Charles Weinstock

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What Maisie Knew Review


Extraordinary

Even though this drama is based on a 115-year-old novel, it feels powerfully timely today in the way it recounts events surrounding a particularly grim divorce. As we see the story through the eyes of a young girl caught between her self-involved parents, we are emotionally drawn right to the heart of the matter. Of course, it takes skilled filmmakers and a far-above-average cast to make this work.

Maisie (Aprile) is the 6-year-old daughter of fading rocker Susanna (Moore) and art dealer Beale (Coogan), whose marriage isn't dissolving quietly. As fiery arguments echo around their New York apartment, Maisie can't quite understand their anger but feels her hope fading. Sure enough, they separate, and when she goes to visit Daddy she's unnerved to discover her nanny Margo (Vanderham) is now living with him. Then Mommy marries nice-guy barman Lincoln (Skarsgard), who becomes Maisie's most reliable friend as her parents use her as a weapon in their bitter custody battle.

Directors McGeehee and Siegel (Bee Season) cleverly maintain Maisie's point of view all the way through the film, so we only see and hear things as she would. Much of what happens is never explained to her, but we get it and we understand that she probably does too. This includes the shocking irresponsibility displayed by both Susanna and Beale, who continually dump Maisie on each other as a kind of assault. And because they're preoccupied with their work, it's up to Margo and Lincoln to pick up the slack.

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Fired Up! Review


Weak
Broad and very silly, this comedy just about keeps us chuckling even when things get stupid and predictable. It's not very well-written, but there are enough deranged characters to make it almost worth a look.

At Gerald Ford High School, two chucklehead jock pals--nice guy Shawn (D'Agosto) and blond hunk Nick (Olsen)--decide to skip a gruelling football practice and chase girls at cheerleader camp instead. Of course, they soon start to actually enjoy themselves, and Shawn begins to fall for one of his teammates (Roemer), but trouble is brewing as they prepare to face the archrival Panthers. Meanwhile, Nick tries to woo the seductive Diora (Sims), wife of the camp's gung-ho director (Higgins).

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Fired Up! Review


Unbearable
From the advertisements, Fired Up! looks like the movie that finally indulges in what every young man fantasizes about: Crashing cheerleading camp to get laid. On the poster, the tagline reads: "Two guys. 300 girls. You do the math." With those numbers, lots of guys would look past those annoying cheers and be the first in line at the movie theater with their dates.

Unfortunately, Fired Up! isn't the movie it says it is. It's rated PG-13, and beyond a few shots of young ladies in cheer outfits, there's nothing remotely objectionable here. That would be fine if it were a family film. But it's being marketed as a sexy teen comedy.

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Fracture Review


Grim
It is hardly a reassuring sign when one of the more interesting things in a film is not even sentient. Over the title sequence of Fracture, and in the midst of some of the duller stretches (of these there are many) we see a glittering sort of Rube Goldberg contraption, all shiny metallic tracks and carved wooden wheels, where small glass balls skitter and roll in an elaborately choreographed dance. It's a beautiful piece of elegant machinery and, one hopes, symbolic of the many complex and artfully managed plot twists to come. Instead, what we're given is Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling sleepwalking around each other as they navigate through one of the year's laziest films.

Fracture has no excuse to be so lazy, given the actors at its disposal and a setup that should have made this an easy slam-dunk. Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, an aeronautics engineer who's found out that his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) is having an affair with police detective Rob Nunally (Billy Burke). Confronting her at home, Crawford shoots her in the head and calmly waits for the cops to arrive. When they do, it's with none other than Nunally at the lead, who's shocked and enraged at finding Jennifer in a pool of blood and Crawford standing there as though nothing had happened. After a quickly-interrupted beating from Nunally, Crawford later confesses and even waives his right to a lawyer. When it's all dropped in the lap of assistant district attorney Willy Beachum (Gosling), the case couldn't seem more airtight, which is good since Beachum can't wait to slip the bonds of lowly civil employment for a well-paying private sector job.

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Where the Money Is Review


OK
At more than one point in his career, Paul Newman has been the ultimate con man. The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler, and The Color of Money all epitomized this master of smooth talk and wily ways. But the successes of all of his past films and all of their cons have one common denominator: a memorable and talented supporting cast. In The Hustler, Jackie Gleason played Minnesota Fats, who proved to be a worthy nemesis by outsmarting the cocky and more talented Newman. Tom Cruise, in The Color of Money, was like an apprentice learning from the master sorcerer, as Newman molded Cruise into an effigy of his old self. While Newman always emerged the star, he would continually share the spotlight, so that none of those movies became one-dimensional.

Newman's latest film, Where the Money Is, directed by Marek Kanievska (Less Than Zero), unfortunately lacks the supporting cast for Newman to thrive as the luminary "hustler." In the film, Newman plays Henry Manning, a former bank robber who plans to break out of prison by faking a stroke. When he is transferred to a minimum-security nursing home, he thinks he's home free. However, the woman assigned to take care of him, Carol Ann McKay (Linda Fiorentino - Men in Black) suspects that he's a fake and attempts to lure him out of his trance so he will help her in a burglary with her and her husband Wayne (Dermot Mulroney - Copycat, My Best Friend's Wedding). She goes to some outrageous lengths to keep him from playing possum, but when she finally awakes the bank robbing legend, she faces a challenge that could change her life.

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Joe Gould's Secret Review


Good
When Mel Brooks played the Louis XVI in The History of the World, Part I, he often commented, "It's good to be the King." Joe Gould, a voluntarily homeless man, thinks that it's good to be the Bum... and it shows.

Joe Gould spends his days in Greenwich Village, making notes on the subject of humanity. He is compiling an oral history of mankind, a series of transcripts of conversations and essays on the nature of man. He does this by writing at every opportunity in composition books and by mooching off of rich Beatniks during the 50s in New York City. Amongst his supporters: painter Alice Neel (Susan Sarandon), E.E. Cummings, gallery owner Vivian Marquie (Patricia Clarkson) and publishing executive Charlie Duell (Steve Martin). These supporters frequently allow Joe Gould to stay at their homes, as well as contribute small sums of money to the Joe Gould fund.

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Where the Money Is Review


OK
At more than one point in his career, Paul Newman has been the ultimate con man. The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler, and The Color of Money all epitomized this master of smooth talk and wily ways. But the successes of all of his past films and all of their cons have one common denominator: a memorable and talented supporting cast. In The Hustler, Jackie Gleason played Minnesota Fats, who proved to be a worthy nemesis by outsmarting the cocky and more talented Newman. Tom Cruise, in The Color of Money, was like an apprentice learning from the master sorcerer, as Newman molded Cruise into an effigy of his old self. While Newman always emerged the star, he would continually share the spotlight, so that none of those movies became one-dimensional.

Newman's latest film, Where the Money Is, directed by Marek Kanievska (Less Than Zero), unfortunately lacks the supporting cast for Newman to thrive as the luminary "hustler." In the film, Newman plays Henry Manning, a former bank robber who plans to break out of prison by faking a stroke. When he is transferred to a minimum-security nursing home, he thinks he's home free. However, the woman assigned to take care of him, Carol Ann McKay (Linda Fiorentino - Men in Black) suspects that he's a fake and attempts to lure him out of his trance so he will help her in a burglary with her and her husband Wayne (Dermot Mulroney - Copycat, My Best Friend's Wedding). She goes to some outrageous lengths to keep him from playing possum, but when she finally awakes the bank robbing legend, she faces a challenge that could change her life.

Continue reading: Where the Money Is Review

Sleepover Review


Good
A most pleasant surprise, Sleepover is reminiscent of last year's hit Freaky Friday, an unabashedly goofy kids' movie with good intentions that adults will enjoy more than they have any right to.

Julie (Alexa Vega from the Spy Kids trilogy) is a 14-year-old whose life is in crisis, not a big surprise for a teenager. Her best friend is moving to Vancouver, leaving Julie alone and unpopular as middle school ends and high school looms near. Her former best friend, Stacie (Sara Paxton), has now joined a group of popular, cosmetically gifted girls who resemble an underclass version of the Plastics in Mean Girls.

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