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Friday, April 30, 2010

U-M gymnast finally gets Olympic medal

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 3:59 PM

Elise Ray was alone in her living room when she heard the news: She’s an Olympic medalist. “We’re all thrilled, but it’s just wild that it’s a decade later,” says the University of Michigan alum, who was part of the women’s Olympic gymnastics team at the 2000 games in Sydney,...

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Back-Up Plan

Even J-Lo’s much-ballyhooed caboose can’t elevate this hackneyed eyesore

Posted By on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The Back-Up Plan is so lived-in and familiar that the animated title sequence feels borrowed from a Doris Day movie. Of course Doris Day never began a film with her legs in the air, while being inseminated with designer sperm, but that’s the scenario for J-Lo’s Zoe, a baby-crazy modern business gal with no time to find the right guy. That right guy (Alex O’Loughlin) tries to steal her cab and, of course, they bicker for a while before falling for each other. He’s Stan, an artisan cheese maker, which she first scoffs at, but then declares, “I’m your cheese muse!” before they bone like wild animals on a on a haystack in his upstate barn. Then there’s a series of breakups and make-ups, punctuated with gags about stretch marks, overeating and dog vomit. Ick.

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The Secret of Kells

Beautifully crafted and empathetic animation is brilliant — and a shortfall

Posted By on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Young Brenda (voiced by Evan McGuire) is a carrot-topped orphan living in the abbey of Kells under the care of his stern uncle, the abbot (Brendan Gleeson). Obsessed with protecting his community from brutal Vikings, the abbot has made his mission to enclose the village behind a great wall, and Brendan is forbidden to leave the monastery, as the nearby forests hold hidden dangers. When a visiting monk (Michael Lally) recruits the boy to help him finish an illustrated religious manuscript, Brendan ventures into the woods to retrieve berries needed for a special green ink. There he meets a forest sprite named Aisling (Christen Mooney), who helps him. Unfortunately, evil also lurks outside the village walls, as the savage Northmen plot their attack, dark gods conspire and an evil serpent waits in a pitch-black cave. The best moments take place in the mysterious and shadowed forest, where the artists channel the work of Hayao Miyazaki, and when the Vikings show up, they are violently surreal. Their later attack on the village is a stylized achievement of crimson reds and seeping blacks. It’s rare to see the horrors of wars so beautifully and subtly rendered.

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The Losers

Aptly titled comic-book flick plays like an Xbox game made by an ex-music video director

Posted By on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The "Losers" are an elite black-ops unit who get stranded in Bolivia after refusing an order to waste a cartel hideout staffed with child labor. Left for dead, this smug crew of epic hardasses declares war on the whole C.I.A, and especially their corrupt handler Max (Jason Patric), who himself has gone rogue, trying to procure a new untraceable “enviro-friendly” nuke. The good guys get help and needed sex appeal from a wildcard played by Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Avatar), who’s the fanboy’s drool object of choice of late.

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Mid-August Lunch

Easy as a Sunday morning …

Posted By on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 12:00 AM

It’s as if Richard Linklater directed an episode of The Golden Girls in Italian. Simple, plotless and sweet, Mid-August Lunch is really more of a movie morsel than a cinematic meal, too light and insubstantial to offer much nourishment but spiced with just enough taste to be worth a try. It’s the heat of the summer and Gianni (writer-director Gianni Di Gregorio), who lives alone with his 93-year-old mama, is coerced into looking after his building manager’s elderly mother in exchange for back fees owed to the condo association. The next day, however, Gianni finds himself saddled with twice the responsibility as the manager also leaves behind his elderly aunt. Soon after the family doctor convinces Gianna to add his elderly Grazia to the geriatric mix — along with her numerous dietary restrictions and must-take medications. Low heat complications simmer but never boil over and eventually the four of them learn to enjoy each other’s company. The end. Seriously.

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Enter the beard-o

Even in quaint nursery stories, the maxim holds: Chicks dig a bad boy

Posted By on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 12:00 AM

French provocateur Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl) lends dashes of psychosexual anxiety, classism and feminist uplift to this airy remake of the musty old bedtime thriller, though a good dose of surprise and adrenaline might’ve helped. Quietly rebellious budding beauties Anne (Daphne Baiwir) and Marie-Catherine (Lola Creton) are recalled from their stern Catholic boarding school when their father is accidentally killed — and the tuition bill comes due. Without an estate or a dowry, the girl’s prospects are bleak, till word ripples through their 16th century village that a nearby nobleman is searching for a bride. He is Bluebeard (Dominique Thomas), an inscrutable, bulky old devil who sulks about his grand old haunted castle, subject to nagging rumors that ladies who enter his domain have a habit of never returning.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Joneses

A critique on consumerism comes off like a vehicle for product placement

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Steve (David Duchovny) and Kate (Demi Moore) Jones move into an affluent suburb with their model-perfect teenage kids Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth). They’re perfect. Charming, attractive and obviously rich, they quickly enchant neighbors, golf club members and kids at school. Before you know it, the whole community is, wait for it … trying to keep up with the Joneses. Only it’s all a sham. Each member of this well-coiffed family is actually a corporate employee, hired to virally market ritzy products to their envious neighbors. Contracted for a year, and managed by KC (Lauren Hutton), their economic impact is evaluated monthly. A great premise, and a trenchant comment on our transactionally obsessed society. Too bad a great premise isn't enough, even with a cast bringing its A-game.

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Butt-kickin' time

Aaron Johnson's the first real millennial superhero, a twerp with the ego of a titan

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Dave Lisewski (Aaron Johnson) is a sweetly gawky teen who lives in a dinky little Brooklyn bungalow not unlike the one Peter Parker grew up in, who hangs around the comic-book store day-dreaming with nerdy pals. All that four-color ink goes to his head, and with nothing more than some clubs, a catalog-ordered wetsuit, and a huge pair of juevos, and he sets out on a crime-fighting career.

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Dead on arrival

New comedy is like one long sitcom — without the laughter

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Gathered together for his father’s funeral, Chris Rock’s extended and unwieldy family quickly falls into petty bickering and resentment-filled confrontations. There’s his self-absorbed younger brother (Martin Lawrence), unappreciative mother (Loretta Devine), foul-mouthed uncle (Danny Glover), hypochondriac friend (Tracy Morgan), interracially engaged cousin (Zoe Saldana) and a cadre of clichéd acquaintances and relations. Oh, and there’s a dwarf with a scandalous secret (Peter Dinklage repeating his role from the first film). Needless to say, less-than-tasteful mishaps ensue.

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City Island

A crowd-pleaser indie with comic chops and charm to burn

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Andy Garcia tweaks his intense image, starring here as Vince, a native of a Bronx seaport enclave, and a corrections officer with a gruff exterior concealing a heart of pure, sticky pudding. He’s so guarded that he tells his hair-trigger tempered wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) that he has a weekly poker game, while he sneaks off to acting class in the city. As the grizzled acting coach, Alan Arkin gives a marvelous rant about how Marlon Brando ruined the whole craft with his incessant, meaningless pauses. Of course, Vince doesn’t heed this critique, Brando is his idol, and he sets out to ape the Wild One’s rebel posture, no matter what the scene or situation actually calls for. The adorable Emily Mortimer plays Vince’s very friendly acting partner, and though her tea-cozy daintiness seems slightly out of place, her warmth overwhelms our suspicions, as does the movie.

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