Movie Reviews

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 […]

Howl’s Moving Castle

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It’s an interesting coincidence that Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle (Haura no ugoku shiro) should open locally the same week as War of the Worlds, since both films involve striking images of war-torn landscapes and cities being blasted out of existence by fanciful machines. Equally interesting is the fact that Miyazaki’s film is far more […]

Blithe Spirit

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This early David Lean effort — adapted from the Noel Coward play by Lean, Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan — was a gigantic hit in post-War Britain, and one of the few films with a British pedigree to attain popularity in the U.S. during that era. Until James Bond and the Beatles, the phrase “It’s […]

Being There

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Hal Ashby’s last great film is also probably his best work other than Harold and Maude, and it’s virtually a toss-up as to which of the two is the better movie. I have a personal preference for Harold and Maude, but it’s such a very near thing that it scarcely matters. Like most great films, […]

Land of the Dead

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As a zombie movie, Land of the Dead is an OK horror opus. For director George A. Romero, who has a tendency to turn 60 minutes worth of story into 120-plus minutes of movie, it’s reasonably compact. And it does have an agreeably handmade feel to it (which, admittedly, results in a certain cheese factor). […]

Herbie: Fully Loaded

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First of all, Herbie: Fully Loaded gets points just for not being The Perfect Man (Hilary Duff’s new flick). And beyond that, the movie just isn’t bad. It may not be in the same happy-surprise league as the Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis remake of Freaky Friday, but it is a pretty pleasant diversion, albeit one […]

Destiny (Der Mude Tod)

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Destiny — or more to the point, Der Mude Tod (literally The Weary Death) — was the film that brought the great German filmmaker Fritz Lang worldwide acclaim. It’s also said to be the movie that inspired Luis Bunuel to take an interest in filmmaking. And it was clearly a major influence on the play […]

Bewitched

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The best thing about Bewitched is that its cinematography is so plodding that, unlike Nicole Kidman’s other movies where the camera is all over the place, you actually get to see her for more than a few dizzying split seconds at a time and can realize how exquisitely gorgeous she truly is. The idea behind […]

The Perfect Man

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I didn’t think it possible that Hilary Duff could sink any lower than her last film, Raise Your Voice. I had not reckoned on the combined talents of producer Ma Duff (sure, she’s Hilary’s manager, but how does that qualify her as a producer?), Duffian directorial favorite Mark Rosman and this appalling screenplay by Gena […]

Mad Hot Ballroom

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This movie’s been touted as a kind of blend of last year’s spelling bee documentary, Spellbound, and Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom, but it’s not riddled with the troubling undercurrents of the former and lacks the quirky, almost John Waters-esque style of the latter. And while Mad Hot Ballroom doesn’t share the overbearing success ethic of […]

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter

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The Asheville Community Resource Center continues its Cult/Trash movie series with this Canadian oddity from filmmaker Lee Demarbre, who made his mark (such as it is) by cooking up a trailer for a nonexistent movie called Harry Knuckles, which paved the way for a short film, Harry Knuckles and the Treasure of the Aztec Mummy. […]

Cage/Cunningham

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This fascinating documentary about the lives and works of composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham works in large part because it allows the duo — along with their friends, co-workers and a treasure-trove of archival footage — to speak for themselves in a more or less cinema verite manner, without editorial comment. Filmmaker Eliot […]

Batman Begins

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Well, whaddya know? The new Batman movie isn’t perfect, but it’s actually good. And this is an assessment from someone who’s as burnt out as is humanly possible on movies that are either adapted from comic books or might as well be. The movie’s isn’t quite the fabulous “rethinking” of the Batman mythos that it […]

Allegro non troppo

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This film used to be a stock item during the era of the cult-film midnight movie, standing side by side with Phantom of the Paradise, Rocky Horror, The Devils, Harold and Maude, The Gang’s All Here and just about any Marx Brothers movie. The ingestion or inhalation of contraband substances was optional, but far from […]

The Honeymooners

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This innocuous, sweet-tempered and frequently enjoyable little movie was made by people who quite obviously love the TV show on which it’s based. Nonetheless, the film is getting an undeservedly bad rap that carries with it more than a hint of racism. I know that the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) message boards aren’t exactly populated […]

The Frisco Kid

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Robert Aldrich’s penultimate film is an easygoing work of some considerable charm that relies far too much on ethnic humor — mostly Jewish, but not entirely — to sit quite as comfortably as it might like. The premise is workable: A singularly bad rabbinical student, Avram (Gene Wilder), is sent to serve as rabbi for […]

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

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As slick a piece of high-concept star vehicle as you could hope for, Mr. and Mrs. Smith would be a lot slicker if it was shorn of about 20 minutes of what is finally a ponderous running time. The last act not only drags on forever, but manages to be strangely inconclusive at the same […]

High Tension (Haute Tension)

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This French import is the year’s cause celebre of horror, but I didn’t find all that much to celebrate. That the film’s director has been tapped to helm a remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes seems just about right, since Alexandre Aja’s idea of horror seems thoroughly grounded (I’m tempted to say “bogged”) […]

Downfall

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Sobering and somber, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Downfall comes close to being the film it wants to be without quite getting there, owing to a certain literal-mindedness on the director’s part and a screenplay by producer Bernd Eichenger (who, incidentally, also produced Hans-Jurgen Syberberg’s legendary seven-and-a-half-hour Our Hitler: A Film from Germany) that tries to take in […]

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

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While there’s nothing exactly — or at least actively — wrong with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, neither is there anything all that right about it. As the title suggests, this movie is pretty much a teenage knock-off of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood — something that I presume extends to the source […]