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The Hangover Hits Bottom for Laughs

The Hangover continues the trend toward outrageous, raunchy R-rated comedies. That domain, dominated by writer/director Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin), can make room for director Todd Phillips among its list of big names.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 15, 2009 |
  • comments
Quentin Tarantino's Latest a Mostly Self-Indulgent Battle

Proving he's far more blood-thirsty than any of the vampires wholeheartedly embraced by pop culture these days, famed director Quentin Tarantino leaves no opportunity for over-the-top, gratuitous violence unturned in his latest work, Inglourious B*sterds.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 15, 2009 |
  • comments
Not Much Story to Tell in Taking Woodstock

By the end of Taking Woodstock, despite some worthy craftsmanship, this look at how Woodstock came to be actually has the inverse effect of its likely intent: less historically significant without much of a story to tell.

Childhood Officially Left Behind in Half-Blood Prince

Juxtaposing a far more ominous tone with the clumsy romantic entanglements of its teenage protagonists, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is easily the funniest, darkest and most ambitious film of the successful series.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 08, 2009 |
  • comments
Julie & Julia Serves Up a Delicious Comedic Diversion

In addition to fantastic acting from all of the leads (Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci), the skillful direction and winning screenplay from Nora Ephron help seal the winsome appeal of Julie & Julia.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 08, 2009 |
  • comments
Public Enemies Shoots 'Em Up in Style

Probably one of Hollywood’s greatest chameleons, Johnny Depp forgoes his usual oddball character and fully embraces the role of a real-life criminal, who was something of a folk hero in the Great Depression era, in Public Enemies.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 08, 2009 |
  • comments
Visually Dazzling Ponyo Worth a Peek

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, Ponyo also includes some distinctive, dazzling visuals—a trademark of director Hiyao Miyazaki—but its magical moments don't overcome its weaknesses in storytelling.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 08, 2009 |
  • comments
More Zany Adventures on Display in Museum Sequel

Can lightning strike twice in the same place? It can if you switch locations and seriously revamp the storyline, which is exactly what the filmmakers smartly did this time around in the sequel, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 01, 2009 |
  • comments
No Salvation for Fourth Terminator Installment

This latest Terminator is full of action-movie clichés—acceptable by action-movie sequel standards—but it's a hollow, mechanical film that advances a story without expanding the underlying themes in any significant way.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 01, 2009 |
  • comments
For Funnyman Michael Jr., Comedy is Serious Business

Michael Jr. does what few others can—be featured on The Tonight Show one night and then take his stand-up routine to a church the next. Wherever he steps up to the microphone, audiences agree Michael Jr. knows what it takes to keep it clean while keeping the crowd in stitches.

Angels & Demons Is Not the Movie You Think

On film, Angels & Demons is rewritten to follow the events of The Da Vinci Code. And so Christians are perhaps not unjustified in expecting this prequel/sequel to deal with our faith in a heavy-handed fashion. But it does not.

  • Stephen McGarvey |
  • November 24, 2009 |
  • comments
Crude Humor Drags Down Funny People

Funny People, the latest Judd Apatow shock comedy, doesn’t have enough of a positive message to overcome its stream of bawdy stand-up comedy and profanity-laced script. Additionally, the film’s excessive length only magnifies its negative elements.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 24, 2009 |
  • comments
Family Dysfunction Takes Center Stage in Four Christmases

Four Christmases seems to have all the right ingredients to be fun, ‘tis-the-season escapist entertainment. Yet for all the effort the protagonists make to be likeable and the carefully-staged gags, the movie still falls horribly flat.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 24, 2009 |
  • comments
Shorts Packs Several Tall Tales into One

While its charms may be fewer for anyone over the age of 10, Shorts is an eccentric, time-jumping adventure that merges comedy, sci-fi and a short treatise on the dangers of too much technology into one mostly family-friendly movie.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 24, 2009 |
  • comments
Star Trek Goes Back to the Future

A favorite sci-fi franchise is reborn with Star Trek, director J.J. Abrams' take on the early days of James T. Kirk, Spock and the other well-known crew members aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. The film’s fresh approach to the well-worn franchise takes viewers back to the origins of the crew's beloved characters.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 17, 2009 |
  • comments
My Sister's Keeper Explores Life, Death and Moral Dilemma

Filmmakers decided Jodi Picoult’s novel, My Sister’s Keeper, had big-screen potential. They also agreed that the original ending was a little too much. So in a move that’s been widely debated online, the story’s conclusion has been softened a little.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 17, 2009 |
  • comments
Bruno Goes Where No Comedy Has Gone Before

As with all comedies built on outrageous gags, Brüno goes too far. There are a few laughs along the way, but a larger cost to be paid. One can only imagine what further images will comprise future “outrageous” comedies now that Brüno has lowered the bar.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 17, 2009 |
  • comments
Pixar's Up Soars with Emotional Depth

Much like the trailer for Marley & Me, which was all doggie cuteness without any indication of the sadness waiting in the wings, there’s so much more to Up than balloons and barbs traded between an over-eager boy scout and a grumpy old man.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 10, 2009 |
  • comments
Crass Over Class Prevails in a Charmless Ugly Truth

What prevents The Ugly Truth from contributing anything worthwhile to the rom-com genre is its sheer absurdity. Not only does the dialogue—and attempts at humor—scrape the bottom of the barrel morally, but there aren’t even 10 seconds of this forgettable movie that are believable.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 10, 2009 |
  • comments
G.I. Joe Rolls Snake Eyes

G.I. Joe's reported $175 million budget can be seen up on the screen, as some of the film's special effects are effectively eye-catching. But viewers are left with a story that feels half-formed at best. Apparently not much of that $175 million went to the screenwriters.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 03, 2009 |
  • comments
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