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Beginners (Review)

Mike Mills’ latest is an affecting look at the possibility of personal rebirth

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 6, 2011
“You think you’re you,” a man tells a dog named Arthur, before breaking it to Arthur, a Jack Russell, that his personality has everything to do with being bred that way. They’re just starting out — the man has inherited the dog from his dead father — but true beginnings are well-nigh impossible. From the moment of birth, we become imprinted by outside forces, most crucially those of our parents, so even if we resolve to scour clean Mom’s and Dad’s identifying marks on us, that very act of rebellion is a reaction to, and therefore a confirmation of, their ineluctable influence.  

Larry Crowne (Review)

Tom Hanks' sunny romantic comedy is refreshingly cynic-free

0 Comments · Friday, July 1, 2011
Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts join forces for what feels like an adult male fairy tale populated by hip scooter girls instead of fairy godmothers and wicked witches, and its calculatedly uncynical nature appreciates the happiness without worrying about the ever after. Grade: B.  

Monte Carlo (Review)

Lightweight teen fantasy somehow transcends chiches

0 Comments · Friday, July 1, 2011
"Monte Carlo" has all of the hallmarks of a girly teen fantasy in the Disney-Nickelodeon mode, yet somehow co-writer/director Thomas Bezucha sneaks in a bit of old-school campy romp and enlivens the tired cliches. Grade: B-.  

Buck (Review)

The original 'horse whisperer' teaches us to appreciate animals and life

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 29, 2011
'Buck' is about overcoming fear and pain, breaking free of a cycle of suffering. It offers an example of a man who figured out how to start over and helps others to do the same. It's for those who have an "interest" in living an ethical life like Buck Brannaman. Grade A.  

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Review)

Michael Bay delivers another soul-deadening dud

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Butts will likely settle into seats for Michael Bay's hyper-realized 3-D action, which this time has been rendered in a slower, more drawn-out fashion for some semblance of coherence. The aim is a combination of 'Bad Boys 2' and the 'Matrix Reloaded' highway sequences, only jacked up on steroids with the resulting feelings of barely contained rage. Grade: F.  

Cars 2 (Review)

Pixar stumbles with oddly uninspired sequel

0 Comments · Friday, June 24, 2011
While this Pixar sequel is supposed to be a second outing for the speed-racing Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his tow buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), launching them on the international racing circuit, in actuality it feels more like an animated 'Spy Kids' knockoff with the sidekick as the lead. Grade: D.  

Bad Teacher

Rauchy comedy wastes Cameron Diaz's ample charms

0 Comments · Friday, June 24, 2011
Instead of branching off into 'Bad Santa' territory, director Jake Kasdan's 'Bad Teacher' wastes the comedic and physical charms of Cameron Diaz in a raunchy tale of redemption. Grade: D-plus.  

The Topp Twins (Review)

Enganing documentary looks at unique New Zealand singing duo

0 Comments · Friday, June 24, 2011
This warm, engaging, entertaining and award-winning documentary concerns a New Zealand singing duo — Jools and Linda Topp — with a singularly unusual background. They are middle-aged twin sisters, lesbians and in their act mix rootsy, heartfelt Folk/Country material with the creation of comic characters. Grade: B-plus.  

The Tree of Life (Review)

The poetics of nature vs. grace dominate Terrence Malick’s latest opus

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 22, 2011
'The Tree of Life' opens with a bit of Scripture: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation ... while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" Where were we, indeed? That's the question that Terrence Malick's latest dares to pose and better still seeks to answer, but neither the question nor the answer matter much in the overall scheme of things. The effort is the point and purpose of the exercise, the meaning of life itself. The effort is the point and purpose of the exercise, the meaning of life itself. Grade: A.  

Green Lantern (Review)

CGI-driven adaptation is a lame mash-up that treads well-worn ground

0 Comments · Friday, June 17, 2011
Director Martin Campbell forgoes the urban realism of Christopher Nolan’s 'Batman' reboots and the romantic/heroic ideal of 'Superman' for the CG rendering of the otherworldly power of the Lantern and the Ring in his introduction to the origin story behind how a recklessly daring pilot named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) became the first human member of the Green Lantern Corp. Grade: D-plus.  

The Art of Getting By (Review)

Formulaic coming-of-age romance doesn't quite get by

0 Comments · Friday, June 17, 2011
Writer/director Gavin Wiesen's formulaic romantic comedy attempts some familiar indie-pic variations on the comeing-of-age theme but ignores the most fundamental need of the genre: Somewhere, there better be somebody you actually want to root for. Grade: C.  

Mr. Popper's Penguins (Review)

Jim Carrey delivers comic physicality in flawed adaptation of children's book

0 Comments · Friday, June 17, 2011
Loosely based on Florence Atwater's 1938 children's book, 'Mr. Popper's Penguins' never completely gels. But that doesn't stop Jim Carrey from using everything in his arsenal of comic physicality. Grade: B-.  

Bicycle Dreams (Review)

An inspiring human Race Across America makes a pit-stop in Ohio

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 15, 2011
This year marks the 30th anniversary run of the Race Across America (RAAM), a grueling bicycle endurance race that finds only the toughest and the craziest cyclists eager to risk their physical health and their psychological stamina on this 3,000-plus mile trek from California to a destination somewhere along the East Coast (generally somewhere between Maryland and New York).  

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (Review)

Geniunely goofy film adaptation stays true to its source

0 Comments · Friday, June 10, 2011
Megan McDonald, the writer behind the beloved children’s series of books based on the Judy Moody character, teams up with television screenwriter Kathy Waugh and director John Schultz to bring Judy (Jordana Beatty) to life in this genuinely goofy adaptation that dares to remain faithful to its third-grade-reader roots by not pandering with inappropriate pop-cultural references to lure in teens or adults. Grade: C-plus.  

Super 8 (Review)

J.J. Abrams' crafty thriller channels Steven Spielberg

1 Comment · Thursday, June 9, 2011
Give J.J. Abrams credit for stones the size of bowling balls, because he practically gift-wraps the pike on which his science-fiction thriller 'Super 8' could be skewered. Early in the film, aspiring middle-school filmmaker Charles (Riley Griffiths) explains to his pal, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), why he has added new scenes to the zombie movie they're shooting with Charles' Super-8 camera. It can't be just about the creatures, Charles quotes from the screenwriting books he's been brushing up on; you have to care about the characters, so that you want them to live. Grade: B.