Movie Reviews

Lord of War

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Lord of War trades in irony. So it’s particularly apt that its greatest irony is that it starts out the work of a filmmaker well aware that he’s dealing with a visual medium and ends up as the work of a filmmaker who’s retreated into preachy speechifying. Writer-director Andrew Niccol opens Lord of War with […]

Just Like Heaven

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Just Like Heaven is a romantic comedy that will please everyone, especially those who walked out of The 40-Year-Old Virgin because of its foul language. The only four-letter word in Heaven is “cute.” Everything about this modern-day Sleeping Beauty tale works: immensely likeable stars, a terrific script that actually allows those stars to create believable […]

Junebug

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Local interest in Junebug is high, owing to its North Carolina setting and pedigree — and for the most part, that interest is justified. This modest little movie captures something of life in this state in ways that few previous films have. There’s not a lot of plot. Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz, The Emperor’s Club), who […]

Cry_Wolf

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I don’t care that Cry_Wolf expects me to buy 22-year-old Julian Morris (Whirlygirl) and 26-year-old Lindy Booth (Dawn of the Dead) as high school students. I don’t mind that it expects me to accept Jon Bon Jovi as a tweedy teacher (a concept giving new meaning to “Living on a Prayer”). I’m not even particularly […]

An Unfinished Life

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Yes, An Unfinished Life is slow and predictable, and its symbolism is so heavy-handed that it may well give the unwary a concussion. And no, nobody actually talks like these characters do — but because everyone in this determinedly old-fashioned movie speaks in the same improbable manner, it never seems false. And there’s also a […]

Wag the Dog

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Back in 1967 in his How I Won the War, Richard Lester included a fantasticated scene involving WW II-era British officers trading bubblegum cards of famous battles and war atrocities (“I’ve got ‘Alamein.’ I want ‘School Bombing’”). By the time of Desert Storm, the real world had caught up with Lester’s satirical notion — there […]

The Man

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No, The Man is not the worst movie ever made — what an accomplishment that would be in 2005! But it ranks high on the list of most predictable and useless. If there’s any truth to the old saw that 100 monkeys left alone with typewriters would eventually write Hamlet, then this film feels like […]

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

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This peculiar attempt to cross-breed the horror film with a courtroom drama — sort of Perry Mason and the Case of the Howling Teen or Inherit the Demon — has gotten high marks (for a horror picture) from some critics just for its trying to be different. But really, it isn’t even a case of […]

Heights

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Every now and then I’m convinced that I see a totally different movie than every other film reviewer. Such is the case with Heights, the final movie produced by Ismael Merchant (Remains of the Day), which is directed by 28-year-old newcomer Chris Terrio and based on a short play by another unknown, Amy Fox. I […]

Freaks

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After fulfilling his contract at Universal with two time-marking projects (Outside the Law and The Iron Man) and one landmark film (Dracula), director Tod Browning returned to his home studio, MGM. There, he’d made his mark with a string of slightly macabre — often circus- or carnival-themed — movies that frequently starred Lon Chaney. Browning’s […]

Enrico Caruso: Voice of the Century

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More or less a straightforward A&E Biography on the legendary opera star, Enrico Caruso: Voice of the Century is mostly of interest for its archival footage and period recordings. Otherwise, this is typical of the Biography approach — fact-filled, sketchy on personality and careful not to do or say much of anything that might frighten […]

Broken Flowers

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A good, almost great, movie, Broken Flowers suffers from two problems: Jim Jarmusch’s apparent need to be terminally hip and calculatedly quirky, and the belief that shots of Bill Murray staring blankly are endlessly profound. Problem is that Jarmusch probably is hip and quirky, and he would seem even more so if his films didn’t […]

All the President’s Men

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Even when it was new, All the President’s Men was something of an anomaly. It was a mystery where we already knew the solution: the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Today, we even know the identity of the mysterious informant, “Deep Throat” (played in the film by Hal Holbrook). So what — apart from historical […]

Underclassman

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As I sat in the otherwise empty theater at the first showing of Underclassman, I found myself consumed with a series of nagging questions concerning the state of films, the mindset of the movie industry — and, the biggest question of all, why? Why was this movie made? Why does the movie industry continue to […]

The Transporter 2

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The best way to enjoy Transporter 2 is to first see the original Transporter, which sets up the mythic, rule-obsessed hero and his preposterous but supremely enjoyable stunts and establishes the film’s martial arts choreography. Frank Martin (Jason Statham, The Italian Job) will transport anything, no questions asked, cash on delivery. He’s a stickler for […]

The Manchurian Candidate

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I saw The Manchurian Candidate at the Ritz Theatre in Winter Haven, Fla., when it first came out in 1962. I was 8 years old. In the ensuing decades, I’d completely forgotten I’d ever seen it, though I’ve very clearly remembered the end of the movie all my life. So when I picked up the […]

The Constant Gardener

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The first question about The Constant Gardener is whether Fernando Meirelles’ first English-language film is as good as City of God. The answer is no, not quite. But if it’s not as good, then it isn’t very far from it either. And not being as good is no disgrace in and of itself, since a […]

The Battle of Algiers

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There’s more than a little irony that Gillo Pontecorvo’s critically acclaimed and undeniably powerful 1965 film, The Battle of Algiers, was screened at the Pentagon in the early days of the war on Iraq. Sure, it ably demonstrates what any occupying army is getting itself into, but did no one notice that the film clearly […]

Me and You and Everyone We Know

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Let’s get it out of the way right up front: Me and You and Everyone We Know has offended some people, primarily because it deals in part with adolescent sexuality — and it features a subplot involving an 8-year-old in an online chatroom. Frankly, I found these things handled rather tastefully and, yes, realistically, but […]

Hairspray

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Always delighting in shocking audiences, Baltimore filmmaker John Waters — the self-proclaimed “Prince of Puke” — perhaps threw the movie-going world his biggest shock of all by suddenly coming up with the sweet-tempered, PG-rated Hairspray. After years of unrated and X-rated (later reclassified as NC-17) deliberate outrages like Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble, no one […]

Undiscovered

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Undiscovered should have remained that way — and judging by the fact that there were only two other people in the theater besides my hapless viewing companion and myself, I’m guessing it pretty well will. I’d say this is a disaster on a par with Glitter. Also, I personally resent having finally actually seen and […]