Jane Hamsher

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Permanent Midnight Review


Terrible
Well, there's nothing like missing a fad by a few years to show how really behind the curve you are. Permanent Midnight, the new film about the rise and fall... well, mostly the fall... of TV writer Jerry Stahl should prove to be the final nail in the short-lived, and now painful-to-watch, genre: the drug movie.

Perhaps best known as the chief influence behind the TV show ALF, Midnightis a simplistic retelling of Stahl's tell-all autobiography. Ben Stiller, the only remotely passable part of this film, plays Stahl with gusto, but twenty minutes of Stiller going berserk as a strung-out junkie are more than enough.

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From Hell Review


Weak
Jack the Ripper remains one of the most enigmatic, heavily-studied serial killers in history. He was brutal, he was clever, he was also never apprehended... or was he? The directing brothers Allen and Albert Hughes take a substantial departure from earlier material like Menace II Society and Dead Presidents with From Hell, a kooky interpretation of the Jack the Ripper case and its associated conspiracy theories.

Based on a series of comic books, From Hell actually focuses on an investigator named Abberline (Johnny Depp), who works the lower-class Whitechapel district of London in 1888. Abberline, in keeping with the presumably sacred rule that any character Depp embodies must be a nutjob, is a Laudanum addict, drinks Absinthe, and has bizarre visions in his sleep that portend Jack's next victim. If only he'd been born a century later, he could have had his own 1-900 number.

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Natural Born Killers Review


Excellent
Violence got the star treatment in the early '90s. With much of America feeling powerless to stem the crime and gang culture that seemed to be on the rise, we began to react to the ocean of carnage that dominated popular culture. Congress held hearings about violence on television, the finishing moves in Mortal Kombat, and Body Count's otherwise obscure gangsta-metal single "Cop Killer." For a while, blaming the pervasiveness of fake violence for real-world murder and assaults came to be as fashionable as flannel shirts and ripped jeans.

And yet, America kept consuming it. Snoop Dogg sold millions of CDs, video games amped up the gore, and children could quote the grisly details of the O.J. Simpson murder trial as if it were written by Dr. Seuss.

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Review


Terrible
If anything, what The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (aka LXG) does best is give us an original concept for action heroes: a group of characters picked from famous literary works united to fight a common enemy. Though it bears a resemblance to X-Men, LXG sounds great, but falls far short. The film, based on Alan Moore's graphic novels, is just a bunch of mindless shootouts and half-baked special effects with little, if any, time spent on the unique individuals at the heart of the action.

In LXG the film, a madman named "The Phantom" is bent on turning the nations of the world against each other in one gigantic World War. It's up to the British government to thwart his plan, and they have assembled a handsome crew to get the job done. Leading the group is aging adventure seeker Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) with underlings The Invisible Man (Tony Curran), vampiress Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), Dr. Jekyll and alter ego Hyde (Jason Flemyng), Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), and Tom Sawyer (Shane West). Once all the introductions are done, the group heads to Venice to protect the world's leaders from the Phantom's attack during a peace conference.

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Apt Pupil Review


Good
Controversy shrouded the production of Apt Pupil for years. In fact, the setting of the film subtly belies its age: It's set in 1984, for no readily apparent reason other than that was contemporary when it was written. Given its subject matter -- star student becomes obsessed with the Nazi down the street -- a little controversy is expected. McKellan is pretty far over the top in his role as a member of the Hitler Silver club, and the story doesn't completely gel. The dynamic between he and Renfro is fun -- probably the best part of the film. It's a fairly good rental, but little more than that.
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