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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.

Hedonism Is the Answer in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen’s world—both private and professional—has always been a weird one. In his latest film, which showcases his newest “muse,” Scarlett Johansson, he serves up his nihilistic worldview. Here, he tells us, hedonism is the answer.

  • Annabelle Robertson |
  • February 05, 2009 |
  • comments
Bees Undercuts Complexity with Contrived Melodrama

The Secret Life of Bees is just the sort of serious/feel-good/weeper chick flick you’d expect it to be. It’s not a bad film, necessarily, but it falls short by emotionally pandering to its core audience rather than reaching beyond it.

Nick and Norah Offers Charming Cast but Weak Story

Michael Cera’s latest role as the Nick of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, floats across the screen like it was written just for him—showcasing his unpretentious charm and carrying an otherwise forgettable movie.

  • Stephen McGarvey |
  • February 03, 2009 |
  • comments
Earnest Fireproof Could Use More Spark

For a film that shows characters making so many honorable decisions, Fireproof is simply no more exciting than an episode of Seventh Heaven. It's hard to say whether the importance of the film's message outweighs the lackluster filmmaking. That is for viewers to decide.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • January 27, 2009 |
  • comments
Pride and Glory Follows a Familiar Family Plot

Men in blue have hearts of black in Gavin O’Connor’s Pride and Glory, a dark film about dirty cops and one man who fights the system—and his family—to break the stranglehold of corruption on the New York Police Department.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • January 27, 2009 |
  • comments
Max Payne Makes the Leap from Game to Screen

Starring Mark Wahlberg and based on the popular video game, Max Payne carries all the usual limitations of an adaptation from game to screen—namely, a weak script and over-the-top situations that have little to do with reality.

  • Annabelle Robertston |
  • January 26, 2009 |
  • comments
Classes, Ideologies Clash in Brideshead Revisited

In this big screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel, England’s middle class clashes with the upper class, atheism with Catholicism and sexual tensions prevail. Fans of period pieces will be delighted at the magnificent sets, as well as the costumes.

  • Annabelle Robertson |
  • January 22, 2009 |
  • comments
Cook's Antics Prove Shocking in My Best Friend's Girl

Dane Cook fans will enjoy watching their favorite stand-up comic at the top of his game. He’s rude, crude and socially unacceptable. But even those used to Cook are likely to find themselves taken back by his shocking antics in My Best Friend’s Girl.

  • Annabelle Robertson |
  • January 22, 2009 |
  • comments
As an Apocalyptic Adventure, City of Ember Shines Bright

Keeping the pace fast, City of Ember plays out like The Goonies meets National Treasure with a twinge of science fiction. The constant twists and turns of the plot, and its inevitable intrigue, will easily hold your attention for an hour.

  • Christa Banister |
  • January 20, 2009 |
  • comments
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