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January 2009
Adoption-Oriented Hotel for Dogs Worth Checking Into

While not as funny as Bolt, Hotel for Dogs is ultimately more substantial than Beverly Hills Chihuahua and doesn't require Kleenex like Marley & Me. That should please parents, while kids get another helping of delightful doggie antics.

  • Christa Banister |
  • January 16, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Zwick's Defiance Reduces Life's Horrors

Edward Zwick’s films feel like they’re more interested in making $100 million than anything else. Defiance is no different as it reduces life’s horrors to genre elements, taking it as an opportunity to shoot bad guys and blow things up real good.

 
James' Comedic Talents Showcased in Paul Blart

Kevin James can take the most standard comic scenarios and spin them into comedy. He can make anything funny and anyone laugh—and he does just that in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, one of the best of its kind since Tommy Boy.

 
"Che" Has Fighting Spirit, But Is That Enough?

A work of rigor and discipline, Che stands as a major achievement from a very talented filmmaker—not a traditional Hollywood entertainment or biopic, but a film that captures a revolutionary spirit far better than it does the essence of any one man.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • January 16, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Liberalism Gets the Laughs in An American Carol

If you've ever rolled your eyes at movies like Farenheit 9-11 or felt frustrated by a liberal’s comparison between evangelical missionaries and suicide bombers, you’ll definitely appreciate An American Carol.

  • Annabelle Robertson |
  • January 15, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Don't Bother RSVPing for Bride Wars

Not only is every stereotype about women and weddings acted out in the course of 90 very long minutes of Bride Wars, but the main characters are about as likeable as leftover fruitcake long after the holidays have passed.

  • Christa Banister |
  • January 09, 2009 |
  • comments
 
Explicit "Reader" Is an Emotionless Affair

The Reader may be a well-regarded novel that gained popularity as an "Oprah’s Book Club" selection, but this film adaptation is exploitative and ineffective. Its focus on sexual intimacy between a teenager and a much older woman is made without apology.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • January 09, 2009 |
  • comments
December 2008
Revolutionary Road Kicks the American Dream to the Curb

Revolutionary Road juxtaposes the idyllic image of the American Dream with the deterioration of a marriage that has become a nightmare—via an ironic casting reunion of Titanic stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

 
Audience's Emotions Are on the Leash in Marley & Me

Don’t be fooled by the trailers that make this out to be some lighthearted tale. Anyone who has read the book that inspired the movie already knows that this broadly funny story of puppy love is destined for major tearjerker territory.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 25, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Tired Formula Gives Gran Torino Some Mileage

Clint Eastwood’s performance as Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino is the film’s highlight—an update on the tough-guy persona he perfected as “Dirty Harry” Callahan. He clings to his older ways in a neighborhood that has changed significantly.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 25, 2008 |
  • comments
December 2008
Bedtime Stories Reveals a Softer Side of Adam Sandler

Now that Adam Sandler has a couple of daughters of his own, he wanted to make a movie that kids could safely enjoy. And from both a moral and artistic level, he’s mostly succeeded with the imaginative Bedtime Stories.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 24, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Benjamin Button Is Curiously Short on Life Lessons

Always lovely to look at, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button from director David Fincher, written by Eric Roth, provides so many captivating images that it takes a while for viewers to discover how little the film has to say.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 24, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Seven Pounds Weighs Heavily in Muck of Manipulations

In Seven Pounds, themes of integrity, sacrifice and redemption are worthy ones, but they’re explored in a truly weird mix of sentimentality and despair—afraid to challenge its audience or itself, languishing in an ever-increasing muck of manipulations.

 
Strong Themes Save The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux is fitfully delightful, and should satisfy most audiences. It’s not a perfect movie, and it departs from Kate DiCamillo’s book in some important ways. But overall, the story’s power translates well enough to be recommended.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 19, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Yes Man Is the Perfect Channel for Carrey’s Wackiness

Longtime fans of Jim Carrey’s comedic charms will be ecstatic about the holiday arrival of Yes Man, a flick that’s more of a thinly veiled morality tale like Liar Liar than say, Ace Ventura or Dumb and Dumber.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 19, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Powerhouse Wrestler Is Mickey Rourke's Finest Hour

In The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke plays Randy “the Ram” Robinson, a professional wrestler who can’t function outside the ring. Past his prime physically, Robinson still performs regularly but struggles to make enough to pay the rent on his mobile home.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 17, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Cool Special FX Can't Save The Day the Earth Stood Still

While some movies have benefited immensely from a modern-day makeover, filmmakers still would be wise to leave a few originals alone—especially if it happens to be a science-fiction classic like 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 12, 2008 |
  • comments
 
No Doubt, Streep and Hoffman Are at the Top of Their Games

Meryl Streep dominates in another remarkably precise performance in Doubt. As Sister Alouysis, she is helping to preserve her school and church against a tide of change she finds unsettling. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Flynn is her acting equal.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 12, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Milk Promotes Agenda, Provides Food for Thought

Based on the career of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office, Milk’s divergence from an evangelical worldview doesn’t make it completely void of merit. It can provide food-for-thought to the contemplative Christian who is willing to watch and listen even while disagreeing.

 
Cadillac Records Is a Bumpy but Satisfying Ride

Soul-stirring performances, a fantastic musical score and an intriguing story of breaking boundaries—racially and otherwise—elevate Cadillac Records, even it’s technically just another biopic.

  • Christa Banister |
  • December 08, 2008 |
  • comments
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