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March 2011

Blu-ray Review - Hereafter


Holding tight to his instincts, director Clint Eastwood has fashioned a relentlessly low-key discussion of heavenly mysteries with “Hereafter.” Shunning a grandly scaled march into the unknown, Eastwood sticks to what he knows best: soft approach, acoustic scoring, and introspective performances. Those weaned on “The Ghost Whisperer” or “The Dead Zone” will be greeted with a particular absence of zeal, but fans keyed into Eastwood’s gentle past work might be more inclined to sit back and allow the filmmaker to find his own way, even if that means a few melodramatic rough patches and a bizarrely pat ending.

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Film Review - Cracks

CRACKS Eva Green

There’s a flurry of hysteria within the psychological drama “Cracks” that keeps the sinister business frustratingly out of reach. A dark look at desire and mental illness, the picture boasts a few effective performances and features quite a humdinger of an ending, but the overall impression of sickness unfortunately loses its enticing delicacy as fears mount and lies are spread.

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Film Review - Limitless

LIMITLESS Bradley Cooper

“Limitless” is a frustrating motion picture to watch. It’s a film that insists on sabotaging itself time and again, creating a visceral sense of rabid junkie behavior, only to pursue inert thriller elements that derail the whole enterprise. While it kicks off with a bang, “Limitless” quickly grows weary of minimalistic pursuits, contorting itself into a tiresome genre exercise peppered with a few seriously absurd moments. What a waste of a wicked premise.

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Film Review - The Lincoln Lawyer

LINCOLN LAWYER Matthew McConaughey

“The Lincoln Lawyer” is a perfectly digestible legal thriller that starts off tall and proud and concludes on bleeding knees. It’s a charismatic picture due to a slick effort from star Matthew McConaughey, but, like a bad house guest, it overstays its welcome. Aiming to please in the worst ways, the film eventually self-destructs, though the view isn’t always intolerable during the flashy ride, orchestrated by director Brad Furman.

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Film Review - Paul

PAUL Seth Rogen

“Paul” should be a simple wacky sci-fi comedy filled with pot humor, unrelenting profanity, gay panic, and dry Brit humor. Instead, the film is primarily constructed as a valentine to the fantasy genre, showing more interest dreaming up inside movie references than one-liners. “Paul” is pure geek bait, an oasis of unadulterated affection for all things sci-fi. The movie bleeds green. Thankfully, in the care of screenwriters/stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, the picture casts an amusing intergalactic spell, borrowing a Spielbergian concept and filling it with all sorts of enjoyable absurdity and R-rated mischief.

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Film Review - Lord of the Dance 3D

LORD OF THE DANCE 3D Michael Flatley

Celebrating their 15th year stomping around the globe, Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” troupe finally makes their way to the multiplex, an ideal venue to display their flying feet and pearly white smiles. Taking the spectacle further, the feature is presented in 3D, permitting Flatley and the gang screen depth that accurately communicates the dimensions of the stage show, offering fans a front row seat to a celebration of all things Flatley. Sequins shimmy! Dances are lorded! And Flatley magically repairs a broken flute with his rear end! What’s not to like here?

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Blu-ray Review - The Tourist

TOURIST Angelina Jolie

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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Blu-ray Review - The Switch

SWITCH Jennifer Aniston

“The Switch” takes a sitcom concept and humanizes it to a lovely degree. It’s not the funniest film of the year or the most emotionally engaging, but there’s a charisma in play that keeps it awake, boosted by efforts from Jennifer Aniston and especially Jason Bateman, who bring an unbelievable amount of personality to a potentially virulent comedy.

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DVD Review - Hemingway's Garden of Eden


Sex has never felt more repellent after watching “Hemingway’s Garden of Eden,” a clumsy effort of eroticism and psychological gamesmanship that’s utterly devoid of structure and feeling. It’s an awful picture, but I’ll admit the campy overtones encouraged by director John Irvin make it an unintentionally hilarious sit, offering the viewer something to delight in while the picture proceeds to spin itself dizzy.

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Blu-ray Review - Every Day

EVERY DAY Helen Hunt

It’s another peek into the strain of marriage with the drama “Every Day,” though this particular snapshot of marital friction is blessed with a gifted cast able to pull the interior ache out of a script that eventually grows to fail them completely. A scattered picture, the viewing experience is saved by a few tender scenes of resignation and the occasional blip of honest communication.

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DVD Review - My Girlfriend's Back


The box art for “My Girlfriend’s Back” promises a richly comedic feature film, though there aren’t any actual attempts to summon laughter during the movie. However, erroneous marketing is the least of this picture’s problems, with the cast and crew slumbering through a derivative, unfocused, unrealistic melodrama, featuring DNA pulled from “Barbershop” and Tyler Perry.

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Film Review - Red Riding Hood

RED RIDING HOOD Amanda Seyfried

Well, it’s officially here. Instead of Hollywood rabidly chasing the success of “Harry Potter” by turning every semi-known kid-lit book into a potential big screen franchise, the powers that be are now consumed with rebuilding the extraordinarily profitable “Twilight” phenomenon. “Red Riding Hood” is the first full-bodied, unabashed rip-off of the sparkly vampire series, doing whatever it can to mirror the romantic fantasy powerhouse, even hiring the director of the original “Twilight” picture, Catherine Hardwicke, to reheat the “magic,” only this time using the forgiving fairy tale milieu to obscure the absurdly obvious trace lines.

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Film Review - Mars Needs Moms


“Mars Needs Moms” is a peculiar moviegoing experience where its least effective element boils down to a single obnoxious performance. Lively, richly animated with intriguing motion capture fluidity, and pleasingly designed with special attention to sprawling Martian environments, the film is nearly sunk by the efforts of co-star Dan Fogler, who’s biologically incapable of delivering funny business, squirting his spastic funk all over this nifty CG-animated chase film.

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Film Review - Battle: Los Angeles


“Battle: Los Angeles” isn’t an alien invasion film, it’s a military picture with the occasional alien appearance. The marketing trumpets a global perspective on trespassing extraterrestrials, but the picture actually takes place almost entirely in Santa Monica, boiling down a sense of massive widescreen scope to a few city miles, placing the audience into the driver’s seat as a besieged platoon attempts to defend themselves against an unknown enemy. “Independence Day” this picture is most certainly not.

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Film Review - Elektra Luxx


In the grand tradition of “Critters 4” and “Hellraiser 7” comes “Elektra Luxx,” a sequel to a motion picture few actually saw. It’s a ballsy move, but writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez doesn’t seem fazed by the challenge, again assembling a crisscrossing tale of Los Angeles love in ruins, surveying the urges and woes of those permanently stuck inside their own heads. It’s an overly talky and scattered feature, but so was 2009’s “Women in Trouble,” leaving any true appreciation of Gutierrez’s latest effort to those who’ve already sampled the previous film.

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Blu-ray Review - BMX Bandits

BMX Bandits Nicole Kidman

Presumably made to please Australian kiddies during matinee hours, “BMX Bandits” has grown to become a considerable cult hit in a few film geek circles, made famous for its attention to hot wheels and for employing Nicole Kidman at her fuzziest, here in her very first feature film role. While it’s best approached as an irresistible time capsule, the picture remains a consistently engaging adventure film, with colorful bikes and a bright cast eager to maintain a high-flying spirit of citywide Sydney pursuit.

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Blu-ray Review - Bambi: Diamond Edition

BAMBI Still 2

During its nearly 70 years of existence, “Bambi” has grown from a box office disappointment to one of the defining treasures of the Walt Disney Animated Studios. A feature of immense beauty and appealing cartoon behavior, the 1942 picture feels just as alive and relevant all these decades later, sustaining as a richly imagined saga of life and death, discovery, and instinct, communicated by true masters of the animation craft, turning the yearlong experience of a maturing deer into mesmeric cinema.

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