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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The return of Gordon Gecko

Is he a vicious metaphor for the morally, ethically, and intellectually bankrupt system Wall Street has become?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Money Never Sleeps opens with Gordon Gecko released from jail and no one to pick him up. Flash forward seven years (yeah, it’s that kind of movie) and we meet Jake (Shia LaBeouf ), a young hotshot trader with dreams of fully funding a green fusion-energy company. The only problem is that his firm is choking on toxic assets and his beloved mentor (Frank Langella) commits suicide after a rival hedge-fund manager (Josh Brolin) guts the company. Jake’s also engaged to … wait for it … Gecko’s estranged daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan). Meanwhile, Gordon has been peddling his book Is Greed Good? while lambasting 2008’s steroidal stock schemes. Jake, hoping for revenge against Brolin, enlists Gecko’s aid. But the master manipulator’s assistance comes with a price — he wants Jake to help him mend fences with Winnie. Is it fatherly love that motivates Gecko? Or something more calculating?

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Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The fable follows fledgling barn owl Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) as he and his brother Klud (Ryan Kwanten) are kidnapped by evil owls called the Pure Ones. Held prisoner, they meet Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton) and his wicked queen Nyla (Helen Mirren), who are turning young owlettes into laboring zombies, building a fearless owl army and, with bats as allies, constructing a terrible weapon. Klud gives over to the dark side, but Soren escapes, and, with a team of feathered friends, seeks out the Guardians of Ga’Hoole — legendary owl warriors who fight against evil. There are unexpected betrayals, thrilling tests of courage and faith, and several Aussie thespians (Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia) providing voices for their barely expressive characters.

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Catfish

Dire cyber-age consequences of making up your life as you go along

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Early twentysomething photographer Yaniv “Nev” Schulman, his brother Ariel and filmmaker Henry Joost share a Manhattan production office working on docs about ballet and modern dance. Nev begins corresponding with an 8-year-old named Abby from the U.P.’s Ishpeming; she’s a little girl who paints impressive-for-her-age watercolors based on his published photos. Over months Nev also begins chatting with Abby’s sexy twentyish older sister Megan and their mom Angela. Captivated by her Facebook photos, Nev starts exchanging messages, endless texts and occasional phone calls with Megan, which grow increasingly intense and romantic, all documented by ever-present cameras. Eventually curiosity takes over, especially when some of Megan’s details seem suspicious, and the guys decide to take an impromptu road trip to visit the family that so fascinates them. That things aren’t quite what they seem when they get there isn’t so much a surprise as a revelation, and from here the film spins into fascinating and deeply discomforting territory.

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Lebanon

Inside a rattling tank, witness to the horrors of war

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Set on the first day of the war in Lebanon, we’re crammed inside a rattling tank with four inexperienced Israeli soldiers who’ve been sent on a dangerous mission they don’t understand. Their only connection to the outside world is what’s on they hear on the unit radio, see through their gun sights, or learn from a brusque senior officer (Zohar Strauss) who drops in periodically with orders. Eventually, things run off the tactical rails as the unit gets lost in hostile territory, is forced to transport a Syrian prisoner, and must rely on the help of violent Phalangists to get them to safety. Paranoia and confusion quickly set in.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Town

Better than average cops-and-robbers flick — amped up on authentic Beantown settings

Posted By on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 12:00 AM

As far as meat-and-potatoes genre flicks go, Ben Affleck’s bank-robber-seeking-redemption drama ain’t half bad. Pulling triple duty as director, co-writer and star, Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a former NHL rookie whose bad temper landed him back in the blue-collar neighborhood of Charlestown. Now the brains behind a posse of “townie” bank robbers, he’s pursued by an angry FBI agent (Mad Men’s Jon Hamm) and struggling to find an exit strategy from the “life.” Things get more complicated when he falls in love with a bank manager (Rebecca Hall) he took hostage during a heist. Torn between his desire to go straight and his loyalty to his childhood friends, including hot-headed Gem (The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner), he agrees to do once last job — rob Fenway Park.

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Easy A

Rising superstar Emma Stone plays a smarty hottie for the 'A'

Posted By on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 12:00 AM

High school superhottie Olive, played by stone-cold fox Emma Stone (Zombieland), is a social pariah because she’s just a bit of a snarky wiseass. She considers herself an outcast because she only has a few pals, actually likes homework, and hasn’t been kissed, despite her best efforts. The pressure of this virginal burden is enough that she concocts a naughty fairytale, involving a hook-up with a college dude, while she was really in her room singing along to Natasha Bedingfield. Thanks to texting and unlimited data plans, this sultry rumor spreads quicker than hot Nutella, and Olive suddenly starts getting attention she couldn’t dream of a week earlier. An enterprising smarty-pants, Olive turns her newly scandalous rep into a business opportunity, falsifying sex acts with nerdy losers in exchange for cash, or preferably retail gift cards. Newly popular and flush with goodies, Olive is happy play-acting the town slut, right until the ruse starts to get out of hand.

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Nazi fetishes

A flawed but hard-to-shake doc of one of mankind’s greatest acts of inhumanity

Posted By on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The 1942 reels, an hour long in total, offer an unforgettable view of life for nearly a half-million Jews crammed into the Warsaw ghetto’s three square miles. Shot only months before the residents would be shipped off to concentration camps, the Nazi’s described it as “… a holding pen for the Final Solution.” It turns out that this footage, some of which has appeared in other documentaries (Shoah, for one), was created for a to-be-released propaganda movie called Das Ghetto — though it is difficult to imagine what kind of message the Nazis were hoping to communicate. The haunted, uncomprehending looks from emaciated Jews as they stare into the camera, the shots of bodies lying in the street or stacked like wood in piles, and the starving children forced by German soldiers to shed smuggled food from their tattered coats seem impossibly damning.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Extra Man

A fuzzy fest of quirk overload

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Louis Ives (Dano) is a wannabe transvestite and F. Scott Fitzgerald devotee who’s dismissed from his university teaching job after being discovered in a bra. Moving to New York City to become a writer, he rents a room from the flamboyant and imperious Henry Harrison (Kline), a failed playwright and aging gigolo. What follows is a tale of the insane leading the bland, as Henry teaches Louis how to become an “extra man” and Louis struggles to reconcile his sexual desires with his wish to be seen as a gentleman. Escorting wealthy elderly women, pining for a navel-gazing co-worker (Katie Holmes in serious need of a meal), and colliding into a rogues’ gallery of misfits, Louis slowly learns to shed his inhibitions and embrace the possibilities of life.

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Phoenix falling

Joaquin disintegrates before your very eyes — or does he?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM

You may remember when infamously intense method actor Joaquin Phoenix had a prolonged tabloid meltdown, shambling around like a drug-addled caveman through a series of embarrassing public appearances, as he became increasingly unhinged. "I’m Still Here" is the allegedly “real” account of Phoenix’s career suicide. Looking like a homeless Zach Galifianakis, with a huge mountain man beard growth, Joaquin stalks the Hollywood Hills, sporting a chaotic, expansive, dirty mangle of hair. In between coke binges, he starts spewing rambling, anti-showbiz diatribes to anyone within earshot, as he goes through the motions of promoting a film he swears will be his final film work, except for the camera crew following his every misstep. What little “plot” there is involves the effort to track down P. Diddy, or whatever the hell he’s calling himself these days. For all this, Phoenix will likely find himself in the same career jail that Mickey Rourke once inhabited.

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The Virginity Hit

Every generation deserves silly smut of its own

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The Virginity Hit was shot entirely with handheld DV cameras in formats of varying quality, from lush widescreen to scratchy stuff meant to look like Internet video. The title refers to the most excellent naked devil-lady water bong the gang uses only for very special occasions; namely when one of them successful pops his first nut. Gradually that magical piece of paraphernalia gets a good bit of use, despite these guys being unappealing goons, until only the perpetually shy and brainy Matt (Matt Bennett) has yet to inhale the sweet toke of victory. Despite being a mega-nerd, Matt actually has a smart and adorable girlfriend (Nicole Weaver), but their plans for that special moment keep getting interrupted by their nosy, camera-happy friends. Worse, Nicole has a few too many Jell-O shots at a frat party rager, and allegedly “hooks up” with a slick college guy. Dude, that blows. This act of heinous treachery sends Matt and his adopted brother/BFF Zach on a series of increasingly baroque escapades in order to lose Matt’s cherry, including road trips, petty larceny, assault, breaking and entering, and other harmless pranks. Don't think; just go with it.

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