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The Dyatlov Pass Incident [aka Devil's Pass] Review


Frankly, this thriller is a bit behind the curve in its storytelling, so even though it's a solidly well-made example of the found-footage genre, it feels derivative and tired. The script cleverly weaves in real historical events to make it a lot more intriguing, but the screenwriter seems to run out of ideas before the end, resorting to horror cliches and grisly effects that feel rather corny.

The true story took place in February 1959, when nine hikers disappeared while hiking in the snowy Ural mountains. When their bodies were discovered, they had mysterious internal injuries that didn't match their external wounds. The mystery has never been solved, so for her final project, American psychology student Holly (Goss) decides to investigate, travelling to Russia to shoot a documentary with film student Jenson (Stokoe), sound recordist Denise (Atkinson) and two perky mountaineering experts (Albright and Hawley). But when they start climbing to the icy pass, strange things begin to happen around them. Then they stumble into something shocking.

Director Harlin has a great time cranking up a sense of doom, with gleeful references to sinister Soviet experiments, alien sightings and even the existence of a yeti. The locals taunt these too-curious Yanks with tales about the "Mountain of the Dead". And their expedition is intercut with archive photos and footage of the original 1959 hikers. So there's a real sense that these intrepid students could find pretty much anything up there. And since we see everything through Jenson's camera, there's a real sense of wonder about the expansive beauty of the wintry Urals. Meanwhile, the lively young cast has a lot of fun bringing the characters to life through some soapy romantic entanglements and hints of various back-stories.

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Timber Falls Review

Mike (Josh Randall) and Sheryl (Brianna Brown) have traveled to West Virginia to escape the stress of Washington, D.C. Armed with the essential camping supplies, they begin a hiking adventure in the scenic Appalachian Mountains. With little knowledge of the hiking trails, they consult a local woman named Ida (Beth Broderick) for advice. She recommends Timber Falls, the most beautiful path, but the least frequently patrolled.

They accept Ida's advice. While hiking Timber Falls, Mike and Sheryl encounter stunning waterfalls, pristine lakes, and a mountaintop campsite with gorgeous Appalachian views (though camera crews never stepped foot in West Virginia; the film was shot in Romania). They set up camp and go to sleep. The next day, Sheryl goes missing. Mike suspects mischief from the rifle-wielding backwoods boys they met the previous day.

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Lucky Number Slevin Review

Pay attention. This is going to be confusing.

Everyone thinks the mysterious Slevin (Josh Hartnett) is Nick. The confusion is understandable; after all, Slevin does look like Nick, and he's staying at Nick's apartment for a few days while the real Nick (Sam Jaeger) is somewhere else -- though nobody knows where, or even if he's alive. The only person to know that Slevin isn't Nick is Nick's neighbor, Lindsey (Lucy Liu). She discovers Slevin when she knocks on Nick's door to borrow ingredients, but accidentally she catches a glimpse of Slevin as he's getting out of the shower -- flames of lust ignite.

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Dungeons & Dragons Review

You know you're in big trouble when halfway through a movie you ask yourself, "What would be better? Sitting through the rest of this garbage or receiving a scratch to the retina?" Ultimately, the question is moot, since both are examples of ocular mayhem.

The impulse as you sit through Dungeons & Dragons is to close your eyes, thereby shielding yourself from those atrocious computer-generated zooming up and down gaudily-colored castles and cloud-capped palaces. Unfortunately, the sound design is so brutal with those sharp rings as swords clash, glitter dust swirls, and magic spells go WHOOSH that sleep is not a viable option.

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House Of Sand & Fog Review


A parable of American self-absorption, of people never seeing outside their own little bubble until it's too late, "House of Sand and Fog" is a psychological drama in which fear and tension are made tangible from multiple points of view.

It's a film with two strong lead performances from the stirring Jennifer Connelly, as a demoralized recovering addict who loses her family home in foreclosure, and the potent Ben Kinsley as the proud Iranian immigrant who becomes the target of this woman's distain when he buys the house at auction with plans to sell it for a profit so he can support his wife and college-bound son.

It's a film about choices and consequences, and a film absent of easy black-or-white ethics, which makes for some powerful emotions. But it's also a film with many nagging problems that add up to a distracting crescendo.

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