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December 2009
Meryl Streep Shines Once Again in It's Complicated

Between serving up a pitch-perfect portrayal of Julia Child in this summer's Julie & Julia, voicing George Clooney's wife in Fantastic Mr. Fox and proving that 50 is apparently the new 30 in the saucy rom-com It's Complicated, it's been another dazzling year in cinema for the Oscar winner.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 25, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Watson Keeps Entertaining Sherlock Holmes Chugging Along

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective has been reinvented for the Jason Bourne age. Adding to the brawn and brains is a dash of romance. But the main chemistry is between Holmes and Dr. Watson, a sidekick who just can't kick the habit of helping Holmes solve another case.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 25, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Songs, Silliness and Greater Stakes Characterize The Chipmunks' Squeakquel

Even with pop music at the center of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, the filmmakers behind the second big-screen installment of Alvin and the Chipmunks kept the cultural references to a minimum and chose to make a family flick that's really all about the kids.

  • Christa A. Banister |
  • December 22, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Witless Morgans Aren't Really Worth Hearing About

In yet another instance where a trailer doesn't remotely match the tone of the actual film, (yes, the only funny bits were there, but the end product is far more dramatic), Did You Hear About the Morgans? is a surprisingly flat rom-com that doesn't make the most of its cast.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 21, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Otherworldly Avatar Familiar in the Worst Way

The intense publicity, as well as several ecstatic early reviews, have set the bar very high. But Avatar doesn't come anywhere near clearing that bar—not in the performances, not in the lavish visuals and certainly not in the film's entirely derivative storytelling.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 18, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Stars May Shine, But Nine Still Suffers from Sensory Overload

Even with five Oscar-winning actresses delivering fantastic performances without really having that much to work with, the screen adaptation of Broadway musical Nine may have the star wattage but ultimately does little in the way of actually illuminating the audience.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 18, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Costumes, Art Direction Trump Performances in The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria is not the best film currently playing, or even a particularly good one, because the story has a split personality. But some beautiful interior shots and costuming compensate somewhat for this period piece's identity crisis.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 18, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Some of the Old Disney Magic Exists in The Princess and the Frog

Disney gets nostalgic and tries capitalizing on everything that's worked so well in the past, while taking advantage of new technology. Not only are there plenty of show-stopping musical numbers, but the colorful, hand-drawn animation has never been more spectacular.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 11, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Invictus Invokes No Passion

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Invictus is the story of South Africa's political transformation in the late twentieth century and the role its rugby team played in bridging the racial divide. How could it go wrong? By not generating the requisite momentum for a triumphant story about cultural and ethnic identity.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 11, 2009 |
  • comments
 
The Messenger Delivers Outstanding Performances

If I had a vote, The Messenger would be one of the 10 Oscar Award nominees for "Best Picture," and Ben Foster, Samantha Morton and Woody Harrelson would all receive acting nominations. It should not be missed and is that good. Seek it out.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 07, 2009 |
  • comments
December 2009
Heart, Humor and a Timely Launching Pad Elevate Up in the Air

With director Jason Reitman's trademark satirical bite, plenty of romantic turbulence and great starring turns from leads George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Twilight's Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air tugs at your emotions one moment and has you laughing out loud the next.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 04, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Family Drama Lacks Emotional Gravitas in Everybody's Fine

There's nothing like the holidays to remind everyone about what's really important in life. But sometimes the delivery of a valuable message about the importance of family simply gets lost in translation, which is exactly what happens in the ho-hum dramedy Everybody's Fine.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 04, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Brothers Buries Its Most Interesting Themes

Just in time for Christmas—and for President Barack Obama's newly announced strategy for the war in Afghanistan—comes Brothers, director Jim Sheridan's (In America) remake of a Danish drama about sibling and generational conflict among one military family.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 04, 2009 |
  • comments
November 2009
Apocalyptic Road Winds to a Hopeful Place

The movie version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a story of a father and son trying to survive after an apocalyptic event. Although God is discussed, he is never embraced, yet The Road shows the importance of the power of hope to overcome bitterness and cynicism.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 25, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Old Dogs Could've Used a Few New Tricks

Old Dogs could've used a few new tricks, namely a stronger, less-schmaltzy script, a more convincing friendship between protagonists played by John Travolta and Robin Williams, and well, a few more laughs that don't involve bodily functions.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 25, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Quirky Fantastic Mr. Fox Lives Up to Its Title

It's nearly impossible to overstate how wonderful this movie is. Living up to its title as well as any film of recent memory, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox is a whirlwind of madcap humor, surprising emotion and true artistry.

 
Action and Heartbreak the Focal Point of New Moon

With a strikingly different tone than its swoony, spooky counterpart, New Moon actually answers the age-old question that most romantic comedy scripts never have the opportunity to: What happens after the girl actually lands the man of her dreams?

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 20, 2009 |
  • comments
 
The Blind Side Shows Faith in Action

After burnishing her star power with the summer hit The Proposal, Sandra Bullock embodies Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side and, in the process, creates one of the year’s more memorable characters. And she’s no fictional creation.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 20, 2009 |
  • comments
 
So-So Planet 51 Gets a Boost from Much Better Movies

While recycling old ideas was basically status quo, surprisingly enough, borrowing from other otherworldly space-age flicks including Stars Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and Alien actually elevates Planet 51’s overall enjoyment factor.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 20, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Poverty, Abuse and Hope Unflinchingly Portrayed in Precious

Not only are there Oscar-worthy performances here from newcomer Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique, who is, hands down, one of the scariest villains since Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, but director Lee Daniels gets the story just right by not shying away from the ugly truth of poverty, illiteracy and abuse.

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