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October 2009
Michael Jackson's This Is It Proves Entertaining But Not Revelatory

Instead of focusing on Michael Jackson's private life or his particular oddities, This Is It is really all about the music and a farewell tour that'll never see the light of day, a move that ultimately casts Jackson, and his legacy, in a more favorable light.

  • Christa Banister |
  • October 28, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Appealing Aesthetics and Emotional Depth Propel Astro Boy

There's a surprisingly human element woven in with the science of Astro Boy. Not only does the protagonist make many self-sacrificing choices, but his underlying desire to connect with others is something that virtually anyone can relate to.

  • Christa Banister |
  • October 23, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Amelia Chases a Dream in the Clouds

Considering the talent involved, Amelia should have been better. Director Mira Nair's previous film, The Namesake, was both sumptuous and meaningful. Here, Nair has taken on a quintessentially American story, meant to be inspiring but which instead comes across as empty.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • October 23, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Not Just Child's Play in Where the Wild Things Are

Even with two talented writers onboard and a mostly faithful rendering of this seminal coming-of-age story, Where the Wild Things Are is ultimately big on imagination and arresting visuals but seriously slight of script.

  • Christa Banister |
  • October 16, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Truth Feels Contrived in "The Boys Are Back"

It's not impossible for Hollywood to take a true story and do it justice, but it's rare. Some films are able to capture the essence of truth, while most others are just pretenders. Sadly, and despite admirable intentions, The Boys Are Back is the latter.

 
Law Abiding Citizen Hits One of the Year's Low Points

Mixing sexual violence with moments of torture-porn, Law Abiding Citizen is one of the year’s low points at the cinema—an offensive, ugly piece of work that offers no moral nor anything memorable except its sadism.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • October 16, 2009 |
  • comments
 
A Serious Man Struggles with an Inscrutable God

A Serious Man is one of the Coen brothers' finest efforts outside No Country for Old Men, explicitly addressing comparable religious questions and issues but adding a serious dose of their trademark humor. The story keeps viewers chuckling until the film's sudden, ominous conclusion.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • October 12, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Funny Cast Can't Save Couples Retreat from Comedic Doom

For any couple looking for a recession-friendly date night escape, the title of Couples Retreat should be heeded as a warning—with the emphasis on "retreat." Trust me, you'll be glad you saved your hard-earned money.

  • Christa Banister |
  • October 09, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Michael Moore Wants a Divorce from Capitalism

With his latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore has delivered his least convincing, sloppiest work. The holes in his theory about capitalism being "evil" are so gaping that it's difficult to give credence to his more salutary points.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • October 05, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Girl Power Is Alive and Skating in Whip It

Conventional or not, Whip It is still fun to watch, thanks to Drew Barrymore’s surprisingly skilled direction, a killer soundtrack and a winning cast that definitely seems to enjoy throwing themselves into their respective roles.

  • Christa Banister |
  • October 02, 2009 |
  • comments
October 2009
Truth Be Told, The Invention of Lying Is Woefully Misguided

In The Invention of Lying, Ricky Gervais brings to the screen a story with some genuine laugh-out-loud potential. But its sharp, unexpected turn only serves as the actor/director’s personal atheistic soapbox.

  • Christa Banister |
  • October 02, 2009 |
  • comments
 
The Dead Are Lively in Zombieland

Zombieland anchors its energetic, extended road tale with expressions about the need for family and for human relationships built on trust rather than deceit. But make no mistake—the messages about family are secondary to the main event: zombie killing.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • October 02, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Love Burns True in Jane Campion's Bright Star

Jane Campion has made a career off of tortured love stories, yet Bright Star is different (even opposite, and superior). Her past films have been about tortured people who destroy their circumstances. This, conversely, is a bittersweet arc of pure people who are tragically tortured by circumstances.

September 2009
Updated Fame Probably Won't Live Forever in Viewers' Minds

Given our culture's continued obsession with seeing ordinary people "make it big" and “achieve their dreams of stardom," it was only a matter of time before the '80s flick Fame got a modern-day makeover.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 25, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Accept Any and All Substitutes for Surrogates

Rather than develop the more cerebral aspects of the story in the rushed, 88 minutes of Surrogates, director Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3) substitutes action where thoughtful dialogue and exposition would have been more helpful.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • September 25, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Winning Hearts, Not Arguments in "Lord, Save Us from Your Followers"

The brainchild of author-filmmaker Dan Merchant, Lord, Save Us from Your Followers aims to spark conversation about ways to win hearts rather than merely arguments. As believers, we need to step back and listen to how we sound to the rest of the world.

 
Love Happens Routinely Overstates the Obvious

In the same way a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, a movie probably shouldn’t be judged solely by its title. But in the case of Love Happens (starring Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart), trust me, your gut is probably right.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 18, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Damon Weighs in with Great Performance in The Informant!

As whistle-blower Mark Whitacre in The Informant!, Matt Damon is 30 pounds heavier than he was as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, so it's appropriate that The Informant! is a weightier film. But it ain't heavy.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • September 18, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Blindingly Bad Whiteout Is a Blizzard of Balderdash

Kate Beckinsale’s career once looked promising, but her willingness to take paycheck jobs like Whiteout isn’t helping her career. Was she so blinded by the story that she couldn’t see how disastrous the final result would be?

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • September 14, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Apparently 9 Is the Bleakest Number

Considering that an animated account of "the end of the world as we know it" was already done so well and winningly in last year's Wall·E (Pixar), 9 just doesn’t add anything new to the perilous conversation.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 09, 2009 |
  • comments
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