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October 2009
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
 
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
September 2009
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
 
All About Steve Can Be Summed Up in Three Letters: B-A-D

If you can overlook the lowbrow attempts for a laugh, there’s a very good message hidden deep, deep down in the very bad comedy of All About Steve. Unfortunately, 98 minutes is far too long to waste trying to find it.

  • Christa Banister |
  • September 04, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Workplace Comedy Extract Labors for Laughs

Extract is better than some of the coarse R-rated comedies this year, but it's also surprisingly insubstantial given its moral content. The film does offer a few mild laughs, but the potentially offensive material is abundant throughout.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • September 04, 2009 |
  • comments
August 2009
Final Destination Characters Meet Eye-Popping Endings

The Final Destination is the fourth film in the horror franchise about people who try to cheat death, but it's the first installment filmed using Real-D 3D technology. The three-dimensional presentation takes the decimation, decapitation and disgust to depressing levels.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • August 31, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Not Much Story to Tell in Taking Woodstock

By the end of Taking Woodstock, despite some worthy craftsmanship, this look at how Woodstock came to be actually has the inverse effect of its likely intent: less historically significant without much of a story to tell.

 
Formulaic Adam Offers Few Surprises

Formulaic to a fault, indie-romance Adam is clearly headed in one direction. It over-dramatizes milquetoast conflicts while offering up almost zero surprises en route to a predictable conclusion. Well, until a complete U-turn at the end.

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