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June 2011

Film Review - Monte Carlo


Although marketed as tween-baiting pap to secure Disney Channel generation attention, “Monte Carlo” is a softer romantic fantasy, providing a few unexpectedly human moments in the midst of its mischief. Solidly acted and sturdily constructed, the picture offers a mellow display of wish fulfillment, more interested in the inspection of feelings than distributing vapid monkey business.

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Film Review - The Ledge

LEDGE Liv Tyler

Though the credits do not list the original incarnation of “The Ledge,” I’m going to assume this material was at one point intended for the stage, where its mix of monologues and hysterical characters could be broadly articulated by live actors. As a film, it’s an inconsistent, flavorless psychological thriller, trying desperately to come across provocative when it’s truly about as deep and challenging as a television movie.

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Film Review - The Perfect Host

PERFECT HOST David Hyde Pierce

“The Perfect Host” is a film strictly for fans of actor David Hyde Pierce. The former “Frasier” star is the only element of the picture worth paying attention to, bringing a faint flicker of verve to an otherwise tedious and poorly constructed thriller. Writer/director Nick Tomnay should thank his lucky stars he was able to secure Pierce’s participation, otherwise there would be no reason to pay attention to anything this feature has to offer.

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Film Review - Larry Crowne


“Larry Crowne” is a breath of fresh air in a summer moviegoing season polluted with superheroes, family film fart jokes, and battling robots. Serving as its co-writer/director/star, Tom Hanks presents a portrait of betterment, taking on cynicism with a motion picture that revels in its mild-mannered corniness, making a friendly feature that’s amusing, approachable, and largely unexpected, keeping formula distracted with a special directorial spin Hanks hasn’t displayed since his marvelous 1996 effort, “That Thing You Do!”

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Film Review - Quarantine 2: Terminal


I wasn’t a fan of the 2008 chiller, “Quarantine.” An American remake of the sparkling Spanish horror picture “Rec,” the update was a watered down take on a pure terror experience, which came to be sequelized in 2009’s ferocious “Rec 2.” Instead of serving up another tired reheat, writer/director John Pogue shifts the world of “Quarantine” in a slightly different direction with his sequel. Lacking a budget and stars, the filmmaker reworks the viral viciousness into a modest but highly entertaining follow-up, dropping tedious found footage elements to refresh the concept.

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Film Review - Transformers: Dark of the Moon


“Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is a noticeable step up in quality from the last feature, 2009’s disastrous “Revenge of the Fallen.” With several key members of the production team disowning the first sequel, it’s easy to spot a genuine attempt to make up for lost time with the new movie; however, it’s not a complete franchise overhaul or a refreshing return to the jubilant 2007 original. Instead, “Dark of the Moon” exists as a disappointment, built as an apology, but remains slavish to some of the nonsense that made the previous picture unbearable. On the plus side: no Transformer testicles for this round. At least Michael Bay listened to a few of the complaints.

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DVD Review - Blame It on the Night


A domestic drama from 1984, “Blame It on the Night” is a perfectly functional tearjerker that rarely satisfies. Perhaps more interested in selling soundtracks than emotions, the picture is a vague offering of thoughtful human interaction, though supported by satisfying performances and a snapshot of MTV-fueled rock stardom in the mid-1980s. A magical time when a 37-year-old man with a mild perm could make an arena of teenage girls swoon.

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DVD Review - Bloodworth

BLOODWORTH Kris Kristofferson

For the first hour, the southern drama “Bloodworth” captures a perfectly compelling tone of discovery, approaching solemn incidents of domestic disturbance with a countrified stillness. Criminally, the final 30 minutes erase most positive feelings about the feature, with concentration lost to the demands of a complicated literary translation. It’s an interesting picture, teeming with inspired performances and intriguing developments, but it’s a viewing experience best left unfinished.

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DVD Review - Immigration Tango


The producers blew a major opportunity when they decided to turn “Immigration Tango” into a feature film. A concept more suited for a sitcom translation, the movie rushes through unrelenting mediocrity, hoping to captivate with its tepid comedy and chilly romance, making an inert farce without the benefit of a laugh track. It would’ve been right at home on network television.

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Blu-ray Review - New York, New York


When Martin Scorsese’s filmography is explored, there are typically two efforts that define his oeuvre: 1976’s “Taxi Driver” and 1980’s “Raging Bull.” However, during this fertile creative period there was another picture, sandwiched in-between, a 1977 feature that effectively stalled and oddly reenergized Scorsese’s career. “New York, New York” isn’t a forgotten or lost picture, but one that’s rarely brought up when a discussion of the maestro is introduced. A shame, really. While it’s flawed and fattened, it’s one of Scorsese’s more appealing experiments, looking to resuscitate the traditional Hollywood musical within the raw mood of the 1970s, creating an unusually frosty, but pleasingly unpredictable candy-coated psychodrama.

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Blu-ray Review - Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules


It was merely a year ago when the world was introduced to the cinematic incarnation of author Jeff Kinney’s saga of adolescent woe. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” was only a moderate hit in the spring of 2010, but it was cheap, crude, and ripe for expansion. Enter “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” the hastily assembled follow-up, which does away with what little passed for legitimate charm the first time around. Of course, fans won’t likely mind, which is exactly what the producers are hoping for.

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Blu-ray Review - Cedar Rapids


I’ll freely admit that I have a sensitivity to movies set in the Midwest, a place I called home for the majority of my life. To most Hollywood productions, the Midwest is an alien landscape for hopelessly naïve folk going about their naïve business while the coasts take care of the culture and style for America. That’s not the Midwest I know. I shouldn’t take “Cedar Rapids” seriously as an incisive take on “flyover” country ethics, but the least this tepid comedy could do is provide a vibrant sense of humor. Instead, it’s a riff-heavy, wildly formulaic modern comedy that uses stereotypes and improvisations in a gentle, but tedious manner to bring the laughs.

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Film Review - Bad Teacher

BAD TEACHER Cameron Diaz

Cameron Diaz isn’t funny. Sure, with the right script, she finds a certain zestful comedic appeal, but “Bad Teacher” most certainly does not possess a right script. It has a wrong script, demanding Diaz carry most of the jokes on her shoulders, forcing her to sell the stuffing out of a lazy, unimaginative idea. She’s not built for the challenge. Perhaps this is why she wears ridiculously tight clothing and the highest of heels throughout the picture. Sex appeal: it’s a lot easier than dreaming up clever jokes.

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Film Review - An Invisible Sign


“An Invisible Sign” is a film about the comfort of mathematics, yet it’s seems better suited as an itchy summation of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Chaotic and bluntly condensed, the feature is difficult to watch, not due to the difficult subject matter, but the manner director Marilyn Agrelo bumbles the mystery and borderline insanity of the material. What should be a bold depiction of a frazzled mind is instead a bewildering feature with a tenuous hold on human concerns.

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Film Review - Cars 2

CARS 2 Finn McMissile

Why on Earth would Pixar sequelize one of their lowest grossing, least critically favored motion pictures? Never underestimate the power of toy sales, which has fueled “Cars” fever since its 2006 debut. “Cars 2” at least makes an attempt to shake up the whimsical formula, turning the franchise into a spy comedy, but the effort is lackluster and misguided, dialing up the noise and violence while a cast of allegedly beloved characters are left in the rear-view mirror, playing second fiddle to explosions and gunfire.

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Film Review - Beginners


“Beginners” is a heartfelt poem of grief, but it’s also a deeply affected motion picture that elects to neatly bag and catalog its every last emotion. Maddeningly plodding and mannered, the picture leans more towards performance art than engaging cinema. Writer/director Mike Mills is making this one for himself, and anyone not in perfect alignment with the movie’s glacial tempo of contemplation will likely become nauseous by the end of this lengthy, cutesy, empty march to the end of life.

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Blu-ray Review - Battle Beyond the Stars


Never one to leave a Hollywood trend alone, producer Roger Corman decided to assemble his own “Star Wars” space opera cash machine with “Battle Beyond the Stars,” a low-budget (of course) take on Lucasian matinee mayhem. The results are predictably formulaic, but never cynical, with Corman and his team of filmmakers creating a sincere, engaging sci-fi spectacle that makes a lovely ruckus, though it lacks a cracking pace that helped shape “Star Wars” into a legend.

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