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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Good show

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM

In a brisk opening sequence set in rainy London, Mr. Bean wins a trip to the sunny French Riviera in a church raffle. Director Steve Bendelack (The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse) knows how to make slapstick that’s not slapdash, and hits on all the essential Beanisms — from his affection for his vintage Mini to the absolutely shameless way he expresses his emotions — before he quickly puts the character in motion. That forward momentum is what makes Mr. Bean’s Holiday such a romp.

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Rocket Science

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Moving on from the hit doc Spell Bound, filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz has found an equally dorky backdrop for his first narrative feature; the high-stakes world of high school debate. The queen of this nerdy kingdom is Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick), a chatterbox powerhouse with the same laser-beam intensity as Election’s Tracy Flick; she recruits terminally shy Hal, because she sees hidden talent in him. He’s painfully aware of her talents as well, and not just those at the podium, but the ones under her sweater. She awakens all sorts of secret reserves in him. Unfortunately this love boat hits choppy water, with flirting stops and starts — there are clumsy hormonal advances that lead to hurt feelings and a cello flies through a closed window. A climactic “debate” showdown ensues, and Hal recruits Ginny’s old flame as his new partner and de facto life coach.

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September Dawn

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Voight is a sinister Mormon bishop who deeply distrusts the wagon train of Arkansas cattlemen who’re passing through his land en route to California. These humble Christian wanderers are cast in waves of holy light, though they commit unspeakable transgressions such as breeding race horses and allowing some women (welcome back Lolita Davidovitch) to wear pants. Meanwhile, the Mormons sulk about, spouting scripture and prophecies while riding dark horses in dark cloaks and pointy hats, which make them look like Tolkienesque Ring Wraiths. Despite the starry-eyed passions of ill-fated lovers, paranoia wins and slaughter ensues, as the bloodthirsty Mormons and native allies swarm the cattlemen’s camp.

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Resurrecting the Champ

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM

This is the true story of Denver Times sportswriter Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett), who, in a career slump, finds his golden ticket in the form of a pitiful homeless man (Samuel L. Jackson) who claims to be a formerly high-ranking boxing champion. Kernan gets the story he wants, impressing his Times editor (Alan Alda) and the editor for whom he duplicitously freelances the story (David Paymer) — but at an unexpected price. Despite an unnecessarily treacly ending, Michael Bortman and Allison Burnett’s screenplay is textbook-perfect. They show a studied reverence for the newspaper industry and how it works, making this as appealing for die-hard newshounds as the average viewer.

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2 Days in Paris

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Julie Delpy and Adam Goldberg play a couple at the tail end of a European vacation trying to survive a few days in her old Paris stomping grounds, which overflow with her ex-boyfriends and countless one-time flings. Despite some first-time director jitters, 2 Days in Paris is a tiny, fleeting delight, a scenic gem filled with flashes of insight and funny, natural dialogue.

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The Nanny Diaries

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Despite a schizophrenically bouncy pop soundtrack and some slick daydream-fantasy sequences, Diaries isn’t the escapist fun it so desperately wants to be. There’s no real pleasure to be had in watching two aimless, unhappy women act out their insecurities on each other. The performers give it their best shot, though, and for a while, Diaries is a notch above the usual Dakota Fanning-Britney Murphy chick-flick fare. As the put-upon Upper East Side nanny Annie, she proves adept at physical comedy. The movie needs as much sweetness and light as it can get, considering that the queen bitch here is comic-book villainous: Mrs. X, as played by the razor-sharp Laura Linney, is a shrill, lacquered trophy wife with too much time on her hands and not nearly enough people to blame for it. Pulcini and Berman are obviously talented — they find countless ways to visualize some of the novel’s most tepid prose — but for all their newfound, big-budget trickery, they can’t hide that they’re working on material that’s beneath them.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Serenity

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Though Firefly fans may complain that the show’s beloved supporting players get pushed to the margins, Serenity is filled with enough personal moments, thoughtful plot complications and rambunctious charm that it overcomes its narrative missteps and thumbnail characters.

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An Arctic Tale

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM

National Geographic gets Disneyfied in An Arctic Tale: Amazing wildlife footage is edited into a kid-friendly narrative of anthropomorphized creatures growing up in the Great White North. It also functions as a cautionary tale about the startling effects of global climate change, made for a generation growing up green. It’s not hard to see that the filmmakers’ hearts were in the right place. Certainly, constructing that footage into a recognizable timeline — following Nanu the polar bear and Seela the walrus from childhood to maturity — makes what they’ve observed more immediate and relatable. But it’s not hard to wonder if they’ve done their young audience a disservice by presenting carefully crafted fiction as a nature documentary.

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Dazed and amused

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Hollywood’s comedic flavor-of-the-moment, Judd Apatow, 25 year-old Seth Rogan (Knocked Up) and his writing partner Evan Goldberg take the played-out teen movie genre and turn it into something uproarious, insightful and genuine. The leads — shy Evan (Michael Cera) and motormouth Seth (Jonah Hill) — are geeky high school seniors who cling to their friendship while desperately longing to define their masculinity. Which means, of course, scoring with chicks. When their super-nerd pal Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) secures a fake ID, Seth sees an opportunity to shed their outsider status, and promises the girl he’s digging that he’ll supply the booze for her party. Of course, nothing’s as easy as it seems.

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The Ten

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM

You can’t look away waiting to see where this excitingly weird comedy is heading, even as it’s barreling toward catastrophe. Written by David Wain and Ken Marino and featuring cameos from the rest of the massive cast of former cult MTV sketch series The State, the movie plays like an extended and highly erratic episode, spinning from gag to gag like an ADD-afflicted middle schooler on a Jolt cola binge. Based loosely around the notion of illustrating the Ten Commandments, it’s all a ruse to string one droll concept after the other, some of which are dead on arrival while others spiral off on hilariously absurd tangents. When it flops, it flops hard; as in an awful piece about a cheating husband with the overexposed Paul Rudd, whose charm can’t overcome indifferent writing. The humor is scattershot, the dick jokes are sometimes limp, and the very premise is bound to aggravate the crap out of some, but one must respect them for trying, failing and trying again.

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