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August 2011

Film Review - The Devil's Double

DEVIL'S DOUBLE Dominic Cooper 2

I want a varied landscape of cinema as much as the next person, but did the world truly need a movie based on the depravity of Uday Hussein, son of Saddam? It’s difficult to ascertain exactly why the story behind “The Devil’s Double” required a feature film treatment, a quibble inflated to flat-out disgust by the end of the picture. Unsophisticated and unnecessarily ugly, the movie seems to favor Uday’s sadism instead of condemning it, making its ultimate purpose too fogged for comfort.

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Film Review - Another Earth

ANOTHER EARTH Earth 2

If “The Tree of Life” is a full-course dinner of philosophy and emotional reflection, the sci-fi snoozer “Another Earth” is a particularly chewy intellectual amuse-bouche. A plodding melodrama concerning the effects of loss and the potential for soulful rebirth, “Another Earth” doesn’t pursue its provocative ideas with any sort of narrative momentum. Instead, it’s all dreary navel-gazing and cinematographic posturing hoping to wade into a profound philosophical bath, using the mysteries of the universe as a way to hypnotize an audience more likely to be annoyed by this story than entranced.

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Film Review - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES San Francisco

After five motion pictures, two television series, and a 2001 Tim Burton remake, it seems a prequel is the only logical place to go in the exhausted “Planet of the Apes” saga. The origin tale of apes and their early stages of domination is surprisingly fertile ground for the producers, who loosely rework 1972’s “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” into “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” a frequently thrilling, emotionally resonate reboot that takes advantage of today’s vibrant motion capture technology to help articulate the complexity burning within these damn dirty apes.

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Film Review - The Change-Up

THE CHANGE UP Bateman Reynolds

Thanks to various works from Judd Apatow and the smash success of “The Hangover,” the summer of 2011 has played host to a resurgence of hard R-rated comedies, each sharing the same improvisational DNA while declining a cheery spirit of punchline imagination, more content to primitively shock than organize surprises. While the bar was set low by the intolerable June belch, “Bad Teacher,” the body-swap extravaganza “The Change-Up” stumbles into August to claim its prize as the worst feature of the new batch.

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Film Review - Mother's Day (2011)

MOTHER'S DAY Rebecca De Mornay

A remake of a 1980 Troma exploitation film, “Mother’s Day” at least makes an attempt to stand on its own two feet. Instead of direct imitation, director Darren Lynn Bousman endeavors to rework the central idea of maternal domination, fleshing out the story to fit a broader range of characters and a different style of violence. It’s an interesting failure, but the picture enjoys several grisly highlights, indulging itself to a point of exhaustion.

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Film Review - Project Nim

PROJECT NIM 1

It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what story director James Marsh is attempting to tell with his latest documentary, “Project Nim.” Part bio-pic, part animal cruelty call to arms, and part scientific study, the feature is an engaging, horrifying look at the life and times of a special chimpanzee, but doesn’t quite bundle the reveals and the revulsion in a tight cinematic package.

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Blu-ray Review - Meet Monica Velour

MEET MONICA VELOUR Kim Cattrall 2

Blessed with a promising concept for a dark comedy, “Meet Monica Velour” would rather tug at heartstrings or script repetitive behavior from derivative characters. It’s a wasteful effort, yet a few highlights manage to distract, namely Kim Cattrall in a bravely unglamorous performance, putting in an impressive effort to embody a once omnipresent porn queen facing the unrelenting trials of life after youth.

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DVD Review - American Grindhouse

AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE Blood Feast

I suppose the classic image of a grindhouse film is something along the lines of a bug-eyed man splattered with blood holding a knife over a half-naked woman. It’s an honest summation of the cinematic culture, but there’s an entire history here worth an examination. Elijah Drenner’s “American Grindhouse” traces the history, excesses, and glory of unsavory cinema, providing a magnificent education in the process, communicating the nuances and traditions of a brand often disregarded as forgettable schlock.

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DVD Review - Streetwalkin'

STREETWALKIN' Melissa Leo 2

I’d like to think that when Melissa Leo won the Academy Award this year for her supporting work in “The Fighter,” she was thinking, “Gee, the only thing that could make 2011 sweeter would be the hasty DVD release of a 1984 exploitation film I did for Roger Corman when I was brand new to the business.” Melissa Leo, I have wonderful news for you.

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