Movie Reviews

Crossover

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Crossover isn’t just a bad movie; it is painfully bad. It’s a movie where you check your watch every five minutes to see exactly how much of your life you have just wasted. It manages to raise itself above other bad movies by failing to even be interesting, and instead decides to wallow in minutiae […]

Crank

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Be advised: The four star rating on Crank is of the specialized variety. By any traditional definition this is not a good movie. It’s silly, preposterous, sloppy and sometimes annoyingly hip, and it has the soul of a bad exploitation movie. It’s irredeemably violent. It’s high in cinematic cholesterol and low in moral fiber. In […]

The War Game

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Nothing — and I mean nothing — that you have heard or read can fully prepare you for Peter Watkins’ 1965 faux documentary on the aftermath of a nuclear attack on Great Britain. Forget Hollywoodized features like On the Beach (1959) or even the well-intentioned U.S. TV film The Day After (1983). This is as […]

Mozart

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Though I’ll be immediately branded a Philistine (not for the first or probably last time), I have to admit that Mozart is far from my favorite composer, and I suspect that it would take someone keener on his music than I am to get the good out of this 1955 Austrian biopic that was rechristened […]

Little Miss Sunshine

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Great grief! A highly-touted, highly-hyped independent film that actually deserves all the praise and the push? Do such things exist? Little Miss Sunshine proves that they do! Whether or not that’s one of the signs of the apocalypse, I don’t know. It certainly could be, but regardless, this isn’t one of those mystifyingly praised indies […]

Invincible

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Predictable and safe in the tradition of Disney Studios, Invincible shows us once again that they have perfected the formula, and cornered the market on the uplifting, inspirational sports movie. The formula works in the sense that it’s impossible for the movie to be horrible, but at the same time, is unable to reach anything […]

Idlewild

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Even on those occasions when it doesn’t work — and on those occasions when it aims for an emotional response that isn’t there — Bryan Barber’s Idlewild is a fascinating work. It’s perhaps the single most fascinating work of 2006 to date. It’s also one of the most downright peculiar ones. At the end of […]

How to Eat Fried Worms

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At one point in Don Mancini’s Seed of Chucky (2004), Jennifer Tilly’s personal assistant warns her that she’ll go to hell if she sleeps with a director to get a part, whereupon Miss Tilly counters, “Hell would be ending up on Celebrity Fear Factor in a worm-eating contest with Anna Nicole Smith.” Bob Dolman’s How […]

Black Diamonds

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I tend to be a hard sell on social-conscience-driven documentaries, even while I recognize the often noble intentions behind them. Perhaps it’s because I see too many of them over the course of the year. By the time I finish watching the collected films for the Amnesty International Film Festival, the sensory overload sometimes makes […]

Beerfest

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The good news is Beerfest is a little better than comedy troupe Broken Lizard’s Super Troopers (2001), considerably better than their Club Dread (2004), and about a million times better than their work-for-hire participation on The Dukes of Hazzard (2005). The bad news is it’s still pretty dreadful. There are a handful of moments so […]

American Adobo

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“Adobo” is the national Filipino dish made of pork, chicken, garlic and olive oil. And that should be enough to tell you that this is another one of those films where a series of stories are linked to the act of eating and getting together — this time with a group of disparate friends who […]

Vance

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Like its titular hero, Vance ambles along in a wayward fashion that becomes ever more unsettling — and that’s both the problem and the strength of this home-grown production. What starts out as a slightly too-full-of-itself quirky comedy (of sorts) evolves into a sober examination of an alienated and disaffected college student. Even while looking […]

The Official Story

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An almost textbook example of how to use a personal story to tell and illuminate a much larger one (are you listening, Oliver Stone?), The Official Story (1985) snagged an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and propelled director and co-writer Luis Puenzo to a brief (one film, Old Gringo) Hollywood career. The story is […]

Strangers with Candy

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Clever and undeniably peculiar, Strangers with Candy suffers from both a complete lack of focus and a terminal case of self-satisfaction. I’ve never seen the Comedy Central series on which it’s based, but I suspect that the overall concept works better in 30-minute doses than it does here. At feature length, the concept of Amy […]

Snakes on a Plane

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Can a bad movie that deliberately sets out to be a bad movie rightly be called a good movie? If that movie is the much anticipated Snakes on a Plane, then I’m going to say that the answer is yes. It’s become impossible to separate the fabricated hype and Internet buzz that surrounds the film […]

Material Girls

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Much like the southern migration of geese, Material Girls has joined what seems to have become an annual occurrence (after 2005’s The Perfect Man and 2004’s Raise Your Voice): the push to turn former teen sensation Hilary Duff into a honest-to-goodness adult actress (not that kind, get your mind out of the gutter). And while […]

Accepted

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I suppose the worst thing that can be said about Accepted is that it’s thoroughly inconsequential. That’s also the best thing that can be said about it. Yes, Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers) is an agreeable screen presence (even if he’s a pretty unlikely high school senior at the age of 28) and you want to […]

A Good Woman

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There’s only one thing worse than being a period piece, and that’s being an out-of-period piece. No, that’s not entirely true, but after 93 minutes of Wildean epigrams — both genuine and ersatz — I seem to have become inflicted with arch-speak, or at least more so than usual. Taking Oscar Wilde’s 1892 play, Lady […]

Zoom

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Zoom is a bad movie. I know it’s a bad movie. It’s badly written, badly directed, badly acted, badly edited, badly scored and beyond badly overdubbed. On nearly every level it’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen this year. And yet it’s strangely not unlikable — something I’m hard-pressed to understand. All I can […]

World Trade Center

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I have never been a fan of Oliver Stone. His films have always seemed like bombastic attacks lacking in focus and suffused with anger at everything in general and nothing in particular. This dates back at least to his cheesy horror film The Hand (1981), a silly movie about, yes, a crawling hand (“It lives. […]

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

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Few films are as deeply flawed yet so essential to a great director’s filmography as John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). I suppose Josef von Sternberg’s The Devil Is a Woman (1935) runs a close second, and for a lot of the same reasons. Both films contain all the trademarks of their […]