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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

He’s Just Not That Into You

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Real star power abounds here, with a huge cast of tabloid darlings including Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck, Kevin Conroy and Jennifer Aniston. The film’s set in an alternate dimension where Baltimore’s the epicenter of romantically neurotic, club-life-loving supermodel-hot singles, where such gorgeous women have trouble getting dates. The basic premise is that guys are childish jerks and women are either too controlling or simpering ninnies. But it ain’t without charm, namely Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love) as the bubbly but romantically hapless Gigi, who ends up getting earnest dating advice from smarmily charming bar owner Alex (Justin Long), a bronco who she’d not-so-secretly like to buck. Meanwhile, her co-workers, at the world’s best looking office, struggle to nail their men into domesticity; Barrymore’s surfing for love online, while working at an alt-weekly staffed entirely by chatty gay guys. Then Scarlett Johansson parachutes in from Slut Mountain, playing exactly the sort of pouty-lipped blonde home-wrecker that the flick’s target demo loves to hate. Ben Affleck has real chemistry with Jennifer Aniston, but their semi-mature “Will we ever get married?” storyline isn’t juicy enough to carry the picture, and gets pushed to the bench. But wait a few moments the movie will jump to the next one.

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Push

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Director Paul McGuigan’s film is a psychokinetic actioner about sexy young stars with mind-over-matter powers. It's also an inert mess, rehashing ideas from better, more interesting films. Desperate to avoid the shadowy organization that killed his father, Nick Gant (Chris Evans) is a telekinetic living off the grid in Hong Kong. Enter 13-year-old Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning), who recruits him into locating a mysterious suitcase. Soon Chinese assassins, an ex-girlfriend (Camilla Belle) and a team of paranormal “Division” agents led by Djimon Hounsou are all in pursuit. They each have special abilities too — and they all want the contents of the case. In the end, it’s all an excuse to insert a few marginally cool effects in a less than marginal film.

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Wendy and Lucy

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Heartbreaking, compassionate and cautionary, the film's plot couldn’t be simpler. Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a young Indiana drifter headed to Alaska for a job with her yellow lab mutt, Lucy. Far from the starry-eyed but economically entitled character Emile Hirsch played in Into the Wild, Wendy is the underprivileged casualty of our country’s pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. She has a vague notion of where she might find stability but few resources to get there. When her beat-up Honda dies in a depressed Oregon town, Wendy is stranded until a nearby repair shop opens. Running low on cash, she shoplifts a couple of cans of dog food and a piece of jerky at a nearby market, and gets caught by the kind of teenage stock boy that’d make Dick Cheney proud. Arrested, she’s forced to leave Lucy tied up outside. Hours later, when she finally returns, her dog is gone. The rest of the movie follows Wendy’s desperate attempts to find Lucy, the people she encounters — some callous, some kind — and the setbacks she’s forced to deal with.

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Medicine for Melancholy

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Writer-director Barry Jenkins' debut film follows Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Jo (Tracey Heggins) through a tender post-hookup romance, adding a healthy discourse on the nuances of racial identity. This urban romance is a valentine to San Francisco, the onetime vibrant and sprawling haven for outsiders that he sees becoming a homogeneous gentrified museum. All this is done with a light touch and the feeling that these lives are being captured on the fly. Micah and Jo wake up together after a drunken one-night stand at a mutual friend’s party. They don’t even speak as they gather up their clothes. Not many more words are exchanged over a tense breakfast and long, long cab ride home. But Micah senses a connection, and when he finds her wallet on the taxi floor, he takes the initiative and decides to woo the reluctant Jo. What Micah doesn’t realize is that he’ll only have a day to spend with Jo, but in Jenkins’s view, that may be enough.

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Coraline

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Coraline is a moody and hallucinatory marvel. Writer-director Henry Selick crafts his handmade universe with the anal-retentive care of a gleefully sinister artist, telling a sophisticated tale that never condescends to its underage viewers. Adapted from a novel by Neil Gaiman, the story follows the dark and quirky adventures of Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning), a disgruntled tween forced to move into a remote old mansion with her benignly negligent parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgeman). The house is divided into separate apartments and each neighbor is more bizarre than the last. Bored and angry with her folks, Coraline stumbles across a secret hidden door one rainy afternoon, a door that leads to an alternative universe where button-eyed clones of her parents lovingly dote on her every need. The only catch is that she must sew buttons over her own eyes. Warned by a wise old cat (Keith David), Coraline quickly learns the dire cost of choosing to live with her “other mother” and struggles to escape with the spirits of children who, once upon a time, made the unfortunate choice to stay.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Push-button humor

Posted on Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 4:32 PM

You know how morning radio jocks tend to pepper their banter with handy sound clips that enliven their on-air antics? Well, such entertaining buzz-bits are available to all of us in the form of soundboards. And, no, we’re not talking about the juvenile noises of the Fart Soundboard — because...

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New in Town

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 12:00 AM

This soggy lutefisk out-of-water tale finds Renee Zellweger’s spunky corporate shark Lucy exiled from Miami to dinky, snow-bound New Ulm, Minn., where she’s hired to “modernize” a dairy processing plant, mainly through downsizing the workforce. The quirky townsfolk are on to her true intentions, but they’re such sweater-clad, “Minnesota nice” church folk that they attempt to extend a congenial mitten of friendship before stabbing her in the back. Cheerful town gossip Blanche (Siobhan Fallon Hogan) even invites Lucy over for a bit of meatloaf and matchmaking with snowplow-driving roughneck Ted (Harry Connick Jr., looking dumpy). They clash, of course, especially because he’s the local union rep. But faster than you can say cliché, the two begin sucking face like two carp fighting for the same corn bit at river bottom, planning an end-around on the suits to save the factory.

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A kick-ass thriller

It's dumb and Republican — but highly watchable

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Liam Neeson’s black-ops super warrior Bryan Mills is in uneasy retirement to be closer to Kim, the teen daughter (Maggie Grace) he has neglected for years. He takes a security gig guarding a pop princess for the easy money and to get career tips to help his daughter’s singing dreams, and just maybe get back in the graces of his remarried ex, Famke Janssen. To help build goodwill, Bryan signs off on Kim’s summer romp in Paris, despite his protests about how dangerous the big scary world can be. After that embarrassingly clunky setup, Kim and pal are abducted almost as soon as their plane lands. The girls have fallen victim to a nasty Albanian gang that specializes in auctioning off virgins to evil Sheiks and other oily plutocrats. But they're all about to fall victim to one pissed-off and ruthless papa. The plot runs on autopilot, but the fun is in watching Neeson dismantle a small army of thugs, creeps and corrupt French cops who get in his way, with a bag of dirty tricks that’d give Anne Coulter a boner.

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The Uninvited

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 12:00 AM

This, the inevitable American bastardization of a profoundly creepy and visually lush Korean horror gem, offers slightly more brain food than the average rampaging-madman-with-a-power-tool fare. The story’s your basic wicked stepmother, obsessed stalker scenario set within a haunted house. Emily Browning stars as the gamine Anna, newly released from the psych ward and trying to adjust to being back in her family’s tony New England beach house. Dad (David Strathairn) is a successful author, now shacked up with Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), the pretty young nurse who Anna suspects had a hand in her ill mother’s “accidental” death. Of course, it’s not just a hunch, since ghosts keep popping out of the shadows to spell out the problem for her. Anna is still coltish and shy, but her older sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) is in full-on rebellious-bitch mode, and begins taking steps to oust the blond interloper who has roosted in their once cozy nest.

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Oscar baitin’

This year’s short-film nods, from stalker security guards to sadistic slapstick

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 12:00 AM

A strong slate of live-act ion nominees mostly avoids the surprise-ending crutch, but two likely contenders for the statuette are "New Boy," which is based on a Roddy Doyle short story, is a poignant and humorous tale of a 9-year-old African boy’s first day at a Scottish elementary school, and Jochen Freydank’s "Toyland," with its Holocaust trappings, however, will probably walk away with the prize. The animated shorts include Pixar's "Presto," French film school Gobelin' s "Oktapodi," and Kunio Kato’s lyrical "Le Maison en Petits Cubes," which, despite its title, hails from Japan.

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