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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tron Again

Posted on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 1:30 AM

The original Tron was a bit of an acquired taste. And as a tweenage geek when it came out, it was exactly the kind of pop sci-fi cinema I craved. The effects were decent for the time, the storyline thin, but Jeff Bridges and David Warner made the whole stupid...

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Clink down

A prison film telling it straight

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 12:00 AM

When Malik (Tahar Rahim), an illiterate 19-year-old of Arabic and Corsican descent, begins serving a six-year sentence for attacking a police officer (the details are never revealed), we quickly fear he won’t last a week. Cornered by the sinister Cesar (Niels Arestrup), the aging boss of a Corsican gang, he’s forced to assassinate Reyeb, a Muslim informer the gang can’t reach. For the next two hours, A Prophet charts Malik’s dark evolution from the Corsican’s “dirty Arab” servant into a cunning, resilient and violently resourceful operator who outfoxes both his fellow inmates and the authorities. It’s a tangled and sprawling plot that smartly keeps the focus on its protagonist’s troubling transformation.

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Tele-tubbies

John Cusack et al. are loud, obnoxious, juvenile and … wry

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 12:00 AM

This farce about three ageing buds and a young sidekick getting sucked through a mystical Jacuzzi wormhole back to the ultimate ski party rager of ’86 is itself a loving tribute to the lost epoch of legwarmers, break dancing and teen sex comedies. Every minute is loaded with winks and nods spanning the whole genre both popular and obscure, from Meatballs to Hot Dog: The Movie.

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Chloe

Julianne Moore saves a limp sex thriller

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 12:00 AM

In this case a modernist glass-walled yuppie cube in a fancy section of Toronto, the wintry air mirrors the icy relationship status of David (Liam Neeson) and wife Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore). She’s is a doctor, and he’s some sort of academic rock star, jet-setting the continent, from campus to campus, as nubile coeds hang on his every word. Of course, all this gallivanting makes Stewart do the logical thing, and hire a top-notch prostitute Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to catch David in the act. In the Bad Idea Hall of Fame, this ranks with New Coke and the Ford Edsel. Soon the plot unravels, but not how you’d expect.

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How to Train Your Dragon

Full of wonder, charm and dragons not doubling as stand-up comics

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 12:00 AM

While it doesn’t have the heart, charm and wit of Kung Fu Panda (nor the replay staying power), How to Train Your Dragon has enough of each to complement its noisy, eye-popping visual wonders. Dragon is the story of Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), the wussy teenage Viking who’s better at inventing cool gadgets than he is at slaying dragons. His dad, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), is the island kingdom’s kickass leader, who views the giant flying serpents who steal the tribe’s livestock as mortal enemies. Cue the son-tries-to-impress-dad storyline. Determined to prove himself, Hiccup takes down the dreaded and never-seen “Night Fury” dragon with a net-shooting catapult. Only no one sees him do it. This leads the teen to search for his downed adversary. Cue the budding-friendship-between-misunderstood-enemies plot line. Not only do the two become best buds, the boy discovers dragons are like overgrown puppy dogs, puppy dogs ruled by a fearsome Godzilla-like king. Will Hiccup earn the respect and understanding of his people? Will the dragons be freed from the tyrannical ruler? Can Vikings and dragons just get along? How many ways can you spell yes?

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The Yellow Handkerchief

William Hurt and Kristen Stewart and a long, sleepy road

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 12:00 AM

William Hurt is Brett, a newly freed convict carrying a mountain of buried guilt. For contrast, he’s paired with the avatar of gawky teen insecurity, Kristen Stewart, who continues to fumble her way toward respectability, a path which could quickly open as soon as she quits biting her lower lip and shoe-gazing through scenes. As interesting as these performers are, they get upstaged by youthful Eddie Redmayne, who makes lemonade out an unlikable lemon of a character; a twitchy weirdo named Gordy, who claims to be a Native American despite having more freckles than Conan O’Brien’s kid brother. Why these three misfits end up in a classic convertible together is as arbitrary as their destination, a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans used strictly as pointless seasoning for a flavorless script.

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Vincere

A glimpse at the private romance of a fascist leader

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 12:00 AM

This grandly ambitious movie tells the story of a woman swept up in the young revolutionary’s mighty wake, and then is washed away like flotsam when his power became complete. When we first see him, Mussolini (Filippo Timi) is a fiery socialist radical whose idea of an effective debate tactic against the clergy is to wind a stopwatch and challenge God to strike him down right there before the timer ends. Such histrionics earn him headlines, and draw the attention of a lovely young beautician named Ida Dasler (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), who becomes his lover, confidante and benefactor. Their affair is tempestuous, full of fights and reconciliations, eventually leading to private wedding (though the historical records of this are slim) and the birth of a son, Benito Jr. Unbeknownst to Ida, there was another woman all along, and, due to some arcane emotional and political calculus that we’re never privy to, this other woman became the rising leader’s “official” wife. When Benito went to fight in World War I, Ida and son were shuffled off to the margins. She would not go quietly, never giving up on her claims of legitimacy, and never relenting in her quest for dignity, even when she was dragged to mental hospital, where she would spend the next decade.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mick Vranich: 1946-2010

Posted on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 1:18 PM

“One of the original hero working-class poets from the early days of Detroit’s hip, contemporary poetry scene,” fellow poet M.L. Liebler wrote in a Wednesday morning e-mail of Mick Vranich, who passed away the following night. Vranich had taken a serious fall on a construction site in February, suffering a...

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Bounty Hunter

Lots of hammy faces, hollow jokes and property damage do not a farce make

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Gerard Butler plays Milo, a former cop turned struggling bail bondsman, given the dream job of hauling in his ex-wife, Nicole (Jennifer Aniston), a pushy careerist reporter with a Lois Lane complex. In the midst of their love spat, they’re caught in the gun sights of a drug gang, and proceed to cause massive property damage to a vintage convertible, a golf cart, a pedicab, a quaint bed-and-breakfast and downtown Atlantic City.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid

A mostly winning take on the tween-angst cartoon series

Posted By on Wed, Mar 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM

On his first day of junior high, Greg (Zachary Gordon) is warned by his unrelentingly obnoxious older brother Roderick (Devon Bostick) how easy it is to become a social outcast. The next 90 minutes of Jackie and Jeff Filgo’s scattershot screenplay dutifully chronicles how the diminutive tween becomes just that. He’s beaten up by a girl, defeated in wrestling by the geekiest kid in school, hunted by teenagers whose truck he accidentally scratched on Halloween, and ruins the school play. And then there’s the slice of festering cheese on the school playground; to touch it is to become the ultimate pariah. Will our hero cross the threshold into ultimate loserdom?

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