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February 2012
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March 2012

Film Review - Casa de mi Padre


It’s difficult to tell if “Casa de mi Padre” is an experiment or an extended prank. A Spanish-language farce spearheaded by Will Ferrell, this is one oddball feature, making fun of telenovelas and those strange, stationary Mexican movies typically screened on Telemundo on Saturday afternoons. As bizarre as it aspires to be, “Casa de mi Padre” isn’t nearly as insane as it could’ve been. Something tells me the production didn’t want to overwhelm audiences with a steady display of comedic madness, instead portioning out the lunacy carefully, hoping to maintain interest in this spread of Mexican violence, song, and sex. Read the rest at

Film Review - Jeff, Who Lives at Home


Jay and Mark Duplass have a specialized way of filmmaking they’ve perfected over the years, through pictures such as “Baghead,” “The Puffy Chair,” and “Cyrus.” Their aesthetic, once branded “mumblecore” and fitted for a leather jacket, has now gone mainstream, and so have the Duplass Brothers in a way, with “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” their most accessible effort, fixated more on the millimeter moves of emotional growth than a grand dramatic scheme. It’s a feature of small moments and open hearts, captured with the semi-irritating improvisational and zoom-happy elements the directors favor. Perhaps this is the ideal entry point for those new to the Duplass view of the world, supported by familiar faces visibly enjoying the slack atmosphere. Read the rest at

Film Review - Detachment


All is not well in today’s educational system, and Tony Kaye’s “Detachment” is here to push our faces in the failure of those who teach and those who learn. Crafted with an eye toward performance art, the feature is a troubling, exasperating mess of aches and pains, spraying the screen with a morose fixation on dire developments in the average high school community. Impassioned and frequently aimless, “Detachment” is only interested in stirring debate, wallowing in the muck to push viewers up against the wall, forcing outsiders to consider the state of the scholastic union. There’s a searing cry for help here, buried somewhere underneath Kaye’s unrelenting directorial pretension. Read the rest at

Film Review - 21 Jump Street

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“21 Jump Street” is a goof of a film that continually reminds the audience of its superfluousness. Refusing to be the victim of agitated scrutiny from movie geeks, the production makes it perfectly clear it’s in on the joke, striving to find ways to pants the supercop genre and high school cinema, not to mention its foundation as big screen update of a cult television series from the 1980s. Thankfully, “21 Jump Street” understands the basics in absurdity and overstimulation, steamrolling forward as a profane, ridiculous action comedy with two motivated lead performances. It’s no tribute to the original program, but a wink-happy perversion of the concept, raising hell in its own somewhat tedious, frequently hilarious way. Read the rest at

Film Review - Seeking Justice


The curious career of Nicolas Cage takes another step downward with the release of “Seeking Justice,” a dopey conspiracy thriller that asks nothing more of the actor than to sweat, grimace, and run. It’s not a thespian challenge for Cage, but there hasn’t been much of that in recent years. Instead, it’s another paycheck gig for the once exciting, magnificently peculiar actor, who appears completely detached from the production, keeping to a low-key glumness that suggests a goal of professional survival over an artistically fulfilling dive into a formulaic genre. Perhaps Cage has finally run out of gas. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Decoy Bride


“The Decoy Bride” is as formulaic a movie as can be, working with trite romantic comedy clichés and a premise that will likely cause more seasoned filmgoers to break out in hives. It’s a harmless trifle with a Scottish slant, but there are no surprises to be found, leaving the heavy lifting to the cast. Mercifully, the actors collected here are charming and willing to please, with star Kelly Macdonald a lifesaver, giving punishing predictability a light spin with her bright personality and commitment to even the hoariest of sitcom situations. She’s the miracle “The Decoy Bride” needs to remain afloat. Read the rest at

Film Review - ATM

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Horror and thriller filmmakers have my deepest respect. It can’t be easy coming up with original ideas to fuel big screen madness, requiring a unique creative drive to dream up scenarios that audiences haven’t seen a thousand times before. “ATM” attempts to subvert traditional serial killer shenanigans by keeping the setting limited to a glass box located in the middle of a parking lot, while engineering a twist ending that’s more interesting than effective. “ATM” isn’t a convincing movie, but the production is at least breaking a sweat on this effort, making it a promising misfire that might enchant those on the hunt for something slightly cockeyed when it comes to the torment of innocents. Read the rest at

Film Review - Being Flynn


“Being Flynn” is a sad story trying desperately to register as tale of redemption and optimism. It’s difficult to break the bleak mood arranged by writer/director Paul Weitz, as it observes fits of self-destruction and madness, yet this is a human story about the recognition of failure, leaving the filmmaker room to explore vulnerable beats of awareness, captured through two fine performances from Robert De Niro and Paul Dano. It’s a demanding picture to watch, covering an assortment of despair that carries from start to finish. Nevertheless, Weitz fights to keep “Being Flynn” upright and moving forward, focusing on the life story being recounted, not the endless corridors of psychological darkness. Read the rest at

Film Review - A Thousand Words


The most fascinating aspect to “A Thousand Words” is how it requires Eddie Murphy to play silent for a good chunk of the picture. The famed comedian has defined his career with his motor-mouth skills, presenting an exceptional thespian challenge. In better hands, the feature might’ve pulled off something special, merging amusing mime work with a heartfelt statement on the soulful fractures that restrain the human spirit. Instead, “A Thousand Words” has been brought to the screen by Brian Robbins, the filmmaker behind “Varsity Blues,” “Good Burger,” and “Ready to Rumble.” Not exactly an inspired choice to provide speechless hilarity with some degree of sincerity. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Amish


To imagine the Amish is to picture a gathering of secluded souls working the land together in hand-stitched clothing, the men carrying neckbeards while the apple-cheeked women tend to the children in the background. Because the Amish refuse the intrusion of cameras and recording equipment, it's been difficult to achieve a full-blooded portrait of the community, forcing filmmakers to turn to outsiders and educators to supply an appreciation of something few are even meant to understand. "The Amish" doesn't put forward a no-hold-barred look into this remote rural existence, but it does peel away another layer of restriction, inching closer to an intimate look as these hard-working American strangers. Read the rest at

Film Review - John Carter


Utilized as inspiration for countless sci-fi epics (including “Star Wars,” “Flash Gordon,” and “Superman”), Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “A Princess of Mars” has finally found a widescreen translation in “John Carter,” Disney’s massive gamble to build a blockbuster franchise from the hallowed pages of 1917 novel. Enormous in scale and densely plotted, “John Carter” appears to do the source material justice, retaining a pulpy spirit while serving as a travelogue to the far reaches of Mars, greeting inhabitants both reverential and destructive. While possibly impenetrable to the casual viewer, the picture succeeds as grand entertainment, with dazzling technical achievements and wonderfully exaggerated performances of galactic heroism. Read the rest at

Film Review - Silent House


It’s been eight years since directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau made a splash with their aquatic chiller “Open Water,” a film festival fave that fizzled upon its theatrical release. Considering the hype that surrounded their shark attack movie, it’s odd that the duo has spent so much time away from the cameras, failing to build on their career momentum. “Silent House” returns the pair to low-budget gimmick filmmaking, rejuvenating their reputation as they attempt to convince audiences they’re watching 80 minutes of uninterrupted terror. The fantasy is convincingly executed, but wasted on banal haunted house formula punctuated with a baffling conclusion. Read the rest at

Film Review - In Darkness


Stories from the Holocaust are numerous yet they rarely cease to astonish. “In Darkness” is a worthy addition to this mournful assembly of wartime perspectives, though its horrors are hushed and gradual, hidden below in a subterranean tomb. Bleakness and hope are married effectively in director Agnieszka Holland’s latest effort, supplying a fresh viewpoint on unlikely valor and the many forms it takes when positioned opposite the need for survival. It’s a strong, unflinching picture, and a vital educational tool when inspecting the surprises of the human spirit during such a tumultuous period of anguish. Read the rest at

Film Review - Friends with Kids


Trying to position herself as a female Woody Allen, forever interested in the habits of Manhattanites and their raging neuroses, writer/star Jennifer Westfeldt has called in all of her favors to help beautify her directorial debut, “Friends with Kids.” Commencing with a plausible swirl of social paranoia, domestic demands, and parental entitlement, the picture eventually grows unreasonably contrived, leaving the intriguing discomfort of the titular combination behind to work stale romantic comedy moves that would cause even Kate Hudson to dry heave. Attempting to remain in her comfort zone, Westfeldt mistakes cliche for charm, turning the potential for a provocative look at the erosion of friendships into a tedious sitcom. Read the rest at

Film Review - Game Change


Just when you thought it was safe to put 2008 to bed, here comes “Game Change,” which dredges up all the controversy and electricity surrounding the decision to pair Governor Sarah Palin with presidential candidate John McCain. Forget Obama and his historic political run, forget Joe Biden and his path to the White House. “Game Change” is solely about Palin and the myriad of ways to portray the monumentally divisive figure in an unflattering light. After all, it’s a comedy, for at least 30% of its running time, leaving the rest a condensed, perplexing vision of Washington ambition and insistent ego, leaving the movie somewhere between a cartoon and a mean-spirited prank. Read the rest at