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John Carter Review

While trailers make this look like an effects-heavy sci-fi mess, the film is actually a rollicking adventure firmly centred on characters rather than the creatures or action. It's an involving, strikingly well-made action drama.

At the end of the American Civil War, John Carter (Kitsch) is in Arizona looking for gold when a strange artefact in a cave transports him to Mars, known locally as Barsoom. Getting used to the lower gravity is one thing, but he's soon captured by green, 15-foot-tall Tharks, who have four limbs plus tusks on the sides of their faces. He earns the respect of leader Tars Tarkas (Dafoe), but when he rescues Helium's Princess Dejah (Collins), he ends up in the middle of the war between red human kingdoms Helium and Zodanga.

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Munich Review

It's been a long, tough road watching Steven Spielberg grow up. Too often, the great Hollywood money machine seemed to flip self-consciously back and forth between his serious work (Schindler's List) and the popcorn flicks (The Lost World, The Terminal). For better or for worse, though, 2005 will be remembered as the year when Spielberg finally and resoundingly merged these twin desires into unified works of serious entertainment, first his stunning War of the Worlds, and now Munich, a less complete piece of work, perhaps, but the most ambitious of Spielberg's career and truly something to behold.

What makes Munich even more ambitious than films like List or even Empire of the Sun is that it's not as recognizable a film as those classically-structured epics. This film is part spy thriller and part meditation on violence but not completely either. The result comes out as somewhat scrambled by the end, with the pieces of about a half-dozen lesser movies mixed around inside, but there's rarely a moment when it's not grabbing you by the collar and demanding your undivided attention. We should have more of this kind of thing.

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Troy Review

"War is young men dying and old men talking," bellows one Greek leader following a mighty clash in Troy. He might as well be talking about the movie itself. Director Wolfgang Petersen heaps handfuls of clashing titans together with dry speeches on historic nobility. He ends up with a handsome yet long-winded restaging of the war waged between Greece and the warriors of Troy over the hand of lovely Helen (Diane Kruger, a nondescript mixture of Leelee Sobieski and Natalie Portman).

Troy leaves the talking to its triumvirate of Hollywood royalty - Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, and Peter O'Toole. The dying is left up to the chiseled and marketable studs - Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, and Brad Pitt. Whenever a member of the veteran trio interacts with a member of the other on screen, it creates a mismatch of talent not even a Trojan Horse could overcome.

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Casper Review

Girl meets ghost. Ghost wants to become real to get girl. The live-action version of the classic cartoon doesn't have much to mention aside from some nifty effects and a story lifted from Cinderella. Christina Ricci is always fun to look at, even when she's seen working in her Disneyesque postpubescent era. Fun for kids, I suppose, but hardly worth mentioning otherwise.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Review

The now-classic video game Tomb Raider is a geek boy's dream -- a hot heroine with Barbie-like measurements goes on adventures and kicks ass. The film adaptation, starring the buxom and bored Angelina Jolie, is nobody's dream. It's billed as an action fantasy, but possesses no physical excitement or wonder. OK, maybe some wonder, as in, "I wonder how Paramount actually feels about this film."

Even the teen hormones that live in all us guys are squashed by this one. Jolie, trying to play our heroine Lady Lara Croft as sexy and supercool, just looks mildly amused by the goings-on. I half expected her to check her watch while on camera, searching for lunch or a better project. [Never underestimate crafty film editing. -Ed.]

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Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines Review

When Arnold Schwarzenegger first uttered, "I'll be back," nearly 20 years ago, someone should have asked him, "How many times?" Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines marks Arnie's third go-round as the futuristic cyborg, and tweaks the formula just enough to keep us entertained.

Already, T3 has a strike against it. Sequels with "Three" in the title tend to reek, from The Godfather: Part III to Jaws 3-D. Strike two comes in the form of high expectations. Twelve years ago, James Cameron raised the bar with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a superior sequel and a long-standing leader in the high-tech special effects field. The shoes director Jonathan Mostow (U-571) was asked to fill look mighty big.

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The Lost World: Jurassic Park Review

Well, it ain't Schindler's List.

With his highly anticipated Jurassic Park sequel, Steven Spielberg grubs through the filmmaking archives for every plot device, camera trick, and clichéd scene you can think of, and rolls it into one big mess. Only with dinosaurs. Lots of 'em!

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The Haunting (1999) Review

Some houses should never be visited. And some movies should never be remade. The Haunting represents both of those tenets.

A loose remake of the 1963 Haunting, this version gives us a creepy haunted house and four hapless people to populate it. Chief among them is Eleanor (Taylor), a real wacko who believes there are children's spirits in the house that speak to her. And she's right! Wow, original! And hey kids, the sexy Zeta-Jones plays a bisexual in the movie! Oooooh, scandalous! (Sarcasm, people.)

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War Of The Worlds (2005) Review

Almost a century before Hollywood perfected the endless repackaging of its stories across multiple media, H.G. Wells created War of the Worlds, which freaked out audiences as a magazine series, a novel, a panic-inducing radio play, a movie, and ultimately a stage musical.

And so it is that in the terrorism-edgy mid-'00s, Steven Spielberg has resurrecteds War of the Worlds - again - and created the greatest alien invasion movie ever.

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Small Soldiers Review

Joe Dante's action story, about military-chip-endowed toys that wreak havoc on the neighborhood, is well-intentioned, and with five writers it ought to be. But while Dante would love to recapture the magic of Gremlins, he ends up capturing only the disappointment of Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Phil Hartman's final movie.
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