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August 2011

July 2011

Blu-ray Review - Peep World


A more accurate title for “Peep World” would be “Famous People Flailing.” Here’s a wholly unpleasant dramedy, generally uneven and reckless, from director Barry Blaustein, who was last seen helming 2005’s “The Ringer.” You remember, the Johnny Knoxville comedy about the Special Olympics? Well, the filmmaker’s sense of humor hasn’t improved much in the intervening years, with his latest effort an unfinished, unlikable take on familial depression and friction.

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DVD Review - Waking Madison


“Waking Madison” appears as though it emerges from a heartfelt place of concern, yet the execution of this psychological drama is thoroughly unremarkable, consumed with ambiguity and obvious mood while its critical sense of humanity is pushed aside for low-budget dreamscape showboating. Writer/director Katherine Brooks has passion, but her feel for storytelling is seriously tangled.

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Blu-ray Review - House of the Rising Sun


For “House of the Rising Sun” to work as a thriller, it needed a new cast, a fresh script, and a director with a little more interest in properly establishing characters. Muddled and frequently comatose, the picture yearns to be a turbulent ride of crooks and cops, yet it never rises to the occasion, generating a feeble mystery sold by a cast of brutes trying to pass themselves off as actors.

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Blu-ray Review - Tekken

TEKKEN Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Movies based on video games always face an impossible challenge of adaptation, especially anything pulled from the 1990s, when gaming was just starting to showing interest in expansive narratives and complex characterizations. “Tekken” is a failure on many levels, but it does make a plucky attempt to replicate the flippy-floppy nature of the fighting elements, creating a limb-snapping effort of escapism surrounded by bland writing and sleepy performances.

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Film Review - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2


What began as the story of a boy’s wondrous introduction into a limitless world of magic ends in an epic display of war, death, and desire for peace. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is the final chapter in the longstanding fantasy series and it’s a fitting conclusion to the legend, marrying the extensive exposition of “Part 1” with an intermittently furious finale that satisfies and rouses in all the proper ways. I'm certain few will want to say goodbye to the admired franchise, but the production has secured a superb finish that’s elegant and carries significant emotional heft.

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Film Review - Winnie the Pooh

WINNIE THE POOH 2011 Off the page

Simplicity reigns supreme in “Winnie the Pooh,” which isn’t a reimagining, reconstruction, or reevaluation of a classic character. Instead, it’s just a breezy, endearing, humorous romp with everyone’s favorite stuffed bear, going back to the basics of traditional animated feature filmmaking. Imagine that, an entire motion picture built around the innate charms and feisty personalities of its cast of characters, without the need for bathroom humor or story padding. This movie is downright huggable.

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Blu-ray Review - Arthur (2011)

ARTHUR 2011 Russell Brand Dylan's Candy Bar

Personally, I harbor no romantic feelings for the 1981 Dudley Moore sleeper smash, “Arthur.” Distractingly clunky, the feature is best appreciated as a film of its time, when a mainstream comedy could be built around the antics of monstrous alcoholic and still be regarded as adorable. It’s strange to be confronted with a remake of such beloved material, which still holds to a clownish boozehound mentality to acquire laughs, though much of the overt foam has been shaved away out of respect for the disease. Then again, Moore made “Arthur 2: On the Rocks,” so perhaps the character isn’t as precious as I recall. Remake away, boys.

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Blu-ray Review - Dawning

DAWNING Daniel Jay Salmen

“Dawning” is an exhaustively disappointing film. Co-writer/director Gregg Holtgrew appears to have his heart in the right place, staging a psychological thriller in the middle of Northern Minnesota woods, where isolation provides a sinister backdrop to vague evildoing. Unfortunately, there’s little terror within the picture, which spends too much time exploring clichéd characters, skipping fingernail-chewing suspense to cover tedious, repetitive domestic matters.

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DVD Review - [Rec] 2

REC 2 1

2007’s “Rec” was a marvel of a horror film, portraying piercing POV scares with an unreal strain of screen anxiety, shaping a monumental genre exercise in sheer cinematic terror. Of course, it was quickly dumbed down into an excretal American remake titled “Quarantine,” but directors Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero weren’t content to let the story die there. “Rec 2” shouldn’t logically work, but the raw creativity of the filmmakers lights up the screen, reworking the premise of handheld horror into a fierce, raging mix of “Aliens” and “The Exorcist.”

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Blu-ray Review - 13 Assassins


“13 Assassins” is like watching a protracted chess game with an exquisite final move. It’s a samurai tale of allegiances and vengeance, and while its violent, blood-spattered path is engrossing, the film makes a considerable effort to slow cook the set-up, making the road to death’s door something significant, moving away from empty stylistics to stage a film of icy warrior valor.

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Film Review - Zookeeper


Kevin James and talking animals. Doesn’t seem like a particularly extensive screenwriting challenge, yet “Zookeeper” features an extraordinary amount of outside interference for a picture that shouldn’t stray from the essentials. More amusing than funny, but only when it includes the antics of the wild kingdom, the picture drags unnecessarily, trying to convince viewers that the human elements of the script have value when all anyone really wants to see is a talking gorilla in a polo shirt.

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Film Review - Page One: Inside the New York Times


Any film endeavoring to survey the wreckage of the newspaper industry is sure to play like a eulogy, yet Andrew Rossi’s “Page One: Inside the New York Times” stay remarkably composed. Granted access to the inner working of the world’s most iconic newspaper, Rossi doesn’t weep, he carefully observes the downward spiral, coming to the conclusion that perhaps there’s no decline at all. Riveting and surprisingly communicative, “Page One” supplies a rich understanding of print journalism as it stands on a high-rise ledge, looking down while members of the online media implore it to jump for their entertainment.

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Film Review - Horrible Bosses

HORRIBLE BOSSES Jennifer Aniston

“Horrible Bosses” is a missed opportunity. Handed a darkly comic premise of revenge, and the producers turn the proceedings into a clumsy “SNL” skit. Following in the wake of the rancid “Bad Teacher,” “Horrible Bosses” also seeks approval by establishing a sloppy routine of shock and improvisation, slapping viewers with pedestrian acts of misbehavior when something far more macabre was in order. Unless you happen to find Indian call centers, the act of spilling cocaine, and Jennifer Aniston being self-consciously filthy hilarious. If so, boy do I have a film for you.

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Interview - Andrew Rossi

Opening this week is the documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” which follows a year in the life of the behemoth of print journalism as it struggles with sweeping changes in the media landscape, captured by director Andrew Rossi. In June, Rossi spoke at the 2011 Investigative Reporters and Editor Convention, also screening his film to a room of prominent journalists. The filmmaker also offered a few moments to discuss his picture and his feelings on the future of the industry. 

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Blu-ray Review - Season of the Witch

SEASON OF THE WITCH Nicolas Cage Crusades

It’s difficult to take Nicolas Cage seriously these days. The former madman has been forced into a series of paycheck gigs for reasons obvious to anyone enjoying access to the internet, with “Season of the Witch” a solid representation of Cage’s new career direction. Unchallenged and over-wigged, the actor is merely biding his time with this serving of horror hooey, obviously more interested in hearing the sweet sound of “cut!” than trying to make a tepid screenplay shuffle with restless energy Cage is more than capable of summoning. The material needed his special sauce. Instead, Cage barely raises an eyebrow.

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