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The Vow Review

Inspired by a true story, this film is watchable mainly because of the extraordinary events, which are genuinely involving and moving. Although typically, Hollywood has ramped up the emotions while avoiding subtlety at all costs.

Goofy recording engineer Leo (Tatum) and adorable artist Paige (McAdams) had a cute romance, quirky wedding and four happy years together before a car crash changed everything. Leo only has minor injuries, but Paige has lost some five years of memories. Crucially, she has no idea who Leo is. And she doesn't remember turning her back on her law course, smirking fiance (Speedman) and wealthy parents (Lange and Neill). They're all she remembers now, so Leo tries to remind her of who she became after she left them behind. If they'll let him.

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Footloose Review

A surprisingly faithful remake of the iconic 1984 hit, this crowd-pleasing romp finds some intriguing present-day resonance without pushing it too hard.

Instead, it centres on the interpersonal drama and exhilarating dance moves.

After his mother dies, Boston teen Ren (Wormald) moves to small-town Bomont to live with his aunt and uncle (Dickens and McKinnon). Teens here are prohibited from dancing due to a tragedy three years earlier, so Ren is soon at loggerheads with the local minister (Quaid), whose daughter Ariel (Hough) is a wild child with a redneck boyfriend (Flueger) and an eye for Ren. As Ren deals with his own issues, he teams up with new friends Willard and Woody (Teller and Blain) to take on the system.

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The Tourist Review

This is a thoroughly offbeat concoction from the gifted filmmaker behind the acclaimed The Lives of Others: a rather goofy action comedy that deflates the suspense by telling us pretty much everything from the start.

Elisa (Jolie) is a sleek, overdressed woman of mystery who is being stalked by a tenacious British detective (Bettany). When she boards a train from Paris to Venice, his men are in hot pursuit, so she sidles up to American touristFrank (Depp) to throw them off the scent. He looks similar to her boyfriend, who's wanted by the cops and a vicious Russian mobster (Berkoff). Once in Venice, Frank finds his world turned upside both by this ludicrously elegant woman and the army of goons pursuing him at every turn.

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Leap Year Review

Neither funny nor original enough to really register, this breezy little film will only really entertain those who haven't seen very many rom-coms, and therefore can't predict every single scene. Although the cast members just about emerge with their dignity intact.

Anna (Adams) is an energetic professional woman in Boston with the perfect heart-surgeon boyfriend in Jeremy (Scott). Except that he won't propose to her.

So when he heads for Dublin to attend a conference, she decides that, since it's a leap year, she'll surprise him there and ask him to marry her, a proposal that tradition says he can't refuse. But the journey goes all wrong, and she ends up on the road with scruffy, cantankerous, gorgeous Irishman Declan (Goode). Gosh, what could possibly happen?

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The Hottie And The Nottie Review

The Hottie and the Nottie is a clichéd film that manages to be both predictable and offensive. That's OK, people who rent The Hottie and the Nottie won't be looking for high art or a subtle satire on the superficiality of the West Coast. In fact if you're thinking of renting The Hottie and the Nottie, there is likely only one reason: You're hoping to enjoy the movie because it is awful, the idea being that movies can be so bad they actually become enjoyable. It is a little like getting a kick out of watching Plan 9 from Outer Space.

The Hottie and the Nottie follows the travails of Nate Cooper (Joel Moore) as he tries to woo the "hottest girl in L.A.," Cristabelle Abbot (Paris Hilton). Nate's pursuit of Cristabelle is aided by his first-grade friend Arno Blount, played with enthusiasm by Greg Wilson, who happens to have a three-inch thick file on Cristabelle. Arno lives with his mother, so one surmises he has plenty of time to devote to cataloging first grade friends.

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Underdog Review

Someone needs to send an exorcist over to the Disney Studios, PDQ. The House of Mouse needs a ghostbuster to purge its demonic tendencies toward remaking classic cartoons and other 2D animated properties into shoddy live action spectacles. First there was George of the Jungle and Inspector Gadget. Now the glorified product pitchman Underdog falls under the reinterpretation light. Originally conceived by General Mills' ad agency (and its head, W. Watts Biggers) as a way of selling cereal to wee ones, the once noble anthropomorphic pup with the Superman-like powers has been reduced to a post-modern joke where everything's ironic and nothing's endearing.

After he messes up an important training test, failed police dog Shoeshine (with the voice of actor Jason Lee) winds up in the lab of Dr. Simon Barsinister (a perfectly cast Peter Dinklage) and his dopey assistant Cad (a totally out of whack Patrick Warburton). A genetic engineering experiment goes haywire, turning our hound into a hero, and our scientist into a psychopath. On the run, Shoeshine winds up with young Jack Unger (the vacant Alex Neuberger). While he tries to hide his special talents -- especially his ability to talk -- Shoeshine relents, and quickly becomes pals with his new owner. As he settles in for a life of chasing his tail, scratches fleas, and fighting crime, Barsinister will not let such a supremely successful example of his research slip away. He plots to kidnap and capitalize on the newly named Underdog, destroying anyone who intends to stop him.

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Balls Of Fury Review

The humor of a game like ping-pong is the outright laziness and inaction that goes into it. It's a sport designed for drunken high-school parties, frat-house basements, and stoners who need to do something while Jerry and Marley jam out (the same could be said about billiards). Ben Garant's Balls of Fury is contingent on this knowledge; the absurdity of lending some sort of importance to something that is basically as relevant as the color of sock you are currently wearing.

At first, Fury nails this ridiculous tone. The rise of ping-pong star Randy Daytona, a 10-year-old prodigy of the game, is adorned by numbskull television personalities and revered by the entire nation, including Ronald and Nancy Reagan. His defeat at the Olympics by German player Karl Wolfschtagg (Thomas Lennon, who also serves as producer and co-writer) is viewed not only as a personal loss, but a loss for America. His father (Robert Patrick) has his head lopped off due to the German victory, and Randy vanishes into obscurity.

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Rush Hour 3 Review

For all the talk of his beguiling cameo as a police chief, Roman Polanski shows up in Rush Hour 3 for exactly two scenes for about two minutes. In fact, the French police have absolutely nothing to do with anything in the third Rush Hour installment. Polanski simply acts as a diacritic; a punctuation mark to let us know we're entering and exiting the French portion of the program. And although they are given more screen time, Ingmar Bergman-regular Max Von Sydow and French actor/director Yvan Attal serve similar purposes: They're garnish on a liver sandwich made with moldy bread and mayonnaise that started going green around the time of the Bay of Pigs.

Rush Hour 3 plunks our questionable partners, the loose-mouthed Carter (Chris Tucker) and elastic Lee (Jackie Chan), into an international scandal involving the Chinese Triad election that takes them from sunny Los Angeles to gay Paris. Lee's friend and employer Consul Hu (Tzi Ma) is about to blow the lid off the Triads when a sniper snags him a few centimeters north of his heart. Hu's friend Vernard (Von Sydow) OKs Lee and Carter's trip to his hometown of Paris, where, for one reason or another, the Chinese Triad have decided to have an election.

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Evan Almighty Review

In hindsight, Bruce Almighty was the death knell for the Jim Carrey we know and love. This isn't completely a bad thing: Rurning away from manic comedy allowed Carrey to do the best acting of his career in Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It also allowed for The Number 23. You win some, and you really, really lose some. But that wacky spazz with the ability to manipulate his body like it was made of laffy-taffy was seen hardening in Bruce Almighty, his artful physical comedy becoming a frantic centerpiece to otherwise inept material. It seems strange that Bruce was Carrey's moment of decay while the film's sequel, Evan Almighty, welcomes the great Steve Carell into the annals of mainstream comedic stardom.

Carell's been smart, so far, with his choices of role. Stepping out with small roles in Bruce Almighty and Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda, Carell hit pay dirt with last summer's sleeper-hit The 40-Year-Old Virgin, quickly establishing him as an actor with even measures of heart and humor. Then he starred in another sleeper: last year's Oscar-nominated Little Miss Sunshine. It now seems time to allow Carell to try his hand at big-budget ($175 million to be exact) summer comedies, seeing if his mug can rake in the big bucks.

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The Invisible Review

The trailers for The Invisible ask, "How do you solve a murder when the victim is you?" This indeed poses several mysteries, but not the ones the trailer-makers have in mind. First, there's the question of whether the question is grammatically correct (the answer: maybe, but it sure sounds awkward). Then there's the mystery not of how to solve said murder, but where exactly the difficulty lies when you is -- er, are that murder victim. High-school senior Nick Powell, this film's victim, pretty much "solves" his murder while he's being killed (or near-killed); he recognizes and even converses with his assailants. Case closed.

Except that he's dead, of course, but assuming, as The Invisible does, the existence of a rather flexible netherworld between living and death, filling in further details isn't a problem either. When Nick wakes up as a sort of half-ghost, traveling through the land of the living without the ability to be seen or heard while his body lies on the brink of death, his detective skills need only to consist of following the murderers around, overhearing their motivations.

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The Lookout Review

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a soft baby face and a lanky frame, so it's easy to see why, Eight years after Third Rock from the Sun and 10 Things I Hate About You, he can still play teenagers. The surprise is that he can play them so differently. In The Lookout he's Chris Pratt, who starts off the movie as a cocky high school hockey player. After a car accident, though, Chris sustains brain damage that leaves him hollowed and frail, struggling, even more than most, through a mundane life.

Chris's condition isn't as neatly symbolic as Guy Pearce's inability to make new memories in Memento. Moments of clarity brush up against considerable fuzziness; Chris can remember people and places while forgetting how to heat up pasta sauce. Gordon-Levitt specializes in plain-sight, makeup-free transformations, and here he nails the wounded body language and muted frustration of a fallen jock idol, creating someone far removed from the equally vivid young people he played in Brick and Mysterious Skin.

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Stay Alive Review

It's a horror plot so surefire that you wonder why it hasn't been done before: Young people play a mysterious new videogame and start to die, one by one, in grisly scenes mimicking their game deaths. Stay Alive runs through this plot with such a plodding lack of imagination that you think again: Maybe this has been done before, on The X-Files or a direct-to-video picture you missed. Surely a movie this tired can't be the first crack at a fundamentally decent genre idea?

Stay Alive gets around this conundrum easily by knocking off The Ring and throwing in a little of the Final Destination series: the former's ghostly gimmick mixed with the latter's view of life as an elaborate series of macabre booby traps. Unfortunately, even the cut-and-paste is botched; no Ring-style tension builds, and the PG-13 rating curtails the death scenes, most of which all but cut away before the character's gory fate is sealed. Yes, you read that right: Stay Alive is like a Final Destination movie without the death scenes.

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The Count Of Monte Cristo (2002) Review

The classic Monte Cristo sandwich is a rich confection -- almost inedibly so -- composed of layered ham, turkey, swiss cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, and crusty bread, all battered in egg and fried in hot grease. The diner is meant to dip this in jam before shoving it down his gullet.

The 2002 incarnation of The Count of Monte Cristo is a remarkably similar experience, full of pleasing flavors yet probably too rich for everyday consumption -- but, as with all things, I figure you'll eat it if you're hungry enough. Sure enough, in this snail-slow winter movie season, Monte Cristo is just about the best thing going. Like the sandwich, this isn't gourmet fare -- it's a crowd pleaser meant to entertain for a few brief moments, nothing more.

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Memoirs Of A Geisha Review

The only thing which director Rob Marshall doesn't throw into Memoirs of a Geisha is a torch song in which the heroines can lament their sad fates; it might have been an improvement if he had. Adapted from Arthur Golden's 1997 bestselling novel, the film is about Sayuri, a young girl in pre-war Japan sold into servitude at a Kyoto okiya, or geisha house. Although interesting as drama, the book was beloved for its depiction of this long-gone culture's intricate rituals, and the grueling training and subterfuge which the geisha indulged in to succeed. Since much of that material is better suited for the page than the screen, the film blows up the book's more melodramatic moments (and there were plenty of them) into a cliched soap opera of thwarted love, backstabbing and really pretty outfits.

Marshall gives the film, especially its early scenes where Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang) gets schooled in the hard-knock ways of the okiya, a goodly amount of sound and fury that has more than a hint of Spielberg to it (the original director of the project, he stayed on as producer). Having one of the world's most photogenic period settings, Marshall makes all that he can of it, and the results are astonishing. This is a film of fluttering cherry blossoms and dark alleyways lit by paper lanterns, where all houses have their own deftly-maintained garden and everyone is dressed to the nines. The problem is that no amount of amped-up drama or pretty window-dressing can make up for the fact that the phenomenally talented cast has been stuck with hackneyed dialogue to deliver in English - a first language for none of them.

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Simon Birch Review

One scarcely knows where to begin to elucidate the tragic story of Simon Birch, but suffice it to say that Simon is a 12-year-old dwarf imbued with an astonishing sense of morality and heroism that affects everyone around him. The Triumph of the Kid has never been more overwrought, and Simon Birch just takes movies like Radio Flyer, The Mighty, and Unstrung Heroes and ratchets them out to the hilt. Pithy and over-emotional, watch little Simon (Ian Michael Smith) wreck the school play, try to play baseball, ogle girls' chests, and save the entire student body from drowning in an icy river. Then go vomit. Jim Carrey makes a (poor) cameo. Also note that the film is based on author John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. Irving also wrote the book responsible for that ungodly piece of junk The Cider House Rules.
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