Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)
Repo Men (2010)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010)
"Greg's not wimpy--he fears being a pussy. This apparently gives him licence to be a total dickhead. The film should be retitled Diary of a Sociopathic Kid . . . it offers a cynical, shrugging view of today's tweens. "
Green Zone (2010)
"Often reaches 'gripping' on the cinematic alert level and shows more political smarts than most films on Iraq, let alone action movies. Ultimately over-ambitious yet still one of the best battlefield films for avoiding war-glorification. "
"Numbs deepest in suggesting the war and its aftermath fanned flames burning within. It's clear what '20s and '30s Germany will spark the fuse to after Haneke's shown us, tick by tick, the little bombs within little lives and little lies, black and white. "
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
"Dulled down by a leaden epic formula, the plot becomes jerkily predictable on its Lord of the Rings route. Comedy and charming daffiness are sorely lacking--it's mostly ashen doom and gloom. 'Tediouser and tediouser!' cried Alice. "
Cop Out (2010)
"The victim swears the director is one Kevin Smith. Yet the high level of non-funniness here, registering 7.6 on a yawn-alyzer, suggests Mr. Smith is being impersonated by a talentless gun-for-hire trying to pass for someone who can make people "
Shutter Island (2010)
"Another attempted launch of a teen-aimed franchise, but this show-boat is rowing through the motions. Seen-that, been-there fantasy-epic stuff with dialogue more wooden and hollow than the Trojan Horse. "
When in Rome (2010)
"The low-level desperation and the wavering of consciences, against a working-class backdrop in a slumping neighbourhood, turns this into not just a fairly gripping heist-gone-wrong movie, but a fairly gritty reflection of an anxious, bankrupted America. "
Late Spring (1949)
"Haiku-like in its title, its interest in the undramatic silences between scenes, and its enfolding of human behaviour within nature, Late Spring offers tenderness in the place of melodrama and patient truth in the place of sudden revelation. "
The Box (2009)
"One of those thrillers that, looking back on it, has some plot ribbons with frayed, fuzzy ends. Just not quite sharp-edged enough to open doors to images and fears in your head you never knew were there, but now want desperately to lock up. "
The Stepfather (2009)
"As characters get startled but you don't and you suspenselessly wait for everyone to figure out what we realized long ago (Mr. Harris kills people, then 105 minutes of your life), you may well wonder about the bloody point of it all. "
Couples Retreat (2009)
"The vapid couples become sniping or sarcastic chunks of white blandness even sharks would spit back up. A kind of bad video-game romance-comedy: 2D characters, flat dialogue, an exotic backdrop, and lame new levels of relationship challenges. "
Frozen River (2008)
"Rolls along on strong acting turns, then twists away from a predictable tragic route, snowballing into a mighty little film. Darkly prescient in its portrait of people selling themselves out, selling themselves short and still slipping deeper into debt. "
Sorority Row (2009)
All About Steve (2009)
"Four stages of Acceptance Of 2-Star Movie: 1) Embarrassed for lead character. 2) Embarrassed for actor playing lead character. 3) Admiration for movie's all-out, gawky commitment to awkward comedy. 4) Annoyance with usual rom-com schmaltz-injections. "
"An SUV of a comedy: enjoy hate crimes, homophobia and terrorizing women? Then this hulking, gas-guzzling beast--completely out-of-touch with the economic climate and progressive politics--is for you! "
"Themes of adventure, home, and inner childhood are all tweaked and rejuvenated with as much spark and pop as high-flying Carl himself. A spry, imaginative romp through the jungle of the imagination. "
The Pool (2008)
"Most revealing as an unintended allegory for Russian rulers' continuing will, in their aspiration for absolutism, to lead a powerful and menacing empire, regardless of those people far below who get crushed by an iron fist. "
State of Play (2009)
"Much of the fun is all about what's 'in play'--acting--from the spy and lover roles these characters may or may not be playing and which sides (personal, professional) they're playing for or against, to our assumptions about these stars' personas. "
Lilja 4-ever (2003)
"So seamless and relentlessly powerful that the social-realism of not just this film, but the genre itself, is pushed to its limit. Acting and action that rips so deeply, you'll feel you've got to do more than simply watch. "
Battle for Haditha (2007)
"Knuckle-whiteningly up-close and personal, lurching us into the chaos and senselessness of ideals-inspired murder; whether for religion, patriotism, money, or revenge, the results remain simply brutal. "
Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)
The Unborn (2009)
"Mix 150-proof Victorian romance with some HP (Harry Potter) sauce, add a dash of Munsters humour. . . . The heroine becomes obsessed with surrender and submission to a man constantly tempted to kill her. That's one sucked-up subtext. "
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)
"Can't quite make it to the front of the pride. The animation is fine; a lot of the lines are snappy; there are a few nicely absurd situations. But each main character gets a semi-intriguing subplot that isn't developed, then disappears. The pace hobbles. "
"A junior-musical, trapped in a vacuum of utterly self-aware earnestness . . . the vacuum-seal of a pre-packaged Disney product. Wish fulfillment%u2014-what tweeners want high school to be like--that also short-sells a retro American Dream. "
Max Payne (2008)
"Slaloms between gritty action and comic-book noir before skidding out into overblown fantasy. The plotline is weak and stretched-out. As the end nears, the pacing gets choppy. But by then, Max Payne lost that important sidekick, Minnie Pleasure. "
Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2008)
"Watch some rich folks with unbelievably pampered pets in an LA enclave make money for studio executives. What would be 'depressing' is if the 'real' world out there ever made the sight of clothed and bejewelled lapdogs talking unfunny, right? "
Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
"Grief is trotted out and cheaply exploited in order to burnish instant love with faux-realism . . . And then the ending--where we're told that we not only can but MUST believe in love, and life, again. Who knew a romance could be so depressingly cynical? "
Eagle Eye (2008)
"Surprisingly flatlines less than it should . . . But 90 minutes after its intriguing opening, Eagle Eye zooms beyond its reassurance that, hey, basically everything's OK post-Patriot Act, folks, to resurrect a Hollywood happy ending from the dead. "
My Best Friend's Girl (2008)
"'There's this guy, Tank, and other guys hire him to give their exes "emotional terrorism." It's a romantic comedy.''Can you throw in a cheap anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic joke? And have Tank tell some kids how to pull a brutal sexaul trick on a woman?' "
Bangkok Dangerous (1999)
"The pacing is usually clumsy and transitions are clunky. There are two bravura sequences not quite worth the price of submission . . . other scenes suggest that the Pang Brothers really want to make a new horror film, not retread stagnant action plots. "
The Queen (2006)
"A disappointingly claustrophobic play at sympathy for someone so out of touch with her 'subjects.' And why blow it up for the big screen? . . . Where's the arc? The tragic flaw? The ebbs and flows to her character? . . . A middle-of-the-pack chamber drama "
Mad Men - Season 1 (2008)
"One extra shows the research behind the show's period details, often gleaned from the writers' own childhoods. Another flips through a 1960 of solidifying, post-war middle-class wealth. The best is a sampler of the show's hair, costume and set designs. "
Shotgun Stories (2007)
"The end reveals just how poetic, shifting and dazzling Nichols' touch was all along. That's because Shotgun Stories manages to pull away from a hair-trigger resolution with the same inherent right-ness that loaded the story with such tragic force. "
A Jihad for Love (2008)
"The Muslims here feel bound up in an internal battle (the primary meaning of jihad) as they try to make peace between divine and earthly loves. What's lacking are deeper, more involved ruminations on such feelings, reconciliations and self-recriminations. "
"Novelistic in its languid twists and turns, this astounding film superimposes images and photographs, or pans across the twins' shimmering hometown lake, only to dive in between the layers, plunging into the murky depths of identity and self-reflection. "
The Singing Revolution (2007)
"Booster-ish, with only former participants in the struggle and activists interviewed. There's a you-must-feel-good thrust (and an incessant score). Warbles a familiar tune to Estonians, presumably, and doesn't offer enough rich notes for an outsider. "
"Director Eric Daniel Metzgar makes the rookie mistake of too much voiceover. And there's a disappointing vagueness around Ogust, his story, his attraction to turtles and around the creatures themselves or the efforts to protect and breed them. "
The Onion Movie (2008)
"At worst, a sketch comedy film, with some much-needed social and political bite, that's far superior to any Saturday Night Live movie. (Only Deleted Scenes and two outtakes suggest how senselessly offensive the movie could have become.) "
Fantastic Planet (1973)
"Anthropology meets surrealist art in a film about the coldly intellectual, logical Traags and the wild, passionate, heartfelt Oms. Manages to be both of our world and somehow not, shucking off any influences and finding a weird wonder all its own. "