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February 2010

Film Review - Cop Out

COP OUT Morgan cell phone

Director Kevin Smith has set out to pay homage to the buddy cop action festivals of his formative years, and that’s precisely the film one receives with “Cop Out.” The picture is mindless escapism, spreading around as many laughs as it does bullet casings, harmlessly going about the business of slapstick and shoot-em-up. At its worse, it’s disjointed, crafted by a filmmaker with zero experience in the action genre. At its best, it’s a delightfully silly, carefree bit of profane nonsense, effectively scraping away the stale taste left behind by Smith’s lifeless 2008 feature, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”

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Film Review - The Crazies

CRAZIES crazie

“The Crazies” is a sporadically splendid thriller saddled with seriously banal horror embellishment. It should come as little surprise to learn the film is a remake, extracted from the thin skin of George Romero’s 1973 chiller. The paranoia and general Vietnam-era dread has been chiseled off the material by director Breck Eisner, who shapes a more direct shot of scares, gussied up with overtly slick filmmaking that spends more time on technical challenges than it does lacing together a consistently nail-biting motion picture.

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Film Review - Toe to Toe

TOE TO TOE still 1

Part of me wanted to appreciate “Toe to Toe” for the way it aches to portray teenage life as more than just sassmouth and cartoon cliques. The rest of me wanted to take can of gas and a book of matches to the negative, preventing the film from ever being exhibited again. A demented, amateurish after school special, “Toe to Toe” is only useful as a means to observe a first-rate actress in the making. The rest is pure rubbish, delivered with all the subtlety of an air horn.

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DVD Review - Cinematic Titanic Live: The Alien Factor

Cinematic Titanic - ALIEN FACTOR TITLE

Coming off arguably their finest effort to date with the kung-fu/blaxploitation adventure “East Meets Watts,” Cinematic Titanic returns with a second helping of their burgeoning live act in “The Alien Factor.” Another lackadaisical statement of unfiltered goofballery from the 1970s, the newest target of riff rage proves to be a worthy contender to the franchise crown, with the gang shaping 80 minutes of uninterrupted hilarity, feeding off the frisky stage energy to give this sorry routine of rubber suits, cruddy acting, and endless strolls a needed kick in the behind.

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Film Review - Wrong Side of Town

WRONG SIDE OF TOWN Rob Van Dam Gunpoint

The last time David DeFalco stepped behind a camera, it was for the 2005 shocker, “Chaos.” A morally bankrupt, technically abysmal reworking of “Last House on the Left, “Chaos” strived to be the final word on screen inhumanity; instead, it was insufferable, highlighting DeFalco’s diseased world view and inability to coherently piece together a feature film. Dialing back the gruesomeness to fiddle around with the DTV action market, DeFalco returns with “Wrong Side of Town,” a burly, brainless exercise in tough guy cinema, with a slew of D-list celebrities and professional wrestling buddies to help fill out his limited vision for weightlifter heroism.

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DVD Review - Everybody's Fine


It’s refreshing to see Robert De Niro shove aside his tough guy screen persona now and then, to remind viewers used to his antics that beyond his icy glare and powder keg temper lies a uniquely sensitive actor. “Everybody’s Fine” is a thorough tear-jerker, but the feature earns most of its sentiment, due in great part to De Niro and his gentle, worrywart lead performance. I’m not suggesting this is De Niro at his most invested and commanding, but his communication of concern adds a needed push of authenticity to a film forever on the precipice of pure schmaltz.

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Film Review - Shutter Island


“Shutter Island” is director Martin Scorsese’s ode to madness. Immaculately crafted and imposingly scored, the picture is a feast for the senses. However, that trademarked virtuoso touch doesn’t translate to the most riveting sit. For the first time in a long time, Scorsese seems to be overcompensating, firing on all cylinders to prevent the inherent stasis of the plot from settling in prematurely. While it’s destined to be pulled apart by film scholars for decades to come, “Shutter Island” remains an anomaly for the maestro, who feverishly works over the script with his typical widescreen gusto, only to end up with a flaccid central mystery barely worth the exertion.

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Film Review - A Prophet


The painless comparison to make for the French release “A Prophet” is to position the picture in the shadow of “The Godfather.” In terms of epic crime film storytelling and patient character transformation, it’s a solid DNA match, yet “A Prophet” is a far more feral, scattered production, forgoing any sort of reassuring sweep to snap around like a cobra, striking randomly at anyone who steps near it. For better or worse, the picture pulses with menace, creating a striking portrait of the years spent deep inside a turbulent prison society.

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Film Review - Saint John of Las Vegas


It’s fairly lofty screenwriting ambition to rework Dante’s “Inferno” into a modern comedy about insurance fraud investigation, and it’s a shame “Saint John of Las Vegas” just isn’t determined enough to sell the madness, spending a measly 75 minutes to work its way around primo psychological real estate. It’s a black comedy with a few exceptional scenes, but never gels together convincingly, making the artistic swing for the fences more of a quiet disappointment than a captivating leap of faith.

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Film Review - Frozen

FROZEN Emma Bell

Writer/director Adam Green is just asking for trouble with his ski lift disaster movie “Frozen.” It takes an extraordinary amount of patience to tolerate this picture, and an even greater suppression of basic survival logic to enjoy it. Hey, it’s just a movie, right? However, “Frozen” makes it a point to splash blatant illogic in the face of filmgoers, while filling out the rest of the picture with tepid grotesqueries to keep the movie shuffling along.

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Film Review - The Wolfman (2010)

WOLFMAN wolfman

“The Wolfman” endured a rough journey from production to the big screen, with numerous reshoots, heavy editorial attention, and a slew of missed released dates. The fractured history of the film’s formation is easily viewed onscreen. A mangled, short-sheeted stab at reanimating a horror icon, “The Wolfman” is a mess; it’s a poorly-stitched, overthought, ear-splitting bungle of a picture, dragging a few normally trustworthy filmmaking professionals down with it.

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Film Review - Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief


This latest effort to ignite a new generation of “Harry Potter” literary franchise hysteria for theaters has played its cards smartly by bringing in the actual director of the first two “Harry Potter” pictures. Chris Columbus returns to fantasy filmmaking after his disastrous flirtation with teen comedy in last summer’s “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” but a little rust still remains on his filmmaking antennae. Boldly produced and vivid throughout, “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” is a clunky kid-sized epic, able to conjure colossal acts of Greek myth wonderment, but never brave enough to shut its pie hole and let the audience process the screen magic.

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Film Review - Valentine's Day

VALENTINE'S DAY Garner Dempsey

Valentine’s Day is a time of romance, endearment, and devotion. “Valentine’s Day” is a Garry Marshall film that’s unpleasant, occasionally mean-spirited, and ripples with Marshall’s prehistoric sense of humor. One’s a dubious holiday intended to boost the power of passion (along with card and candy sales), while the other is an insufferable feature film that’s miraculously saved by a few charming co-stars. I’m sure Marshall is a sweet fellow, but his movies have become clueless, klutzy abominations, with “Valentine’s Day” an affront to the art of love, somehow roping in an all-star cast to help sell the pure ick.

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Film Review - Hachi: A Dog's Tale

HACHI Richard Gere 2

“Hachi: A Dog’s Tale” is a poignant story of animal attachment, glazed with a sporadically viscous coating of sentimentality. Based on a true story, which was made into a blockbuster Japanese motion picture in 1987, “Hachi” has been Americanized, taking an account of lifelong affection to an attractive Northeastern playground, not to mention hauling Richard Gere in for some required star power. A circular routine of smiles and tears, “Hachi” is delightfully gentle and engaging, refusing to bloat the material past an elementary message of canine loyalty.

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