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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Paprika

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Connecting the metaphorical dots between dreams and movies, Japanese director Satoshi Kon offers this psychedelic head trip as an animated tonic to the monochromatic complacency of every day life. Boasting stylish animation, this hallucinatory film manages to present a surreal meditation on entertainment in the guise of a blockbuster sci-fi thriller. There’s murder, action, eye-popping visuals and even a little sex. There are also creepy Geisha dolls, bizarre echoes of Disney, and marching kitchen appliances.

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The Golden Door

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The immigrant experience was once a hallmark of cinema. But tales of hardscrabble, old-world families torn apart by feuds, disease and arduous ocean-liner journeys fell out of fashion, it seems, right about the time someone decided to retrofit the genre for a bunch of cutesy animated mice in an insufferable animated flick. But this new Italian film couldn’t come at a better time, serving as a potent, visceral reminder that most all of us are foreigners here, and it underlines the hardships faced by any proud family attempting to make a better life for themselves.

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1408

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM

After a convincingly stern, ominous warning from a dapper manager played by Samuel Jackson — undisputedly the successor to James Earl Jones’ throne when it comes to stern, ominous warnings — Mike checks in to the offending room number of the film’s title, and begins what may very well be the last night of his life. The next 60 minutes of the movie are helpfully counted down on the creepy clock-radio, as Mike is subjected to any one of a number of Dali-esque visions usually attributed to brown acid: melting telephone receivers, brick walls where windows should be and the specter of his glum, saucer-eyed daughter, who died a year earlier. Ultimately a one-man show, Cusack mostly delivers, and you’re reminded of just how powerful schlock can be when it’s redeemed by top-grade acting.

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You Kill Me

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM

A monosyllabic triggerman for the Polish mob in Buffalo, Frank’s drinking problem has started to interfere with his work. In particular, he screws up killing rival Irish mob boss Edward O’Leary (Dennis Farina), who has started muscling in on the family business. Furious, Uncle Roman (Philip Baker Hall) sends Frank to San Francisco to get off the hooch and into AA. It’s a questionable location choice, but Frank gets with the program, finds an affable gay toll collector (Luke Wilson) for a sponsor, works part time at a mortuary, and starts dating the jaded but sexy Laurel (Tea Leoni). Unfortunately, the siren’s call of booze and a brewing turf war back home threaten to ruin Frank’s chances for both recovery and romance.

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Evan Almighty

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM

A disaster of near biblical proportions, here's a film proving that faith, hope and massive special effects can’t always overcome the simple righteous virtues of a good script. Lately the heavens have been smiling on Steve Carell, but the proven comedic powerhouse struggles mightily just to keep this creaky vessel on course, though no one could stay afloat with material this old and soggy. Poor Mr. Carell got the task of following up 2003’s huge Bruce Almighty after Jim Carrey declined by pricing himself out of the market. Though Carrey’s $20 million fee would’ve been chickenscratch for a movie whose budget was north of $160 mil, which makes this the costliest comedy ever. Wonder what all that scratch buys you? Pratfalls, shots to the balls and cheap animal gags; the same shit you get free on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

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Blow'd up real good

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Veteran N.Y.P.D detective Mclane escorts super-hacker Matt Farrell (Long) to D.C. for questioning by the feds, when all hell breaks loose on the eastern seaboard. The goons who burgle Matt’s bachelor pad and kill his action figure collection are part of a huge conspiracy to short-circuit the nation’s entire electronic infrastructure. See, Matt inadvertently wrote a vital bit of the bad guys’ programming, and they need to off him before he crashes the whole system. Missing is the steady hand of director John McTiernan (parts 1 and 3), replaced by the clumsy Len Wiseman. No one has ever made computer hacking exciting on screen and after the bullets stop flying, the real crux of the action comes down to dueling bouts of furious typing, which is every bit as thrilling as it sounds.

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The Goonies

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM

When this film came out, it was greeted with critical ambivalence and pretty respectable box office numbers, but in the decades since it has achieved cult status, where other Reagan-era romps like, such as Explorers and Monster Squad, have been mostly forgotten. What gives Goonies its legs? Aside from the raw power of nostalgia, the flick has an uncanny ability to speak directly to the geeky, chubby, adventure-craving middle schooler deep inside us.

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A Mighty Heart

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Michael Winterbottom is one of the world's most fascinating directors. Do you know any other filmmaker capable of moving so gracefully from a witty, powdered-wig, literary satire like Tristram Shandy to a grimly authentic agitprop docudrama like Road to Guantanamo? Of course he's also the bloke who made an awkward mess of indie rock and explicit sex in the flop 9 Songs. Whatever, Winterbottom never backs down from a challenge, and here dares to make a thriller from a story where you know the ending from the start.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Air superiority

New doc takes a serious look at an oddball competition

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 12:00 AM

First-time director Alexandra Lipsitz’ feature documentary Air Guitar Nation is surprisingly compelling. The film traces the efforts of American friends Kriston Rucker and Cedric Devitt who are determined to unearth the first American capable of shredding alongside the Europeans in Finland's annual air guitar championship.

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Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 12:00 AM

So far, the film series about the first family of superheroes has been less than stellar. Given a shot at redemption, director Tim Story doesn’t exactly knock the cover off the ball, but he manages to find the ball park. The improvements are obvious, the effects are cooler, the storytelling is tighter and the global scope of the action is bigger and better than the original. That doesn’t mean the film is problem-free, there’s still plenty wrong: Jessica Alba is brutal and terribly miscast, the slapstick is juvenile and Julian McMahon’s Dr. Doom is still more of an obnoxious yuppie than menacing supervillain. Fortunately, the fun factor is enough to override the crappy bits, including an improved handling of the team’s personalities.

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