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December 2008
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
 
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.

December 2008
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
 
Frost/Nixon Proves to Be a Historical Curio

A fascinating moment in history comes to life in Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon, an adaptation of Peter Morgan's stage play. Starring Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as interviewer David Frost, the film stands out as a retelling of a landmark TV interview.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • December 05, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Kaufman's Earlier Flair Missing from Synecdoche, New York

Charlie Kaufman has won praise as an innovative screenwriter for movies that took insightful looks into human nature without sacrificing the story. Now, marking the first time he’s directing his own screenplay, Synecdoche, New York, is missing the resonance of his earlier work.

  • Stephen McGarvey |
  • December 05, 2008 |
  • comments
November 2008
There's Boredom Down Under in Australia

Moments of broad humor and Baz Luhrmann’s directorial flourishes add spice to the early stretch of this otherwise bland muddle of a movie, but it doesn’t take too long to recognize that Australia is an overstuffed Thanksgiving turkey.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 26, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Family Dysfunction Takes Center Stage in Four Christmases

Four Christmases seems to have all the right ingredients to be fun, ‘tis-the-season escapist entertainment. Yet for all the effort the protagonists make to be likeable and the carefully-staged gags, the movie still falls horribly flat.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 26, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Bolt Has Plenty of Bark and Comedic Bite

Bolt is probably the best-looking Disney movie in a good long while. Crafted in gorgeous 3-D splendor, it’s a feast for the eyes complete with lavish attention to detail. And the engagingly drawn leads are only further enhanced with stellar vocal talent.

  • Christa Banister |
  • November 21, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Moody Twilight Launches a Teen Franchise

For those familiar with Stephenie Meyer’s books and drawn to the buzz around the story, that should be more than enough. But those interested in character motives beyond unspoken physical attraction may find Twilight wanting.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 21, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Complex Story Drives a Spectacular Quantum of Solace

In Quantum of Solace, the complex story is the driving force, especially in the final act when the plot machine takes over so completely that characters become little more than cogs in the wheel—but oh, what a spectacular wheel it is.

 
Vibrant Slumdog Millionaire Reaffirms Boyle's Talent

Slumdog Millionaire, an uplifting story about a young man triumphing on an Indian game show, is a colorful, vibrant film that reaffirms Danny Boyle as one of the more interesting filmmakers working today.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 12, 2008 |
  • comments
 
Boy in the Striped Pajamas Offers an Unusual Perspective

With so much already known about the Holocaust, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ unusual perspective must have seemed like a fresh take on history. But in the end it comes across as misconceived, despite the film’s strengths.

  • Christian Hamaker |
  • November 07, 2008 |
  • comments
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