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Paul (Review)

Sneakily perceptive sci-fi comedy is a tad too sentimental

0 Comments · Friday, March 18, 2011
Director Greg Mattola hooks up with the Brit wits Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who handle the script and co-star as a couple of comic book convention enthusiasts eager to follow the American West’s UFO trail of fears until they have an actual close encounter with Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), the stoked extraterrestrial that has been the basis of 40 years of alien sightings and assumptions. Grade: B-.  

The Lincoln Lawyer (Review)

Matthew McConaughey leads an entertaining legal thriller

0 Comments · Thursday, March 17, 2011
Mystery writer Michael Connelly's series of spin-off books provides the basis for this sturdy but rushed legal thriller. Matthew McConaughey ages nicely into the role of hotshot Los Angeles defense attorney Mick Haller. Grade: B.  

Red Riding Hood (Review)

Classic fairy tale fails in comtemporary update

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 16, 2011
If 'Red Riding Hood' were a comic book adaptation, it would be the origin story, but this dreadfully bland first take would have killed the franchise like a silver bullet. There is no romance or sensuality, just the chaste moon-eyed groping we’ve come to expect from the Stephenie Meyer-inspired lit-brand, and not one ounce of suspense in a single one of Catherine Hardwicke’s frames here. Grade: D-  

Apocalypse Again

Battle: LA is the kind of movie 9/11 was supposed to make unthinkable

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 16, 2011
We tend to forget now that Hollywood’s 9/11 guilt — the Onion famously compared the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to a “bad Jerry Bruckheimer movie” — produced a cease-fire on using CGI to churn out $100 million-plus films depicting mass urban destruction. Even Bruckheimer, the chief culprit of such films, decided to turn to more benign movie fantasies like Pirates of the Caribbean (and crime series for TV). Alas, while hardly a flop, Master and Commander didn’t earn the kind of money domestically ($94 million) to make Hollywood clamor for more. And, slowly but steadily, with time we’ve been seeing a return to the pre-9/11 urban-destruction extravaganzas. The new Battle: Los Angeles is a prime example.  

Battle: Los Angeles (Review)

Effective, committed cast helps this sci-fi thriller feel real

0 Comments · Friday, March 11, 2011
For those looking for a grittier take on 'Independence Day,' director Jonathan Liebesman effectively extends himself beyond his horror roots into the boots of soldiers in the biggest fight of their lives. Grade: B.  

Mars Needs Moms (Review)

Solid storytelling saves this family-friendly 3-D adventure

0 Comments · Friday, March 11, 2011
Co-writer/director Simon Wells employs the latest 3-D technology with lackluster results, but he gets a reprieve thanks to his reliance on the fundamentals of story. This wild and wooly adventure follows Milo, a typical kid who hates following his mother’s rules until she (Joan Cusack) is kidnapped by Martians. Grade: B.  

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.