routine of aliens and mouth-agape wonder with friendly determination and a perfect, just perfect, game boy screenwriting hook.

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Blu-ray Review - Hannah Montana: The Movie


I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but I was expecting plenty more oomph from “Hannah Montana: The Movie.” The Disney Channel show makes it a point to be as piercing to the senses as possible, which makes the molasses pacing and muted effort from the big screen incarnation definitely strange. It’s not like I’m demanding depth here, just a hope that the sparks stay ahead of the yawns, and maybe a genuinely inspired moment of slapstick or two. For a film that’s essentially a lengthy commercial for the soundtrack, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to wonder why the adolescent electricity was dialed down for this tricky crossover attempt.

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Restaurant Roam - Le Cellier at the Canada Pavilion (Epcot)


I think a proper challenge for any resident of Orlando (or perhaps adventurous tourist) is to dine at all of the pavilions located within Epcot’s glorious parade of countries, the World Showcase. It’s an expensive proposal (Mickey’s a cute mouse, but he loves money), but not impossible, especially if this lofty gastric quest is portioned out over an extended period of time. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, satisfying an itch for a theme-park-exclusive challenge and to wave an extended middle finger toward my personal foodie fraidy-cat nature. While I’ve visited a few of the countries in the past for eats, I’ve never actively pursued them all. It’s time to change that. The first stop was the famed Le Cellier, located inside the Canada pavilion.

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Film Review - World's Greatest Dad

WORLD'S GREATEST DAD still Goldthwait Robin Williams

Spending his directorial career in search of the proper script with the proper oddity to fit his established sense of humor, Bobcat Goldthwait has finally captured the secret formula with “World’s Greatest Dad.” A pitch-perfect black comedy, “Dad” drips with the sort of acidic smile that Goldthwait has built a career upon, bravely marching forward as not only one of the most uproarious films of the year, but perhaps the most accurate depiction of teen bile ever to grace the screen. It’s a double miracle: a stupendous comedy and a great argument for mass sterilization.

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Film Review - The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

GOODS still Piven Thicke

Neal Brennan is perhaps best known for his work as a driving force behind the Comedy Central smash, “Chappelle’s Show.” A student of sketch comedy, Brennan brings his bite-sized mindset to the silver screen with the awkwardly titled feature, “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.” It seems Brennan’s instincts for comedy gold are either limited to the three-minute format or require the participation of Dave Chappelle. On his own, Brennan offers little in the way of an inner-monologue, executing a lewd comedy that has no middle speed between agreeable stillness and cringing vulgarity.

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Film Review - Ponyo

PONYO still

I’ve never been the most diligent student of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, unfortunately sticking mainly to the features that have booked passage to America, dubbed and redressed by the fine folks at Disney. “Ponyo” is the latest import to hit these shores and for a Miyazaki lightweight like myself, it’s perhaps the most charming production I’ve encountered yet. Heartwarming, graciously surreal, and pure eye candy, “Ponyo” is an elevating fantasy that swims enthusiastically in delightfully unexpected directions.

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