Elaine Goldsmith-thomas

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The Boy Next Door Review


A cheesy TV movie ramped up with language and violence, this sudsy thriller is far more fun to watch than it should be. With its tepid spin on the plot of Fatal Attraction, the film strains to be a bunny-boiler, but entertains the audience because it's so preposterous that not a single moment is remotely believable. And since the cast refuses to play it straight, camping it up while smirking at the camera, it's enjoyable in all the wrong ways.

Jennifer Lopez stars as Claire, a high school teacher who has recently split from her husband Garrett (John Corbett) and is still getting used to life on her own with teen son Kevin (Ian Nelson). Then the astoundingly hunky 19-year-old Noah (played by 27-year-old Ryan Guzman) moves in next door with his invalid uncle (Jack Wallace) after his parents die in a fiery car crash. Super friendly, Noah quickly begins to help Kevin stand up to the school bullies and pursue the hot girl (Lexi Atkins). But Noah also begins to flirt relentlessly with Claire, and in a moment of neediness she gives in. While she sees this as a mildly transgressive restorative fling, Noah thinks it's true love, and pursues her tenaciously. And when Claire begins to trying to patch things up with Garrett, Noah takes Kevin out for a bit of gun practice.

Despite a tendency to drift into grisly violence, there's nothing edgy here. It's a swirling storm of innuendo and suggestion, with a strong sense of menace that never quite convinces us, even with a couple of gruesome plot points. This may be because the camera clearly loves Lopez so much that we know she's never in danger.

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Bandslam Review

With its squeaky-clean characters and simplistic plotting, this film is clearly targeting the High School Musical audience. It even has the same lead actress.

And it's just bright and sunny enough to work.Will (Connell) is a nerdy music obsessive who is thrilled when his mother (Kudrow) announces that they're moving from Cincinnati to New Jersey. He plans to reinvent himself at his new high school, and quickly gets caught up in the upcoming BandSlam competition, helping hot girl Charlotte (Michalka) turn her talented but scruffy bandmates (Saxton and Jo) into a first-rate band with the addition of a few more members (including Donowho, Yost and Chung). Meanwhile, Will is falling for his moody study partner Sa5m (Hudgens). The 5 is silent.The formula dictates the plot, as we know things will fall apart before they come together in the end. And where this film surprises us is in the way it approaches teen life with a blast of intelligence. The characters are recognisably complex, with some pretty serious issues in their lives and relationships that feel relatively organic and real. And the conflicts feel vaguely authentic as well, even though we know the smiles will be back before too long.

These teens are all overachievers with a lot of talent, and it's clear that the same can be said about the cast, although the rampant overacting may grate on older audience members. It's mainly Michalka's show; Charlotte is by far the most interesting, magnetic character. But everyone else gets a chance to cut loose as well, including Porter as Charlotte's cool-kid ex. Meanwhile, Kudrow adds class, and some fine comic timing, to the whole thing.Of course, this is a Disneyfied fantasy version of high school, where everyone is virginal and straight, and even the geeks are cute. And this blanding-down makes the whole thing feel less like a proper film than a pilot for a TV series that combines harmless adolescence with an introduction to rock history. But the music is terrific, and director-cowriter Graff resists the temptation to indulge in the usual hackneyed moralising. He also stirs in some terrific moments along the way that subvert the genre just a little bit.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Review

Quick -- name three subjects you think would result in a surefire family film hit. If you said The Great Depression, hobo culture, and the social pariah realities of both, you are clearly one of the suits that saw fit to greenlight Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. Granted, this starring vehicle for Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin, does fit her perky Oscar-nominated spunk to a T. But the dour backdrop of America in the throes of a bleak fiscal future, along with the resulting rampant homelessness, is enough to give modern audiences some substantial mortgage crisis déjà-vu.

When her dad (Chris O'Donnell) loses his car dealership and heads off to Chicago to look for work, Cincinnati's own Kit Kittredge (Breslin) helps her mother (Julia Ormond) turn the family home into a boarding house. There, they take in several guests, including the snooty Mrs. Howard (Glenne Hedley) and her son Sterling (Zach Mills), wacky mobile librarian Miss Bonds (Joan Cusack), doe-eyed dance instructor Miss Dooley (Jane Krakowski), and struggling magician Mr. Berk (Stanley Tucci). When a string of crimes is linked to a rise in the transient population, Kit puts on her wannabe-reporter's hat and investigates. Her goal: to become the youngest journalist on the city paper and discover the truth of what's going on.

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Perfect Stranger Review

Perfect Stranger brings us to the end of an era: Halle Berry finally sports nice hair. Gone is the too-close crop of Swordfish and Die Another Day, the single-mom bangs of Monster's Ball, and that white Storm hair that just didn't work, no matter how often it was reshaped. In Perfect Stranger, as ball-busting investigative journalist Rowena, she wears it up, down, pulled back, always looking great, as if making up for lost glamour time.

Of course, the filmmakers behind Perfect Stranger would probably be insulted by my focus on hairstyle. They've made a movie, not an US Weekly article, with two big stars and a twist-heavy story, and I'm sure they'd rather I discuss more important aspects than Halle Berry's hair, such as Halle Berry's body or Halle Berry's frequent and slinky costume changes.

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Maid In Manhattan Review

It wouldn't be the holiday season without fairy tales starring the likes of Santa, Rudolph, or Frosty. This season also finds a small Cinderella story thrown into the jolly mix. Instead of being an ugly stepsister though, this Cinderella spin-off is about a maid, played by the beautiful Jennifer Lopez. And as all fairy tales are pure fiction, Maid in Manhattan certainly fits the bill.

Lopez is Marisa Ventura, a divorced mom forced to raise her young son Ty (Tyler Posey) on her salary as a maid for a ritzy Manhattan hotel. Each day, she drops Ty off at school and travels by subway from the Bronx to work where she arrives just in time for the morning briefing on the glamorous guests the maids will serve that day. These guests include the newly single socialite Caroline Sincaire (Natasha Richardson), who has come to the hotel to sulk, and New York Assemblyman Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes) who is there to prepare for his upcoming campaign for Senator.

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Mona Lisa Smile Review

For most of us, a satirical review of the stuffy attitudes and strict behaviors of the 1950s as seen in Mona Lisa Smile provides a refreshing contrast to our relaxed manners today. Unfortunately, this is all I got from Smile, despite the film's best intentions to present themes of feminine independence. It's an excellent message for young women that should be embraced; yet the film completely betrays this mission by giving us a one-sided central character with a very narrow-minded viewpoint.

Smile stars Julia Roberts as Katherine Watson, a new teacher who has accepted a position to teach art history at Wellesley - the all women college in Massachusetts. Much to her dismay, the progressive thinking taught in California is not embraced by the stiff administrators at Wellesley, and prompts comments like, "You didn't come to Wellesley to help people find their way, you came to help people find your way."

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