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July 2009
Rockwell's Performance Orbits a Distant Moon

Sam Rockwell has performed well in supporting roles in several powerful dramas recently (Frost/Nixon, Snow Angels), but Moon is his coming-out party—an announcement that he's ready for the big leagues.

 
Childhood Officially Left Behind in Half-Blood Prince

Juxtaposing a far more ominous tone with the clumsy romantic entanglements of its teenage protagonists, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is easily the funniest, darkest and most ambitious film of the successful series.

 
Mind of a Soldier Explored Inside The Hurt Locker

Key to the success of the The Hurt Locker is that its agenda is neither pro-war nor anti-war. Instead, the film is a look at the psychology of the men who go to war, and especially of those who willingly take part in the most dangerous aspects of conflict.

 
People Are Shallow, Observations Are Deep in Cheri

Chéri is a period-piece about shallow, immoral and deceptive people, yet its ultimate observations are deep, its resolution moral, and its strength is in how deceptively it reaches those conclusions.

 
There's Little to Love About Beth Cooper

Unlike '80s movies where the viewer got a real sense of who the geeky guy and his popular-girl crush were and what endeared the unlikely duo to each other, I Love You, Beth Cooper never bothers with those important details.

 
Bruno Goes Where No Comedy Has Gone Before

As with all comedies built on outrageous gags, Brüno goes too far. There are a few laughs along the way, but a larger cost to be paid. One can only imagine what further images will comprise future “outrageous” comedies now that Brüno has lowered the bar.

 
Public Enemies Shoots 'Em Up in Style

Probably one of Hollywood’s greatest chameleons, Johnny Depp forgoes his usual oddball character and fully embraces the role of a real-life criminal, who was something of a folk hero in the Great Depression era, in Public Enemies.

 
Creativity of Ice Age Series Close to Extinction

While the filmmaker’s efforts weren’t a total bust, thanks to colorful animation, some cool CGI effects and a decent accompanying soundtrack, it’s simply not enough to elevate Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs from mediocrity.

June 2009
My Sister's Keeper Explores Life, Death and Moral Dilemma

Filmmakers decided Jodi Picoult’s novel, My Sister’s Keeper, had big-screen potential. They also agreed that the original ending was a little too much. So in a move that’s been widely debated online, the story’s conclusion has been softened a little.

 
Away We Go Makes for a Superficial, Absurd Concoction

Certainly Sam Mendes' direction in Away We Go bears part of the burden of the film's success. And while his guidance is certainly found wanting, the mood Mendes sets largely masks what is a superficial and absurd concoction.

June 2009
Faithful Christian Witness Not Part of Whatever Works

Whatever Works sums up the philosophy of the film’s main character and of director Woody Allen himself. The filmmaker has lived out a no-judgments view of human nature that is reflected in his film scripts and characters.

 
Transformers Sequel Lacks Any Real Human Connection

Just in case you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to watch someone else play videogames for two and a half hours, sitting through Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will definitely satiate your curiosity.

 
Sandra Bullock Should've Rejected This Proposal

While it's been said there aren't nearly enough good parts for women over 40, surely, there's much better material out there than The Proposal. And if not, then maybe all actors should take a hiatus from romantic comedies until Nancy Meyers or Nora Ephron get around to writing something new.

 
Year One Mashes Up Creation, Covenant and Cain and Abel

Year One is not the story of Adam and Eve but of Zed and Oh (Jack Black and Michael Cera, respectively), a primordial tale of male friendship with the requisite fart jokes and sexual boasting that characterizes modern tales in the same genre.

 
Love Doesn't Give Up in Goodbye Solo

Ramin Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo is a simple tale, quietly told, and one of the best films you’ll ever see. While God is never mentioned during its 90-minute run time, it works as an eloquent parable of God’s love for fallen people.

 
Imagine That ... Murphy Makes an Enjoyable Family Film

Eddie Murphy’s previous efforts in family films have left a lot to be desired: stories really worth telling and a heartbeat beyond those gimmicky attempted laughs. Fortunately for Murphy, Imagine That has both in spades.

 
Sub-Par Sub Car Drama in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

The Taking of Pelham 123, a remake of a 1974 film that starred Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, has two solid lead performances from Denzel Washington and John Travolta but suffers from certain excesses common to modern-day action films.

 
Food, Inc. Gives New Meaning to Watching What We Eat

Many squeamish moments aside, Food, Inc. is still a great example of informative, compelling filmmaking, aside from those occasional diversions into boring pie chart territory à la An Inconvenient Truth.

 
Land of the Lost Should've Stayed Lost

Unlike the smart writing and savvy direction of Star Trek, Land of the Lost only has Will Ferrell's over-the-top attempts to deliver the funny. And when some of the movie’s biggest laughs involve Matt Lauer, you know you're in trouble. Deep trouble.

 
The Hangover Hits Bottom for Laughs

The Hangover continues the trend toward outrageous, raunchy R-rated comedies. That domain, dominated by writer/director Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin), can make room for director Todd Phillips among its list of big names.

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