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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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TV Review: FRINGE – SEASON 3 – “Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?”

Blair Brown and Joshua Jackson in FRINGE - Season Three - "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep" | ©2010 Fox/Liane Hentscher

Crafted by the Walter (John Noble) on the other side, up until “Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?” the only knowledge of shapeshifters we have seen are unstoppable killing machines that are the only beings (unless a super portal is opened or you have Cortexiphan kids at your disposal) that can cross over into our universe without getting torn into little bits.

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TV Review: GLEE – SEASON TWO – “Duets”

Dianna Agron and Chord Overstreet in GLEE - Season 2 - "Duets" | © 2010 Fox/Adam Rose

After a couple of bumpy weeks, GLEE gets back to basics with a solid story that forces the show choir kids to put on their best “Duets” for a free meal at a restaurant called bread sticks. The competition really brings out the best (and some times worst) in the students, as they all vie for the prize. It also allows the show to focus on the characters themselves in simple and effective ways.

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TV Review: CHUCK – Season 4 – “Vs. The Coup d’Etat”

Ryan McPartlin and Armand Assante in CHUCK - Season 4 - "Vs. The Coup D'Etat" | © 2010 NBC

There are only a few shows I look forward to week after week like CHUCK, yet the first part of Season Four has produced three rather lackluster episodes in a row. The show is fumbling. It doesn’t know what to do with the relationship between Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) resulting in silly shtick like (“is our relationship going good?” “Would she marry me if I asked her?”) as opposed to finding quirkier ways of handling these topics that don’t feel as forced.

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TV Review: DEXTER – SEASON 5 – ‘Practically Perfect’

Julia Stiles in DEXTER - Season 5 - "Practically Perfect" | ©2010 Showtime/Cliff Lipson

Bless DEXTER. Five seasons in, it still has the ability to surprise us with twists small and large. In “Practically Perfect,” the show is paying off so many threads already that we aren’t missing the one huge arc of a season-long villain. The show runners have said essentially they can’t attempt to top John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer right away, and that seems a sensible assessment. Instead, they give Dexter (Michael C. Hall) a whole new kind of problem.

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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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