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Movie Ratings and Reviews

Batman Begins

When treated with the lofty ambitions Nolan sets down here, though rare, the comic book film can become high cinematic art. Batman Begins is the launching pad for that movement, although no other filmmaker-outside of Nolan himself-has outdone what he achieved here...

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The Dark Knight

If Batman Begins is the launching pad for serious comic book-to-film adaptations, The Dark Knight is the definitive destination, a place where the hero broods on his perch and the villains are either described without a modicum of sympathy, or they were once heroes who in time become twisted into killers...

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The Watch
The Watch(2012)

The result is rather like a trip to Costco, an experience packaged in bulk without the finesse or charm or your local mom'n'pop general store; except, at this Costco, the shelves are empty yet the lines are long, and the staff never stops shouting obscenities to gain our attention. Eventually, we realize this big, dumb, artificial store has nothing interesting to offer and we go home to shop on Etsy instead.


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360
360(2012)
½

Meirelles and Morgan leave far too many of their characters twisting in the wind by the end credits. We're reminded of smaller characters because Meirelles uses split-screens to show us how they're floating through life at this moment...

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The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises contains all the symbolism and narrative complexity we've come to expect from Nolan's Batman films, but with the added enhancement of a massive-scale production that is executed with a brilliant hand.

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Bob le Flambeur

Bob le flambeur becomes an exercise in myth-making, reinforcing and refiltering the Hollywood cinema the director so adored through his own creative drives, into the self-conscious construction of a cherished screen legend...

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To Rome with Love
½

Woody Allen's cinematic travelogue through Europe continues to Italy in To Rome With Love, an episodic and blithe comedy strewn together from bits and pieces of smaller ideas and arranged in an ungraceful if diverting whole. An anthology of silly and surreal stories assembled in a loose structure on par with Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask, the film meanders about its series of vignettes with no sense of temporal logic between them. As days pass in one story, hours pass in another, but Allen cuts between them like they're all happening at the same time. How fitting then that the original title was Nero Fiddled, since Allen himself merely tinkers here with a few novelty ideas and allows nothing but the gorgeous scenery, shot on location in Rome, to link them together...

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Savages
Savages(2012)

With a somewhat noirish opening, a thrilling center, and a post-modern ending (the latter of which could potentially make-or-break the experience for moviegoers), Stone's revitalization of his primal side is an uneven if admirable effort...

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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Bittersweet and unexpected, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World somehow manages to be funny, sad, tragic, and romantic. In its depiction of The End, it's quite brave and oddly beautiful. The film takes hold of you all of a sudden and won't let go. Before you know it, your eyes begin to tear up and a lump develops in your throat...

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The Age of Innocence

The title must be meant ironically: no one in this film is innocent. The characters are placed in an environment of repression, submission, and most of all, a behavioral decorum that limits what a person can say, do, or even feel. Marriage is a contract more vitally linking two important families than two lovers. Love is irrational and impractical in this world. There is no personal life outside of what affects the family. If an act of social indiscretion transpires, all sects of the respective family become involved. After all, family names survive, the individuals therein do not...

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The Red Shoes

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes spearheaded the notion that cinema and dance, though mediums of expression with varied modus operandi, could coalesce in a singular form. Through a harmony of visual and aural elements, the British filmmaking partners known as The Archers embrace ballet as an unlikely component in their cinema; and through their conception, one of the most beautiful and meaningful of all films, they affirm that all art exists on analogous terms. From The Red Shoes springs the spirit of art in both its narrative and technical composition, signifying Powell and Pressburger's desire to coordinate all cinematic devices to express creative unity in front of, and therefore behind, the camera...

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The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet)

The Seventh Seal possesses some of the world's most recognizable filmic imagery, beginning with the knight's fateful game of chess with Death, and continuing to the eerily joyful dance in the final frames. The Medieval iconography and setting allow Bergman's most celebrated masterpiece, fixed amid a career crowded with masterpieces, to best all others in its proven timelessness. As with all distinctive pieces of art, Bergman's enduring themes will never lose their potency, intellect, or meaningful purpose as a result. By asking the most universal of questions in a most accessible format, Bergman exposes us to his own uncertainty and search for meaning, and forces his audience to do the same...

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Notorious
Notorious(1946)

François Truffaut called Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious "the quintessential Hitchcock film," as if there could ever be just one. In the film, Hitchcock devises an engaging romance shrouded by a curtain of espionage. The viewer's primary emotional connection remains hidden behind that spy-themed curtain, and only through it will the audience discover the relevance of the story's romantic core. Hitchcock's numerous spy yarns were some of his most popular, films like Saboteur and The Man Who Knew Too Much. And Notorious might also be a spy yarn, except every element of its spy-thriller design serves only to advance the film's true, romantic intent. It is a deceptive film, in that its quintessence works as metaphor for Hitchcockian tropes, yet also represents an antithesis for Hitchcock's typical composition by diverting from his classic storylines and character functions...

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Vertigo
Vertigo(1958)

Hitchcock's Vertigo explores obsession, offering, as biographical evidence, an outline of the filmmaker's thematic and sexual fixations within its narrative. None of Hitchcock's many masterpieces so outwardly contemplates the director's own proclivity to dominate every cinematic element he believed crucial. Mirroring Hitchcock himself through narrative reflectivity, Vertigo is his most personal work, describing his use of, confusion toward, and desperate attempts to control women and their sexuality...

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Mr. Hulot's Holiday (Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot)

M. Hulot's Holiday, one of cinema's great treasures, does not reveal itself easily; Tati's picture requires multiple viewings to gather each detail. Every viewing becomes a new outing, with our experience growing beyond the initial spotlight on Hulot's at once graceful and clumsy profile. Upon revisiting, we realize he is merely a facet in a larger jewel forged with incredible precision by Jacques Tati. Successive viewings are dedicated to the music, particular background characters, or Tati's ingenious use of sound-any range of details living within the film's milieu. We lose ourselves in the Hôtel de la Plage's hilarious and seemingly effortless atmosphere, orchestrated with incomparable care and joyous delight by a rare specimen, a master craftsman and artist of comedy...

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Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai)

Seven Samurai represents Kurosawa's most optimistic inspection of humanity and individuality, two themes that twisted with increased cynicism as his career progressed. His universal story appeals to all audiences, regardless of age or culture, because Kurosawa uses a gamut of film and narrative techniques that go above demographic designation. Blending Western technical methodology with Eastern artistry, he generates near tangible energy onscreen with expert editing and innovative camera techniques. When viewing this 270-minute monster, the film passes by as if time has no meaning, its energy absorbing the audience in a visceral, funny, heartening, and kinetic experience-perhaps the most enjoyable cinematic undertaking ever put to film. And yet, Seven Samurai moves beyond simply entertainment, utilizing its copious running time to develop natural relationships between the characters, so we get to know them, their personas, and their individual philosophies. Unfolding with cohesion, without forced schmaltzy dialogue or artificial descriptive devices, the film's characters exemplify Kurosawa's structural thesis: how closely linked concepts of reality (his accurate period mise-en-scène) and illusion (his expert manipulation of the cinematic apparatus) merge through his flawless interplay...

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Aside from a story novelty that may draw some (unfortunate) curious viewers in, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter feels like a missed opportunity for a cult classic...

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City Lights
City Lights(1931)

City Lights may be Charles Chaplin's most personal motion picture, or perhaps the film's heightened measure of emotion just makes it feel that way. Where else except someplace dear could a filmmaker develop a picture so touching and filled with such heart. Biographical parallels suggest that Chaplin derived the story from his past, whereas the filmmaker's improvisational approach to directing suggests his stories never came effortlessly. As opposed to unswerving inspiration, the process from conception to completion often spanned several years. He labored over scenarios, this one in particular. And through his involved method, he sacrificed his personal life to feed his artistic drives. Behind those drives, however, dwelled an artist whose early years shaped his stories, consciously or not...

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http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/citylights.asp

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Though the words "perfect" and "masterpiece" are often used to describe films without due consideration of their meaning, The Adventures of Robin Hood encompasses those terms completely, even excels their implication without appealing exclusively to art film buffs and film historians. This is a picture for everyone. The Robin Hood legend, a tale we all know by heart, is told in Warner Bros.' 1938 filmic adaptation with full acquiescence to the dreamy narratives of children's books, but in such a way that it appeals best to adults embracing their inner child...

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http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/adventuresofrobinhood.asp

The Searchers

In terms of classical storytelling, The Searchers, John Ford's most compelling Western, avoids association with the genre's established precepts. On the surface, Western form is obeyed to the mark: The film stars John Wayne, an actor eternally linked to Westerns, perhaps giving his best performance in any Ford film, among them veritable diagrams of filmic convention such as 1939's Stagecoach. Photographed in the director's cinematic nesting ground of Monument Valley, it contains painterly images of majestic scenery, some of the most remarkable ever captured. Historians and film scholars attest to its supremacy and recognize its influence on the medium and the artists working therein. And yet, the motion picture Ford considered his own masterpiece confronts prior standards, meets issues of revenge and discrimination within a ponderous text, and revises the director's Western model forevermore...

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A Serious Man

Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen wade through questions and offer no answers in A Serious Man, a film that solidifies their career-long pursuit to illustrate the futility in searching for a grand meaning that ties everything together. Appropriately, the film has proven inscrutable for some audiences and profoundly revealing for others. In presenting a visual text ripe with metaphor and puzzlework, its inherent perplexity also summarizes a thematic schema that flows through the Coens' every film since their splendid debut in 1984, Blood Simple. Indeed, even as Larry preaches the Uncertainty Principal to his students, he fails to apply the equation's notion that one can never really know "what's going on" to his own life. If only he could see that there are only assumptions and perspective; how persistently one clings to those ideas, however intangible they may be, remains the deciding factor of their importance...


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Rosemary's Baby

Roman Polanski takes his time establishing the suspense in Rosemary's Baby, not because his film relies entirely on the payoff of its devilish finale, but because he wants to submerge the viewer in details. Through his meticulous study of characters, their mannerisms and peculiarities, and a weight applied to even the smallest triviality, Polanski builds a very real sense of horror. But he also creates an atmosphere of uncertainty-paranoia that counteracts his picture's foreboding and instills sensible skepticism, almost in the same moment that he confirms our worst fears. Not until the final act does the film reveal itself as a horrifying tale of terror, one of the most chilling stories ever put to film...


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The Mist
The Mist(2007)

Frank Darabont's film of King's novella The Mist involves horrible, slimy, fantastical things obscured by the indefinite. Massive tentacles attached to impossible giants emerge from a vaporous shroud, reaching out from their foggy nightmare into reality; and rather than protect themselves from the Unknown, people turn on each other. Herein lies an allegory for humanity's cleverly veiled malevolence, which, hidden behind the guise of civilization and the delusion of progress, surfaces everywhere from historical atrocities to the quiet neighbor who turns out to be a murderer. Darabont's film is less about monsters than the simple evil of the human beast: a primal animal capable of unspeakable horrors when no order exists, when their logic for explaining the universe is distorted...

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Army of Shadows (L'Armée des ombres)

Although Kessel's book ends hopefully, it was written during the war, so understandably the novelization focuses on hope rather than despair. Melville's Army of Shadows is quite the reverse. For the director, the film was an historical marker, signifying his generation-the pre-May 1968 generation. It does not highlight the past or future but instead remains in the film's present: the sad mental state of necessary maquis cells operating during WWII. For every procession of German soldiers marching on the Champs-Elysées, there was a small company of everyday Frenchmen, working in the gloom of their eventual deaths to stop them.

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The Talented Mr. Ripley

Though Minghella died in 2008 with only a handful of films to his name, he had already been compared to monumental filmmakers such as David Lean, as his capacity to adapt novels into literate, yet immeasurably visual motion pictures was demonstrated with each film after The English Patient. His dramatic complexity and faith in his audience's compassion was never greater than on The Talented Mr. Ripley, a film that explores a criminal protagonist through discerning eyes. Minghella ends the picture without hope of escape for Tom from his inner darkness; in all likelihood Tom will continue to murder and lie, and yet, this conclusion leaves us feeling a profound sense of sadness. Minghella creates a beautiful, intricate, and suspenseful story that enhances the thriller dimensions of Highsmith's novel into a far more significant, emotionally tangled experience...

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The Thin Red Line

Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line should not be seen as much as experienced through the perception of flowing images and existential questioning. Set in the Pacific during World War II, Malick's work of poetic splendor does not contain typical war film motifs, nor does it resort to the nostalgic heroism of its genre's predecessors. His film considers the war that exists between earthly and metaphysical ideals, between existence and transcendence, between acceptance and searching. With only Badlands in 1973 and Days of Heaven in 1978 behind him, Malick returned after a twenty year hiatus from filmmaking in 1998 with one of the most daring and artful productions ever achieved by a major studio. Malick, an enigmatic and legendary presence in cinema, embraces transcendentalist themes to question the ways in which Nature and war are inescapable truths of existence, but in turn refuses to answer such questions within the film, demanding viewers search themselves for answers...

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My Neighbor Totoro

Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro is among the most delightful of all films. Driven by its pleasant nature and deceptive simplicity, the story remains free of harrowing conflicts, fast-paced action, or moments of deafening suspense. But whoever said a film needs violence and thrills to have adventure? Miyazaki contends that the discovery of magic and imagination in everyday life presents its own adventure...

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Paths of Glory

This biting commentary might be interpreted as an anti-war statement, as it was during trench warfare where the three soldiers committed the "crime" that earned them an overnight stay on death row. Since the harsh sentence derives from the soldiers' alleged cowardice on the battlefield, versus an outward criminal deed, Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, the director's most humanist film, should not be considered solely an anti-war film, but also a depiction of the horrors of war, specifically those authorized by the governing political structure. Defined through the power-mongering among aristocrats and inequality on the social ladder, Kubrick's critique aims toward the ignorant, inhuman System and ruthless logic of military law.


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Minority Report

Steven Spielberg's Minority Report realizes Philip K. Dick's rich, complicated perspective on science-fiction with energy and insight, capturing the author's vision of an imperfect future and the perilous reality that dwells under the alluring, silvery surface polish of futurism. But the film amounts to much more than a philosophical exploration of futurist possibility; the presentation is a nonstop chase, a thriller of epic escapist and intellectual bravado. It amalgamates Hitchcockian suspense, elements of film noir, and Dick's vision of the future, three of the most distinctive and inventive of all storytelling styles, into a single source, resulting in a masterful triumph from a masterful filmmaker...

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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Only together could Powell and Pressburger create such a balanced and visionary body of work, its bounds and sophistication only matched by its qualities of boldness and passion, qualities rare to Britain's inexpressive cinematic persona. In The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, those qualities reach their height of narrative magnificence and formal splendor. Exploring Major-General Wynne-Candy's identity, The Archers consider the protagonist with elegance and dramatic gravity, and in turn they humanize David Low's Colonel Blimp in ways seemingly not possible. Never does the film suggest, as the reactionary Low or naïve soldier Spud Wilson do, that a polarized ideological shift suddenly one day transformed Candy from a young bravado to a stuffy officer; through an expansive survey of Candy's life, always cognizant of the passing of time, the change is depicted in both satirical and tragic terms with humanist reflection. The romanticism of Powell and Pressburger on this, their finest masterpiece, transcends their other attributes, underscoring The Archers as unique for their buoyancy and emotional lucidity long before British cinema developed such virtues...

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The English Patient

Built layer by breathless layer, The English Patient has no need to construct its story according to chronology. From the labyrinthine novel by Michael Ondaatje, writer-director Anthony Minghella adapted a text from which he could develop his own desire for emotion-guided storytelling, versus concern for staid sequential order. Minghella's objective allows for a narrative progression that feels natural according to basic intuitions; the timeline therein does not move forward but rather in abstract directions, yet always with an emotionally guided destination. Pieces of the past come together to inform the present, memory fragments arranged out of order seem rightly placed, and pathos channels scenes and characters within the film's composition...

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Brazil
Brazil(1985)

In Brazil, Terry Gilliam depicts a world trained by the subjugation of a paperwork-obsessed government, inundated by bureaucratic dominance over nearly every aspect of human life. His film's fatalism materialized into a curious irony when a Hollywood producer nearly prevented the picture, in its complete, cynical form, from being released. But after a long and dirty battle, his masterpiece triumphed and released unto the modern age a revelvant, controversial, and visionary piece of cinema. Gilliam's dream prevailed, though, if fighting within the film's world, it might not have...

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http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/brazil.asp

Don't Look Now

Nicolas Roeg's Gothic tale Don't Look Now writhes with uncertainty, a vagueness that underlines everything revealed to intensify our unease. And yet, this feeling becomes prey to a confident, ingenious style of filmmaking that calculates every move, every cut, to evoke a growing sense of terror. Based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier, the 1973 film places a moving study of a couple in the throes of grief against the canals and shadowy passageways of Venice, where a series of murders and psychic phenomena establish an unsettling tone. Roeg's impressionistic style makes leaps in chronology, jumping forward or backward through time in his editing to reinforce an emotion or forewarn of something dreadful to come. His structure follows a symbolic code, employing numerous recurring motifs like scattered pieces to a puzzle, whose picture never becomes whole until the shocking conclusion...

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The Wolf Man
The Wolf Man(1941)

How peculiar that the The Wolf Man, released by Universal Pictures in 1941, contains no monster at all. Certainly Lon Chaney Jr. endured hours in the makeup chair so that his character, Larry Talbot, would appear as a supernatural part man, part beast. But the story itself infers that his character has been driven mad by tragedy and cultural hysteria, and that the transformation from man to monster occurs only in Talbot's head. However legendary Chaney's performance under the makeup may be, and however many sequels and offshoots may have followed wherein the Wolf Man is treated as an authentic monster, this initial film is about madness as a symptom of duality, not some supernatural creature of the night. And from that perspective, the film proves ultimately more confronting, psychoanalytic, and undeniably more terrifying than an explanation rooted in the paranormal...

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The Fly
The Fly(1986)

Mind and body cannot coexist. Each works according to its own set parameters, degenerating with time, never in unison. Oblivious to the body, the mind exists freely until it is forced to contemplate its carrier. We take our bodies for granted pending disease or injury damaging them, at which point our minds are helpless to do anything but allow the body to run its course. We look in the mirror and suddenly we are not that person we once recognized. We get old, thin, wrinkled, or fat, our hair changes color, or any number of ageing signs. Somehow we feel different from what we see; our bodies have betrayed us. This mind-body dichotomy suggests that biology is, to some extent, inconsequential next to human consciousness-that consciousness exists without benefit of bodily interference. The cinema of Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg infers an alternate theme: human corporeality exists parallel to, if not wholly exceeding, cognitive substance...


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The Crying Game

With extraordinary understanding through exigent circumstances, Jordan's structure promotes human empathy and a redemptive sense of tolerance, destroying narrow-minded notions of sexuality, race, and politics for a greater awareness of human nature. Perceptions of the film have often suggested it hinges on a mid-film narrative shift comparable to those in Hitchcock's Vertigo and Psycho, whereas only with repeated viewings does Jordan's bold, nonconformist writing reveal its many rewards beyond the twist.

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Crimes and Misdemeanors

By the end, the doctor has gotten away with murder and lives at peace with his actions; the filmmaker realizes his worst fears when he learns Lester and Halley are engaged; and the rabbi, seemingly the only character capable of seeing God's wisdom through these horrible events, goes completely blind. To call this film bleak is an understatement. It's also a masterpiece...



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Blow Out
Blow Out(1981)

Blow Out is pure cinema, an exercise in elegant direction and refined style wherein technique and content merge into a singular body; yet the picture goes beyond pure cinema to question the mechanics of filmmaking. Outwardly, it contains all the traits of a great thriller, with plotlines involving a mystery, a rash of murders, and political conspiracy. Viewed on those terms alone, the film is no less an impressive piece of entertainment. Under these surface elements, however, resides an exploration into the power of filmmaking and what sound and image can reveal-or conceal-when cut and spliced together...


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Alien
Alien(1979)

Visionary and terrifying, Ridley Scott's Alien hybridized the horror and science-fiction genres in 1979 to effectively launch a new subgenre, and countless clones have since grafted from the resultant genetic blueprint...

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Magic Mike
Magic Mike(2012)
½

Soderbergh?s treatment manages to make familiar material into something that surprises us when we realize how emotionally involved we?ve become...

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Ted
Ted(2012)
½

Seth MacFarlane's debut feature Ted manages to be everything you would expect from the creator of the all-offensive, crude-humored animated sitcoms Family Guy and American Dad!, starting with the premise, which was actually developed for a cartoon series...

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http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/ted.asp

Prometheus
Prometheus(2012)

This work of epic-sized science-fiction contains moments of such incredible visual marvel that one cannot help but feel disappointed because its busy script, written by Jon Spaihts and Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof, has existential ambitions but none of the same grandeur as the formal presentation...

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http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/prometheus.asp

The Amazing Spider-Man
½

Unlike Batman Begins (which made the world collectively forget about Batmans played by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and especially George Clooney), this film leaves us comparing it to Raimi's previous series. That I'm even still thinking about Raimi's films is how I know Webb's recombination of old ideas has failed in its task to create something new...

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http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/amazingspiderman.asp