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88 Minutes
Is 80 Minutes Too Long

The problem with 88 Minutes is not with the story itself, but with the screenwriting and directing. The dialogue is juvenile and pedantic; in directing, Avnet is very lax with little details that really bug observant moviegoers. Finally, the storyline is kept fairly muddy by an unconvincing progression meant to eliminate each character as Jack’s potential killer. If 88 Minutes makes a killing at the box office, it will be solely based upon the drawing power of Pacino’s name. Maybe it’s worth the price to see a 67-year-old man looking 47 and still able to run up several flights of stairs. Or, maybe I’ve missed the point entirely. I spent the whole 108-minute runtime trying to figure out what on earth they had done to Pacino’s hair!


Backseat
Grab Your Disequilibria and Buckle Up

While touted as a comedy, Backseat is really an enigma. It seems rude and judgmental to laugh at people so flawed that they cannot even decide who they want to be at 32. I found myself unable to laugh at people who I am so culturally far away from even though I am as close as the generation just before theirs. I felt like a burst of laughter would be like throwing rocks at a disabled person. This is not a film that you love, or maybe even like. It is, however, a film that makes you think and stop to look outside of your own narrow universe, one that pays homage to the underserved demographic of Generation X—those born in the wake of the Baby Boomers who grew up in a time of drugs, divorce, and economic strain.


Horton Hears a Who!
Dr. Seuss is Cheering

Technically, Horton Hears A Who is spectacular eye candy from the sharpest detail of the tiniest dandelion seed to the brilliant assault of the rich and luscious colors of the lands of Nool and Whoville. The animators have remained true to the conceptualization of Dr. Seuss’s characters and there are even a few times where flashbacks look like animated pages right out of his book. The people of Whoville are not stylized and embellished as characters were in The Grinch, and Horton does not destroy the work of a great children’s’ writer as was done with The Cat In The Hat. This team obviously believed that Dr. Seuss did not need to be improved!


College Road Trip
Is G-Rated Martin Lawrence A Good Thing?

Ah, the post-Oscar wasteland is upon us. If College Road Trip is any indication of the quality of movie we will be seeing for the next couple of months before the summer blockbusters arrive, well… put the family entertainment budget into the college fund now! At the middle school where I work we have a rule called “2 to 1”: for every negative we want to bring up, we must first offer two positives. Two positives for College Road Trip: Donny Osmond rocks in his supporting role; and Albert, the pig, is adorable. There. Now I can be negative.


Be Kind Rewind
The World Can Be Fun and Affirming, Too

Jack Black is at his best—and is a real joy to watch when he does what Jack Black does best—being wacky and unexpected. He is most hilarious when he acts like a truly funny adult and doesn’t succumb to middle-school hijinx, over-used potty humor, and ad nauseum repetitive use of certain swear words. Black’s character, Jerry, is truly gut-laughingly funny and when juxtaposed against Mos Def’s Mr. Goody Two Shoes, Mike, there is a team born that is reminiscent of some of the best Abbot and Costello. There is a sense that at times Michel Gondry just let the camera run and allowed his actors to just go with it.


2007 Academy Award-Nominated Shorts
The Shorts Are Riding High

Although people will find much to discuss after seeing these shorts, these discussions will tend more toward appreciating art for the sake of the art rather than matters of deep moral or spiritual content. There is something for every taste in the animated shorts, from jiggling line drawings to complex dimensions and details, to washes of eye-achingly beautiful color. Whether silent or speaking and subtitled, the characters are phenomenal and deft in relaying the plot. Indulge your mind and your senses and go enjoy them on the big screen.


First Sunday
A Pleasant January Surprise

Okay, I’ll admit that this film is broadly formulaic and full of stereotypes; but David E. Talbert (director, screenwriter, and among the producers) has plenty of talent and deserves recognition and attention for it. First Sunday is genuinely honest, at moments vastly amusing, and finally, delivers on not just one theme, but several. Overarching and tying the whole business together are the themes of forgiveness and redemption; and although on paper it sounds sappy, Talbert writes it and directs it in such a way that it works and leaves the viewer with no sense of being manipulated. The audience I screened the film with was diverse—and it generally seemed to work across the board.


The Orphanage
Go Before You Read Too Much

Don’t allow anyone to tell you the plot or where the “surprises” come. You will not enjoy the movie if you know all the answers before you go. Juan Antonio Bayona has a masterful eye for shooting interiors and exteriors and he couldn’t have chosen more beautiful parts of Spain in which to craft this film. The cast of The Orphanage is fabulous, too, but the standout is Belen Rueda as Laura. The camera loves her. Finally, there is plenty of jumpy stuff for the adrenaline junkie or horror flick aficionado. Bayona is a diabolical master of the exquisitely, almost physically painful (and definitely psychically excruciating) build-up of tension.


P.S. I Love You
Just What the Romance Doc Ordered

The cinema has needed a really great love story for some time. P.S. I Love You fulfills a longing for the desire to get away from happily-ever-after and into the exploration of relationships in which real people can see themselves. This film explores the struggle of mixing different ideologies and blending lives, maintaining autonomy while also uniting into one. The complete honesty of the emotions—pathos, laughter, anger, sorrow, love…even hatred at times—is experiential. Gerry and Holly are real people into which creators LaGravenese, Butler, and Swank never insinuate themselves. LaGravenese also thoroughly explores the process of grieving and how attitudes about what is proper and what isn’t differ greatly among people.


National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Nothing Too Startling (or Exciting)

Perhaps National Treasure: Book of Secrets is meant to be a spoof of conspiracy theory movies. This would at least explain why the movie lacks a sense of purpose and the cast appears to be sleepwalking through the entire film while supposedly trying to save their own and each other’s lives. If the sequel to National Treasure is not to be taken tongue-in-cheek, however, perhaps producer Jerry Bruckheimer just finally has so much money that he can allow himself the pleasure of occasionally wasting some of it. Or… he’s saving the best he has for the third movie. Judging from the end of movie two, there will be a third… But will there be an audience?


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