Movies

Movie Review: MEGAMIND

© 2010 DreamWorks/MEGAMIND movie poster

After the success of this summer’s super-villain animated feature DESPICABLE ME, it was a big question mark if the similarly themed DreamWorks animated comedy MEGAMIND was going to pale in comparison. Thankfully that’s not the case. MEGAMIND exists in its own animated universe spearheaded by hilarious and cheeky vocal work by Will Ferell and Tina Fey. They take the material and elevate it by transcending the animated universe by delivering a great overall movie that takes the superhero genre and spins it on its head.

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Movie Review: 127 HOURS

© 2010 Fox Searchlight | 127 HOURS movie poster

Chances are, you’ve heard of Aron Ralston. He’s the outdoor enthusiast who got pinned by a boulder in a freak accident and, after five days, had to cut off his own arm to escape. For those who can cope with a depiction of Ralston’s ordeal, 127 HOURS is a consistently gripping drama that puts us face to face with the question of what we would or even could do to save ourselves in a similar situation.

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Movie Review: RED HILL

© 2010 Destination Films|RED HILL Movie Poster

Poor Shawn Cooper (Ryan Kwanten). He and his pregnant wife Alice (Claire van der Boom) arrive at the tiny Outback town of Red Hill, where Shawn has been transferred, per his request, to be a new deputy. Shawn walks into town from his new house to meet his fellow deputies – a mixed lot – and their boss, known as Old Bill (Steve Bisley), a cantankerous but effective lawman who seems to have seen it all. Then the radio reports that convicted murderer Jimmy Conway (Tommy Lewis) has escaped from prison. Tommy was a local man and Old Bill put him away. Now it looks like the extremely dangerous escapee is heading into Red Hill for revenge. Shawn winds up in situations he never imagined as things get more and more perilous.

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Movie Review: DUE DATE

©2010 Warner Bros. DUE DATE movie poster

When two teams of writers work on a project, it’s generally not good news. Such is the case with DUE DATE, a road trip comedy blessed with the intense, intelligent presence of Robert Downey, Jr. and Zack Galifianakis as mismatched travelers, but lacking hilarity in either premise or details.

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Movie Review: CONVICTION

CONVICTION movie poster | ©2010 Fox Searchlight

Although parts of CONVICTION have no doubt been fictionalized to make a better story, the heart of the film is what in fact happened. When Kenneth (Sam Rockwell) was convicted of a vicious murder and lost his first appeal, his sister, small-town barmaid Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) put herself through law school for the purpose of becoming a lawyer so she could re-open her brother’s case and exonerate him. The entire process took eighteen years.

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Movie Review: HEREAFTER

HEREAFTER movie poster | © 2010 Warner Bros.

With gorgeous locations in London, Paris, San Francisco and Hawaii (this last standing in for Indonesia) and the agreeable company of Matt Damon as a tamped-down, but not hopeless man who is trying to change his life, HEREAFTER is quite pleasant. However, one gets the feeling that director Clint Eastwood and writer Peter Morgan (of THE QUEEN and FROST/NIXON fame) had something a bit more affecting in mind, and the movie seldom connects on a fully emotional level. Indeed, it actually generates more intellectual curiosity about the story’s claims of scientific proof of some sort of shared afterlife.

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Movie Review: RED

RED movie poster | © 2010 Summit Entertainment

What happens to old CIA (and MI-6, and KGB) agents once they’re put out to pasture? Well, according to RED (the film’s acronym for the status of Retired, Extremely Dangerous), they can lead absolutely mundane lives. Unless of course somebody tries to kill them, in which case, they return to form in no time flat.

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Movie Review: STONE

STONE movie poster | ©2010 Overture Films

STONE takes its title from the nickname of Edward Norton’s character, who when we meet him has done eight years of a ten-to-fifteen sentence for arson; the incident also caused the deaths of Stone’s grandparents, although his cousin was convicted of the murders. Stone is looking to get paroled, which means he has to have some sessions with Jack (Robert De Niro), the prison’s advisor to the parole board on which inmates seem ready to take responsibility for their actions and which ones should stay locked up. Stone has a good time arguing philosophy with Jack and getting the older man’s goat, without ever saying the words Jack needs to hear in order to be comfortable about recommending parole. Instead, Stone’s wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) begins a full-court press of persuasion with Jack, who is married to the religiously devout and unhappily alcoholic Madylyn (Frances Conroy).

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Movie Review: MONSTERS

MONSTERS movie poster | ©2010 Magnet Releasing

MONSTERS is an inventive low-budget blend of science-fiction, horror, character study and political parable. It hits this last aspect a bit hard, but otherwise, it’s very entertaining. Director/writer Gareth Edwards admirably avoids the one-two-three-something-jumps-out-of-the-dark scares common to creature features in favor of a steady sense of tension. The film has the “what-if?” factor of DISTRICT 9, the giant entities wreaking havoc of CLOVERFIELD, the astonishing natural splendor of its Mexican/Central American locations and the soul of a low-budget indie.

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Movie Review: MY SOUL TO TAKE

MY SOUL TO TAKE movie poster | ©2010 Rogue Pictures

Wes Craven’s most famous filmmaking creation is still arguably the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise, but the supernatural aspects of his latest offering as writer/director, MY SOUL TO TAKE, are closer to those in THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW and SHOCKER. What’s surprising is that SOUL is sincere about depicting the high school travails of its main characters – this goes well beyond the interest SCREAM (directed by Craven, written by Kevin Williamson) showed in such things. Instead, it’s as though the horror elements of SOUL were married to a John Hughes movie, or even Craven’s school-orchestra drama MUSIC OF THE HEART. Plenty of horror films (including a number of Craven’s) are set in and around high school, but few deal this extensively with high school. The shift in emphasis is a bit surprising, but on the whole, it works.

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