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The Promise Review

Very Good

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians by the Turkish government between 1915 and 1923. Turkey has long denied that this took place, so the filmmakers take a rather soft approach to the story, setting out a romantic plotline with the genocide as a backdrop. So the resulting drama is somewhat uneven, but the events are so powerful that the film can't be ignored.

It opens in 1915 as the Ottoman Empire is collapsing. Mikael (Oscar Isaac) is a young Armenian studying medicine in Constantinople with a promised fiancee Maral (Angela Sarafyan) back home. Even so, he falls for Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), who shares his rural Armenian background. But she has a boyfriend, Chris (Christian Bale), who is investigating rumours of war as the Germans arrive to help the Turkish government round up its ethnic minorities. Mikael is soon arrested, but escapes from the work camp to return to his parents (Shohreh Aghdashloo and Kevork Malikyan) and Maral. Meanwhile, Chris and Ana are trying to report the story of what's really happening, and Mikael joins them to help a group of orphan refugees.

Yes, this is a sweeping epic in which there's a lot going on, and it's filmed on a lavish scale. The characters' lives continually intersect throughout the story, and the intensity of the wartime atrocities is seriously powerful. On the other hand, this makes the four-sided romance feel like a melodramatic distraction. The actors are solid, but the earnest tone undermines any real emotional edge. Isaac is sincere and decent, Le Bon is strong and wilful, Bale is solid and cynical, and Sarafyan is lost in the shuffle. Aghdashloo, as always, provides wrenching support.

Continue reading: The Promise Review

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review


Excellent
You have to feel sorry for the X-Men franchise. It was once the standard bearer for comic book movies, a monopoly it managed to hold onto until Christopher Nolan and a certain Dark Knight raised and reset the bar substantially higher. Now, the mutant movie series is little more than a fading memory, a reminder of when Hollywood hoped to find a way to translate favorite graphic novels into massive motion picture successes. Oddly enough, Fox may have discovered the secret to staying relevant in a post-Batman reboot era -- and the answer is Hugh Jackman. Capable of carrying even the most mediocre effort, he singlehandedly makes X-Men Origins: Wolverine an excellent start to the summer 2009 season.

As a young boy, James Howlett (Jackman) was sickly. Doted on by his doctor father, a tragedy sends him out into the world alone -- alone, that is except for his half-brother Victor (Liev Schrieber). After surviving several wars together, the boys meet up with military man William Stryker (Danny Huston) and along with a group of fellow mutants, they search the globe for an elusive metal derived from a meteorite. When Howlett, now renamed Logan, sees the atrocities committed in pursuit of said goal, he walks away. Six years later, Stryker and Victor come calling, wanting their former ally to participate in an experiment. Fusing his frame with an experimental alloy, Logan becomes Wolverine. Unfortunately, he soon after finds himself a pawn in a much larger crusade against his kind, with his murderous sibling front and center.

Continue reading: X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review

Left Behind: The Movie Review


Terrible
Based on the best-selling novel, Left Behind is the latest in an assembly line of Evangelical thrillers from Cloud Ten Pictures. Considering the success of The Omega Code, there's a surprisingly large audience of zealots who dream of screening films with "spiritual value" nationwide. And apparently, all that hard work is paying off.

Let readers be warned in advance, if you're part of the camp which tries to catch the "so bad it's good" movies filmcritic.com cheerfully slams on a weekly basis (and I mean you, Battlefield Earth), do yourself a favor and avoid Left Behind. Even if your interest is akin to mine, approaching the entire affair as a postmodern joke, your contribution is paving the way for more of this generic, Bible-thumping crap. With this kind of marketing campaign, every dollar counts.

Continue reading: Left Behind: The Movie Review

X-Men Review


Good
Well, comic book freaks can take a breather, as another sci-fi fantasy hits the big screen, this time in the long-awaited, highly-anticipated, it-better-be-good X-Men.

Without too much regret, I can say that X-Men will be palatable to fans and newbies alike. It's not a great film, but it will probably follow the arc of the Superman and Batman movies -- tons of sequels of variable quality until an abrupt and dismal end a decade later.

Continue reading: X-Men Review

Thr3e Review


Weak
Despite my distaste for movies that use numerals in place of letters in their titles, I agreed to take a look at Thr3e, which quietly arrives in theaters today. Heralded as a "faith-based thriller," "Christian horror movie," or any other number of vague monikers that indicate some religious content mixed with your usual horror fare.

OK, fair enough, so what do we have here? Well, Thr3e is a kind of riff on your Saw movies and Seven, giving us an unseen psychopath who's stalking our hapless hero Kevin (Marc Blucas), who wants nothing more than to complete his thesis and get out of seminary school. Problem is, he's got something iffy in his past, and the psycho stalker is trying to force Kevin to "confess" his sins... mainly by killing off Kevin's friends and spraying graffiti on his car before blowing it up. Each time he's in touch, he delivers a mysterious set of instructions and a limited time in which to complete them, or else something explodes.

Continue reading: Thr3e Review

X-Men Review


Good
Well, comic book freaks can take a breather, as another sci-fi fantasy hits the big screen, this time in the long-awaited, highly-anticipated, it-better-be-good X-Men.

Without too much regret, I can say that X-Men will be palatable to fans and newbies alike. It's not a great film, but it will probably follow the arc of the Superman and Batman movies -- tons of sequels of variable quality until an abrupt and dismal end a decade later.

Continue reading: X-Men Review

Left Behind: The Movie Review


Terrible
Based on the best-selling novel, Left Behind is the latest in an assembly line of Evangelical thrillers from Cloud Ten Pictures. Considering the success of The Omega Code, there's a surprisingly large audience of zealots who dream of screening films with "spiritual value" nationwide. And apparently, all that hard work is paying off.

Let readers be warned in advance, if you're part of the camp which tries to catch the "so bad it's good" movies filmcritic.com cheerfully slams on a weekly basis (and I mean you, Battlefield Earth), do yourself a favor and avoid Left Behind. Even if your interest is akin to mine, approaching the entire affair as a postmodern joke, your contribution is paving the way for more of this generic, bible-thumping crap. With this kind of marketing campaign, every dollar counts.

Continue reading: Left Behind: The Movie Review

Hackers Review


Very Good
Hackers is more techno-paranoia from Hollywood, instilling the fear of rampaging computer geeks into America once again in yet another take on 1983's WarGames. 12 years later, the game is a little different: the bad guys are big business types instead of the government, the good guys have dreadlocks and multiple body piercings, and the computers can do full motion video over a phone line.

Okay, so some liberties have been taken with technology (an Intel P6 chip powers an Apple PowerBook), but at least the terminology the hackers use is essentially right. The story may sound familiar. Bad corporate computer dude Eugene aka Plague (Fisher Stevens) and his accomplice (Lorraine Bracco) team up for a little multi-million dollar theft, when a bunch of young punks stumble upon the plan. The gaggle of teen-aged of hackers includes Dade aka Crash Override (Jonny Lee Miller), Kate aka Acid Burn (Angelina Jolie), and the show-stealing Cereal Killer (Matthew Lillard), among others. Together, the hackers have to foil the theft and avoid having numerous felony charges pinned on them, plus save the world from ecological disaster thanks to a Plague-written virus that capsizes oil tankers.

Continue reading: Hackers Review

The Hangman's Curse Review


Good
According to The Hangman's Curse, there are select citizens secretly commissioned by the government to investigate strange mysteries, crimes, and unusual occurrences across America. Working undercover, these people are known as The Veritas Project (Veritas is Latin for truth).

The Hangman's Curse, which is based on a novel by Frank Peretti, opens as Abel Frye--a troubled student in small town Washington state--hangs himself in the dark corridors of Rogers High School. Apparently Abel's peers teased him to the point where he didn't want to live any longer.

Continue reading: The Hangman's Curse Review

X2: X-Men United Review


Very Good
The mutants are back in town in the first big sequel of 2003 -- a year that promises at least a half-dozen Brand Name Sequels (nearly all of which, surprisingly, I'm anxious to see). X2 probably won't be the best of the bunch, but it certainly isn't the worst. Like the original X-Men, the sequel is a lot of good, clean fun, full of vibrancy and memorable comic book antics, but ultimately it's a bit of a letdown due to too many squandered opportunities and an exhausting running time.

X2 picks up an indeterminate amount of time after the original ended. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, looking strangely clean cut) is still trying to figure out his past. Magneto (Ian McKellan) is trapped in his plastic prison. And Jean Gray (Famke Janssen) is having bad dreams about something wicked coming on the horizon.

Continue reading: X2: X-Men United Review

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Ralph Winter Movies

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Left Behind: The Movie Movie Review

Left Behind: The Movie Movie Review

Based on the best-selling novel, Left Behind is the latest in an assembly line of...

X-Men Movie Review

X-Men Movie Review

Well, comic book freaks can take a breather, as another sci-fi fantasy hits the big...

Thr3e Movie Review

Thr3e Movie Review

Despite my distaste for movies that use numerals in place of letters in their titles,...

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X-Men Movie Review

X-Men Movie Review

Well, comic book freaks can take a breather, as another sci-fi fantasy hits the big...

Left Behind: The Movie Movie Review

Left Behind: The Movie Movie Review

Based on the best-selling novel, Left Behind is the latest in an assembly line of...

X2: X-Men United Movie Review

X2: X-Men United Movie Review

The mutants are back in town in the first big sequel of 2003 -- a...

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