Movie Reviews

Annapolis

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“Sir, no, sir!” That’s what you should shout if someone tries to convince you that Annapolis is a realistic portrait of the hallowed institution that trains Navy and Marine officers. Heck, it wasn’t even shot at Annapolis — it seems that after the Navy got hold of the script, they withdrew their cooperation and it […]

Underworld Evolution

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In most cases, I’ll go back and re-watch the previous film when tackling a sequel. In the case of Underworld Evolution, I contented myself, on the Life-Is-Too-Short principle, with merely looking over my review of Underworld. Doing so mostly reminded me that I’m still awaiting the return of werewolves in trousers — like Lon Chaney […]

The Tales of Hoffman

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This is the odd-film-out in the major works of Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger — rarely spoken of in the same breath with their standard classics, The Life and Death of Col. Blimp, Stairway to Heaven, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes, yet clearly part of the same creative impetus behind those films. Why? Well, […]

The Passenger

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Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1975 film The Passenger — being given a new lease on theatrical life by star Jack Nicholson — is probably more important as a representative of its time than as a film in its own right. Though it played at this past year’s Asheville Film Festival, I missed it owing to a hectic […]

The New World

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I cannot in good conscience recommend The New World. Still, I have to admit that I admired this film more than a number I have recommended. Calling The New World a noble failure or a grand folly would be the easy way out of explaining my high regard for Terrence Malick’s film on the story […]

End of the Spear

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“Can peace really be acquired without changing the human heart?” asks the narrator of this well-crafted Christian drama. The film’s answer, of course, is that only Christ can accomplish such a miracle, but director Jim Hanon (Beyond the Gates of Splendor documentary) shows that redemption can make for a pretty good adventure tale. Fifty years […]

Aguirre: The Wrath of God

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Idiosyncratic visionaries don’t come any more idiosyncratic or visionary than Werner Herzog — especially when Herzog was teamed up with his madman in residence, Klaus Kinski, as he is here in the first of their six films together. The film is Herzog’s imagining of what happened to a group of men who were sent out […]

Tristan + Isolde

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After theatrical impresario John Barrymore’s disastrous production of Joan of Arc in Howard Hawks’ 1934 comedy Twentieth Century, Roscoe Karns’ character says of Oscar Jaffe (Barrymore’s character): “Well, he’s gonna end up in the breadline unless he figures out that these dithering horse operas with a lot of people staggering around in foul iron suits […]

The Bicycle Thief

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The opportunities for study and appreciation of film are truly inexhaustible — witness the fact that until this essential of the Italian Neo-Realist school of filmmaking was scheduled for a special showing, I’d managed to never catch up with it before, despite having watched just about everything of any note or repute that crossed my […]

Map of the Human Heart

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By turns brilliant and frustrating, Vincent Ward’s Map of the Human Heart (1993) is one of those films that you admire more for what it tries to do than for what it actually accomplishes. The movie is nothing if not ambitious, something that works both for and against it. Ward’s story contains a lot of […]

Last Holiday

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J.B. Priestley used to be one of the most famous voices in 20th- century English literature. Today, the mention of his name is more apt to result in a blank stare than anything else. His plays are still known, but a quick search of Amazon.com shows only one of his novels, The Magicians, as readily […]

Glory Road

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“We do not back down here, ever!” coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas, Sweet Home Alabama) exhorts his players at Western Texas University. His words challenge his young black athletes to cast off their victim mind-set and charge for glory — and establish integration in college basketball. The double-edged story of the greatest upset in NCAA […]

Breakfast on Pluto

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Like a cinematic Roman candle, Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto bursts onto the screen ablaze with more color, more ideas, more nerve, more invention and more heart than just about anything imaginable — reminding us anew that Jordan is quite probably the finest filmmaker working today. He’s certainly the most stylish, but even more, he’s […]

Hostel

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I didn’t buy the guff about Eli Roth being the “savior of horror” when Cabin Fever came out and I’m not buying it now, though Hostel is a much more accomplished piece of work than his debut offering. That said, I’m cognizant of the fact that 2005 was one of the worst years in the […]

Hoodwinked!

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Enough already with “revisionist” takes on fairy tales and Shrek wannabes! This independently made CGI-animated film picked up for distribution by the Weinstein brothers doesn’t even look or feel like a real movie — in fact, it resembles nothing so much as the work of a third-year film student convinced he’s done something really fresh […]

Grandma’s Boy

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Maybe it’s that my expectations were so low that you couldn’t have found them with the aid of a minesweeper, but I didn’t hate this admittedly slipshod and silly offering from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. Almost all the other critics tell me I’m supposed to, though at least one of these reviewers lost all […]

Close Up

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With the possible exception of the other films of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiariostami (with whom I am not familiar), you’re not likely to find anything much like Close Up, his 1990 offering. Apparently Kiarostami’s movies often take this same idiosyncratic approach: They’re documentary in nature, but not in execution — or at least not wholly. […]

Casanova

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That Sienna Miller’s character name, Francesca Bruni, is taken from the Bob Hope comedy Casanova’s Big Night (a film in which Casanova was played by Vincent Price — someone had a vivid imagination!) ought to clue critics in on the basic idea that Lasse Hallstrom’s Casanova is not intended as a biopic or an historical […]

Cartoon Madness

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I remember when I saw my first Betty Boop cartoon. I was 18 years old and two friends and I were subjecting ourselves to what was billed as a three-day MGM 16-movie marathon at the University of South Florida. It started at 7 p.m. on a Friday and ended sometime on Sunday evening — with […]

BloodRayne

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Uwe Boll has made his masterpiece with his third video-game-to-movie opus, BloodRayne! In all honesty, if I thought for a minute this Roquefort-riddled camp-fest was as intentionally ridiculous, stilted, witless and over-the-top as it actually is, then I’d actually mean that. Well, almost. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that BloodRayne‘s engaging claptrap quality is pure happenstance […]