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The Face of Love Review


Grim

Middle-aged romances are rare on the big screen, so it's frustrating that this one is so badly compromised by a series of contrived plot points. One gimmick wasn't enough for director-cowriter Arie Posin, who continually twists and turns the events in ways that are both bizarre and melodramatic. Within this, Annette Bening and Ed Harris still manage to create intriguing characters, but it becomes increasingly difficult to care when the screenwriters clearly have trouble on their minds.

It opens as Nikki (Bening) is flooded with memories of her husband Garret (Harris), who died five years ago while they were vacationing in Mexico. Now that their daughter (Jess Weixler) is moving away from home in Los Angeles to attend college in Seattle, Nikki has time to think. Although she wants to remain friends and nothing more with her lusty widowed neighbour Roger (Robin Williams), an old friend of Garret's. Then Nikki meets a man who looks uncannily like Garret and begins stalking him. Tom (Harris again) is an art professor, and when Nikki gets up the nerve to talk to him, she knows she's going to a very odd place.

The film is like a variation on Vertigo, as Posin plays up the freaky doppelganger storyline to add a heightened sense of dangerous tension. But it's not so easy for the audience to accept such a set-up, when one honest conversation would solve everything. Instead, Nikki lies to everyone she knows, hides Tom from them and then lies to Tom as well. It's difficult to take a romance seriously when it has such a fraudulent foundation. Thankfully, Bening gives Nikki a fragility that makes her sympathetic, and her interaction with Harris bristles with unexpected connections because they are experiencing their blossoming relationship in such strikingly different ways. Both of them add layers of interest to their characters that make them engaging between the lines. Sadly, Williams' character never gets a chance to evolve.

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Albert Nobbs Review


OK
Based on a true story, this introspective film seems to suggest that these events aren't perhaps as extraordinary as they appear. But the strong premise is weakened by writing and direction that never get a grip on the story.

In 1898, Albert (Close) works at an upscale Dublin hotel, and no one suspects that he's actually a woman. Quietly going about his work while saving to open a tobacco shop, Albert is unassuming and relentlessly polite. Then he's asked to share his room with visiting painter Hubert (McTeer), who learns his secret and reveals one of his own: he's a woman too. But Hubert has managed to have a normal married life. This inspires Albert to pursue the hotel maid Helen (Wasikowska), which is complicated by her lusty relationship with handyman Joe (Johnson).

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The Chumscrubber Review


Terrible
The starry-eyed cross-breed of American Beauty and Donnie Darko, here comes The Chumscrubber, another self-righteous satire on self-absorbed parents and their estranged offspring. With the over-extended reach of a callow teenager, it fails to conquer its peaks of social relevancy. But it does have a titular headless video-game anti-hero, who, like the film's residents, uses his head as a weapon and presides over the film like a post-apocalyptic master-of-ceremonies.

A facetious voice-over -- "This was the best of all possible worlds" -- introduces brooding loner Dean Stiffle (Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot), a teen caught between dueling self-helper parents, who's soon to discover his dead friend Troy (Josh Janowicz) behind the house of his party-throwing mother, Carrie (Glenn Close). Weeks later, Dean's best-selling psychiatrist-author father, Bill (William Fichtner), therapy-talks Dean sick about his lack of grief. Dad's cure: More of the same pharmaceuticals Dean's school's already drowning in.

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Minority Report Review


Extraordinary
Per Minority Report, in only 52 years we'll have a new privacy nightmare on our hands: A police unit in Washington D.C. will genetically engineer three people, float them in a Jacuzzi, and hook wires up to their heads so the cops can see murders occurring in the future. And thus, they can arrest the perpetrators before they commit the crime. (I would say this is a nightmare of an idea... but then again, we are talking about Washington D.C....)

The premise is a mind-bending puzzle on the scale of Memento, courtesy of sci-fi legend Steven Spielberg and his first collaboration with a stellar Tom Cruise. It's also Spielberg's best work since 1993's Schindler's List and flirts with threatening Blade Runner and A Clockwork Orange as the best paradoxical utopic/dystopic view of the future.

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A.I. Artificial Intelligence Review


OK
I remember sitting in a movie theater at the tender age of 14, watching a little film called D.A.R.Y.L., about a boy with a computer brain trying to cope with modern society and questions of emotion and identity. D.A.R.Y.L. was not some overblown, 2 1/2-hour ordeal. It was 99 breezy minutes of fun fun fun!

A.I. Artificial Intelligence is, too my deep dismay, neither breezy nor particularly fun. The level of anticipation of the film, of course, would be impossible to effectively sate, but A.I. just doesn't cut it. It doesn't even come close.

Continue reading: A.I. Artificial Intelligence Review

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