Movie Reviews

Forbidden Zone

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“Friday, April 17, 4 p.m. — Venice, California. Huckleberry P. Jones, local pimp, narcotics peddler, and slumlord was seen entering a vacant house that he owned. While stashing some heroin in the basement, he stumbled upon a mysterious door. Naturally, he entered …” So begins Richard Elfman’s 1980 cult classic, Forbidden Zone, as wild a […]

Tugger: The Jeep Who Wanted to Fly

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Being G-rated, Tugger assures concerned parents their ears won’t be assaulted by swear words. Alas, the 65-minute film is so boring that the attempt to avoid being offensive might put them to sleep. In its favor, Tugger’s visual style is delightfully vibrant, crisp and clever, with a lovely, World War II-era vintage look. But the […]

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

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“I had to admit I loved them,” Mark Bittner says simply, trying to explain to the camera that, although he doesn’t anthropomorphize the birds he’s nursed for many years, he also recognizes the strong emotional bond he has developed with them. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill isn’t so much a “nature film” as it […]

The Island

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If this were a Survivor game, you’d have to wonder if it would be possible for The Island to vote itself off itself. This should come as no great surprise, since The Island is a Michael Bay movie — even if it is a Michael Bay movie that manages to squander the combined talents of […]

The Devil’s Rejects

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OK, let’s get this straight: The Devil’s Rejects is a violent, sadistic, brutal horror picture punctuated with humor that’s blacker than the greasepaint festooning Sid Haig’s lips for his clown makeup. There are no likable characters. And if the movie has any message at all, it is undoubtedly reprehensible, since the closest it comes to […]

Must Love Dogs

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The cast in this cookie-cutter romantic comedy is almost enough to make me want to bump my rating up a half star. The movie’s not bad. It’s harmless and enjoyable — but it’ll float right out of your brain within a couple hours of seeing it, and there’s nary a single fall-down-funny gag in its […]

Hustle and Flow

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OK, I was wrong. This isn’t the disaster of a movie I thought it would be, based on the premise and the trailer. In fact, it’s a pretty darn good film, though I’d be hard-pressed to see it as the great work of art it’s been touted as in some quarters. It is, however, a […]

FIX: The Story of an Addicted City

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This is a pretty straightforward, unflinching documentary about the heroin problem in Vancouver, British Columbia, focusing on activist Ann Livingston and her relationship (both personal and professional) with addict/activist Dean Wilson, as well as then-Mayor Philip Owen’s attempts to combat the problem by establishing “safe” zones for addicts where shooting up is less dangerous. Those […]

Bad News Bears

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The first question that comes to mind when watching Bad News Bears — a remake of Michael Ritchie’s 1976 film The Bad News Bears — is, what is the point? There has to be a better reason to remake a movie than to drop the word “the” from its title. Yet that seems to be […]

Wings of Desire

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Only in the world of a Wim Wenders film would an angel express the desire to go home and read a Philip Marlowe mystery as one of the reasons he’d like to be human. But because that desire is expressed in a Wim Wenders film, it seems completely reasonable. And if that makes sense to […]

Wedding Crashers

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Perhaps because I spent a large chunk of my misspent youth as a photographer, I am a little resistant to the charms and emotional resonance of weddings. After you’ve heard the service more in one month than Zsa Zsa Gabor has in a lifetime, and have witnessed the same mildly crude jokes and all the […]

The Toxic Avenger

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This is the movie that made Troma Films what it is today — and remarkably, its creators escaped prosecution. Prior to this film, Troma had specialized in soft-core porn, which this effort resembles with its bad lighting, bad acting, bad scripting, gratuitous sex scenes and — worst of all — nonstop porno-movie musical score. But […]

Ladies in Lavender

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There’s a moment in The Sound of Music where Eleanor Parker appears on the scene with a pitcher of pink lemonade, announcing that the concoction is “not too sour, not too sweet.” To this Richard Haydn wryly comments, “Just too pink.” Having thus destroyed my street cred as a curmudgeon by being able to recall […]

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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There’s more manic invention, creativity and the sheer joy of filmmaking in any five minutes of Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory than has yet been seen in all the mainstream releases of 2005 put together. The film is not going to be to everyone’s liking — and thank God for that, because a […]

The Passion of Joan of Arc

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Carl Theodor Dreyer’s silent film about the trial and execution of Joan of Arc is often cited as “one of the best films ever made” — something that too often means you’re about to get cinematic cauliflower (it’s good for you, but you may not much like it). Yet Dreyer’s film remains among the most […]

Schultze Gets the Blues

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2005 must be the year of leisurely paced gems — movies that move like molasses but pack an unforgettable emotional wallop. There was Scotland’s Dear Frankie, the American Off the Map, and now there’s Germany’s recent box-office champ, Schultze Gets the Blues. This simple, unadorned film is the droll, gently told tale of a German […]

Fantastic Four

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Saying I’ve seen worse things than Fantastic Four loses any qualitative meaning when you realize I’m talking about such worse things as Freddy Got Fingered, The Adventures of Pluto Nash and House of the Dead. It is worth noting, however, that FF is certainly an improvement over such similar outings as Catwoman and Elektra. All […]

Doctor Faustus

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When it was first released in 1967, Richard Burton’s film version of Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus was pretty soundly trounced by the critics. And while from today’s perspective it’s not hard to see why, it is hard to understand how they didn’t at least recognize they were in the presence of a […]

Dark Water

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If you took The Ring, The Grudge, The Tenant, The Sentinel, Rosemary’s Baby, The Changeling, The Devil’s Backbone, Repulsion, The Ring Two and The Others, dropped them into a blender and pressed “puree,” you’d probably get something like Dark Water. This slow-paced art film of some considerable merit has bamboozled its way into multiplexes by […]

War of the Worlds

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In the wake of all Tom Cruise’s … let’s say, idiosyncratic antics to prove to the world that he’s just dippy about Katie Holmes and therefore simply cannot be gay, what is one to make of a couple early moments in his new opus, War of the Worlds? First, his boss asks him, “What’s your […]

Rebound

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Here’s a classic case of “if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie.” In fact, if you know the premise, you could write the movie yourself. That it took three writers — even if two of them were John J. Strauss and Ed Decter (The Lizzie McGuire Movie, The Santa Clause 2) — to […]