Adam   (Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne)
It's an unlikely love story -- a man with Asperberger's Syndrome has a relationship with his neighbor.   It creates awkward situations for each of them, which the movie deals with in fair, dramatic and funny fashions.  It's a sleeper romance.  (Tremendous)

Adventureland   (Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart)
"Had Adventureland come out when I was still a teenager in the 80s, I would have thought this was a classic.  It has sex, loud music, parties and a story about young adults trying to make it in the real world.  But with my adult perspective, I can’t help but think Adventureland is bland and a little sad...    When all is said and done, Adventureland is probably pretty accurate portraying coming of age in the 80s, but it can’t hold up to a coming-of-age movie from the 80s.   Oh - and Rochester readers -- looks not just for Kristen Wiig but for a Foreigner tribute band!!   (Kept Checking My Watch)

The Alphabet Killer  (Eliza Dushku, Timothy Hutton)
The Rochester-based movie is fun to watch just to look for things you recognize --  be it a Churchville sign, Richmond's bar or High Falls (but could someone in Webster tell me where your underground parking garage is?).  Unfortunately, the movie is dull most of the way through and ludicrous at the end.  (Kept Checking My Watch)



The Amazing-Spider Man  (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone)
"(New director) Marc Webb goes back to the comic book idea that has Peter invent his web-shooters… the writers realize that in 2012, scientists aren’t necessarily the outcasts they might have been in the 60s. In the age of Facebook, a young guy with that kind of technological know-how can be kind of cool. Andrew Garfield’s re-imagined Peter – while an outsider – isn’t invisible. Other students kind of admire his skills. He has enough confidence to stand up to bullies, even if it means getting his ass kicked. And while some girls may not appreciate his gifts, at least one – the ultra cute Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) notices him. And so we watch a familiar story unfold in a wholly inventive new way, just ten years since we last saw it onscreen. The first moments where Peter discovers his powers are actually very original. And without giving anything away, the new movie even manages to take the dynamic between Peter, Uncle Ben and ‘the burglar” and tighten it up and make it less convoluted.” 
Tremendous) Link to full review at my examiner page.  Click here please. 


American Gangster  (Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe)
I'd see any gangster movie starring Denzel Washington and I'd see any gangster movie starring Russell Crowe.  A gangster movie with both as the leads?  I was there, and it was worth it.  (Tremendous)





Angels & Demons  (Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor)
At the risk of sacrilege, let’s compare Dan Brown’s books and Ron Howard’s movie adaptations of them to a Sunday worship service.   Sometimes you go and you’re inspired when you hear a wonderful speaker with fresh ideas.  But sometimes, you listen to a sermon or a homily and you think your clergyman is just going through the motions...   
The Da Vinci Code held our attention because it looked at the idea that there were secrets we never knew about right in plain sight.  It’s not as fun to see a secret revealed that we never knew anything about anyway.  Since he’s chasing kidnappers based on clues they leave behind in the present day, it’s less like Langdon is unlocking pivotal historical mysteries and more like we’re watching Batman’s chased the Riddler from Gotham City to Vatican City."   (It Is What It Is)

Anvil: The Story of Anvil   (Lipps, Robb Reiner)
This Is Spinal Tap is the funniest movie ever made because it's so true.  Anvil: The Story of Anvil seems like the same thing.  It's funny because it's so true.  It's also sad because it's so true.  And amazingly moving and inspiring too.  It's a great movie for anyone who's wanted to please a crowd or been in a crowd and felt for someone when things aren't going right.  Metal on Metal!!!!      (Tremendous)

 

Arthur   (Russell Brand, Helen Mirren) There’s a much loved and much quoted moment in the original Arthur between Dudley Moore’s title character and John Gielgud’s butler Hobson that sums up their relationship perfectly.  The soused millionaire announces he’s going to take a bath.  Hobson follows with the classically droll line:  “I’ll alert the media.”  The new Arthur follows the template of the original script fairly closely, yet doesn’t come up with a moment that’s close to as revealing or as funny as that... Arthur’s story plays out in a completely predictable and routine way... Worse than being predictable, the movie is dull –and lacking any edge. Consider yourself alerted by the media.   (Kept Checking My Watch)

Arthur Christmas   (James McAvoy, Jim Broadbest)
Be warned:  if you take your kids to Arthur Christmas, depending on what you’ve already told them about Santa Claus, you may have some explaining to do.  The movie makes some changes to who Santa is in the modern world.   That said: that’s your biggest problem if you take your kids to Arthur Christmas, because otherwise, you’ll all enjoy yourself...  it is very much of the times with its jokes about GPS’s and Google Earth, so someday, it probably will be dated  (sorry, Google Earth, but something else will inevitably come along).  But then again, stop-motion animation looks really dated now, and we’ll all watch the Rankin Bass specials year-after-year.  As long as its message is timeless, the movie has a chance to be timeless too.     (Tremendous)

 
 
The Astronaut Farmer   (Billy Bob Thornton,  Virginia Madsen )
It’s kind of like Field Of Dreams In Space.  That’s not to say The Astronaut Farmer is a science fiction movie, although you do have to suspend some belief if you’re going to buy into the idea... But gosh darn it, everyone involved is so down-to-earth and friendly, and Charles is so determined without being arrogant or rude, you want to see that rocket take off ..  It's all gentle Americana-- a movie about a farmer and an astronaut?  How could it not be a feel good film?     (Tremendous)

Atonement  (James McAvoy, Keira Knightley)
It's an old-fashioned Oscar-bait epic, that is very interesting to begin with and gets a little caught up in its itself in its second half.  I get a feeling a big chunk of the book was taken out -- a chunk that might have made me feel more for our lovers.   As it is, I feel like the movie blames the little girl for World War II.  (It Is What It Is)


Avatar    (Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana)
I'm tempted to say "I liked this movie the first time I saw it, when it was called Dances With Wolves."  The story of an outsider helping an indigenous people against his own has been pretty well covered already, from Westerns to Star Trek to little-seen animated pieces of crap like this year's Battle for Terra.  But that old joke won't work since on the visual level, Avatar is like nothing ever seen before.  It's not so much a movie as it is an experience, and you probably have to take it in.   (Tremendous)


The Avengers  (Tremendous)
My full review is up at my examiner page... click here please. 



 

 

Assembling The Avengers:  The Team That Should Have Been In The Movie
From my Examiner page...
    

Bad News Bears   (Billy Bob Thornton, Greg Kinnear)
Good news about Bad News. It doesn't mess with the original starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal.  Bad news about Bad News. Director Richard Linklater's remake is so close to the original, there's really no reason to go see this.
(It Is What It Is)



Bad Teacher   (Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel)
It’s as if the makers of Bad Teacher were taking a standardized test full of multiple choice questions.  They didn’t know for sure everything that needed to go into a raunchy but good comedy, so they took their Number 2 pencils, took a chance and filled in the blanks as best they could.  Sometimes they hit on the right answers, sometimes they didn’t...   The end of the movie is way too rushed...  as if the scriptwriters were taking an essay test and didn’t know how to wrap it up.  Their good teachers should have taught them it’s not good writing to just sum things up with a quick closing sentence that starts with “In conclusion…”  (It Is What It Is)

The Bank Job  (Jason Staitham, Saffron Burrows)
It's a great heist film featuring some ordinary guys in way over their heads.  One of the more entertaining and suspenseful films of its type in a long time, and it proves Staitham is capable of more than just action movies.  (Tremendous)

Batman Begins

Batman Begins   (Christian Bale, Gary Oldman)
There's a scene in Batman Begins when Dr. Thomas Wayne comforts his young son Bruce asking "Why do we fall?" and answering "So we can learn how to get back up."...  Can the Batman movie franchise get back up again?...  Bale's a great choice, because let's face it:  I love Batman, you love Batman, we all love Batman-- but he's something of an American Psycho himself.  His parents are murdered, he puts on a bat costume and seeks justice for their murder by taking on all criminals.  This is the first Bat-movie to really explore why he does it and how he got the way he is.  Like the title suggests, it goes back to the beginning.  It's our first look at Bruce Wayne going into seclusion to train himself in his mission....  Batman should be able to keep going after this.  He got back up.
(Tremendous)

Battle For Terra   (Evan Rachel Wood, Dennis Quaid)
"Conservative groups or anyone with an ax to grind against the environmental movement should stay away from—and not talk about -- the animated 3-D adventure Battle for Terra.  Bringing attention to this movie could generate publicity and encourage people to see it, and that will hurt your cause.  I won’t reveal where I stand on environmental issues, but I will reveal where I stand on bad movies:  I’m against them."    (Kept Checking My Watch)

Battle: Los Angeles    (Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez)
It’s like District 9 without the depth, the symbolism or the context.  It’s like Independence Day without the fun, the wit or the inspirational leader to get his country through.  Battle: Los Angeles is quite simply a big loud battle in Los Angeles between a U.S. Marine unit and an invading horde of aliens.... it’s all very by-the-book and very procedural – too procedural for a movie audience...  How long can you watch people fire at an unknown enemy before you feel like you’re just watching target practice?... It’s kind of a futile mission, and ironically, a waste of time.   (Kept Checking My Watch)

Because I Said So  (Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore)
This movie sucks.  Because I said so.   (Kept Checking My Watch)


Beginners   (Ewan Macgregor, Christopher Plummer)
It's Plummer's story about coming out in the twilight of life that is the interesting one.  It's told in flashback, which means the "real" point of the movie can get a little dull.  (It Is What It Is)




The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  (Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson)
"Audiences are probably more familiar with them for their roles in the Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, James Bond or Batman movies.  We probably see each onscreen and think “Oh yeah, I like him/her”... What’s wonderful about this dramedy is that it doesn’t treat these senior citizens as novelties or special miracles – but simply as adults.  There are no Cocoon-like moments where we think “oh cute, the old people can swim.”  Music doesn’t come up dramatically as each makes a major life change.  They never degrade themselves acting younger than they are.  They just live their lives.  Honestly, this movie could star seven younger actors facing crises and it could have worked.  But it’s enhanced by making it about people with some perspective and dignity.     (Tremendous)



Bewitched   (Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell)
I made a joke on the air that halfway through Bewitched, they ought to just replace Will Farrell's Darrin with another actor, just to acknowledge the whole Dick York-Dick Sargent thing. Don't say anything about it-- just have Vince Vaughan or somebody play Darrin for the second half of the movie and see if people catch it.  I still like the idea, but the new Bewitched is different from other recent tv to film adaptations so my brilliant casting scheme won't work.  (Tremendous)

Big Momma's House 2   (Martin Lawrence, Nia Long)
Of course, it's stupid, it's a sequel to a movie called Big Momma's House. The problems are that Big Momma's House 2 isn't funny, is at times ludicrous and tries to pretend it's a heart-warming family story.   (Kept Checking My Watch)

Black Snake Moan  (Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci)
It’s not as lurid as it all sounds.  From the opening shots of real life blues legend Son House talking about the meaning of the blues and of Ricci and boyfriend Justin Timberlake... um… indulging her mania… you think this will be a lurid classic...  But Jackson doesn’t have Ricci chained up for lascivious reasons, he’s keeping her there until The Devil leaves her... The redemptive theme will keep it from being the lurid cult classic you might have hoped it would be, but it’s still a unique movie that shouldn’t disappoint.  (Tremendous)

Black Swan    (Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis)
A great performance by Natalie Portman on and off the ballet stage.  This is truly warped stuff that will play with your mind even after it's over.  I remain unsure about what was actually "real."   (Tremendous)

Blades Of Glory  (Will Ferrell, Jon Heder)
Will Ferrell must want to be asked back every year to be a presenter at the ESPYs.  The star of Kicking & Screaming and Talladega Nights is starring in another sports movie, where he gets to take his big and less than athletic frame and put it into an arena it has no business being in..  It’s as ridiculous as it sounds.  It’s also very funny.  The choreography is hysterical as the two perform in some oddball and even awkward positions.  The movie includes the best use ever of Aerosmith’s cheeseball ballad “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.”   (Tremendous)



The Blind Side   (Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron)
"There are certainly some eye-rolling cornball moments in the trailer for The Blind Side.  “You’re changing that boy’s life,” says a friend of adoptive mother Sandra Bullock.  “No, he’s changing mine,” she answers back predictably.   But The Blind Side is the opposite of a movie where the only good stuff is given away in the trailer.  While I knew which lines would make me roll my eyes, I don’t think I rolled my eyes any other time.  The Blind Side may be a corny story, but it’s also a true story.  And it’s a story well-told."   (Tremendous)  


Blood Diamond  (Leonardo DiCaprio,  Djimon Hounsou)
The set-up could make you feel a bit guilty, but once the initial preaching is over, Blood Diamond shifts into a gripping action movie with all-too-real stakes...  But the ending also puts things into perspective, so if you feel badly, you’ll only feel as badly as you need to.   (Tremendous)

Body Of Lies  (Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe)
"Director Ridley Scott is back with collaborator/muse Russell Crowe, but to get a little more bang for his big budget’s buck, he’s borrowed Martin Scorsese’s current collaborator/muse to take the role that once would have been Crowe’s.... The action scenes go on for an awfully long time though – and for a good hour, they seem almost pointless. They certainly establish Leo’s bona fides as a tough guy, and they set up the relationship between DiCaprio and Crowe very well, but it’s not all that obvious that they’re accomplishing anything – or what their goals even are. It’s going to take some patience to get through it all."  (It Is What It Is)

 

The Book of Eli  (Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman)
“It takes forever to get to what isn’t so much an allegory but a flat-out obvious religious fable.  It’s almost the Left Behind movies with A-list stars. That’d be fine if it didn’t move so slowly and feel like any other post-apocalyptic thriller.  Everyone wears layers of clothes, including gun belts and knives.  There’s trading for goods, scavengers on the hunt and a lot of standoffs that end just after our hero tells the unsuspecting gang that “they better just move on.”  As directed by The Hughes Brothers, the world is very grey with occasional sunlight peeking through.  It looks cool, but not all that original.  Pardon the pun, but it’s all done by the post-apocalyptic book.”
(It Is What It Is)

 



Borat  (Sasha Baron Cohen)
...hysterical and uncomfortable at the same time.  Some of his targets deserve it, others you end up feeling sorry for.  I'm also pretty sure some of it was staged, but this will get funnier as time goes on, even if "Very nice" has replaced "Yeah baby" as the saying for annoying people who can't do accents but insist on doing them anyway.  (Tremendous)

Breach  (Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillipe)
It’s a spy movie even I can understand, which makes it a pretty good one.  Espionage is never really all that easy to grasp.  You’re dealing with trying to figure out who’s on who’s side, combined with the very complex nature of government and bureaucracies.  But Breach isn’t really about the true life spying that Robert Hanssen did in what was called the worst spy case in American history.  It’s about the complexities of his own personality as well as the FBI’s efforts to take him down. (Tremendous)

 

Bridesmaids   (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph) On the big screen at least, Rochester's own Kristen Wiig has been something of a bridesmaid and never a bride.  She’s had some solid supporting roles, but honestly, you’d be hard pressed to come up with them on your own.  Oh, on Saturday Night Live, she’s a standout talent – arguably, the best the ensemble has right now.  But off the top of your head, did you remember she was in Knocked Up, Walk Hard or Forgetting Sarah Marshall?  Maybe not, which is something of a back-handed compliment to her skills as a character actress.  Now, she’s written her own movie – she’s center stage and one senses we’re seeing some glimpses of the real Kristen Wiig.  And she’s smart, cute and funny...  the type of man who crushes these days on Tina Fey will feel similar pangs for Kristen.   (Tremendous)

 

 

The Brothers Bloom    (Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo)
What we have in The Brothers Bloom is a familiar story to fans of heist movies:  a couple of con men hoping to pull off one last job.  And wouldn’t you know it?   Their mark is a beautiful woman named Penelope who Bloom can’t help but feel drawn to.  But writer/director Rian Johnson peppers the movie with all kinds of original touches that make it at times life-or-death dramatic or at other times pretty darn funny.  (Tremendous)

 

 

 

Capote  (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener)
He's been creepy (Happiness), funny (Along Came Polly), and has played charismatic real-life figures (Almost Famous) before. The Fairport native does all three here, pulling off the best performance of his career and maybe the best performance by anyone this year...  It cannot be easy to play someone like Truman Capote and be convincing. His small stature, his speech patterns and his blatant homosexuality would make Capote easy to parody (and he has been parodied many times), but Hoffman hits everything that made the late writer such a charismatic, imposing and tortured person.   (Tremendous)

Captain America:  The First Avenger   (Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell)
As the title suggests, “Cap” will be one of The Avengers before long, but for now this truly is an adaptation of Simon & Kirby’s story – its World War II setting makes it unique among modern super hero movies.  Instead of Foo Fighters music, we get boogie woogie bugle boy-type patriotic songs.  It makes for a very fun movie.  The scriptwriters are smart enough to know though that a story created in the 1940s has to be adapted to modern audience’s eyes if we’re going to take it seriously.     (Tremendous)
More on my examiner page.... click here please... 


  
Casino Royale   (Daniel Craig, Eva Green)
So how is Daniel Craig as Blonde, James Blonde?  We still don’t really know.  The movie is either a prequel to when Craig really gets to play Bond or a way to hide the fact that Craig isn’t the guy...  Casino Royale is also not really a typical Bond movie.  With no gadgets, there’s no Q.  There’s no Moneypenny.  That might be a refreshing change for you, or it might be a disappointment.
There is action.  The movie starts with a great chase at a construction site, and later we get an explosive scene at Miami’s airport before the movie flies to Venice and Montenegro for more action.  (Although I’m going to take away points for the action coming to a halt during a way-too-long poker game).   (It Is What It Is)

Catch And Release   (Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant)
...practically screams Chick Flick.... It might as well be an episode of What About Brian.   What distinguishes it from your run-of-the-mill chick flick are strong performances and relatable characters.  Interestingly, there aren't a lot of chicks.   Jennifer Garner's support group is all guys.  The strong male presence may have been what made the movie more tolerable for me, so I'll be curious if women will mind.  Oh, who am I kidding--  Jennifer Garner cries over old photos and Timothy Olyphant smiles a lot.  Women will love it.  (Tremendous)

Catfish  
A freaky online story that may or may not have happened to some of us.  See for yourself, it is enthralling.    (Tremendous)

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore  
If you’ve got little kids who love cats and dogs, you could take them and they’ll probably enjoy it.  If you’re seeing this movie for any other reason, Kitty will have had her revenge on you... I had to be reminded that this movie is actually a sequel!  The original Cats & Dogs, about well, cats and dogs who when we aren’t looking, can actually talk.  It came out in 2001.  The little tykes who chuckled at that one have moved on The Revenge of Justin Bieber and are too cool to want to revisit that world.  In this day and age, is the best idea for a special effects movie really just live animals with their mouths moving?  Doesn’t that happen in cat food commercials?
 (Kept Checking My Watch)


The Cave   
At the risk of giving away some of the ending of The Cave, I did a head count at the end to keep track of who made it and who didn't.  I don't even remember one guy getting killed.  That'll happen when the cast is pretty much made up of interchangeable pretty-boy tough guys.  They've all got attitudes, they all think they're the best, and they all take their cave exploration duties very, very seriously.  "Respect the cave," one of them says in all seriousness before they head off on their most dangerous expedition yet.  (Kept Checking My Watch)

 The Change-Up  (Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman)
...best friend characters do switch places in a comedy that does have people rolling their eyes.  “Boy, we’ve never seen this before,” they say as Freaky Friday and the string of movies in the 80s including Like Father Like Son and Vice Versa.  But have you seen it R-Rated, where the magic happens because the stars piss in a magic fountain and broach the idea of having sex with each other’s partners? 
It’s Bateman who really gets to “change up.”  I’ve already written that in Horrible Bosses he plays the same straight man struggling to stay composed that he played in Arrested Development.  He’s the same guy here – until the switch.  Then he gets to play Reynolds’ slacker playboy failing at being a straight man struggling to stay composed.  He is on a roll.       (Tremendous)

 


Charlie & The Chocolate Factory   (Johnny Depp,  Freddie Highmore)  
Tim Burton takes every idea from the original and makes them all the more extreme.  The entire world becomes a cartoon where the most popular person in the world would be a guy who runs a chocolate factory.  Augustus Gloop is even more of a glutton, Veruca Salt is even more of a brat, her father is even more scared of her, Charlie's family has even less money-- Burton's approach makes the story more of a fairy tale and makes the lessons more meaningful....  I think kids (or guys like me) who haven't seen both will like this better.  If you're a fan of the original, it may be nostalgic for you... or you may consider it a travesty that they made this.  That's up to you.  But this is a better movie.  Willy Wonka was a basic Wonka bar.  Charlie has extra ingredients.    (Tremendous)

Cheaper By The Dozen 2    (Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt)
This movie is less about Steve Martin interacting with his twelve kids than it is about Steve Martin reacting to his twelve kids. Sadly, that means watching the comic legend do slapstick-- not the hysterical manic stuff he did in The Jerk, but more like closeups of his face while he water skis and yells "Whooooaaaaaahhhh....  It's cheaper to stay home and rent the first.    (Kept Checking My Watch)

Chicken Little   (Zach Braff, Garry Marshall)
The sky isn't falling on Disney-- they can do a decent animated movie without Pixar.  That doesn't mean Disney shouldn't keep looking up, because while Chicken Little is a cute movie that will keep kids entertained, it's not quite up to the classic level of an Incredibles or a Toy Story...   It's a sweet little story as Chicken Little tries to be accepted and make his way in the world. I was really taken with an extended baseball scene where the little guy gets a hit and doesn't know what to do. The characters are all very cute, and little kids will love them.  (It Is What It Is)

Chloe   (Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried)
You can see the twist ending coming, but it's still a pretty entertaining and sleazy ride getting there.  Seyfried hopefully learns a lot from Moore -- they definitely work closely together.  (Tremendous)

The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe   (Georgie Henley, Tilda Swinton)   
...And oh yeah, The Passion Of The Christ proved Christians will go to a theater in droves if the movie has a message for them.  So we can focus less on any trails that have been blazed and take Narnia for what it is: a pretty amazing movie...  If you're not one of the faithful, you won't be alienated. It's pretty obvious who Aslan is, but there's no call to action for you to join a church. The movie does have some good lessons for any child though-- things about loyalty to family, the temptation to do bad and the importance of forgiveness.   (Tremendous)


Cinderella Man   (Russell Crowe, Renee Zelwegger)
You'd think there are only so many ways to shoot a boxing movie. Two guys. One ring. Not a lot to shoot.  But director Ron Howard found a way with Cinderella Man. From the blood dripping on the ring to the boxer's-eye view of a man entering through the ropes, there's a feeling you haven't seen this before...  You always hear boxers say the other guy is "trying to keep me from feeding my family." For Braddock, it was so true. The scenes showing the family in poverty are stifling. People worried about their credit card debt shouldn't complain if they've never added water to a milk jug to make it seem full or closed their eyes and pretended a slice of baloney was a steak. Or worse-- thought about sending their children away until they can afford to support them.   (Tremendous)




Clash of the Titans    (Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson)
"Just release the Kraken already. “Release The Kraken” is a catchphrase that’s endured among fans of the 1981 original.  The studio behind the new one has made sure we hear the phrase in all the promos.  And as I sat there watching the new one, I wanted them to release the Kraken so I could see the cool special effects and then be released from sitting through this underwhelming remake... Liam Neeson is Zeus.  Ralph Fiennes is Hades.  I couldn’t help but wonder if two of them looked at each other, rolled their eyes and said:  “Dude, what happened here?  We were in Schindler's List”."
(Kept Checking My Watch)





Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs   (Bill Hader, Anna Faris)
"I can’t forecast it for sure, but if there’s justice, the much beloved book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is about become a hit movie as well.  It’s a comedy that will make everyone in the family laugh out loud.  And that’s not because adults watching will get in touch with their inner child or because the humor is lowest common denominator jokes about bodily functions.  It’s because some things are just plain funny and very clever."   (Tremendous)   

Code Name: The Cleaner   (Cedric The Entertainer, Lucy Liu)
Cedric The Entertainer wakes up with no memory, a briefcase full of money and a dead body next to him.  Where did the body come from?  He might be a secret agent, or he might be a janitor.  He might be married to Nicolette Sheridan, or he might be involved with Lucy Liu.  He’s found himself in the middle of quite a mystery.  Unfortunately, he’s found himself in the middle of a dull, dull comedy...  The spy stuff isn’t good, the comedy isn’t good… heck, the cleaning stuff isn’t all that good.  If you go, you’ll forget you ever saw this.   (Kept Checking My Watch)



Colombiana  (Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartain)
If there is one takeaway from Colombiana, it is this:  Zoe Saldana has one great body.  Make no mistake about it:  Saldana and her lithe figure are the stars of Colombiana.  Director Olivier Megaton makes a point of capturing Saldana’s figure in the best possible light in every scene, and no matter what may be exploding around her, he makes sure she looks fantastic... no real thinking is required – the murder “plots” are not that complex – in fact, a couple of mysteries from the beginning of the movie remain unresolved.  Detail isn’t terribly important – consider: the murder of Cataleya’s parents takes place in 1992. For some reason, the adult action takes place “15 years later.”  That would be 2007, not 2011.  Yet characters have the very latest smartphones and a CIAagent has a picture of Barack Obama on his wall. Colombiana is less about twists and turns than it is its star’s curves. It’s action movie eye candy.   (It Is What It Is)


Contagion  (Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow)
All one can think while sitting through Contagion is:  “why would anyone want to watch this?”  There is nothing thrilling about Contagion.  Movies about viruses rapidly spreading and threatening to wipe out civilization shouldn’t necessarily be fun, but they should be able to put you on the edge of your seat.  Contagion just shows one person after another getting sick, and one researcher after another furrowing their brows worrying...  one also wonders “what am I supposed to get out of this?”...  the ultimate message is there is nothing you can do if a deadly disease wants to take you out.  Unless you’re the doctor who knows how to synthesize an antidote, this movie has no message for you other than:  “don’t touch your face so much” and “always be sure to wash your hands.”   (Kept Checking My Watch)



Conviction   (Hillary Swank, Sam Rockwell)
It sounds like the type of story you see in a TV movie, focusing on “One Woman’s Struggle” to save her brother and keep her family intact.  The true story could certainly have been turned into a movie-of-the-week type project, but the performances in Conviction elevate it to a more prestigious level... As a family drama, Conviction is pretty good.  As a legal drama, it falls a little flat...  It’s matter-of-fact:  he’s in prison; she’s going to try and get him out.  And after awhile, you’re ok with that.  The family stuff is good enough on its own.   (It Is What It Is)

 Crazy, Stupid, Love   (Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling)
This summer we’ve seen bridesmaids get sick in their wedding party dresses, grown men have their second big hangover, and three childhood friends plot to kill their horrible bosses.  Some of that stuff has been very funny, but now it’s apparently time for a more mature comedy.  That’s not to say Crazy, Stupid, Love doesn’t have its share of misunderstandings, comedic twists and even crude humor.  It definitely does.  But this one is about a family going through a rough patch, and it treats it all with a combination of clever humor and sensitivity.  
(Tremendous)


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button   (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett)
"The new movie starring Brad Pitt faces some big competition at the box office on a very busy Christmas Day, and while it’s hard to say how this 2 hour and 45 minute movie will do on its opening weekend, it’s probably safe to say it will age better than any of those others... the story of a man who ages backward – is easily one of the best movies of the year.  It is Forrest Gump-like in its scope, and like Forrest Gump, it is full of all kinds of sentimental moments and scenes that make you ponder the meaning of the world and your place in it. "  (Tremendous)

 Crazy Heart   (Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal)
I know very little about country music, but I can tell the lyric "It's funny how falling feels like flying for a little while" is perfect.  And I can tell Jeff Bridges is perfect as the falling but trying to fly Bad Blake.  (Tremendous)

The Da Vinci Code   (Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou)
Some pretty big names are connected to The Da Vinci Code (Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, DaVinci, Jesus), and expectations are pretty high.  In a way, that's too bad, because if The Da Vinci Code had been a movie first, with "edgier" stars, we'd all be saying "Wow, that's a great idea."  A cult would have been formed around it, and obsessives would be all over The Da Vinci Code the way they're all over Lost or Pulp Fiction or Memento.  To my Da Vinci Virgin Eyes, it was pretty cool to hear those concepts for the first time.   (Tremendous)

The Dark Knight  (Christian Bale, Heath Ledger)

Movie critics and comic book fans (OK, mostly comic book fans) will always debate what the best comic book/super hero movie is.  As of this summer, they have to hit “reset.”  Not just because Iron Man is so good, but because The Dark Knight is absolutely fantastic.  It has twists and turns, high adventure, an engaging love triangle and solid performances from Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated actors.  It just so happens the lead wears a cape and the antagonist wears clown makeup.  Take the above elements and throw in elements from the DC Comics and fans of the genre may just have the best… comic book movie… ever.   (Tremendous)




The Dark Knight Rises  (Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway)
It’s a little longer than it needs to be, but the payoff is fantastic.  When I saw the trailers about the “final chapter,” I asked why it had to be the final chapter.  That’s because Christopher Nolan has had a story to tell, and he does it in a trilogy of movies that truly are a trilogy of movies that fit together.  Yes, they have made an obscene amount of money, but the two sequels weren’t tacked-on money grabs.  These are Christopher Nolan movies, not comic book movies (think about this: the word “Catwoman” is never spoken.)  An “Amazing Spider-Man” reboot is inevitable, but I hope Warner Brothers can let this simmer – and let us enjoy the best Batman, the best Commissioner Gordon, the best Alfred, the best Batcave and the best movie Batman ever.    (Tremendous)

Date Night  (Steve Carell, Tina Fey)
It's kind of a shame to waste two stars from shows with sharp, witty dialogue and lightning-fast pop culture references on what's basically slapstick -- but there are some cute moments, and it's kind of fun to follow along as they meet up with star after star in different cameos. 
(Tremendous)




Dear John    (Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried)
Dear Young Women of America:  If you were into The Notebook, you’ll probably want to see Dear John.  And the film’s creators will do everything they can to manipulate you into liking it...  John is on leave from the U.S. Army Special Forces visiting his father in South Carolina.  He’s a big heroic lunk – a good boy now but there are hints that he used to be a bad boy.  He also spends a lot of time shirtless.  Savannah is an unbelievably good girl.  She’s a wide-eyed blonde all the boys like.  She thinks she has a bad girl streak because she swears – in her head!  Her ambition:  to someday open a ranch where autistic kids can play with horses (Wow, that’s unbelievably word-in-Savannah’s-head-ing wholesome)!...  pretty much everything we see coming in the most cornball presentation possible.
(For the record -- I actually don't mind The Notebook).   (Kept Checking My Watch)


Defiance  (Daniel Craig, Liev Schrieber)
"Defiance shows the Jews during World War II doing something they don’t do a lot in the movies – fighting amongst themselves...  Defiance is complex and fascinating – because it was all so real. It shows how the complexities of war trickle down to the simple man trying to live the simple life – even a way simple one."   (Tremendous)



The Departed   (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson)
The question every article is posing is "Why haven't Jack Nicholson and Martin Scorsese worked together before?"  My answer having seen it: they were waiting for just the right project. The Departed is it. It's perfectly suited to the strengths of both of these icons.  On the Scorsese end of things: this is the kind of violent gangster epic that his fans love. Biopics on Howard Hughes and adaptations of Edith Wharton novels help Scorsese's credibility even if they don't earn him Oscars. But it's the gangster stuff that has given him actual fans. They will love this too. .. Nicholson is as evil an S.O.B. as we've ever seen Nicholson play... He is just one of three strong leads. In a lot of ways, Costello (Nicholson) is really a supporting character for Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio... It's exactly what you want from the people involved.  (Tremendous)

 

The Descendants   (George Clooney, Shailene Woodley)
Alexander Payne hasn’t directed many movies, but when he does, he is the master of showing men at a crossroads... It’s maybe Payne’s heaviest topic, yet he still manages to produce a dramedy as good as or better than his past... Clooney is arguably the best he’s been, yet this isn’t a case of “George Clooney as you’ve never seen him before.”  He’s not over-the-top emotional despite his predicament.  He’s a tired, awkward guy who probably thought he had everything figured out until now, and when he does show his emotions it’s just right.     (Tremendous)



The Descent 
Let's put it this way. Halfway through, I saw some people descend right down the stairs and head out the door.  I don't blame them. The movie starts out as a claustrophobic's nightmare and then descends into an absolute gorefest when they're attacked by some Gollum-looking creatures that live down there.  Me? I liked it, but I can handle it. I was in suspense waiting for each moment the creatures would attack, and when they did, it was always entertaining in a squeamish/fun kind of way.  (It Is What It Is)

The Devil's Rejects   (Sid Haig, Sheri Moon)
Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects is the best horror movie I've seen this summer.  By that, I don't mean it's scary.  It's too funny to be scary.  And by funny, I mean only if you have a dark sense of humor and can find the story of an evangelical sheriff hunting down a family of serial killers funny.  Still with me?  OK, if you like that kind of stuff, read on... OK, now back to my warped sense of humor and the fun I had watching a poor woman killed by a truck while wearing her dead boyfriend's face.... I swear I'll try to get to March Of The Penguins to make up for this.  (Tremendous)

Did You Hear About The Morgans?   (Sarah Jessica Parker, Hugh Grant)
"It has an intriguing and somewhat unique enough premise, or at least one that should have made it stand out from other romantic comedies.  But once the creators had the initial idea, they let laziness set in...  Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant do just enough to remind you they’re Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant and aren’t other actors in disguise.  She’s a quirky yet sophisticated gal who loves New York City and wants to talk about her relationships.  He’s a droll Englishman with a witty charm who hides his true feelings.  They’ve each done these parts so many times before that they’re just phoning it in here.  Their delivery is so slow and so familiar; they both seem bored the entire time."  (Kept Checking My Watch)


Disaster Movie  (Matt Lanter, Kim Kardashian)
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian and Nick Lachey’s girlfriend Vanessa Minnillo are two of the stars of the new parody film Disaster Movie. If that’s a selling point for you and you go, then you deserve what you get...  I could tell from the ads it probably wouldn’t be that good – but a movie that parodies all the summer hits had to have at least one laugh in it.  It was worse than I thought.  (Kept Checking My Watch)



District 9     (Sharlto Copley, Nathalie Boltt )
...some pretty heavy stuff – the kind of stuff the best science fiction deals with well.  And District 9 is absolutely the best kind of science fiction.  But before you have a chance to get too bogged down in the deeper meaning, the action happens.  A hapless drone is assigned to head up the relocation of the aliens from District 9 to what’s essentially an internment camp. Things go bad for him, things go bad from the aliens, and then the action begins.  And then this potentially heavy message movie becomes way freaking cool.   (Tremendous)



Dolphin Tale   (Nathan Gamble, Morgan Freeman)
The best thing about the movie is Winter the bottlenose dolphin, who plays herself.  To do that, director Charles Martin Smith and team (we’ll assume including trained handlers) had to remove the tail to make the scenes genuine.  Watching a tail-less dolphin swim is both a curiosity and when you think about it, an inspiration...  Kids will marvel, skeptical adults may wonder if everything they’re seeing happened exactly that way or not.  Certainly it’s something you can enjoy with your kid – or through your kid’s eyes, but your adult eyes might be better served by The True Story of Dolphin Tale that we can hope someone will produce (It Is What It Is)

Doom  (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson)
Forgive me video gamers, I can't tell you if Doom follows the storyline of the game it was based on.  I lost track of video games a long time ago... The Rock has charisma and is actually a decent actor, but any B-list action star could have done Doom... This film won't attract anyone outside its fan base, and even they might get a little bit bored.... There's a bit of a twist and a cool looking homage to the game itself.  Ironically, Doom the movie is at its best when it looks like Doom the game.  (It Is What It Is)

Doubt  (Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman)
A group of great actors in a pretty over-rated movie.  And the last line?  Really?  It'd be like ending a movie with "...in conclusion."  Or saying, "And those are GoodFellas."  Or "And that's how Harry Met Sally."  (It Is What It Is)

Dreamgirls   (Jamie Foxx, Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson)
It is of course very ironic that the star of a movie musical about fame and who deserves it is someone who only finished seventh when she was on American Idol...  Jennifer Hudson steals the show to the point where you have to call her the star... That’s not to say the others in the movie aren’t good.  Shockingly, another supporting player steals the scenes he’s in.  Shockingly, that player is someone who usually isn't a supporting player.  Superstar Eddie Murphy takes third billing to play one of his best characters ever... Director Condon is blessed with great music to drive the movie.  The songs in Dreamgirls—which didn’t exist in the real world eras they’re performed in—provide an amazing musical history lesson.  (Tremendous)

The Duchess (Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes)
I sense through history there must have been thousands of stories of noble women held back by their royal spouses – beloved by the masses but loathed by the men they married because they couldn’t give them a male heir.  And I feel like Hollywood is determined to tell every one of them... If you rent it, the only way you’ll find out who she was and why they made a movie about her is to skip right to the end.  The subtitles telling us what she went on to do tell a bigger and more important story than the movie itself does.   (Kept Checking My Watch) 

Due Date   (Robert Downey, Jr. , Zack Galifianakis)
With Thanksgiving looming, sometime in the next couple of weeks, some cable station is going to be showing Planes, Trains & Automobiles... and someone having just seen the new comedy from the director of The Hangover will think, “Hey, this is pretty much just Due Date.”  Well, it is and it isn’t.  Planes, Trains & Automobiles will be run again and again because it’s ultimately a heartwarming family movie... Due Date doesn’t really have that part down... Director Todd Phillips clearly is still feeling the effects of The Hangover and is looking to recreate the appeal of his mega-hit much more than he is looking to remake Planes...  If you liked (Zack Galifianakis as) Alan, you’ll like Ethan.  (It Is What It Is) 



The Dukes Of Hazzard   (Johnny Knoxville, Sean William Scott)
From the casting, you know this isn't going to be a kinder, gentler Hazzard County. The city slickers casting this movie sent a message by giving us American Pie's Sean William Scott and Jackass' Johnny Knoxville as Bo and Luke Duke.  Our original Dukes were good ol' boys, but they were fairly gentle and decent guys. Tom Wopat's Luke was actually smart, and John Schneider's Bo was a kind-hearted lunk... They're amping up the dumb redneck routine. On the show, they came up with fun and clever schemes to defeat Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane. This time all they can think to do is get Cousin Daisy (Jessica Simpson) to shake it and distract people... Until now, the big mistake in Dukes history was when the TV producers dared replace Bo and Luke with lookalike cousins named Coy and Vance. They didn't do much better with Stifler and Jackass.  (Kept Checking My Watch)
 


Easy A   (Emma Stone, Thoams Haden Church)
It's kind of nice to see a movie about a girl and her virginity that is a) smart and b) not gratuitouly filthy.   Stone is adorable and is a charmer with her wit and self-awareness.  They try a little too hard to make her parents cool and hip, but they don't keep the movie from becoming uncool or unhip.    (Tremendous)


Easy Virtue  (Jessica Biel, Colin Firth)
"Jessica Biel takes her shot at respectability – not by actually going on stage and doing a play, but by doing a movie based on a classic play.  And she pulls it off.  It’s probably a back-handed compliment, but that’s the biggest surprise in Easy Virtue.  Biel’s never been a bad actress, but her work would probably not be described as highfalutin’.  She’s not who you’d expect in a comedy set in 1920s England, based on a play by Noel Coward and starring actors of the caliber of Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth.   (Tremendous)


Edge of Darkness   (Mel Gibson, Ray Wintsone)
Fair or not, audiences and critics are going to judge Edge of Darkness entirely by its star.  The last time we saw Mel Gibson in front of a camera, it was a mug shot and he was on the edge of some personal darkness...  Edge of Darkness was a good choice for him.  Audiences should like a family man out to do good who has enough of an edge that action fans will like him.  He needs to be hero, not an anti-hero, and it’s certainly too soon for the guy who called a female cop “sugar t**s” to play a romantic lead.  You can’t help but notice there is no female lead in Edge of Darkness.  So – good choice, Mel...   but it’s only on the edge of being a good movie.  It’s on the edge of being an all-out action movie; it’s on the edge of being a murder mystery, and on the edge of being a political thriller.  It only touches on and is only average at each.    (It Is What It Is)


Eight Below   (Paul Walker, Dogs)

There's some really good acting in Eight Below. The actors in this suspense thriller show genuine concern for each other as they're stranded in Antarctica. There's the fear they won't get rescued, the loyalty they show one another with each danger faced, and the sadness when tragedy hits. You can't help but feel for these heroes in their tale of survival.  By the way, they're dogs. The humans in the movie aren't as impressive, but they don't really matter all that much.  (Tremendous)

Elizabethtown   (Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst)
I love Cameron Crowe's movies, even Vanilla Sky which I don't entirely understand.   I also loved his Jerry Maguire, which is why Elizabethtown is such a letdown. It IS Jerry Maguire, minus the good lines and great performances...  The word is Elizabethtown was screened at the Toronto Film Festival, and after the bad reaction, Crowe trimmed it.  Which means it was once longer and duller.  If you see it, you'll find that hard to believe.   (Kept Checking My Watch)

Employee Of The Month   (Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson)
I shop at a wholesale club, so I understand what the makers of Employee Of The Month were thinking.  Why pay for two stars-- like an Owen Wilson and a Reese Witherspoon-- when you can get second rate stars like Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson, Andy Dick, Dax Shepherd and Apu from Seinfeld in bulk?  (Kept Checking My Watch)



Evan Almighty  (Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman)
I probably shouldn’t apply too much logic about a movie based on a giant ark and faith, but I did have a little trouble getting over how few people believed Evan.  I’m not saying they need to buy into his “I talked to God” story entirely, but if they see bears and elephants following him around everywhere, wouldn’t they think there’s something more going on than just one guy acting like a lunatic?... Details like that may not be too important considering what the movie really is:  a children’s book version of a Bible story.  It’s sweet, it has a nice message, but you know all involved could have done something with a little more edge.  (It Is What It Is)

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose   (Laura Linney)
Sounds like it could be a horror movie or a cool episode of Law & OrderEmily Rose tries to be both though-- so just as you get into one movie, it becomes another.  Emily's story is told in flashbacks in court... So the flashbacks are good and freaky-- Emily speaks long-dead languages, she twitches on the floor, she sees ghostly figures wherever she walks.  But just when you get a good scare going-- bam-- we're back in court.  OK, maybe then we get a gripping legal argument, but in that context, the horror becomes a little silly.  (It Is What It Is)

The Expendables  (Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham)
The movie is sometimes a lot of fun, and sometimes not as fun as it should be.  Stallone has an all-star action cast assembled that should have gone all out to ludicrous proportions, but sometimes they’re relegated to the background while Stallone and Statham get to do everything.  If the payday was good, maybe whoever didn’t get killed (can’t spoil it) can come back for an Expendables 2.    (It Is What It Is)



(500) Days of Summer   (Joseph Gordon Leavitt, Zooey Deschanel)
"If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, then you’ve lived at least 400 of the 500 “Days of Summer.” But while they’re familiar situations, there’s nothing familiar about the movie. It jumps from, for example, Day (40) to Day (279) then back to Day (55); the jumps illuminate the different ways the relationship grows and/or deteriorates. It tells its story out of order and somehow it makes more sense than if it was traditionally linear. Ever been in relationship trouble that you didn’t see coming?   They and the audience don’t see the warning signs, but since the story’s told out of order, you experience their moments of clarity as they do. You’re right there with Tom as he thinks, “Oh yeah, I should have seen that coming.”  (Tremendous)


Failure To Launch   (Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew McConaughey)
Every hack critic in the country is going to take the title of Failure To Launch and say "no kidding." So I will too... Sarah Jessica Parker can be a good romantic lead, as we know from Sex & The City's Carrie Bradshaw. In fact, every episode of Sex & The City is better than this. Let me recommend two of them for you: the one where Carrie dates a guy who still lives at home, and the one where she meets up with (Failure co-star) Matthew McConaughey. The ideas can launch.  (Kept Checking My Watch)

Fantastic Four   (Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis)
The idea of super heroes becoming stars is a good one. The media name them "The Fantastic Four" after catching them rescuing people on a bridge-- and it's the public who begins calling them super heroes...  Only Johnny Storm embraces his new role. He's played by Chris Evans, who is a standout ... Just like in the comic, the heart of the Fantastic Four is the tragic figure Ben Grimm... He's a funny and sad character who's always been the most popular of the Four, and he's played just right by The Shield's Michael Chiklis...  The biggest problem with the movie-- not enough super heroing. Instead of getting out there and fighting crime, they're arguing with each other. ... Fantastic Four I  is a so-so start to the franchise, but it shows a lot of promise for Fantastic Four II and III. (It Is What It Is)

Fantastic Four:  Rise of the Silver Surfer  (Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis)
Um... yeah.  See the review above?  Didn't live up to the promise.   (It Is What It Is)



Fantastic Mr. Fox   (George Clooney, Meryl Streep)
"
At first glance, The Fantastic Mr. Fox seems like it’s a kids' movie. It’s a stop-motion animation fable based on a book by Roald Dahl, about a fox who retired from chicken-stealing but comes out of retirement to steal from a trio of evil farmers. The cat-and-mouse game that follows is as funny as any Looney Tunes cartoon where animal and human do battle. And it’s very, very funny.  But it’s not funny because of animals getting flattened by anvils or because they use props that they ordered from Acme. It’s because it’s written for the screen and directed by Wes Anderson, who gave us the modern classics Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Fans of those movies (this critic included) love those films for their dry humor and quirky characters. Fantastic Mr. Fox is in the same tradition as those films; the only difference is the quirky characters are talking animals."
Full review is at my examiner page...   please click here for more...  (Tremendous)


Fast Food Nation   (Greg Kinnear, Ashley Johnson)
I never read the book ahead of time, so I didn’t know a lot about what to expect from Fast Food Nation, based on Eric Schlosser’s best-seller. I knew it would be something of an expose of the fast food industry, but thought it might have a funny, satirical take.  You throw the words “fast food” into a title and you might expect quick, cheap entertainment.  What you get instead from Fast Food Nation is a dull movie served to us painfully slow... The use of a fictional fast food chain does make one wonder: how much of this is true? What’s it all based on?  And the most important thing:  what’s the deal with the fecal matter in the meat?  (Kept Checking My Watch)

50/50   (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen)
I like a dark comedy as much as anyone, but don't be fooled -- this isn't a comedy.   Casting Seth Rogen as a foul-mouthed sidekick does not a comedy make.  It's not a bad movie, but it's a drama about cancer, not a comedy about cancer.  You'll spend more time depressed than you will in hysterics.  Still, it's tastefully done, and you'll want to stay with it to see if this kid makes it.    (It Is What It Is)

The Fighter   (Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale)
Much has been written a lot about how good The Fighter is, but overall, it's probably overrated.   The performances of Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are definitely not overrated, and Mark Wahlberg is lucky to have them in his corner.  What hasn't been said so I'll say it, because this is my page and I'm a fan:  best use ever of a Whitesnake song in a movie. (Trememdous)



Fired Up   (Shawn Colfax, Nick Brady)
"What were the Wedding Crashers like in high school?  That is basically what we have here – two fast-talking, quick-thinking charmers – one brunette, one blonde – who scam their way into a place they shouldn’t be – all so they can hook up with as many females as possible... But you know what?  It’s not like they’re ripping off Citizen Kane here...  I’m not ready to necessarily cheer “F.U!!” repeatedly after seeing the movie, but I’m far from wanting to scream “F.U.!” at the movie either."  (It Is What It Is)

Firewall   (Harrison Ford, Virginia Madsen)
The name Firewall is actually a pretty good one for an action movie, but as an action movie, it's pretty routine. It's a familiar role for Ford, along the lines of his brooding work in The Devil's Own or Air Force One, so if you liked those, you may like this.  There are no big stunts, maybe because Ford is getting up there and wouldn't be all that convincing doing Indiana Jones-type moves anymore.  For that reason, the action is kept to typing passwords really fast and downloading a lot of information. It's not particularly exciting, but I at least understood it. I'm sure computer geeks will roll their eyes and some of it, but it's dumbed down enough for me.  (It Is What It Is)

Flags Of Our Fathers   (Ryan Phillipe, Adam Beach)
Misidentified or not, everyone on the battlefield is a hero of course, and Eastwood has put together a thoughtful film on what it means to be one. They can be as obvious as Rene Gagnon, as reserved as John Bradley or as tortured as Ira Hayes...  The film also looks at why we want and need heroes. You don't blame anyone for latching onto the people they do, and even while we are bothered by the government's playing with the facts, you almost don't blame them for giving us what we want. (But repeating for emphasis: almost)... Flags is as stirring as any "traditional" World War II movie without sugar coating the realities of war.  (Tremendous)

Flyboys   (James Franco, Jean Reno)
Maybe in 1916, they weren't cliches.  But 90 years later, what we're seeing in Flyboys is pretty standard stuff for any war movie, be it a classic serial, Top Gun or even Star Wars.   That's too bad, because Flyboys has two plot elements that could have been turned into an effective historical drama. 1) The flyboys from the title are Americans who, for different reasons, fight World War I alongside the French before the U.S. enters the conflict. 2) They are the very first fighter pilots: in 1916, these things called "planes" hadn't been around all that long.... The real life guys this movie was based on probably deserved a better honor.   (It Is What It Is)

Forbidden Kingdom (Jackie Chan, Jet Li)
I’m not an aficionado of kung fu movies, so watching Forbidden Kingdom, I couldn’t say for sure if I was watching a parody or a tongue-in-cheek tribute.  Distilling the above comment to the real point:  I have no idea what I was watching.  (Kept Checking My Watch)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall   (Jason Segel, Mila Kunis)
Producer/writer/director Judd Apatow doesn’t forget his friends, especially if they have talent... he continues to use many of the same people, confident they’ll deliver. And with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he’s mostly right.   Segel and company will absolutely be delivering Apatow another box office hit... and will be delivering to fans some more great and quotable lines – but they aren’t delivering the movie world another comedy for the ages like Virgin or Knocked Up proved to be.  (It Is What Is Is)

Four Brothers (Mark Wahlberg, Andre Benjamin)
Boyz N The Hood director John Singleton has transitioned from his earlier grittier (and violent) work to a slam-bang, car chase, shoot-em-up.  The shootouts are well-staged, and the suspense level is high any time the shots ring out.  It's a pretty decent script, with a couple of red herrings thrown in that had me thinking, "Ah, that's why mom got shot."   As for the four brothers, they're all very good.  Most important, they're very good together.  They had to have camaraderie for us to believe they were a family, and they do.  (Tremendous)

Four Christmases    (Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon)
"At first, it may seem like this is Take 2 of the Vince Vaughn Holiday Classic Movie (a year ago, Vaughn starred in and produced the under-appreciated Fred Claus).  But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a holiday film... Four Christmases is s a comedy about relationships.  As Vince Vaughn movies go, Four Christmases is really a lot closer to The Break-Up than it is to Fred Claus."   (It Is What It Is)

Fred Claus   (Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti)
"In one scene in Knocked Up, one of Seth Rogen’s stoner friends asks Katherine Heigl’s E! News Reporter if she knows Vince Vaughn and if he’s cool.  “You know, because he seems like a cool kind of guy to hang out with.”  Should said stoner be concerned that his idol has made a family-friendly kid movie?  I’d lay odds he was a Will Ferrell fan who didn’t stop liking Ferrell after Elf, and he’ll be relieved to know Vaughn doesn’t sell himself out to make Fred Claus.   (Tremendous)



Funny People   (Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen)
At one point, Adam Sandler's actor/comedian character checks his cell phone for messages while being forced to watch his ex-girlfriend's daughter in a home movie.  This had to be director Judd Apatow's sub-conscious telling him how self-indulgent his own movie is.  I'm a huge fan of everyone involved in funny people, but they all tested my patience here.   (Kept Checking My Watch)

Ghost Rider   (Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes)
Cage is a lot of fun as Blaze, a tortured soul sure, but he adds a lot of humor to his character.  It’s more of a deadpan kind of torture.  Sure, he feels guilty he sold his soul to the devil, but he never forgets he loves the Carpenters and anything on TV featuring monkeys.
Sadly, the movie lost me when Blaze actually does become Ghost Rider, which happens in our second half.  Ghost Rider looks cool, but he’s a complete CGI creation with no personality.  I’m not entirely sure that’s even Cage’s voice anymore.   (It Is What It Is)




Ghosts of Girlfriends Past  (Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner)
"It’s got to be hard to write a romantic comedy that’s original – whatever twists in life you hand your leads, the audience pretty much knows how it’s going to turn out.  Ghosts of Girlfriends Past gives itself an inventive twist, although it makes the writer’s dilemma worse.  It’s the umpteenth movie to employ the theme of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol... again, the audience pretty much knows how the movie about a bitter individual visited by three ghosts who want him to change his ways is going to turn out.  So I give Ghosts of Girlfriends Past credit:  it’s actually pretty enjoyable."   (Tremendous)

Gigantic   (Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel)
Gigantic mess…  Gigantic waste of time and talent… Gigantic pile of… oh, I could go on.  I suppose Gigantic is a comedy, although I didn’t quite get the humor.  It’s certainly quirky – a quirky story about two quirky people who find each other.  But it’s largely quirky just to be quirky, and the two leads are so laid back and uncharismatic it’s hard to care...   It’s a gigantic mish mash of quirky ideas thrown together by writer and first-time director Matt Aselton.  It almost feels like he thinks he’ll never direct again, so just in case he doesn’t get a chance, he throws in as much as he can.   (Kept Checking My Watch)



The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo   (Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara)
Fans of the dark tale can be reassured that it’s being adapted by David Fincher, the director who both entertained and disturbed us in Fight Club, Seven and Zodiac...  But it’s not the white supremacists and missing girls that give the story its dark edge – it’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo herself Lisbeth Salander, played by Rooney Mara...  Mara is a relative newcomer, but a comparison of her publicity head shots to the pale, pierced tattooed Lisbeth lead us to assume she’s immersed herself in the role.  It’s not just on the surface – beyond looking like a miniature Marilyn Manson, Mara transforms into a dark and complex emotional creature.  She’s cold, blunt and off-putting – except in some moments in the first act where her performance turns astonishingly raw.  At the risk of speaking for those who have actually read the book, one can’t help but think readers found their Lisbeth.   (Tremendous)




Going The Distance    (Drew Barrymore, Justin Long)
"There’s a ridiculous moment in nearly every modern romantic comedy... The relationship has gone past a turning point, and one half of the couple (usually the woman) is about to leave for a new life somewhere else– be it boat, train or plane.  The man realizes how he feels and what he has to do and goes off on a mad chase to stop her.  It’s an old-fashioned declaration of love that saves the relationship.  Never mind that this isn’t the 1940s and if he got to the airport after she leaves, he can phone or e-mail or text or skype.  It’s not like she’s going to Mars.  Going the Distance gets that moment out of the way and then deals with modern reality..."   (Tremendous)


The Golden Compass  (Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman)

Conservative Christians and atheists are both complaining about The Golden Compass.  The Christians say it promotes atheism; some atheists are saying it doesn’t do enough to do so.  I came out with a prayer of my own:  “Dear God, they aren’t really going to make another one of these, are they?”  The long and senseless movie goes on forever and leads to no real conclusion, but then throughout, I never really knew what the characters were trying to do.  Still, it’s clearly set up for a sequel.  Golden Compass:  you are no Harry Potter(Kept Checking My Watch) 

Good Luck Chuck  (Dane Cook, Jessica Alba)
Decision time:  do I want this site to be R-rated?  Because there are words that rhyme with Luck and Chuck that would fit nicely into this review... The ludicrous premise reaches its ridiculous peak when Chuck does get involved with Alba… and is fearful he’ll lose her to the next guy she meets.  Since the idea is so vague, it’s hard to know the rules of this curse.  I’ll travel back in time now and address Chuck:  “Dude, just break up with her.  Then get back together with her, and you’re all set.”  (Kept Checking My Watch)

Good Night, And Good Luck   (David Strathairn, George Clooney)
Clooney is something of an activist in the real world, the kind that listeners to right-wing talk radio often shout: "Shut up and make a movie." So he did. Clooney does lecture, but I didn't sit there and think: "Take that McCarthy and all you modern day McCarthys." I thought: "Man, he's being harsh on the media." If you're one of the aforementioned right-wing radio listeners, you may enjoy a movie that tells you what you often tell me: the media doesn't do a good enough job today getting to the facts and to what's important. Our perspectives on what's important may be different, but good journalism would let us make up our own minds.  (Tremendous)

Gran Torino   (Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang)
"You can’t honestly expect Clint Eastwood to go quietly.  The auteur can’t make his last appearance without making some kind of statement... Eastwood the director makes violent movies, but he always manages to say something about the violence – whether it’s in the boxing ring or on the battlefield.  Still, even if you’ve never heard of Clint Eastwood or know nothing about his movie history, Gran Torino stands on its own as a movie about a guy trying to change his environment and do one last decent thing before he goes away."  
(Tremendous)

The Good Shepherd   (Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie)
Director Robert DeNiro (who plays a small role himself) is certainly ambitious with how much ground he tries to cover, and it's fascinating to speculate on what may have been going on "behind the scenes" of history.  Unfortunately, the movie's big mystery doesn't have a satisfying payoff.  The solution becomes obvious at one point, and then we have to wait a long time for the big reveal.  Then again, we wait a long time for the end too.  At nearly 170 minutes, the movie feels like it's almost an hour longer than it needs to be.  So many scenes could get to the point much sooner than they do, and just when you think it's over, DeNiro tacks on an overly dramatic and unnecessary plot twist to drive home a point we already got.    (It Is What It Is)

The Greatest Game Ever Played   (Shia LeBeouf, Josh Flitter)
It's a funny thing about The Greatest Game Ever Played.  I'm not a sports fan, and I find golf deadly dull.  Most of The Greatest Game is about as exciting as golf, except for, oddly enough, the big game at the end...  Until then, we've seen it all before.  It was called Caddyshack...  The Greatest Game might be worth a try.  It is a traditional Disney family film, and I could see a kid who's interested in golf taking an interest here.      (It Is What It Is)




The Green Hornet   (Seth Rogen, Jay Chou)
Let’s clear up potential market confusion:  this movie is not the one starring Ryan Reynolds as an Earthman chosen to be a member of an elite intergalactic police force who wears a power ring that runs on his own willpower... So who and what is The Green Hornet and will the ComicCon attendees that drive market research and movie buzz want to go?..  The movie’s premise seems to be “why can’t an ordinary man become a super hero?” – which is actually the same premise as Kick-Ass, a film executed with much more style, wit, action and modern sensibility.   The Green Hornet and Kato come off as a diluted Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl.    (It Is What It Is)

Green Lantern  (Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively)
Campbell has worked on two James Bond and two Zorro films, and now has to take a hero to all new worlds…  It’s in Outer Space that we have the most fun.  Like this summer’s Thor, the story takes place both on Earth and an out-of-this-world kingdom.  Unlike Thor, the hero is the fish-out-of-water when he’s not on Earth - but the fish-out-of water stuff is still the most fun…   Those who aren’t huge comic book fans should enjoy Green Lantern but will see some flaws the faithful may be willing to forgive.  Chief among them is Reynolds himself.  He’s a likeable star whose abs have turned many heads, but he doesn’t necessarily offer anything to the role that any other cocky pretty boy couldn’t have pulled off.  (Tremendous)

Grindhouse   (Kurt Russell, Rose McGowan)
"It’s a shame the DVD for Grindhouse will be split in two, since it's really designed to be a 3-hour experience.  Of course, it’s probably an experience that should be had in a movie theater and if people aren't going,  at least the DVD plan could get more people to watch these two very entertaining stories... The more entertaining movie is the first, Rodriguez’s Planet Terror.    The plot isn’t as important as the images and the goofy dialogue....  It’s gloriously ridiculous...  Death Proof isn’t as action-packed as Planet Terror, but it’s very interesting, especially if you’re a fan of Tarantino and his dialogue.  We follow a never-better Kurt Russell as he follows groups of young women.  His “Stuntman Mike” is a serial killer with an intriguing method of operations.  It’s mesmerizing watching him stalk his prey...  The real highlights of Grindhouse are the fake trailers before and between Planet Terror and Death Proof.  I would love to see Grindhouse 2, made up of a double feature of Thanksgiving and Werewolf Women of the S.S.   (Tremendous)



Grown Ups  (Adam Sandler, Chris Rock)Before and after he was a Hollywood heavyweight, Adam Sandler has populated his movies with his friends. With Grown Ups, the actor/writer/producer may be taking this “Six Degrees of Adam Sandler” to the extreme. The movie is peppered with people he’s worked with in all stages of his career.  This is either a Sandler Vanity Project or a tender reunion of friends, depending on how you look at it.  And how you look at it may depend on how much you like these friends...  It may be a disappointment for their fans to see them all in “Dad mode,” but that’s not to say it isn’t funny.  Mostly, it’s funny watching the five friends interact.  They do nothing but trash talk each other in a comfortable way only close friends can.   (Tremendous)


Guess Who   (Ashton Kutcher, Bernie Mac)
I think it's fantastic that there can be a movie where a white man is engaged to a black woman, meets her family, and there's no problem.  It shows how far we've come.  Ashton Kucher as the fiancee says at one point that the only way to deal with differences is to confront them.  Sadly, the movie doesn't...  In the previews, we're made to think we're going to have a comedy that tackles the issue of race.  Its title of course is a play on the classic Guess Who's Coming To Dinner.  But aside from Kucher telling an inappropriate joke at dinner and a bit about NASCAR being a white man's sport, race is not really an issue in this movie.  The characters are interchangeable.  What it means is this movie didn't need making.  What we get instead is a watered-down Meet The Parents.   (Kept Checking My Watch)

The Guardian   (Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher)
The Guardian has many familiar elements from your typical military movie: the guy past his prime forced to train the newbies, the hotshot with an attitude, the hotshot's romance with the hottest girl at the bar, the trainee who cracks under pressure.... heck, it even has a familiar title (Kevin Costner is now both a bodyguard and a guardian).  But The Guardian takes those overdone elements and moves them into new territory: a film about the Coast Guard and its rescue swimmers. I don't remember any prominent Coast Guard movies off the top of my head, so the scenes we're used to seeing involving ground troops or fighter pilots or troubled athletes become fresh again when the trainees are in the pool or in the ocean.   (Tremendous)

Hairspray  (Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta)
Everybody in Hairspray is just so happy to be there.  They’re full of pure joy at almost all times, singing and dancing non-stop (thankfully, it’s a musical).  Even the black kids in detention-- segregated from everyone else-- spend their time dancing and celebrating.  If it were Up With People, it would get annoying fast, but in Hairspray, the mood is infectious.  (Tremendous)



Hancock  (Will Smith, Charlize Theron)
Hancock is lucky he’s played by Will Smith, otherwise he wouldn’t stand out amongst summer’s superheroes...  With Will Smith’s personality and charm, he could have made it work.  But what should have been light-hearted fun takes a dark turn halfway through and essentially forces in another storyline that should have been Hancock II.  There are some laughs early on, but in the end you wonder what Hancock's "signature" storyline is supposed to be.  (It Is What It Is)





The Hangover   (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms)
There are guys who probably do have a raunchy decadent time on their Vegas vacations, and then there are guys who probably like to yell “Party!” and do a lot of fist pumping without really knowing how to pull it off.  The Hangover’s promos make it seem like a fist pumping kind of movie, but it really isn’t that.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing:  watching guys yell “Party!” is only funny for so long, so you have to give The Hangover credit for being a more mature comedy than it advertises... it tries too hard to be a cult classic, when what it really is is an ok comedy with a neat idea.  Personally, I found the solution to where the groom was and what really happened unsatisfying, but I will admit it’s an original solution, so you may feel differently.   (It Is What It Is)

The Hangover 2  ( Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms)
Same as the first one.  But sucks. 
( Kept Checking My Watch)


Hannibal Rising   (Gaspard Ulleil, Gong Li)
I know Thomas Harris wrote a series of Hannibal Lecter books, but doesn’t he know how perfect a movie Silence Of The Lambs is?... Now he’s written the screenplay based on his novel Hannibal Rising, a look at the cannibal’s formative years—a look at what in his childhood turned him into the movie’s most famous cannibal.  Why would I want to know that?  And why would I ever want to feel sorry for Hannibal Lecter?... Note to Thomas Harris:  the lambs stopped screaming.  Please no more.   (Kept Checking My Watch)

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Copyright(c) Warner Bros. Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

 

 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1  (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson) Don’t let the “Part 1” in the title “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” fool you.  This movie is a horrible starting point for someone to watch the Harry Potter movies...  What they’ll get when they see this movie is a darker Potter than ever before... It’s Harry Potter vs. Voldemort – winner take all, to the death..  When the Dark Forces attack, it’s a pretty good action movie...  (but) Harry, Hermione and Ron go even deeper into hiding midway through the film and then things start to drag, and we’re stuck watching Harry Potter & the Deathly Long Stretches of Time Where Nothing Happens.  Well, maybe something happens, but it probably takes a real die-hard Potter fan to figure out what it is.   (It Is What It Is)

 

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows - Part 2  (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson)
“We’ll leave it to the diehards to compare all eight movies and tell you whether Hallows Part 2 is the best… It is a considerable improvement over Hallows Part 1… Director David Yates front-loaded story.  Part 1 was nearly two and half hours; Part 2 is more reasonable at a little over two.   Part 1 had those deathly silences; Part 2 is largely action.  And it’s spectacular … They are detailed scenes that look like violent exchanges between people, wizards and monsters – never looking like a video game as so many special effects films do.”   (Tremendous)

 

 

Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire   (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson)
Goblet is a very good movie, with an engaging story, excitement, magic, amazing special effects... and then something happens that forced this Potter-novice to look around the theater for help from the real Potter fans. Those Potter fans already know what I'm talking about. They've asked me: "So what did you think about __________?" And I have to tell them that's the point when the movie lost me.  Until then: great movie.    (It Is What It Is)



 


Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince   (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson )
I’ll say this:  I enjoyed this one considerably more than the other two I saw.  I felt the other ones I saw were just going through the motions – that they were so concerned with recreating the experience of the book that they weren’t all that interesting as movies.  “You smiled with wonder when you read about Hogwarts.  Now, here it is.”  But eventually, in relying too much on the fun, returning director David Yates shoots himself in the foot.  We see so much of Harry Potter the man that we don’t see enough of Harry Potter the myth and the legend...  In this two and a half hour movie, we have a good two hour movie, and a half hour set up for the final installment.    (It Is What It Is)



Herbie: Fully Loaded   (Lindsay Lohan, Michael Keaton)
...Not that there's anything wrong with Lindsay, it's just that the movie becomes more about her and less about Herbie. She establishes her relationship with Herbie too quickly-- aside from some screaming, she seems to just accept the fact that "OK, I have a magic car." Then we focus on her love life, her family life and her dream of driving for her father's NASCAR team. Along the way, other people encounter Herbie, and it's not even made clear just who's in on Herbie's secret and who isn't.  (Kept Checking My Watch)





Hereafter   (Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard)

Let’s hope the paranormal activity in Paranormal Activity 2 is more exciting than the paranormal activity in Hereafter.   This critic opted to get all critic-y and chose the advance screening of the film with the higher pedigree.   At first glance, it appears to be Eastwood’s first attempt at a supernatural thriller, but as you might expect, it also attempts to be something more... What it is is horribly disappointing and incredibly boring.
 (Kept  Checking My Watch)  Full review at examiner.com

He's Just Not That Into You  (Ginnifer Goodwin, Bradley Cooper)
An all-star cast acts out scenarios we've seen a thousand times before.  It's just that now they're all happening at once.  When it comes to relationships, these clueless singles act as if they're infants or from an other planet.  Some clever lines save it a little bit.   (It Just Is What It Is)  

High Tension  
High Tension has one of the most basic horror concepts.  A college student is staying with her friend's family when a guy bursts in overnight and kills everybody.  She fights back.    That's really about it.  So basically:  if you like gore, you'll like this.  If you don't, stay away, this isn't for you.   (It Is What It Is)

Hitch   (Will Smith, Eva Mendes)
... Unfortunately, the relationship he’s in doesn’t work that well—for him or for the audience.  With Hitch’s charm and expertise with women, he could have pursued a less  superficial leading lady than Eva Mendes’ gossip columnist.  She’s given some dialogue and a profession to try and make her a match for Smith, but they’re in no way equals onscreen.  She tells a story about her childhood that’s supposed to give her some depth, but it comes off as forced.  The more interesting duo is actually Smith and Kevin James.    (It Is What It Is)

The Holiday   (Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet)

Either of the two movies that team up for The Holiday would be a “Go See,” but since it’s melded into one, it can’t earn a full recommendation...  Individually though, the stories are pretty good.  Diaz’ is just a little better...   Sexy or not, they’re all attractive people who it’s not all that bad to spend a little time with-- just not too much time.     (It Is What It Is)

The Honeymooners   (Cedric The Entertainer, Mike Epps)
Really, I think the only harm this movie does to The Honeymooners is the appropriation of the name.  It may not be hysterical, but it doesn't harm the name by going lowbrow or crude.  I chuckled a few times, even if I didn't laugh out loud.   (It Is What It Is)

 Hope Springs   (Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones)
It’s truly an acting dream couple... opposite each other for the first time, team up for a dramatic movie in which… they spend a lot of time sitting on a couch talking to each other.  That’s not a bad thing, but we shouldn’t get people’s hopes up too much for big over-the-top drama in Hope Springs.  These are funny, subtle, laid-back, realistic performances snuck in at the end of the summer for a more mature crowd that decided to skip The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises...  They sit and they talk, like a real couple would.  There’s no great moment where Kay or Arnold just stands up and blurts out a great secret.  Orchestral music doesn’t blare for an emotional outpouring.  There is honesty at a reasonable volume.  (It Is What It Is)



Horrible Bosses   (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis)
They are three horrible bosses, but they are also three hysterical characters.  And the titular supervisors in Horrible Bosses are merely the supporting characters backing a trio of likeable losers.  Together, they’re the stars of one of the summer’s funniest movies.Together, they embark on a truly inept (and very R-rated) attempt at whacking three people who may just have it coming.  And together, they are very entertaining.  For three potential murderers, they have a lot of charm – they’re guys you would want to hang out with and be your friends.  Amid the slapstick, there is quick dialogue –   they bicker and get frustrated with each other, but in the way you do with someone you’re kind of stuck with.  They don’t surprise each other – they never cease to amaze one another.   (Tremendous)


Hotel For Dogs  (Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin)
"OK, my stay at Hotel For Dogs didn’t have the most luxurious accommodations, but I’m none the worse for having been there.  Sure, it’s not all that memorable, but checkout time was reasonable.   Lame hotel analogies aside, parents won’t find much here to enjoy, but their kids will be ok with it.  If you’re looking for anything more, you’re barking up the wrong tree... Oh yeah, the dogs.  They’re the real stars.  If you’re inclined to see the movie, it’s because you saw the word “dogs” in the title.  And fans of cute dogs won’t be disappointed.  Even the big ones are docile, well-trained charmers."  (It Is What It Is)

 

How Do You Know   (Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd) How do you know you’re watching a good romantic comedy?   It avoids the standard moments – the chase in the airport to stop someone from getting on the plane, the disapproving sister who watches over the female lead, the guys’ horny best friends who just want him to have some fun and “forget her” – and focuses on charming leads work out how they feel about each other.  It also helps if like How Do You Know if it comes from a master like James L. Brooks.  The writer/director of Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets and even the unappreciated Spanglish has delivered again... It will be worth at least a second viewing to get the lines down – they’re the kind of lines you really like when you hear them, but there are just too many to remember once it’s over (me, I like “I don’t drink to get better, I drink to get even better”).   (Tremendous)




How to Train Your Dragon   (Jay Beruchel, Gerard Butler)
“How to train your audience:  base your animated adventure on a children’s book, make sure they know it’s from the studio that brought you the Shrek films, and drive home the point that this movie is in 3-D… Actually, How to Train Your Dragon does have a bit in common with Avatar  – there are some visuals like nothing you’ve ever seen before, illustrating a story that’s well… a lot like something you have seen before…  But most noteworthy is the look – the animation is exquisitely detailed – from the freckles on Hiccup’s face and the scales on the dragons to the cascading oceans and the majestic mountains.  It’s all enhanced by being in 3-D.”  
(It Is What It Is)

 


Hugo   (Asa Butterfield , Ben Kingsley)
One would have to have a particularly sharp eye and see all the 3-D films of the last few years back-to-back to really judge whether or not Hugo makes the best use of 3-D since Avatar.  It’s certainly one of the best... And Martin Scorsese is certainly the most significant filmmaker to do a 3-D movie since James Cameron...  the mastermind behind violent masterpieces like Raging Bull and GoodFellas – has said he wanted to finally make a movie his kids could see.  And he certainly did.  But be warned – he made it for his kids, and it’s pretty well focused on showing his kids the things that fascinated him as a boy.  It’s a masterwork of art by a great artist – that pays tribute to some other pioneering artists.  But you have to be into that sort of thing.   (Tremendous)

The Hurt Locker   (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie)
The Iraq War drama is free of politics and full of tension.  It's an interesting study of the type of guys who are willing to sacrifice what they do, and you realize they're sacrificing even beyond physical danger and time away from home.  So far, it's the best movie to cover the conflict there.      (Tremendous)

 

I Am Legend   (Will Smith)
The less said about I Am Legend, the better I think...  That's because I didn't know much going in, other than I Am Legend was based on a book and was very similar to the classic The Omega Man.  And that's all I want to say about it, because if I'd known more, I would have been disappointed.  Others I've talked to about it either already knew some things or found more details on the internet-- and if I'd known what they know, it wouldn't have been nearly as suspenseful.  Me-- I was glued to every move Smith and his loyal companion made ..  So if you looked stuff up… shhh.    (Tremendous)

I Love You, Man   (Paul Rudd, Jason Segel)
Finally, a relationship comedy aimed at both sexes that understands men.  We love you, women... but sometimes it's very important that we go over the set list from a Rush concert.   (Tremendous)

The Ides of March   (Ryan Gosling, George Clooney)
 Watching George Clooney’s political drama The Ides of March, you’ll be able to figure out pretty early why it has that name – but the intrigue will come from figuring out who’s supposed to be Caesar and who’s supposed to be Brutus...  One would assume in the jaded and salacious age that we live in that the movie would mostly be about a political scandal – and be patient, there is one.  But... moves at a slower pace than we’re used to these days... it’s a political drama, not necessarily a political thriller...  puts its characters in situations that make us ask what we would do (“Et Tu, Brute?”)  Those of us on the outside hope the political world isn’t like that, but we suspect it probably is.  (Tremendous)



In Bruges   (Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson)
"Like Colin Farrell’s hitman-in-exile, I too had no idea where Bruges is. (It’s in Belgium, and for your purposes while reading, it’s pronounced “Brooj” like “Rouge.”)... One’s first thought that the notoriously hard living Farrell is playing a hitman would be that Ray would be a gritty tough guy. He’s tough for sure, but surprisingly funny. He’s blunt (he doesn’t like Bruges because he wasn’t raised on a farm and he’s “not a retard”), boyish (he has to stare at a movie shoot because they’re “filming midgets”) and full of great lines (were I British and crude, I’d use a priceless line about John Lennon often)... Behind the comedy though is a tragedy as Ray deals with a horrible mistake. Ken becomes his counselor, and Brendan Gleeson proves a worthy partner to Farrell. He’s just as funny, witty and adds even more depth."   (Tremendous)

 

Inception   (Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page)  Is it all just a dream?  In the middle of a summer of lackluster sequels and unimaginative ideas, has the creator of the cult hit Memento put together a movie with just as fantastic a concept?... Is a thought-provoking action flick also the best movie of the summer?  No, you’re not dreaming, but you’ll question what’s real and what isn’t as you remain glued to Christopher Nolan’s Inception...  No matter how twisted or ludicrous a dream gets, you will buy into it.  Nobody ever does anything corny like sit straight up, look at the camera and scream.  The only ones screaming will be Nolan’s Hollywood rivals – who are probably wishing they had Cobb in their employ.  The germ of an idea behind Inception would have been worth stealing. 
(Tremendous)





Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull  (Harrison Ford, Shia LeBeouf)
"It’s been an exciting last few years for those of us of a certain age – the fanboys who were part of the movement as dolls became action figures so they were acceptable for us to play with.  As adult movie-goers, we’ve watched as the Sith got their revenge, as Superman returned, as Batman began again and as James Bond entered the Casino Royale.  Now, Indiana Jones is back in his hat with his whip by his side, to entertain a group of us who bought all the DVDs of our heroes and aren’t quite ready to fully grow up.  Indy’s back in action, and as we watch, we can forget that we’ve all grown a bit ol… uh oh, wait a second...  Still, I’m quibbling, only because I hold Raiders in such high regard.  It is something of a national treasure.  Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is no national treasure, but it’s better than National Treasure… or any other Indiana Jones ripoff.  So I’m glad they dug up the old fossil.   (Tremendous)



The Informant!   (Matt Damon, Scott Bakula)
"Matt Damon gives a great performance in The Informant!, and director Steven Soderbergh has delivered another bit of quirky fun.  But the real star of The Informant! would be Damon’s inner voice, which goes absolutely everywhere...  He goes from focusing on the task at hand to wondering how some other guy got such a big office to imagining calling his home phone and hearing himself answer to wondering how a polar bear knows he has a black nose.  His disjointed thoughts are hysterical, and they also mean we never know what Whitacre is going to do next.  Neither does anybody else onscreen, which makes The Informant! so entertaining."   (Tremendous)


Inglorious Basterds   (Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz)
With all due respect to The Hurt Locker and the real men and women it's based on, Basterds may be the most tense war movie of the year.  Christoph Waltz's Col. Landa is mesmerizing as he interrogates his eventual victims.  Quentin Tarantino's trademark dialogue and violent themes work just as well as a World War II revenge fantasy as they do in a modern gangland setting.  (Tremendous)


Into The Blue   (Paul Walker, Jessica Alba)
 ...doesn't try to be anything else. It's good looking people in bathing suits who live in the Bahamas and search for buried treasure. 
It's not high art on the high seas, but it's a pleasant way to pass an evening.  There are enough twists to keep you interested but not too many to stretch credibility.    (It Is What It Is)

The Interpreter   (Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn)  
So many other things could have happened with this movie.  The leads could have overacted trying to live up to their Oscar reputations.  Sean Penn's character could have gotten in some precarious situations and pulled off amazing feats, rescuing Kidman from impossible situations.  And of course, the two could have fallen in love.  I'm happy to say The Interpreter stays focused. 
(Tremendous)

The International  (Clive Owen, Naomi Watts)
What could have been a dull procedural drama is livened up by great international photography and an absolutely classic shootout inside the Guggenheim Museum that ranks with the best shootout scenes of all time.    (Tremendous)

 Invictus   (Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon)
"Last month, this critic was totally manipulated into liking the sports movie The Blind Side. I knew it was a corny movie, but I stand by my review, even if I knew I was being manipulated as it happened.  How did I let that happen?  Sandra Bullock and the people behind The Blind Side know a good sports story can rally an audience to their point of view and provide a giant shared feel-good moment.  Director Clint Eastwood knew it too while making Invictus, and South African President Nelson Mandela knew it while setting in motion the real-life events that inspired Eastwood’s film...  It’s an inspiring story, and just like Mandela and Eastwood wanted, I bought into it."   (Tremendous)

Iron Man 2    (Robert Downey, Jr., Mickey Rourke)
A full write-up is on my Examiner page....  please follow this link:  
(It Is What It Is)
Looking back (already) at Iron Man 2




 

These are condensed versions of the original reviews (which I still have if anyone's interested)