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The Missing Review


Weak
Is there a role Cate Blanchett cannot convincingly play? As the tent pole of Ron Howard's drawn-out period thriller The Missing, the Oscar nominee assumes the physical, spiritual, and emotional confidence of a pioneer woman who must simultaneously play caretaker, healer, and rough-rider. We don't laugh when Maggie bakes in one scene and brandishes a shotgun in the next. That's life on the frontier, and Blanchett - a proper Aussie - looks like she could hop in that saddle and ride with the best of them.

If only Howard and screenwriter Ken Kaufman could pony up a story worthy of Cate's efforts. Working from Thomas Eidson's novel, Kaufman has penned an abduction case that plays out along a surprisingly linear course. Any time he attempts to branch out in a valuable subplot - whether exploring the ineffective nature of authority in the Wild West, or staging one of many dramatic escape sequences - he does so without confidence. Missing occasionally teases us with relevant character and plot development, then rapidly turns tail and scurries back to the central pursuit story, a slender narrative that can't hold our interest for the film's elongated 147-minute run time.

Continue reading: The Missing Review

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Review


OK
You don't need to be a teenage girl to enjoy The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I thought it was a fun movie, if not a bit disingenuous. For every truth the movie offers into the secret lives of girls, a pat resolution or a schmaltzy moment follows. It's not a perfect movie, except for the young girls this movie beckons to.

Based on Ann Brashares' novel, Pants focuses on four 16-year-olds, all lifelong friends. Bridget (Blake Lively) is the go-getter of the bunch and a soccer star in the making; Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is a sarcastic, wannabe filmmaker who favors black on her clothes and blue in her hair; Lena (Alexis Bledel) is the prudent one of the bunch; and Carmen (the outstanding America Ferrera), the narrator, is an aspiring writer and the only one whose body actually has curves.

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The Hunted Review


Grim
Director William Friedkin has a great track record for examining his characters' inner turmoil as they battle the forces of good and evil. Friedkin is best known for pitting a mother, a detective, and a priest against the devil inside the little body of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. But some of Friedkin's best work can be seen in the action thriller The French Connection, where he transcends the raw power of the action film genre into something highly sophisticated and thought provoking. Thematically, The Hunted is comparable to Connection. However, those expecting Friedkin to deliver another quality action picture like Connection will be sorely disappointed.

The film opens during the war in Kosovo as highly trained hand-to-hand combat assassin (or "tracker") Aaron Hallam (Benicio Del Toro) carries out his military assignment to murder a high-ranking official. He receives a silver star for his valor, but he is scarred and haunted by the widespread images of genocide. Like Rambo, his adjustment to civilian life is difficult as he finds himself unable to turn off his instinctual killing machine. He ends up hunting the forest outside Portland, Oregon looking for and killing in cold blood anyone betraying the credo of PETA.

Continue reading: The Hunted Review

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Review


OK
Rising admirably above the bubble-gum genre norm, "TheSisterhood of the Traveling Pants" is a smart, charming, superblyacted summer-adventure matinee about four 17-year-old best friends separatedfor the first time but symbolically linked together by a pair of second-handjeans they share by mail.

Found to inexplicably fit each of them despite very differentbody types, the pants become a touchstone as they're sent from friend tofriend, giving each girl confidence, good luck or comfort from unexpectedhardship just when such encouragement is most needed.

Adapted from the first in a series of popular books byAnn Brashares, the movie has a foundation of coming-of-age cliches, butbuilds upon it beautifully with three-dimensional characters and honestangst, consternation and joy.

Alexis Bledel ("Gilmore Girls") plays shy, beautiful,lanky Lena, whose vacation in a stereotypical Greek fishing village comescomplete with a hunky local (Michael Rady) who rides a Vespa. This is "Sisterhood's"least creative storyline (it even has a "Romeo and Juliet" bent),but Bledel digs for emotional truth and finds it.

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Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star Review


Unbearable

Another ill-conceived mish-mash of puerile humor and disingenuous sap from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company, "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" features David Spade as a Hollywood has-been trying to recapture the childhood he never had in an attempt to win a comeback role as a "normal guy."

In what should have been a perfect role for his meager talents and snarky, one-note persona, Spade barely even tries to create a character beyond being crass, uncouth and insecure -- in short, his usual schtick -- and wearing gloves all the time as some short-hand attempt at eccentric paranoid psychoses.

The only effort put toward establishing his credibility as a former child star (beyond flashbacks of a young Dickie repeating the amusingly tasteless catch phrase "This is nucking futs!") is to ply the film with cameos by kiddie actors whose careers have faltered in adulthood. Dickie plays poker with Leif Garrett, Dustin "Screech" Diamond, Corey Feldman, Danny Bonaduce and Barry "Greg Brady" Williams, who places bets using "Brady Bunch" tchotchkes he claims are "worth at least $2 on eBay!"

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The Missing Review


Weak

As a good ol' damsels-in-distress Western with picturesque frontier vistas, a handful of Winchester rifle shootouts and enough character conflict to keep the long horse rides interesting, Ron Howard's "The Missing" is reliable, if over-earnest, matinee fodder.

Unfortunately, the director has his eye on the Oscar, and the strain he puts on a perfectly serviceable story in an attempt to ratchet up the prestige factor makes the movie seem awfully pretentious for a kidnap-and-rescue sagebrush saga.

The always riveting Cate Blanchett perfectly embodies the stamina, bravery and grit of an 1885 frontier woman as Maggie Gilkeson, a widowed mom who has suffered a hard life both with and without husbands and lovers. She has passed on that strength and tenacity to her two daughters -- teenaged beauty Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood), snatched by a gang of Indian guides who have rebelled against the deceitful Army, and stubborn, tough young Dot (Jenna Boyd) who steadfastly refuses to be left behind when a pursuit is mounted. ("I won't stay behind," she wails with powerful determination in the picture's most memorable moment. "Wherever you put me, I'll follow you. You know I will!")

Continue reading: The Missing Review

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