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April 2009
"Jesus People" Proves Even Christians Can Be Funny

From beginning to end, Jesus People, pokes some fun at the idiosyncrasies of mixing faith and art in the Christian music industry. But unlike, say, 2004’s Saved, those providing the tongue-in-cheek commentary don’t mock God in the process.

The Soloist Is a Pitch Perfect Portrayal of Grace

The Soloist entertains and inspires with its pitch-perfect portrayal of redemption between an unlikely duo. And for Christians and otherwise, it’s also a powerful reminder that authenticity and not bailing when the going gets tough is always the best way to live.

Sex, Guns and Blood Charge Crank: High Voltage

Like its predecessor, Crank: High Voltage is the twenty-first century equivalent of ‘70s exploitation B-movie cinema—but taken to a whole other graphic level. It’s utterly pointless, intentionally ridiculous and very explicit as it revels in sex, guns and blood.

"17 Again" Doesn't Exactly Rewrite History

With a recycled premise (Freaky Friday, Big, 13 Going on 30) and lukewarm life lessons, 17 Again is really nothing more than a good excuse to capitalize on leading man Zac Efron’s charm and hard work at the gym.

State of Play Sags from Sluggish Pacing, Unconvincing Plot

Like last year’s Body of Lies, State of Play tries to seriously challenge American policy in an entertaining fashion, but unlike Lies, Play never grips the viewer. Its pacing is too often sluggish; its plot unconvincing.

Fame and Family Collide Predictably in Hannah Montana

Considering the way art seems to imitate Miley Cyrus' life these days, the timing probably couldn't be better for the big-screen treatment of Hannah Montana. Not only does it solidify Cyrus' place as the ultimate good girl, but Hannah is a character Cyrus can play convincingly.

Observe and Report Disturbs and Offends

Observe and Report shares the boundary-breaking mentality of other R-rated comedies as of late: casual drug use and casual sex are par for the course, but its moments of outrageous humor ultimately take a back seat to the story’s darker underbelly.

Fast & Furious? More Like Dull and Depressing

Apart from the film's ho-hum plot and performances, the most worrying thing of all about Fast & Furious is this: its astounding box-office take. As I write this review following the film's opening weekend, its box-office haul exceeds $70 million.

A Nostalgic Story Is Found in Adventureland

Adventureland captured me as strongly as any film I've seen in a long time. Disparage its R-rated content if you must (and I wouldn't disparage anyone in return who would), but there is an authentic core to this nostalgic story that can't be denied.

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.

March 2009
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
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
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