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Seven Pounds Weighs Heavily in Muck of Manipulations

In Seven Pounds, themes of integrity, sacrifice and redemption are worthy ones, but they’re explored in a truly weird mix of sentimentality and despair—afraid to challenge its audience or itself, languishing in an ever-increasing muck of manipulations.

Complex Story Drives a Spectacular Quantum of Solace

In Quantum of Solace, the complex story is the driving force, especially in the final act when the plot machine takes over so completely that characters become little more than cogs in the wheel—but oh, what a spectacular wheel it is.

Bolt Has Plenty of Bark and Comedic Bite

Bolt is probably the best-looking Disney movie in a good long while. Crafted in gorgeous 3-D splendor, it’s a feast for the eyes complete with lavish attention to detail. And the engagingly drawn leads are only further enhanced with stellar vocal talent.

Boy in the Striped Pajamas Offers an Unusual Perspective

With so much already known about the Holocaust, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ unusual perspective must have seemed like a fresh take on history. But in the end it comes across as misconceived, despite the film’s strengths.

Whimsical Happy-Go-Lucky a Breath of Fresh Air

Everyone needs a Poppy. She is the personification of Happy-Go-Lucky, a breath-of-fresh-air kind of movie that is sure to do more than put smiles on peoples faces (though it will) and actually lift their tired, world-weary spirits.

Intense Familial Conflict Portrayed in Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married's title is vaguely misleading, and its ads are borderline deceptive. Based on those alone, one might assume this is a feel-good dramedy with an indie vibe. It’s not and is one of the most intense depictions of familial conflict since Ordinary People.

Kaufman's Earlier Flair Missing from Synecdoche, New York

Charlie Kaufman has won praise as an innovative screenwriter for movies that took insightful looks into human nature without sacrificing the story. Now, marking the first time he’s directing his own screenplay, Synecdoche, New York, is missing the resonance of his earlier work.

Cadillac Records Is a Bumpy but Satisfying Ride

Soul-stirring performances, a fantastic musical score and an intriguing story of breaking boundaries—racially and otherwise—elevate Cadillac Records, even it’s technically just another biopic.

There's Boredom Down Under in Australia

Moments of broad humor and Baz Luhrmann’s directorial flourishes add spice to the early stretch of this otherwise bland muddle of a movie, but it doesn’t take too long to recognize that Australia is an overstuffed Thanksgiving turkey.

Laugh Level Goes Down and Out in Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Those who are looking for mainly inoffensive entertainment, and don’t mind weak attempts at humor, may enjoy Beverly Hills Chihuahua. But those looking for something better than a retread of themes from better films are advised to stay away.

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People Lacks Punch

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People is based on a memoir detailing a young Vanity Fair writer’s transformation from snarky to sycophant. On-screen, however, the material has been dumbed down to a slapstick comedy/rom com without any punch.

  • Annabelle Robertson |
  • February 20, 2009 |
  • comments
Only Good, Clean Fun in High School Musical 3

Disney’s High School Musical franchise graduates from TV to the big screen for its third installment, and the result is an infectious family film that will satisfy younger viewers and won’t alienate their parents. In short, it is a lot of fun—good, clean fun.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • February 17, 2009 |
  • comments
Hope and Love Drive a Mother’s Search in Changeling

Praise for Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of a working-class mother in 1928 is justified. But it is just one element of Changeling that features lush cinematography, strong performances and potent Christian themes.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • February 17, 2009 |
  • comments
Body of Lies Captures Shifting Alliances of a Long War

Body of Lies is not up to Ridley Scott’s best work, but the performances—especially from Leonardo DiCaprio—are strong. The result is a film that seriously examines U.S. foreign policy while still managing to entertain.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • February 17, 2009 |
  • comments
Feel-Good Flash of Genius Has Few Moments of Brilliance

Even with a compelling backdrop and a strong performance from Greg Kinnear, languid pacing and unimaginative, heavy-handed presentation prevent Flash of Genius from being anything more than a flash in the pan.

  • Christa Banister |
  • February 17, 2009 |
  • comments
Frozen River Offers Slice of Working-Poor Life

Writer/director Courtney Hunt’s feature debut is surprisingly savvy and sophisticated, which is no doubt why it took home the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. Hunt shows us a slice of working-poor life, along with the tenuous relations between Native Americans and the rest of us.

  • Annabelle Robertson |
  • February 16, 2009 |
  • comments
Stone's W. Neglects Key Elements of Bush Biography

Oliver Stone has now turned his attention to George W. Bush in W., written well before the completion of his second term and rushed into release before the end of his time in office. The perils of such an approach are evident in this entertaining but unresolved account of Bush's life and presidency.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • February 10, 2009 |
  • comments
Unfocused Miracle at St. Anna Misses the Target

Clocking in at 160 minutes, Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna wants to be so many things—a rewriting of history, a war movie, a murder mystery, even a heartstrings-tugging melodrama—that it doesn’t do anything particularly well.

  • Christa Banister |
  • February 10, 2009 |
  • comments
Slow-Moving Rodanthe Doesn't Defy Expectations

Like 2004’s The Notebook, an adaptation of author Nicholas Sparks’ best-selling book, Nights in Rodanthe is a tearjerker. But unlike its predecessor, this film labors under a plodding pace and melodramatic, made-for-TV storyline.

  • Christa Banister |
  • February 10, 2009 |
  • comments
Offensive, Insulting Blindness Better Left Unseen

Blindness is the type of odious filmmaking that drives people who dare give it a shot right back to the refuge of mindless blockbusters. But films on the opposite end of the spectrum—like Blindness—are equally responsible.

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