Robert Teitel

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Faster Review


Good
With a comically masculine vibe, this grisly rampage of revenge is inventive enough to hold our interest. Although even a tiny flicker of knowing dry humour would have made it a lot more entertaining.

After his release from prison, a driver (Johnson) is reunited with his beloved muscle-car and immediately puts a bullet in a man's head, which is only the beginning of his vengeance after being set up and left for dead. The police (Thornton and Gugino) are on his trail, as is a hot-blooded killer (Jackson-Cohen) who's distracted by his gun-happy girlfriend (Grace). But the driver is moving so fast that he doesn't need to hide. He's also brazenly unswerving in his mission to settle this old score.

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Notorious (2009) Review


Terrible
In hindsight, the thought that a film could have ever done justice to Christopher George Latore Wallace, the Brooklyn-born rapper who went by the names Biggie Smalls and The Notorious B.I.G. until his untimely, unsolved murder in March 1997 at the age of 24, was a foolish if exceedingly hopeful fantasy. Would any director possibly be as good at balancing blunt criticism -- of masculinity, poverty, the music industry, the black experience in America and, perhaps most importantly, himself -- and have as big an ego as the late MC? Maybe Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep) but his project never came to pass.

What we are presented instead is Notorious, a dutifully celebratory, profoundly inept retelling of the rise of Wallace from fatherless coke slinger on the corner of Fulton and St. James to the still-praised Shakespeare of hip-hop and best friend to that other don of hip-hop culture, Sean "Puffy" Combs. The film, which is directed by Soul Food helmer George Tillman Jr., opens on the infamous shooting of Wallace outside the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA. As the first bullet is fired, the screen pauses and the voice of the deceased rapper kicks in and rewinds us back to the beginning of the tale with a 12-year-old Wallace, played by Christopher Jordan Wallace, the son of Wallace and R&B singer Faith Evans, sitting outside Queen of All Saints Middle School in Bed-Stuy, waiting for his mother Voletta (Angela Bassett).

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Nothing Like the Holidays Review


Weak
Caucasians have not cornered the market on festive dysfunction. It may seem like every Christmas family in freefall is as white as the snow that symbolizes the season, but that's not true. All ethnicities have their yuletide horror stories, and it looks like Tinseltown is finally working its way out of the WASP-ish wilds of the suburbs. Last year, This Christmas focused on an African-American clan's tell-all Noel. In 2008, it's the Hispanics' turn to celebrate. Nothing Like the Holidays uses Chicago's Humboldt Park as the backdrop for a great deal of warmth, a little comic craziness, and a whole lot of biology-based nerve fraying. The result is something decent, if not delightful.

For the Rodriguez family, this Christmas is more trying than others. Father Edy (Alfred Molina) is still trying to talk his way out of the doghouse with wife Anna (Elizabeth Peña). She's angry over a past infidelity and is hinting at a divorce. He's angry that their Iraq War veteran son Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) doesn't want to take over the family business. Wannabe-actress daughter Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito) is anxious over the possibility of landing a prime role in a television series, while ignoring the local boy Ozzy (Jay Hernandez) who clearly pines away for her. But the couple's biggest concern is Mauricio (John Leguizamo) and his non-Puerto Rican wife Sarah (Debra Messing). Their marriage has yet to produce grandchildren, and for Edy and Anna, family is everything.

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Beauty Shop Review


Grim
Television shows spin-off characters all the time - Matt LeBlanc leaves Friends for Joey and Cheers gives way to Frasier. Not so in movies, where producers frequently tease similar spin-offs but rarely make the big-budget steps to actually get these projects off the ground. For every Elektra, for example, there are promised X-Men franchises waiting to be built around Wolverine and Magneto.

Bucking the odds, MGM's Beauty Shop spins off from the successful Barbershop comedies, taking Queen Latifah's sassy stylist Gina Norris from the second installment and setting her up in a potential franchise all her own.

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Men of Honor Review


OK
Diving movies rule!

I just can't seem to get enough of the thrill of the being submerged in hundreds of feet of water with the ever-present threat of drowning all around me. You know, that feeling of small animals crawling into my wetsuit or larger animals deciding to eat me whole. The intoxicating sensation of my lungs exploding from gas build-up in my lungs. How can you argue with that?

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Roll Bounce Review


Terrible
In Roll Bounce, Malcolm D. Lee's comedy-drama set in 1978 Chicago, five friends find another place to skate after their neighborhood spot closes, but immediately get humiliated by the rink's hero and his band of well-dressed cronies. The boys leave frustrated, but return months later for the Roller Jam face-off.

We should leave happy and satisfied after rooting for these young men every step of the way, but we don't, and the reason is clear. The movie's dancers and the music may have soul, but Roll Bounce has none, and it starts with the characters.

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Barbershop 2: Back In Business Review


Excellent
The first Barbershop was a pleasant surprise, an easygoing comedy that had its ear turned toward the community and its heart in the right place. The sequel doesn't surprise us - we know what to expect by now - but that doesn't make the visit any less pleasant.

Because movies are filmed months in advance, though, the topics tackled in the barbershop's open forum are dated. Rants regarding the D.C. sniper and Bill Clinton might have fit better in the first film, which came out two years ago. The old material eventually gives way to new challenges for barbershop owner Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube) and his faithful crew of haircutters.

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Barbershop Review


Good
It seems every "black" ensemble film these days yanks at the same old yarn of bringing back good values to the 'hood - keep your nose clean, love thy neighbor, and treat your woman right. But Barbershop, swelling with the classic Horatio Alger-like "Pull your community up by the bootstraps" message, is populated by surprisingly well-rounded characters and comforting dialogue, managing to be both cliché and refreshingly unusual all in the same breath.

Ice Cube finally puts down the gun and bong (yes, he's doing another Friday movie after this) in his best role since Three Kings. Here he plays Calvin, a soon-to-be father with aspirations for greatness who's inherited his father's struggling barbershop in the south side of Chicago. In a moment of panic, he sells the shop to a local loan shark (Keith David). But soon after, we meet the colorful crew that spend their day at Calvin's: the loony old-timer barber Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), educated but snotty Jimmy (Sean Patrick Harris), two-strike thug Ricky (Michael Ealy), shy but sweet Dinka (Leonard Howza), pimped out "wigger" Isaac (Troy Garity), and tough girl-done-wrong Terri (hip-hop queen Eve). Spending a good day with these regulars, Calvin starts to realize his mistake, and begins working to set his error straight.

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