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August 2010

Star Wars Celebration V - Day One

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Star Wars Celebration is the big show for anyone with a major hankerin’ for sparkly Lucasian action, assuming control of a vast space and filling it with all matters of Jedi and Sith-related material. It’s an astounding presentation of hot-blooded fandom, bringing together a swirl of admirers from all over the planet (perhaps a few alien nations as well) to discuss the infinite “Star Wars” universe, hobnob with aging media stars, and buy gobs of merchandise from excitable, finger-rubbing merchants. Because it wouldn’t truly be a “Star Wars” experience without an opportunity to give George Lucas your every last cent.

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Film Review - Eat Pray Love

EAT PRAY LOVE Julia Roberts

For a film that runs 135 minutes, I walked away from “Eat Pray Love” with a pack of unanswered questions. Surely such an unnecessarily extravagant running time could supply some sense of the lead character and her pesky inability to control…I mean, understand the men in her life. A story that celebrates selfish behavior without ever examining the necessity of self-worth, “Eat Pray Love” is a hornet’s nest of irrational behavior, wrapped up snugly in a smug, shallow, and diseased feature film that does a masterful job brainlessly wiggling around for an interminable amount of screentime.

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Film Review - Get Low

GET LOW Still 1

“Get Low” is a film that sneaks up on the viewer. Not exactly a comedy, not quite a full-blooded drama, it’s a mood piece about grief and absolution, staged with a wandering, observational quality from gifted director Aaron Schneider. Maybe too cheerless for its own good, the picture retains the force of its outstanding cast, who feel around the textures provided by the filmmaker, submitting career-best work with a screenplay that encourages their immeasurable gifts for dramatic interpretation.

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Film Review - The Expendables

EXPENDABLES Team

With “The Expendables,” co-writer/director/star Sylvester Stallone looks to take viewers back to the action cinema heyday of the 1980s, to a time when muscle men picked up ridiculous weapons and slammed bad guys around with ease. Taking that problematic aesthetic and giving it new life in 2010, Stallone has revived his machismo mojo, making “The Expendables” a gonzo moviegoing experience teeming with perfectly modulated absurdity and gifted an ensemble of charismatic badasses the screen hasn’t seen in years.

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Film Review - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD Michael Cera

When director Edgar Wright decides to make a movie, it’s time to rejoice. After the inventive “Shaun of the Dead” and the whiplash “Hot Fuzz,” the filmmaker has earned his hotly anticipated status. Unfortunately, there’s a crushing disappointment to find his latest, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” lacking Wright’s deft comedic timing and rounded characterization. It’s an overstuffed miscarriage, spending 110 minutes skimming source material that was spread out over six very patient books. What’s the challenge here? What’s the point of taking something so incredibly dense and head-spinningly idiosyncratic and turning into a colorless highlight reel of cult references and high kicks? This whole endeavor seems like such a colossal waste of time and talent.

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Film Review - Tales from Earthsea

TALES FROM EARTHSEA Still 1

Released around the world in 2006/2007, Studio Ghibli’s “Tales from Earthsea” finally makes an appearance on U.S. shores, after some contractual mumbo jumbo with the SyFy Channel kept the picture in a state of limbo for an extended amount of time. Given a polish with an English-language voice cast and branded with a controversial PG-13 rating (a first for a Disney animated release), “Earthsea” is an impressive motion picture, but perhaps not worth the incredible wait it took to reach the West.

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Film Review - Twelve

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In 1985, director Joel Schumacher made a name for himself dramatizing the lives of the young and pouty in “St. Elmo’s Fire.” In 2010, Schumacher updates his take on the state of the youth union with “Twelve,” an unsavory piece of dreary, mindless ick from a director who can’t seem to get his act together these days. That is, if he ever had an act to begin with.

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Blu-ray Review - The Last Song

LAST SONG 1

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s not just a motto to author Nicholas Sparks, but the very key to his vast literary fortune. The architect of North Carolina soap operas, Sparks launches another granny shot with “The Last Song,” an absurdly formulaic tearjerker based around the aging appeal of star Miley Cyrus. It’s a fascinating attempt for the former Hannah Montana to edge away from her clownish Disney ways, but even Meryl Streep would be hard-pressed to make something stimulating out of Sparks’s paint-by-numbers storytelling effort.

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Film Review - Step Up 3D

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The “Step Up” franchise (it burns my fingers to type that) spent two movies trying to dance its way into the hearts of audiences. “Step Up 3D” wants to do the robot right into your lap. Taking furious body movement and kindergarten scripting into a new dimension of exhibition, this latest sequel offers a novelty that immediately makes it the best of the series. It doesn’t take much to climb that mountain of recognition, but there’s a bit more pizzazz to devour here, helping to wipe away the ceaseless stupidity the production seems dangerously proud of.

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Film Review - The Concert

CONCERT Still 1

It’s fitting that the Weinstein Company picked up U.S. distribution rights for the French comedy “The Concert,” as it falls right in line with the harmonious Euro imports they employed in the 1990s to dominate art-houses and, eventually, suburban multiplexes. A combination of feel-good sitcom antics and lush symphonic movements, “The Concert” is moderately tolerable sunshine cinema, perhaps best reserved for a moviegoing escape during a rainy afternoon.

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Film Review - Centurion

CENTURION Michael Fassbender

After 2008’s “Doomsday,” I lost faith in writer/director Neil Marshall, who torched all the promise generated by 2005’s “The Descent” to make a tuneless, odious John Carpenter wank that thankfully few seemed interested in. “Centurion” returns the filmmaker to an intriguing gallop, taking on the challenge of a historical actioner, following battered Roman soldiers as they march into Hell. This being Marshall, a nimble foray into brawn isn’t to be expected; instead the filmmaker floods the film with blood and growls, creating a mighty clang of history and gore. It’s Herschell Gordon Lewis’s “I, Claudius.”

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Film Review - The Other Guys

OTHER GUYS Wahlberg and Ferrell

Teaming up for their third picture, star Will Ferrell and writer/director Adam McKay have turned their attention to the conventions of the modern action movie. They’ve made a buddy cop picture, but in their own absurdist style (popularized in the hits “Anchorman,” “Step Brothers,” and “Talladega Nights”), shaping the explosive, bullet-happy mentality of a streetwise thriller into a raucous comedy, starring a guy known for reducing anything in front of him into utter ridiculousness and another guy who’s spent most of his career making unintentional comedies.

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Film Review - Lebanon

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“Lebanon” is a war film of faces, not action. Here we find the ravages of combat communicated by the reaction of young men, soldiers facing their first true test on an ill-defined battlefield. They are caught inside of a sweltering tank, observing nightmares through scopes, participating in bloodshed out of duty, while they slowly succumb to the shock of war. Perhaps not the most effective dramatic statement, Samuel Moaz’s “Lebanon” remains a wholly unnerving depiction of battle zone madness.

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Restaurant Roam - Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot)

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For anyone visiting Walt Disney World with little girls in tow, face time with the Disney Princesses is an absolute priority. In fact, the royal ladies are often treated a bit like The Beatles, commanding a large amount of attention whenever they hit the parks, attracting scores of parents and anxious kids seeking an autograph, a picture, and a little insider conversation. Primarily tips on how to keep a tiara clean.

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