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March 2009
Action-Packed "Monsters Vs. Aliens" Offers Plenty of Laughs

While most of the story is decidedly unfussy--save for a little non-preachy takeaway--humor, not to mention a slew of well-crafted action scenes ultimately make Monsters Vs. Aliens an exciting ride from beginning to end—especially in 3-D.

Fantasy and Reality Blend Beautifully in "Wonderland"

With top-notch acting, gorgeous cinematography and a great musical score that enhances the film’s impact, it’s really no surprise that writer/director Daniel Barnz’s debut Phoebe in Wonderland was a recent favorite at Sundance.

Stars Shine Bright in Sunshine Cleaning

It shares a word ("sunshine") and an actor (Alan Arkin, again in a supporting role) with Little Miss Sunshine, but in Sunshine Cleaning lead performances from Amy Adams and Emily Blunt may yet vie for Academy recognition at next year’s ceremony.

Duplicity Doubles Star Power but Sparks Don't Ignite

In Duplicity, the banter between Julia Roberts and Clive Owens is too sporadic, held back by the film’s stop-and-start quality which hinders the emotional bond that might have formed between the audience and the stars.

Fast-Paced Race to Witch Mountain Has a Few Sci-Fi Charms

Instead of shooting for a straight remake, filmmakers prefer to call the latest installment a "reimagining." And given the slightly cheesy, low-grade special effects of Race to Witch Mountain’s predecessor, that's probably accurate.

Watchmen Puts the "Graphic" in Graphic-Novel Adaptation

Dark and violent, Watchmen one-ups last year’s blockbuster, The Dark Knight, in explicit imagery, and it cannot be recommended. However, the story has potent themes that will resonate with viewers and demand discussion.

Street Fighter Delivers Blow After Blow to Viewers

Street Fighter should be a martial-arts extravaganza, but the fight scenes are infrequent, unsurprising and dull. Blame that on director Andrzej Bartkowiak, who in 2005 helmed the forgettable Doom.

February 2009
'Tweens, Teens Will Be Wowed by Jonas Bros in 3D

The popularity of Jonas Brothers rivals that of The Beatles back in the day (in the U.S. anyway). It’s a fact that’s not entirely lost on the band as a clip from the Fab Four’s first full-length movie rolls in the background of one scene of Jo Bros' first movie.

  • Christa Banister |
  • February 27, 2009 |
  • comments
Dramatic Sparks Fly in The Class

The Class, which won the top award at the most recent Cannes Film Festival, mixes teacher-student interaction throughout the course of one year at a school in Paris with behind-the-scenes political maneuvers and struggles.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • February 23, 2009 |
  • comments
Madea Goes to Jail but Davis Brings the Drama

In light of Oscar nominee Viola Davis' soaring reputation, it's no surprise that the actress takes Tyler Perry's latest tale, Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail, and gives it more dramatic weight than expected.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • February 23, 2009 |
  • comments
February 2009
Materialistic Shopaholic Is Woefully Misguided

Not only is Confessions of a Shopaholic a cautionary tale of excess gone seriously awry, but it’s a colossal embarrassment to my gender. With a heroine so self-involved that she makes ditzy Elle Woods (of Legally Blonde fame) look like a Rhodes scholar in comparison, it's woefully misguided from the start.

  • Christa Banister |
  • February 13, 2009 |
  • comments
The International Is Densely Plotted Yet Riveting

Literary thrillers are a staple of airplane rides and beachside vacations. The International is their cinematic equivalent, and though it’s as instantly disposable as those paperback counterparts it’s also as equally riveting.

He's Just Not That into You Is Engaging Yet Disturbing

Considering that the source material was a relatively short, best-selling self-help book, He's Just Not That into You serves as an insightful yet equally disturbing barometer of our culture's perspective on relationships.

  • Christa Banister |
  • February 06, 2009 |
  • comments
Another Phone-in for Martin in Pink Panther 2

While the originals in The Pink Panther series were fueled by comic inspiration, invention and wit, the contemporary rip-offs are barely even trying. The difference is best exemplified by comparing Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau and Steve Martin's pale imitation.

Dark Coraline Too Nightmarish for Kids

Coraline’s cinematic qualities are spectacular and many; its themes important and biblically sound. Nevertheless, its dark content and tone—which are nightmarish, among other things—make it inaccessible for many kids.

January 2009
No Need to Attend "Uninvited"

Viewers looking for genuine frights are advised to skip the remake of The Uninvited. If they need a scare, they might want to turn on the evening news or review their latest 401(k) statements. Why add to the suffering?

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • January 30, 2009 |
  • comments
Love of Literature Extolled in Inkheart

Inkheart brings Cornelia Funke's much-loved novel to life without losing the glorious detail and character development in the process—an essential for great literature and an oft-neglected feature of many novels-turned-movies.

  • Christa Banister |
  • January 23, 2009 |
  • comments
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.

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