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Gran Torino

Gran Torino from actor/director Clint Eastwood is unlike anything we've seen from the man in, like, ever. His character - a retired auto plant worker whose wife has just died - is not being allowed to grieve in peace by his idiot children and he's damned angry about being left alone in a big house with an old dog and a whole messa new Chinese neighbors who won't even learn the language. Then one of the shiftless punks tries to rip off his prized Gran Torino -- a gang initiation. From there on out the old  man learns more than he ever thought possible about living side by side with, well, we won't say it. But there is a gang of punks terrorizing the area and the old man decides to make his turf save again. Big surprise ending. Damned fine film. ($8)

great debaters

The Great Debaters starring director Denzel Washington tries so hard not to emphasize its black vs white subtext that it's story, about an extra-ordinary debate team from a segregated college that rises to debate the great Crimson tongues of  Harvard, didn't ignite for us. Black audiences will find much to cheer about. ($6.50)

happy-go-lucky

Happy-Go-Lucky from Writer/Director Mike Leigh stars Sally Hawkins as Poppy, a free spirit who won't let any negatives in her life get her down. In this case, the theft of  her bicycle prompts her to take driving lessons from a sad, angry instructor named Scott. Leigh has done much better. This is a here today gone today wait to rent flick. [$4].

And, almost as if to validate our disappoint-ment, the film is starting to take end of the year raves from those who really don't want to make readers think that only the despicable sits get awards.

in bruges

In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two hit men sent to Belgium after one screws up an assignment. Gleeson is dead on perfect. Farrell over acts and the four letter words almost get in the way of caring about what happens as the surprises unspool at the end of the film, thanks to the decisions of boss man Ralph Fiennes ($5.50/10)

indiana jones kingdom crystal skull

Harrison Ford returns as the title character in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, joined by Karen Allen as one-time flame Marion Ravenwood. Set in 1957, Commies have replaced Nazis and a seemingly insignificant artifact holds great power. The actual story is weak and the setup rushed and confusing but, hey, the film is so much fun to watch who cares? Cate Blanchett, Shia LeBoeuf and John Hurt round out the cast and, if you already know the worst kept plot twist in Hollywood history, let us just say that the one second reaction of Mr. Ford to that moment is worth the full ticket price. We've got tons of wallpapers for downloading

Last Chance Harvey

Last Chance Harvey stars Dustin Hoffman as a commercial jingle writer with aspirations of being a "real" musician (which he knows is never going to happen). Flying to London for the wedding of his estranged daughter, Harvey's boss fires him; Harvey's daughter boots him out of the bridal party in favor of her step father and the one Brit  he tries to pick up at an airport bar (Emma Thompson) tells him to go get stuffed. A great dateflick for grownups.

made of honor

Made of Honor was a lamb led to slaughter (it open against Iron Man) -- meaning this is where the girls with extraordinary power over their men (or those with no men at all) went for two extra hours of McDreamy on the big screen. I think I got that "McDreamy" thing right but heck if I know. I do know that the pitch for this film -- head over heels in love guy loses to a rival and winds up as his gal's "maid of honor" as a sort of consolation --  is the dumbest thing I'd heard in years. 'twas no surprise that the film tanked.

mad money

Mad Money stars Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes as ex-middle class types whose economic turn for the worse forces them back into the workforce as janitor level workers at the Kansas City Federal Reserve. There they  figure that 'marked for destruction' US currency  is really just being thrown out so . . . finders keepers let's spend it all, okay? A truly despicable story idea is made more than watchable (and downright enjoyable) by an over-the-top perf by Ms. Keaton. Her character is about as close to maniacal/ insane as you can get, but the logic of her criminal activities makes perfect sense. Sorta Kinda. Ted Danson is a grounding element (as Keaton's hubbie) and, based on our past gut reactions, this is going to be a great rental 6 months from now.

 married life

Married Life stars Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Pierce Brosnan in a story set in the 1950s when all people were WASPs whose marriages last forever (or whose extramarital affairs were conducted oh so discreetly..) and suburbia is king. So what happens when long time stable marriages hit the rsocks? Why hubbie just knows that his beloved will never be able to live without him so he plans her murder!! We can see how this could've been major drama in the 1950s but the culture has changed so radically that clever twists and surprising turns don't pack the "oomph" they would have if they were still relatively new (and not done to death in other films over the last 50 years...)

Max Payne

Max Payne stars Mark Wahlberg as a sullen cop searching for the murderer of his wife and child. Incom-prehensibly adapted and shortened from its video game roots (Marvel fanboys may scream "It's The Punisher!!!" now) only the last 20 minutes of 100 are visually interesting. That's for the stoners who need to do proper math. Everyone else, go elsewhere and avoid this disappointment.

milk

Milk stars Sean Penn as the first openly gay poitico to hold public office. Then, as the first openly gay politico to be shot down dead while serving in a public office. Gay readers may find a lot more in the subtext of this film than we did; short of the end of the year great acting performance (and the usual critical demands for a statue to go with it -- Penn'll get it, too!) Milk has little to offer.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day stars Francis McDormand and Amy Adams, the former a down on her luck governess who sneaks into high society as a social secretary for a perky American actress (Adams) -- the setting is London, 1939 and war is about to come crashing down, y'know. The film looks like the great musicals of the 1930s, lacking only the nonstop song and dance numbers [meaning? our gay friends, may they rest in piece, would have totally adored the film.

mummy

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is the third in the series starring Brendan Fraser. It is the best FX action flick of the summer and could have nailed a flat out best action movie, period, save for a blatant steal from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Incredible negatives from our fanboys followed the screening, but it was nothing compared to ...

nim's island

Nim's Island stars Jodie Foster as an agoraphobic author of kidlet adventure stories who must leave the safety of her townhouse when a fan (Abigail Breslin) begs for help. Said fan lives on a tropical island with a scientist father who vanishes at sea in the midst of a storm and .... ah heck folks, the film almost screams "adapted from a novel written for 11 year old girls". We've seen these before; adults sit in the back row while their kids get to go solo with the friends up front.

other bolewyn girl

The Other Bolewyn Girl stars Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson as sisters whose parents aim them at King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) as prospective bedmates. As enraptured with the story as we are, this version falls flat. A very dull sit.

penelope

Penelope stars Christina Ricci as a cursed young British Lady (whose features are that of a pig) with Catherine O'Hara and Richard E. Grant as the parents searching for her genuine, authentic blue-blood love -- for only he can break the curse. James McAvoy appears as said blue-blood dude with Peter Dinklage as a paparazzi who hounds them all. Reese Witherspoon stars as Penelope's smart-mouthed American best friend. Once you get past an incredibly awkward setup, the film becomes a fairly enjoyable sit. Like most fairy tales, the story is all the fantasy of some depraved writer but this is a good dateflick, skewing to the femme half of those dating couples.

pride glory

Pride and Glory stars Edward Norton and Colin Farrell with Noah Emmerich and Jon Voight. Two brothers and a brother in law, all cops. One good. One bad. One hiding from an bad on-the-job experience. One Father (in-law), Chief of Detectives. One investigation into the on-the-job killing of four other officers. All jammed into two hours. We rarely say it but it's way too much story in way too little time.

quantum of solace

As dull as the title is intriguing, if you haven't seen Casino Royale just before Quantum Of Solace, the new Bondflick in totally and completely incom-prehensible.
What is it we've been saying forever? You shouldn't have to the source material to get the story. This Bond waits for the rental pile. It'll make a good double feature with Casino Royale..

rambo

Rambo stars Sylvester Stallone as a pacifist (!) shuttling missionaries up the river (heh) somewhere between Thailand and Burma. Burma's been in a 60 year civil war and it isn't a safe place. Guess who needs saving? It's not a good movie -- the story is weak, the script is weaker but body parts fly all over the place. Isn't that what you really want? You know it!

Run Fat Boy Run

Run Fat Boy Run stars Simon Pegg as a man who ran from his bride at the altar and now wants her back. But he needs to get back to that sexy shape that won her heart and, gee if there is something funny in this no one at our screening got it either. Thandie Newton co-stars.

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