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July 2010

Film Review - Kisses

KISSES Still 1

Minimalism is wielded masterfully in Lance Daly’s “Kisses,” an unexpectedly tart juvenile drama that trusts in the emotional purity of life. Short (70 minutes) but keenly aware of economic filmmaking decisions, the picture is a mood piece in the vein of a Ken Loach or Shane Meadows experience, though coated with a more musically poetic touch that assists in the picture’s lopsided hold on whimsy.

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Film Review - The Kids Are All Right

KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT Moore Bening

“The Kids Are All Right” is a striking film, though not due to any type of emotional hurricanes or drastic turns of fate. It’s frequently mesmerizing in the manner it observes a longstanding domestic commitment, following a married couple through the rigors of parenting teens, the strain of intimacy issues, and the irritation of habits. Writer/director Lisa Cholodenko brilliantly observes a homestead rocked by insecurity and complacency, making a vital, emotionally sound statement on the fragility of feelings and the strength of commitment, regardless of sexual orientation.

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Film Review - The Square

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Huffing only the finest Coen Brothers fumes, “The Square” is a cracking Australian thriller that packs a staggering left hook. Dire, frantic, and unfailingly engaging, the picture marks the feature-length directing debut of former stuntman Nash Edgerton, and I hope there are plenty more movies to come from this fellow. He has an incredible knack for the genre and terrific eye for casting, shaping this outwardly mild picture into a rowdy ride of volatility and underhanded happenings.

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Film Review - Inception

INCEPTION Cast

Between “Batman” movies and taut thriller exercises such as “Insomnia,” writer/director Christopher Nolan likes to muck around with the minds of his audience. He enjoys the sport of deception, poking around the confines of unreality to fashion complex illusory puzzles that demand the utmost moviegoing attention. You’d be a fool to even blink. “Inception” is Nolan’s Fat Man mind-bomb; it’s a lavishly byzantine thriller, dripping with layers upon layers of subconscious excavation, attempting to wrap viewers up in a heist-like adventure to help swallow the complex dreamscape machinations. It’s a bold, stunning feature of impossible technical virtuosity. It also has the tendency to be about as emotionally stimulating as a college lecture.

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Film Review - The Sorcerer's Apprentice

SORCERERS APPRENTICE Cage Baruchel

I’m starting to believe there’s a massive steel machine in super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s office, and, when he makes a movie, he feeds the pleasing results into the furious engine, which then takes whatever clicks wonderfully about the film and smashes it to pieces. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” began life as a riff on the iconic Mickey Mouse segment of “Fantasia,” but what’s onscreen isn’t nearly as inviting or whimsical as the animated short. Instead, the feature is a winded stunt show, brought to its knees by overcooked writing and insistently fruitless attempts at comedy. Once again, Bruckheimer’s contraption takes a pure idea for adventure and kills the enjoyment by overthinking matters to a paralyzing degree.

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Blue Bell Caramel Kettle Crunch Ice Cream

Blue Bell Caramel Kettle Crunch 2

I’m a big supporter of any ice cream company that dares to enter uncharted waters of funky flavoring, zeroing in on specialized tastes outside of the freezer aisle norm. But not too outside of the norm. Watching the Travel Channel and Food Network would have anyone believing there’s a market out there for hideous gunk such as fish and pizza ice cream. Nobody wants that. Ice cream belongs in the realm of the sweet, not the wecanbecausewecan mentality. Still, even lords of the cold treat can get a little ahead of themselves from time to time.

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Film Review - Predators

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“Predators” opens with man falling from the sky. We know he’s Adrien Brody, but we don’t know the character yet, introduced to the man as he free falls down to a jungle planet. Frantic, he searches madly for a parachute, baffled by the mechanism strapped to his body, watching as the planet below draws near at an incredible speed. It’s a pitch-perfect moment of disorientation and panic, setting an outstanding tone for this semi-sequel/rebootish/do-over motion picture, which endeavors to smash surprise back into a franchise squeezed dry by a studio that never quite understood what they had over the last two decades.

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Film Review - Despicable Me

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Universal Studios adds their great CG-animated hope to the summer moviegoing sweepstakes with the bouncy “Despicable Me.” A full-blooded cartoon in a genre that is typically bombarded with overt sentimentality, the picture is a mixed bag, missing bellylaughs despite rather aggressive attempts at humor, yet highlighting an intriguingly playful voice cast, who eschew their normal, moneymaking tones to match the film’s colorful world of supervillains and henchmen.

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Film Review - The Girl Who Played with Fire

GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE Still 1

Promising a formidable series of thrillers with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (released earlier this year), the producers have decided to step up the pace, bringing the next chapter in author Stieg Larsson’s celebrated “Millennium Trilogy” to theaters with alarming speed. “The Girl Who Played with Fire” suffers from the demanding production push, losing the vast talents of director Niels Arden Oplev to settle more directly in the tar of exposition and adaptation with filmmaker Daniel Alfredson. While still engrossing and pleasantly twisted, the second chapter in the Lisbeth Salander saga suffers from a flat storytelling approach, which doesn’t encourage the suspense in the same urgent manner as before.

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Film Review - Restrepo

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When “The Hurt Locker” won the Academy Award this year for Best Picture, it was rewarded for its unflinching view of wartime survival, taking viewers to the core of the Middle East conflict. The film did an extraordinary job manufacturing reality. The documentary “Restrepo” is reality, contributing a harrowing, emotionally pummeling you-are-there examination of Afghanistan combat, as viewed through the lens of embedded directors Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington. There are no politics or blustery commentary, just pure experience, capturing the raw commotion of military conflict.

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