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Raw and Retiring: Kevin Smith

The barnstorming filmmaker talks up a blue streak and says he’s leaving

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 9, 2011
You would be hard-pressed to find a less dogmatic person than Kevin Smith, the director of Clerks (and its sequel), Dogma and the new horror thriller Red State, which he is screening during a 13-city tour from March 5 through April 9 prior to its theatrical release in October. The writer-director has been making movies for close to 20 years, mainly comedies. And, if the rumors are to be believed, this tour will be the start of his victory lap, his farewell to feature filmmaking.  

Take Me Home Tonight (Review)

Nostalgia-drenched setting can't save this cliched dud

0 Comments · Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Michael Dowse makes his feature directorial debut with a cliche-ridden coming-of-age comedy that is content to rip off a variety of like-minded ’80s cinematic touchstones rather than do or say anything remotely new or interesting. Grade: D.  

Beastly (Review)

Retread of classic tale fails on nearly every level

0 Comments · Monday, March 7, 2011
'Beauty and the Beast' gets the 'Twilight' treatment in this uninspired update that transforms a vain guy (Alex Pettyfer) into a superficially unattractive freak who needs to earn the love of just one person (Vanessa Hudgens) to return back to his normal self.  

Sense and Sensibility: Miguel Arteta

'Cedar Rapids' director discusses latest distinctive comedy

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Yet another unique genre hybrid, Cedar Rapids centers itself on the unlikely coming-of-age story of Tim Lippe (Ed Helms, who’s both affecting and hilarious), an alarmingly nave but perpetually goodnatured 34-year-old insurance salesman who’s never been outside his tiny hometown of Brown Valley, Wisc. Lippe’s life is turned upside down when he has to represent his company at an insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he meets a trio of colleagues that will forever alter his once-narrow worldview.  

Cedar Rapids (Review)

Coming-of-age comedy propelled by stellar cast

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Director Miguel Arteta knows how to handle outsiders caught in comedic flux and, in Ed Helms, he’s got an emerging performer who gets the laughs without overplaying his hand. Helms displays an engaging charm and an understanding of the real human drama, even in the face of utter outrageousness that puts him squarely in the camp of comedic actors like Paul Rudd and Steve Carell. Grade: B-plus.   

The Adjustment Bureau (Review)

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt simmer in suspense thriller

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Loosely based on a 1954 short story by Philip K. Dick, Matt Damon makes a believable politician as David Norris, a blue-collar hotshot who gets robbed of a U.S. Senate seat after a tabloid revelation about a display of temper back in his college days. The sting of defeat is lessened when the young all-American everyman meets a beautiful dancer named Elise (Emily Blunt). The actors' convincing onscreen chemistry puts a simmer under the artificial sci-fi storyline that hovers above. Grade: B-.  

Rango (Review)

Johnny Depp-voiced chameleon headlines pleasurable animated comedy

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 2, 2011
In conjunction with Industrial Light and Magic, director Gore Verbinski ('Pirates of the Caribbean') has created a gorgeously animated western that doesn't need any stinking 3-D effects to entertain or pump up its profit margin. Grade: A-.  

Hall Pass (Review)

Farrelly brothers return with lackluster results

0 Comments · Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Bobby and Peter Farrelly return to the multiplexes after a brief hiatus (following their dismal remake of The Heartbreak Kid) with a story about a couple of schmucky guys (Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) who think they’ve got it made when their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) give them a week off from marital fidelity. Hall Pass makes effort to position itself within the bromantic movement spawned by Judd Apatow, which makes the movie a throwback of sorts. Grade: D.  

Drive Angry 3D (Review)

Nic Cage unleashes another hellish bore

0 Comments · Tuesday, March 1, 2011
As an escapee from hell on a vengeance-seeking mission to save his kidnapped granddaughter, Nicolas Cage appears to have chosen this violent campfest as a bridge between 'Ghost Rider' and its unnecessary sequel, but 'Drive Angry 3D' director Patrick Lussier ends up unleashing three dimensions of hellish boredom on Earth. Grade: F.   

The Grace Card (Review)

Melodramatic tale ultimately preaches to an already-converted choir

0 Comments · Friday, February 25, 2011
Ophthalmologist-turned-filmmaker David G. Evans dives into the The Grace Card's big, universal themes of life, death, race, reconciliation, redemption, forgiveness and family with straightforward earnestness, which synchs well with the material. But Howard A. Klausner's screenplay gets bogged down in too many talky theological monologues and plot twists that stretch believability.   

I Am Number Four (Review)

Mildly compelling sci-fi thriller is really a coming-of-age tale

0 Comments · Friday, February 25, 2011
Veteran director D.J. Caruso guides this mildly compelling sci-fi thriller about a high school student (Alex Pettyfer) with secret, still burgeoning supernatural skills and the big, ugly alien enemies who'll do anything to exterminate him.   

Three-Dimensional Savior?

Hollywood goes all in on 3-D craze ... but should audiences?

0 Comments · Wednesday, February 23, 2011
To listen to Variety’s 3-D guru David Cohen talk you’d think that we’ll all be wearing 3-D glasses for every movie we see in the coming years. He compares the advent of 3-D to the arrival of sound in cinema. You’d never hear Cohen say that only 70 percent of the population can properly see 3-D due to a variety of ocular anomalies that include things such as color blindness. Naturally, that means only seven out of every 10 people can actually see 3-D.  

The Genesis Code (Review)

Heavyhanded tale preaches to the choir

0 Comments · Tuesday, February 22, 2011
'The Genesis Code' will likely only end up preaching to the choir and the faithful few already in the pews, which is too bad because if it had dropped the know-it-all pose and truly debated the questions, it might have inspired legions of would-be seekers to commit to a real quest for knowledge and truth. Grade: D-plus.  

From Prada to Nada (Review)

Update of literary classic is a formulaic bore

0 Comments · Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Spinning off Jane Austen’s 'Sense and Sensibility', 'From Prada to Nada' follows Nora Dominguez (Camilla Belle) and her shopping-obsessed sister Mary (Alexa Vega) as they go from spoiled princesses in Beverly Hills to struggling commoners in East L.A. after the sudden death of their father. Grade: D-plus.  

Big Momma's: Like Father, Like Son (Review)

Martin Lawrence's latest cross-dressing comedy is a drag

0 Comments · Monday, February 21, 2011
It looks like another drag when Martin Lawrence returns as an undercover agent with a penchant for donning a wig and a fat suit in order to catch his man. This time, the FBI agent must protect his stepson (Brandon T. Jackson) who witnessed a murder and has to slip into a cross-dressing disguise of his own. This mindless story makes Eddie Murphy’s 'Beverly Hills Cop 3' seem as complex and compelling as an installment in the 'Bourne' franchise. Grade: F.