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The Vatican Tapes Review

Good

With its above-average cast and a gritty, realistic tone, this exorcism thriller is a lot more involving than most. Not only is it packed with demonic mayhem, but the complex characters make the drama much punchier, setting up the audience for several big jolts. Even so, the plot builds slowly, finally reaching its most intriguing twist right at the very end, so the credits start rolling just as things get properly riveting.

The title refers to a secret archive under the Vatican run by Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson) and his assistant Imani (Djimon Hounsou). It contains files and lots of tapes of demonic possession, including scenes of 30-year-old Angela (Olivia Taylor Dudley). She has a happy life with her cute boyfriend Pete (John Patrick Amedori) and tough-but-kind dad Roger (Dougray Scott), but starts acting a bit strange whenever a raven is nearby. As her behaviour gets more erratic, she is assisted by Father Lozano (Michael Pena), who takes a personal interest in her case. But things spiral far beyond Lozano's expertise, so he calls the Vatican for help. And when Bruun arrives in America to meet Angela in person, he's unnerved to discover that this might not be a demon: she could be the Antichrist.

The screenplay cleverly weaves in news reports and current events to make everything that happens feel grounded in real life. As it continues, the biblical and fantastical flourishes intriguingly fit into this context, while director Mark Neveldine delays tipping over into effects-based action until the final act. This means that the film quietly unnerves the audience from the start, using CCTV footage and some enjoyably scary touches that add to the atmosphere. As a result, the actors are able to flesh out their characters. Dudley gives Angela a strong personality that lingers even after the presence inside her starts to take over. As the three priests, Pena, Andersson and Hounsou don't have much to do, but they add subtle details to their scenes.

Continue reading: The Vatican Tapes Review

The Age Of Adaline Review


Good

Like Benjamin Button, this drama plays around with the human lifespan, is slickly produced and feels far too serious for its own good. There's a sweeping romanticism to the premise, but it's ultimately so sentimental that it becomes rather corny. Fans of Nicholas Sparks-style movies will adore every golden-hued moment and yearning glance. More cynical viewers will enjoy the premise and performances, but will find the tidal wave of plot twists too yucky to bear.

In present-day San Francisco, Adaline (Blake Lively) is preparing to change identities as she does every decade or so. She's been 29 since a fateful accident in 1933 stopped her ageing process, due to a convergence of random factors at the time of a car crash, and she doesn't want to arouse suspicion. The only person who knows her secret is her daughter Flemming (Ellen Burstyn), who after all this time now introduces herself as Adaline's grandmother. Then the dashing Ellis (Michiel Huisman) tenaciously starts pursuing Adaline, and Flemming encourages her to stop running. So she decides to let herself live for a change, travelling with Ellis for a weekend to meet his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker). But fate has a few more surprises in store.

The story is told by an omniscient narrator (Hugh Ross) and camerawork that often stares down from a godlike point of view, as if Adaline has no say in her own story. And without a sense of humour or irony, it's tricky for a film audience to root for her. The story is engaging, and it's enjoyable to watch the events unfold, but the moment the plot loudly clanks into gear the film becomes difficult to like. Revelations and coincidences pile on top of each other in the story's final act, making everything both achingly emotional and suspiciously convenient.

Continue reading: The Age Of Adaline Review

I, Frankenstein Review


OK

Even with its relentlessly cliched production design (trenchcoats and flickering candles galore), this raucous gothic thriller deploys enough visual flash to hold our attention. The gigantic effects-heavy action sequences are eye-catching and sometimes exciting, and there are elements of the story that almost begin to resonate before the script veers off in another more simplistic direction.

Based on a graphic novel, the story picks up where Mary Shelley's novel left off, as the monster (Eckhart) is attacked by demons that want to study his non-human existence. He's rescued by gargoyles, angelic protectors of humanity, and taken to their Queen Lenore (Miranda Otto), who names him Adam and enlists him in the demon-killing cause. Although her second-in-command (Courtney) isn't so sure. Over the next 200 years, Adam hones his skills before returning to Lenore just as the demon Prince Naberius (Nighy) is launching his evil plan to re-animate a dead army with the help of sexy scientist Terra (Strahovski) and Dr Frankenstein's journal. In other words, all hell is about to break loose.

Annoyingly, every time the plot begins to get interesting, writer-director Beattie indulges in another vacuous action set piece that's as irrelevant as the 3D. There's a decent story in here about the nature of the human soul, religious fervour and moral tenacity, but the film only uses these things as devices to make the dialog sound intelligent. Which is tricky since Beattie directs his cast to deliver their lines in growling, blurting monotone. Eckhart's voice-over narration is particularly dull. And this over-earnest tone leaves every potential relationship as a non-starter.

Continue reading: I, Frankenstein Review

Stand Up Guys Review


Very Good

Frankly, if you put Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in your movie, you don't really need to worry about the script: we'd happily watch them do just about anything on-screen. And here they sieze every hint of humour, drama and action to keep us entertained and make us care about their characters. Indeed, they maintain their dignity by refusing to give in to the screenplay's lazy old-age jokes and convoluted plot.

The story kicks off when Val (Pacino) gets out of prison after 28 years behind bars. His only remaining friend is Doc (Walken), who lets him stay in his humble apartment. But Val wants to get back in the game, and tries to get Doc to abandon his austere retirement. Then Val learns that Doc is only alive because gangster Claphands (Margolis) is forcing him to kill Val on his release - an act of vengeance against both of them. With nothing to lose, they liberate their dying buddy Hirsch (Arkin) from hospital and decide to go out with a bang.

Screenwriter Haidle seems to want this to be a geriatric Apatow-style comedy, as these men continually talk frankly about their sex lives (including of course a tired Viagra joke). But this is more squirm-inducing than amusing. And director Stevens lets the action set-pieces drag on too long, trying to crank up the energy by giving every scene a madcap spin. But none of this was necessary with these actors: they are geniuses at adding zing to even the most weakly written and directed scenes, keeping us engaged by constantly upstaging each other. They may be past their prime, but they prove that there's plenty of life still in them. 

Continue reading: Stand Up Guys Review

Amanda Seyfried and Tom Rosenberg - Heitor Dhalia, Amanda Seyfried, Tom Rosenberg Monday 21st February 2011 The Los Angeles Premiere of 'Gone' at ArcLight Hollywood - Arrivals

Amanda Seyfried and Tom Rosenberg
Amanda Seyfried
Amanda Seyfried
Amanda Seyfried
Amanda Seyfried
Amanda Seyfried

The Lincoln Lawyer Review


Good
Enjoyably twisty but too shallow to be fully satisfying, this legal thriller lopes along at a pleasing pace through its overlong running time. But it's watchable mainly because we know there will be at least one big twist in the tale.

Mick (McConaughey) runs his successful L.A. law practice from his vintage Lincoln. He has a daughter with his public-prosecutor ex Maggie (Tomei) and works closely with his private-eye pal Frank (Macy). His new case involves the wealthy Louis (Phillippe), who claims he didn't violently assault a prostitute.

But the more Mick and Frank look into things, the fishier they get. And Mick will need to do some unorthodox things to win the case against the tenacious D.A. (Lucas) and achieve real justice.

Continue reading: The Lincoln Lawyer Review

Gamer Review


Bad
Bursting with their trademark visual style, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) attack the screen with this twist on the virtual reality genre.

Unfortunately, the film is a cacophonous mess without a single interesting character.

In the nearish future, roleplay game-maker Ken Castle (Hall) has made his fortune with two games that let people live vicariously through others: the sex-and-party Society and the war-and-destruction Slayers. The twist is that the gamers are controlling actual people due to nano technology implanted in the performers' brains. In Slayers, they're all death row inmates firing real bullets, and the global megastar performer is Kable (Butler), controlled by rich geek Simon (Lerman). But Kable longs to escape and find his wife (Valletta), and a renegade hacker (Bridges) sets his escape in motion.

Continue reading: Gamer Review

The Ugly Truth Review


Weak
It may be the nature of romantic comedies to be predictable, but this movie never departs from the formula at all. And while the cast is watchable, the film simply has nothing original to say.

Abby (Heigl) is a frazzled breakfast TV producer in Northern California, annoyed when the brutish Mike (Butler) is hired to present a male perspective on her show alongside smiling/strained hosts Larry and Georgia (Higgins and Hines). Mike's theory that men are only interested in looks enrages Abby, who is trying to woo a handsome, successful guy (Winter). Even though she's a complete control freak, she agrees to let Mike help her get her man.

Fortunately, the cast is charming and sometimes even funny. Heigl and Butler could do these roles in their sleep, oozing sass while cutely prickling against each other. Both of them are endearing, in a simplistic sort of way, throwing out witty one-liners and indulging in corny banter that implies the chemistry that is completely absent from the film. Much more fun are Higgins and Hines in small scene-stealing roles that are full of eye-rolling innuendo.

For a film about a strong woman, Abby is awfully needy and desperate. All she can think about is finding the perfect man, and we seem to be the only ones who realise that Mike is the only man the script has in mind for her. Meanwhile, for all his macho posturing and chauvinist comments, he's actually a sensitive soul who understands how men and woman connect. In other words, for all of its bluster, the film isn't remotely as edgy as it pretends to be.

All of the script's male-female sparring uses stereotypes and contrived situations to push the romance forward, from the Cyrano-like coaching to the unsophisticated (and unoriginal) vibrator gag. There are no subplots and no subtext at all. Even the sexuality is simplistic: it's just puritanical sniggering. And by the time the film finally addresses something resonant, wondering who could actually love a control freak, the contrived story and shallow approach leave us cold. But since this is a rom-com with likeable stars, that doesn't really matter.

Underworld: Evolution Review


Weak
If current cinema is to be believed, everywhere we humans are not looking, vampires, werewolves, advanced machines, and other nightcrawlers are living in alternative societies. Underworld brought such a society to the fore, shining a torch (and some flattering designer light) on a leather-clad group of vampires embroiled in a feud with an ancient race of werewolves known as Lycans. In Russia just last year, Night Watch took us into the gloaming to witness similar shenanigans. Perhaps fearing that six months is too long between gothic, O-negative drinks, the makers of Underworld have offered us its unnecessary, unanticipated, and unexpectedly OK sequel, Underworld: Evolution.

Beginning for beginners with a flashback to 1202 A.D. where two siblings - Marcus (Tony Curran), the original vampire, and William (Brian Steele), the first Lycan - are battling each other in a frosty village, the film does much to quickly remind us of its vampirical mythology. Marcus is betrayed by Viktor (Bill Nighy), stored away in the vaults of the family mansion, and William is trapped in a steel coffin for all of eternity. The twins are separated. With this effective piece of prehistory portrayed with some pizzazz and a lot of furrow-browed earnestness, director Len Wiseman treats us then to a series of flashbacks from the original film. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) has killed Viktor and his blood has revived a hybrid Marcus, now with wings. What he wants, and the very nature of his resurrection, are muddily explained in a film whose plot is too convoluted to be enjoyed, but whose occasional sparks of light work hard to make it float.

Continue reading: Underworld: Evolution Review

Wicker Park Review


Excellent
Wicker Park is a remake of a 1996 French film that nobody saw, called L'Appartement. Don't bother looking for it now; it's not available on DVD in the United States. If the premise of Wicker Park holds any interest with you, you'd best go see it soon, as the film is unfortunately destined to meet a similar fate as its predecessor.

Explaining the film - or even saying what genre it's in - is a bit tricky. Josh Hartnett plays a young ad executive named Matthew, who's obviously done well in parlaying a job as a camera repairman into a creative position in New York. Briefly back in his old home town of Chicago before jetting off to China, Matthew abruptly runs into old pal Luke (Matthew Lillard) and catches what he's sure is a glimpse of old girlfriend Lisa (Jessica Lange-lookalike Diane Kruger, last seen as Helen of Troy). Luke - on the cusp of marrying his boss's daughter (Jessica Paré) - is thrown into such a panic he blows off his trip overseas. What unfolds over the next two hours is the story of Luke and Lisa - how they met, how they abruptly split up, and the strange mysteries that are hidden in the past.

Continue reading: Wicker Park Review

The Gift (2000) Review


Weak
Maybe Paramount held back on giving The Gift a wide release during the Christmas season to avoid too many reviewers saying, "This Gift is a holiday lump of coal..." or something like that. If so, good call.

The latest from Sam Raimi (For Love of the Game) is a muddled thriller, filled with tired clichés and some of the worst casting in years. Raimi, along with screenwriters Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, try so hard to create a "serious" psychic chiller that the film is practically drained of any excitement.

Continue reading: The Gift (2000) Review

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Tom Rosenberg Movies

The Vatican Tapes Movie Review

The Vatican Tapes Movie Review

With its above-average cast and a gritty, realistic tone, this exorcism thriller is a lot...

The Age of Adaline Movie Review

The Age of Adaline Movie Review

Like Benjamin Button, this drama plays around with the human lifespan, is slickly produced and...

I, Frankenstein Movie Review

I, Frankenstein Movie Review

Even with its relentlessly cliched production design (trenchcoats and flickering candles galore), this raucous gothic...

Stand Up Guys Movie Review

Stand Up Guys Movie Review

Frankly, if you put Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in your movie, you...

The Lincoln Lawyer Movie Review

The Lincoln Lawyer Movie Review

Enjoyably twisty but too shallow to be fully satisfying, this legal thriller lopes along at...

Gamer Movie Review

Gamer Movie Review

Bursting with their trademark visual style, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank) attack the screen...

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Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Movie Review

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Movie Review

Upon first description, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans appears completely unnecessary, even for one of...

Henry Poole Is Here Movie Review

Henry Poole Is Here Movie Review

Faith is a funny thing. What other aspect of one's life demands so much and...

Untraceable Movie Review

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It would be wonderful if this review of the newest cyber-torture-stalker-thriller could begin with the...

Feast Of Love Movie Review

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In Godard's Contempt, Michel Piccoli explains the depth of his love for Brigitte Bardot as...

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