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December 2009
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
 
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
November 2009
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
 
The End Isn't Quite Soon Enough in 2012

Sure, the disaster movie format provides countless opportunities to show off the latest CGI trickery, and there are a handful of memorable moments in 2012. But certainly not enough to justify the overly long running time.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 13, 2009 |
  • comments
 
By-the-Books Smarts VS Life Experience Debated in An Education

In addition to an old-fashioned love story complete with a gloriously throwback aesthetic, An Education poses the age-old question of which educational experiences are really the most important: what happens in the classroom or in "the real world."

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 11, 2009 |
  • comments
 
"The Box" Appears Sturdy, but Is Empty Inside

Mysterious, intriguing and involving for about 40 minutes, The Box, directed by Richard Kelly and adapted from a short story by Richard Matheson, turns sillier and sillier as it attempts to explain every mystery and answer every question about its premise.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 09, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Technology Shackles the Heart of Disney's A Christmas Carol

In Disney's A Christmas Carol, all viewers are left with is a familiar story with little discernable heartbeat. It seems inventiveness was saved exclusively for the visuals, which are gloriously thrilling at moments and as impersonal as an action sequence from your average video game the next.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 06, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Not Perfect, The Men Who Stare at Goats Still Good for Laughs

Though not perfect, The Men Who Stare At Goats still makes for a good time at the movies. At this time of year when many films are self-important Oscar-baits, it’s refreshing to have one that’s main goal is to simply make us laugh.

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