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Reviews

29 Nov 2012
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It's that time of year when studios release their Oscar hopefuls, continuing the tradition of saving the best (or what they hope to convince us is the best) for last. So here's Life of Pi, an adaptation of the seemingly unfilmable novel by Yann Martel about a 14-year-old boy spending more than 200 days at sea on a lifeboat alone—except for a Bengal tiger that totally wants to eat his face. Many have looked at making the 2001 spiritual novel into a film, and many have just thrown their hands up in the air and said, "Screw this. I'm going to Cabo!" I've never read the book, but seeing a synopsis of the story had me thinking it would be best to leave this particular fable on the page. It looked like a real bitch to film. Then I read that somebody got director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Hulk) on…
20 Nov 2012
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Skyfall is my all-time-favorite Bond movie. Mind you, this is coming from a guy who didn't really get it when it came to James Bond. I've warmed up to him over the years, but I used to hate him. The first time I witnessed Bond in action was as a boy, seeing Sean Connery use a bikini top to choke her in Diamonds Are Forever. This act scared the shit out of me, and made me think Bond was some sort of bad guy. (I had similar child-brain confusion with Robert Shaw's Quint in Jaws ... he was just so mean.) When I was "coming of age," so to speak, Bond got silly, with Roger Moore and stuff like Moonraker and Octopussy. I turned my adolescent attention to the likes of Star Wars, Rocky and The Pink Panther movies. It wasn't until Pierce Brosnan took over the franchise that I…
09 Nov 2012
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A reckless alcoholic who happens to really know how to fly a plane gets a rather strange and romantic screen treatment in director Robert Zemeckis' uneven but entertaining Flight. As airline-pilot Whip Whitaker—who likes vodka, beer, cocaine, cough syrup and flight attendants to excess—Denzel Washington delivers a typically great performance. The movie is excellent in the first half-hour, but just OK after that. Even though the film drags and gets a bit melodramatic or trite in spots, Washington always manages to hold it up. That's a tough task, seeing as this one clocks in at nearly 2 1/2 hours. The film opens with Whip, hung over to the point of still being intoxicated, waking up in a hotel room. A beautiful naked woman prances around while Whip has a tense phone conversation with his ex-wife. Washington plays this scene with a wicked finesse, especially when he leers at the nude…
02 Nov 2012
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About 45 minutes into the nearly three-hour Cloud Atlas screening I attended, some dude blew out his lips, sounding not unlike a bridled horse after piloting a carriage around Disneyland for a half-day. Others stood up, shook their heads and walked out solemnly with their popcorn corn tubs for the first of many refills. Cloud Atlas is one mightily ambitious film. Three directors are at the helm; the cast is high-profile, with most playing multiple roles; and there are interconnecting story arcs spanning centuries. All things considered, it’s remarkable how cohesive the film is. While different directors handled different stories, the film doesn’t feel as if different directors were handling the shots. It has a nice, smooth, unified vision. It's not smooth enough to please everybody, judging by the mass exodus from the theater, but smooth enough to impress the likes of me. The directors are the Wachowski siblings (Andy…
29 Oct 2012
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A Los Angeles family lets a really pretty girl into their house for an elongated visit, and—surprise surprise—infidelity and other sorts of trouble ensue. Nobody Walks is the latest from co-writer Lena Dunham, who penned and directed the very-good Tiny Furniture. While the movie has some tasty visuals and a dreamy soundtrack, the story doesn’t quite cut it. In fact, it’s quite predictable and boring. The really pretty girl is Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a supposed artist looking to finish her art film with the help of a freelance sound engineer, Peter (John Krasinski). This is one of those films that present an “artist” who is supposed to be very talented—but the film she’s working on is stupid. It’s just black-and-white footage of bugs that is meant to be “deep.” Well, it’s not. It’s just a bunch of bugs running around. Nothing Martine says is all that enlightening or profound, especially…
26 Oct 2012
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I enjoy watching Ethan Hawke getting the shit scared out of him. He spends much of Sinister in this mode, so I enjoyed the film, to a certain extent. Sinister is a kooky stew of horror themes, including the isolated writer, found-footage deaths, haunted houses and scary children. They are presented in a sporadically creepy fashion by director Scott Derrickson, with Mr. Hawke at the center of it all, expertly hyperventilating. Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, a true-crime author 10 years removed from his last big success and looking for inspiration. He moves his family into a house where another family was hung from a tree in the backyard. Derrickson actually starts his movie off with the image of the family being hanged; it's just one of the film's many haunting images. Oswalt finds a box of home movies (along with a rather disgusting scorpion) in the attic, and sets about…
27 Oct 2012
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Tyler Perry stars as detective Alex Cross, a role Morgan Freeman occupied in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Perry is not terrible, but everybody and everything surrounding him is. Director Rob Cohen employs sloppy editing, a maudlin soundtrack and bad supporting performances in this hackneyed story of an assassin (poorly played by Matthew Fox) and his inexplicable vendetta against Cross. Fox got really skinny for the role, and the effort shows in his physicality. Unfortunately, the film also reveals that Lost may’ve represented his acting peak, because he’s ridiculously overwrought and amateurish. Perry handles a couple of heavy emotional scenes with palpable strength, although he doesn’t quite cut it as an action star. Edward Burns shows up as Cross’ partner, and it turns out he’s a pretty bad actor, too. Horribly edited fight scenes and silly dialogue kill this movie.
26 Oct 2012
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While watching Paranormal Activity 4, the latest in a series of bland found-footage films trying to squeeze scares out of home-security and cell-phone videos, I compiled a list in my head to keep from falling asleep. I listed the reasons why I would rather watch the grainy, live black-and-white security footage on the monitor behind the counter at a convenience store than watch the wannabe-scary security video in Paranormal Activity 4. No. 1: The convenience-store video doesn't feature an actress (like Kathryn Newton in PA4) who looks like she is always going to laugh while delivering a line, even if that line requires her to be serious or scared out of her fancy pajama bottoms. No. 2: I strike a rather impressive figure on black-and-white security video while waiting in line to buy my Altoids. I really do. No. 3: It's fun to wonder whether the guy standing next to…

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