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October 2010
Waiting for "Superman" Explores How to Save Public Education

Whether or not viewers wholeheartedly agree with how documentarian Davis Guggenheim actually goes about proving his thesis, Waiting for "Superman" is still an important and compelling look at the current state of public education—unsightly warts and all.

  • Christa Banister |
  • October 04, 2010 |
  • 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.

September 2010
Despite Weak Comedy, You Again Still Has Some Heart

If you've never seen a romantic comedy, or a story about old rivalries rekindled, then you might—just might—find You Again tolerable, even enjoyable. It's well performed by a game cast that tries to make the most of a limp screenplay that's virtually free of surprises.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • September 27, 2010 |
  • comments
 
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 |
  • September 24, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Compressed Story Clips Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

In tying together multiple books, director Zack Snyder and screenwriters John Orloff and Emil Stern pack in too much and too little—too many characters in a plot that tries to cover too much ground for its 90-minute running time, leaving its characters and ideas underdeveloped.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • September 24, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Staying in the Box is What Makes Buried Effective

A heavy wooden coffin is where all of Buried takes place. Thanks to a seemingly never-ending supply of tight camera shots and rather limited lighting in those incredibly close quarters, the audience can't help feeling equally claustrophobic while tuning in.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 24, 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.

  • Richard Abanes |
  • September 20, 2010 |
  • comments
 
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 |
  • September 17, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Ben Affleck Pulls Triple Duty with Aplomb in The Town

With The Town, Ben Affleck gets ambitious serving as the film's director, co-writer and star. For the most part, he pulls off his duties with aplomb. And like his directorial debut (Gone Baby Gone), this is a multi-layered, unsettling morality tale where drugs and four-letter words are used in abundance.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 17, 2010 |
  • comments
September 2010
Resident Evil: Afterlife Destined for Quick Video 'Afterlife'

It's hard to imagine this Resident Evil chapter expanding the franchise's audience. The film should have a brief theatrical run before finding its "afterlife" on home video, where its loyal audience can watch it over and over again. For everyone else, once will be quite enough.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • September 13, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Seriously Consider an Exit Strategy Before Going the Distance

In an effort to defy conventional romantic comedy, the screenwriter of Going the Distance took an intriguing premise—how does a long-distance couple actually make it work?—and immediately shot it in the foot with a bazooka.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 03, 2010 |
  • 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.

  • Jeffrey Huston |
  • September 01, 2010 |
  • comments
August 2010
Nostalgic Flipped Plods through Tale of First Love

When there's been nothing more than mindless popcorn flicks at a theater near you this summer, you can't help but want to root for a seemingly charming little movie like Flipped. But when the end product is little more than a plodding slice of nostalgia, you simply want something more.

 
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.

 
Sweet and Sour Mix in The Switch

This is a comedy about bodily fluids, with a few funny moments that unfold during the switch that give the film its title. But this is also a character-driven comedy about a man's slow awakening to the possibility that he's found someone he can spend his life with, and a responsibility to someone other than himself.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • August 20, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Uplifting Get Low Gets High Marks

An uplifting story of guilt, repentance and reconciliation, Get Low is a low-key work that is profound in its simplicity.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • August 16, 2010 |
  • comments
 
Journey Leads to Selfish Awakening in Eat Pray Love

That we are to be moved by the big-screen version of Elizabeth Gilbert's yearlong journey of self-discovery in Eat Pray Love is absurd. That the memoir on which it's based (and is reverent to) has become a phenomenon is downright disturbing.

 
Testosterone-Fueled Expendables is One Lame Throwback

Like watching Simon LeBon attempting to bust a move while singing "Hungry Like the Wolf" during a Duran Duran reunion tour, you can't stop wondering why 64-year-old Sylvester Stallone, who wrote, directed and stars in The Expendables, simply didn't quit while he was ahead.

 
Storytelling Slacks in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Gamers will understand the structure and hodgepodge approach to storytelling in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World—or so I'm told—but the rest of us, who demand a smidgeon of narrative and stylistic consistency, will wonder what this film has wrought.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • August 13, 2010 |
  • comments
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