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December 2010

Film Review - The Company Men

COMPANY MEN Ben Affleck

“The Company Men” is not a comfortable film to sit through. It is most certainly not escapism. Dealing with the disturbing subject matter of unemployment, the picture summarizes a national reality in a blunt matter, carrying the woe and aggravation to a dramatic stage for a more fulfilling consideration, using the extraordinarily gifted ensemble to explore a shared fear. Finding catharsis in bleak matters, the picture satisfies with its sincerity, allowing viewers to sympathize and reflect on the nature of job loss through this efficiently directed eulogy for American industry.

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Film Review - The Fighter

FIGHTER Still 1

“The Fighter” doesn’t flourish as an original offering of filmmaking. It’s an underdog story of sporting glory, seen in hundreds of motion pictures throughout the years; it’s also a tale of brutes dreaming and failing each other in a harsh working class corner of Boston. Again, been there, done that. Where “The Fighter” retrieves inspiration is found deep within its heart, dissecting the lives of “Irish” Micky Ward and his brother Dickie Eklund with an aim for intimacy, more curious about human interaction in the heat of conflict than a routine staging of the comeback blues. It’s an agitated picture that, much like its real-world inspiration, has enormous spirit to overcome its dreary familiarity.

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Film Review - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

CHRONICLES OF NARNIA VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER Still 1

Young wizards casting spells? A lengthy quest involving the retrieval of all-powerful weapons? Seems like the production of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” wanted to keep this third installment of the fantasy franchise as familiar to family audiences as possible. And who could blame them after the sleepy antics of 2008’s “Prince Caspian” effectively halved the box office intake of 2005’s “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” Financial matters were heading in the wrong direction, necessitating a shake-up across the production, leaving the new film refreshingly energetic in the early going, but powerless to fight off the frigidity emanating from the source material.

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Film Review - The Tourist

TOURIST Still 1

A throwback of sorts to an era of star-driven cinema, “The Tourist” doesn’t have to supply much of an effort to keep eyes glued to the screen. With Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie securely fastened in the starring roles (Jolie’s pillow lips take a supporting credit), all that’s left is expensive make-up and incredible costumes, the rest should fall into place with ease. For better or worse, there’s a caper to decode at the heart of the film, which often gets in the way of the pretty people doing pretty things. It’s interesting to note that even the director recognizes the futility of a plot, making a grand push to turn this postcard into a knockout punch, yet failing to make much of an impression beyond superficial thrills.

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Film Review - Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie

SAINT MISBEHAVIN' Still 1

A fixture of the 1960s and a defining member of the hippie generation, Wavy Gravy finally gets a movie all to himself. “Saint Misbehavin’” is a documentary spotlighting the political and social efforts of the famous counter-culture figure, a wild idealist who fought for awareness and generosity through a myriad of eccentric methods and disguises, establishing himself as a benevolent force for charity, often clad in clown attire.

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DVD Review - Waking Sleeping Beauty

WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY Eisner

The Walt Disney Animation Studio has such a storied history of screen classics, it’s nearly impossible to fully consider the artistic roller coaster ride the company has endured since Walt introduced the world to the miracle of feature-length animation back in 1937, with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The Mouse House has enjoyed great success and its share of humiliating failures, but somewhere in the mid-1980s, all hope was lost. Disney Animation was about to vanish for good.

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Film Review - The Warrior's Way

WARRIOR'S WAY Still 1

“The Warrior’s Way” is an odd one. Wedged somewhere between the furious imaginations of Tsui Hark and Sergio Leone, the feature is an idiosyncratic ode to pure screen heroism thwarted by the junky instincts of its untested writer/director, Sngmoo Lee. I was never outright bored by the picture, but there’s much to jeer in this overwrought action film, which spends so much time reminding the audience of its artificiality, it forgets to have some spaghetti western fun with the limitless potential of CGI.

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Film Review - Black Swan

BLACK SWAN Natalie Portman

“Black Swan” is a grotesque psychological horror film that provides pits of madness juxtaposed with the gilded, professional grace of the ballet world. Furthering his study into the resilience of the human body kicked off in the 2008 stunner, “The Wrestler,” director Darren Aronofsky rummages around the pockets of Polanski for inspiration, turning a sparse screenplay into an orgy of injury and psychosis. It’s a competitive ballet story only for surface purposes, showing more interest in the erosion of reality than the routine of company life.

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Film Review - I Love You Phillip Morris

I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS Still 1

“I Love You Phillip Morris” is a tricky film to decipher. Garnering unnecessary attention for its homosexual content, the picture is actually more of a fleet-footed con artist valentine, paying reverence to a master of deception, Steven Jay Russell. A comedic excursion into the limits of personal freedom and the miracle of love, the picture is a skilled effort of constant surprise, led wonderfully by Jim Carrey, who gives a blessedly respectful performance that mingles pleasingly with laughs and shock.

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Film Review - Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

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In most countries, Santa Claus is a miracle man clad in red, gifting the world presents galore while spreading a special message of holiday cheer. To the Finnish, he’s a shriveled creature to be feared; a “pre-Coca-Cola” Santa who enjoys spanking kids into oblivion. For there to be any sense of peace on Earth this holiday season, Santa needs to die. “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” is a contentedly macabre creation that unveils a different breed of St. Nick in this winning horror/fantasy film, which gives the jolly Christmas figure a righteously ghoulish reimagining.

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Film Review - Welcome to the Rileys

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A child of Sundance, “Welcome to the Rileys” is tailor-made for the film festival circuit. It features known actors working with troubling material that covers the strain of marriage, the dregs of society, and the opportunity for personal rebirth; however, it’s far from challenging, dependent on the imagination put forth from the cast and crew. “Rileys” doesn’t inspire the type of low-key redemptive response other pictures have captured, but it moves smoothly enough, battling its inherent predictability with a few moments of pure vulnerability, giving actors known primarily for one dimension a chance to try another.

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Film Review - All Good Things

ALL GOOD THINGS Still 1

While watching the true crime saga “All Good Things,” I found myself having difficulty comprehending why anyone would want to build a movie from such a dull tale of murder, disappearance, and cross-dressing. Enter celebrated documentarian Andrew Jarecki, who stumbles throughout the entire picture. While eager to slop around the salacious details of the crimes at hand, the filmmaker’s way with storytelling basics leaves much to be desired. One would think the sight of Ryan Gosling in senior citizen make-up decked out in female clothing would be enough to carry the entertainment value of the picture. Jarecki feels differently.

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