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Killing Bono Review

Based on a true story, this film vividly captures the frustrating randomness of fame. The sharp and funny characters are nicely played, but the plot gets lost along the way, spinning in circles and trying too hard to ramp up the action.

In late-70s Dublin, brothers Neil and Ivan (Barnes and Sheehan) form a band called The Undertakers, creating a friendly rivalry with their friends Paul, David, Larry and Adam (McCann, Mark Griffin, Sean Doyle and David Tudor), who form The Hype. Then The Hype changes its name to U2 and becomes the biggest band in the world. Over the years, Neil's bull-headed attitude scuppers every chance he and Ivan get, even when they find minor fame in London with the help of manager/girlfriend Gloria (Ritter). he also indebts them to an Irish gangster (Townsend).

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Across The Universe Review

Julie Taymor's Across the Universe is a musical that tells its story through a couple dozen Beatles songs and in service of this ambition, it is necessary to forgive a certain degree of yearning nostalgia. The wealth of references and in-jokes -- spare lyrics turning up in dialogue, a rooftop concert, unexpected appearances of Joe Cocker -- may seem cornball or literal, and they sometimes are, but the movie's brand of Beatlemania is unabashedly fannish, too, and understandable in its way. There are plenty of musical acts whose music and lyrics brought to life would not enchant me; don't wake me for the inevitable Light My Fire or Brass in Pocket. But if Taymor and her collaborators can't contain their enthusiasm for referring to as many songs, characters, real-life incidents, and other elements involved in the storied history of the Beatles, I can't say I blame them. I may even giggle along in solidarity.

To wit: Jude (Jim Sturgess) washes ashore to seek out his absent father, and meets raffish Princeton student Maxwell (Joe Anderson). The fast friends wind up in New York's counterculture scene, along with Max's sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), and with a gaggle of musicians, artists, and radicals, navigate the kind of historical sixties tumult often seen in textbooks and TV miniseries. Along the way they encounter psychedelic gurus played by celebrity guests, like Dr. Robert (Bono) and Mr. Kite (Eddie Izzard). This may start to sound like excess until you consider the restraint the screenwriters have shown in failing to include any characters named Michelle, Eleanor Rigby, Bungalow Bill, or Rocky Raccoon.

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Flushed Away Review

As nice as it can be to see movies at press screenings -- nestled in big comfy chairs, away from the masses and ticket prices -- there were benefits to watching Flushed Away in a big ol' auditorium filled to the brim with the 10-and-under crowd. It validated that my finding the movie bland and inspiring didn't just mean I'm outside key demographics. Those kids? They weren't laughing a whole lot either.

Flushed Away is a prototypical anthropomorphic-fish-out-of-water tale, about a pampered pet rat named Roddy St. James (voiced by Hugh Jackman) who gets accidentally flushed down the toilet of his owners' posh Kensington flat and ends up out of his element in a rat-sized version of London down in the sewers. His attempts to make his way back up top get him mixed up with a sassy lass, Rita (Kate Winslet), who is on the run from a local crime boss and his thugs. Of course, because this is an animated family film, the boss is an ill-tempered toad and one of the henchmen is an albino former lab rat, but the ideas are universal.

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Still Crazy Review

Imagine if the cast of Trainspotting started a rock band in the 1970s which faded away, then 30 years later they got together for an old-fogies reunion tour. Okay, that movie would be a whole lot more fun than Still Crazy, which plays like a Roger Daltry nightmare filled with bad jokes about being an old, half-stoned, washed-up rocker. Completely full of itself and filled with self-importance, this is more of a eulogy than an homage to a late, great era.

The Commitments Review

Released in 1991, The Commitments was Alan Parker's third film about pop music. His first, Fame, was a frothy coming-of-age-musical that made the most of its youthful enthusiasm despite a disease-of-the-week-style script. The second, Pink Floyd: The Wall, was a depressive, insular, and angular pastiche of moody myth-making that was interesting mainly for people who fried their brains listening to "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" a hundred times too often. The Commitments sits somewhere in the middle: An engaging, open-hearted entertainment that pulls off two neat tricks. First, it's one of the few movies about rock-pop-soul music that seems to have the right idea about why and how bands come together, with some fine performances from rank amateurs. But more impressively, it finds some great humor in a setting that's defined by grinding poverty.

The setting is North Dublin, where Jimmy Rabbite (Robert Arkins) is trying to simultaneously shrug off his parents' bad taste and the dole-driven life that surrounds him. Jimmy carries a deep and abiding love for soul music of the pre-Motown era - Wilson Pickett, Jackie Wilson, and so on - though he understandably has a hard time convincing his friends and family that soul isn't an exclusively black music. In a video store, Jimmy plays old-school soul tapes to the unbelievers before uttering the film's funniest and most poignant line: "The Irish are the blacks of Europe. Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. North Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin."

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