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Perils of Adolescence Brought Memorably to Life in Let Me In

Director Matt Reeves has taken the original Swedish film, Let the Right One In, moved the setting to 1983 New Mexico, and has crafted a beautifully realized film about the uncertainties and loneliness of adolescence. It also explicitly raises the idea that evil is quite real—although not always in the places we might think.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • February 01, 2011 |
  • comments
Monsters Stresses Somber Over Scary

Although it could have resulted in a unique hybrid of different styles, Monsters is unique more for its failure to generate any well-earned emotions—or thrills. Better to rent District 9, Cloverfield or The Host, which work much better on their own terms, than to try to make do with this.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • February 01, 2011 |
  • comments
Family-Friendly Secretariat a Safe Yet Ineffectual Film

Secretariat is a quintessential family film in this respect: there's nothing to complain about and nothing to rave about. It's safe, conventional, professional; an old-fashioned movie made up of warm fuzzies. In short, Secretariat is as inoffensive as it is ineffectual.

Action Movies Get Better with Age in Red

Like this past summer's surprise hit The Expendables, the bulk of Red's cast may qualify for AARP card-carrying status—Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, etc. But it's a serious mistake to underestimate their strength.

  • Christa Banister |
  • January 25, 2011 |
  • comments
Stone Stumbles in Balancing Moral Questions

Stone is about religion and Christianity on one level, but it's not entirely satisfying on those subjects, nor is it particularly revelatory. The best that can be said is that it raises some intriguing ideas about the nature of faith and our ability (or lack thereof) to do good in the world.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • January 18, 2011 |
  • comments
Thought-Provoking Freakonomics Handles the "Truth"

Unlike many documentaries, Freakonomics is not dry or academic. The multiple directors, each of whom was assigned different segments of the film, often handle the material with humorous scripting and entertaining re-enactments of true-life events.

True Connection or False Validation is The Social Network's Question

The Social Network asks a broader question of us about the Web site Mark Zuckerberg founded: does Facebook offer true connection or false validation? The answer lies, as with all things, not in the amoral device being used but rather in the souls that use it.

Alpha and Omega is a Howl and a Miss

Alpha and Omega doesn't bother scraping the bottom of the barrel for cheap laughs. But even with a healthy dose of aw-shucks charm, this road-trip romance still lacks the warmth and sophistication, not to mention those essential eye-popping visuals, of its recent animated counterparts Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me.

  • Christa Banister |
  • January 11, 2011 |
  • comments
Sexual Jokes Coarsen Dinner for Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks, a remake of the French farce The Dinner Game, expands on the original in many ways that improve the story, but it adds a heavy dose of sexual content that prevents the film from being easily recommendable.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • January 04, 2011 |
  • comments
Circumstance, Psychology Build Tension in The American

Director Anton Corbijn creates a moody but minimalist atmosphere in The American. The camera is mostly static, music scarcely heard, and shots linger. While thrillers usually depend on opposite tactics to set the tone, Corbijn strips those away—instead allowing circumstance and psychology alone to create confusion and build tension.

Bets Are Hedged with a Kinder, Gentler Gekko in Wall Street Sequel

Purely as escapist entertainment, this film is far from boring. But the lack of insight, not to mention the kinder, gentler Gordon Gekko who emerges certainly makes you miss the era of greed being good—which isn't the conclusion the filmmakers were probably hoping for.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 21, 2010 |
  • comments
Christian Themes Deliver Devil 

A good horror movie is hard to find. A good horror movie full of Christian themes and spiritual teachings that validate the reality of God is virtually non-existent—and yet this is precisely what audiences get with Devil, conceived and written by M. Night Shyamalan.

Despicable Me Doesn't Distinguish Itself From Better Alternatives

Despicable Me bears some resemblance to Pixar's The Incredibles and has some of the irreverence of the Shrek series, but feels more like a missed opportunity than a home run.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 14, 2010 |
  • comments
Good Lessons Learned in Nanny McPhee Returns

Nanny McPhee Returns is a pure delight from beginning to end. It's packed with uplifting wit, nice plot twists, and a thought-provoking storyline that's bound to bring out the best in both adults and kids. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say it borders on inspiring.

Ferrell's Just Coasting in an Uninspired Other Guys

For anyone who loves Will Ferrell's brand of absurd man-child humor, you get more of that in The Other Guys—but only in fits and starts. If his early films felt consistently inspired, this one follows the trend of feeling more like a work-for-hire. Ferrell's just coasting here, as is the whole movie.

Not Stimulating, The A-Team Still Gets a "B"

No, The A-Team is not a mentally stimulating movie, nor is it particularly creative, artistic, or complicated. Sure, the characters are one-dimensional, the story's been done, and the plot twists are predictable. But who cares? It's fun.

Creepy Comedy, Heartfelt Emotion Don't Fully Mix in Cyrus

Cyrus is a peculiar mixed bag. To say it's a complete failure would be unfairly reductive, though it doesn't fully succeed either. There's something very interesting going on here that can't be denied, yet neither can the sense that it fails to form into a complete whole.

Not Quite Dreamy, Inception Gets an 'A' for Effort

Inception, the new film from director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento) is complex, and its story about exploiting the dreams of others has rewards for those who can follow its story across multiple levels. But ultimately, it doesn't quite coalesce.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 07, 2010 |
  • comments
It's a Wonderful Life in the Final Shrek

Shrek Forever After is a fun riff on It's a Wonderful Life. The film moves along at a nice clip, without straining for the rapid-fire pop-culture jokes that make so many Dreamworks animated films insubstantial.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 07, 2010 |
  • comments
No Depth of Action-Flick Flavor in Salt

The standard Angelina Jolie summer action flick is a generic retread of better work from waning genres, and Salt is no different. This Manchurian Candidate meets The Fugitive isn't so much a throwback to a Cold War thriller as it is a relic.

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