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Friday movie roundup – Nov. 14

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Wow, there is not much happening in Movieland this weekend. The Hollywood magic makers have given us only one new wide release, the James Bond escapade, “Quantum of Solace,” and it’s kind of generic. Entertaining, but nothing special. It’s especially disappointing given how good “Casino Royale” was. And is it too much to ask for a handful of dirty puns? I mean, honestly.

In limited release, however, is an excellent movie called “Synecdoche, New York,” written and directed by Charlie Kaufman (“Adaptation,” “Being John Malkovich,” etc.). It’s one of my favorite movies of the year, and if it’s not playing yet where you live, keep an eye out for it as it expands over the coming weeks. It contains this line, in reference to someone who has died after being riddled with cancer: “There was so little of him left they had to fill the coffin with cotton balls to keep him from rattling around.” Awesome.

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Friday movie roundup – Oct. 31

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Happy Halloween! I hope you are able to spend this special holiday season with family and loved ones. If not, at least you can go to the movies and watch a story about two friends making pornography!

“Zack and Miri Make a Porno” is mostly funny, a little weak in the last act, overall a decent effort from Kevin Smith and friends. It’s a good title for a movie because it explicitly tells you what’s going to happen in it, thus leaving viewers with no excuse if they are offended. No excuse!

Angelina Jolie’s “Changeling” (reviewed at is long and rambly, clearly the work of an old man who forgot what he was saying — oh, right, the director was Clint Eastwood. That explains it.

“The Haunting of Molly Hartley,” the requisite Halloween horror flick, was not screened for critics. Boo (as in opposite of hooray)! I’m reviewing it for Cinematical later today.

The chipper and upbeat “Happy-Go-Lucky,” in limited release, is worth seeking out.

Even more worth seeking out: “Dear Zachary,” which is one of the most heartfelt and emotionally devastating films I’ve ever seen. It opened in New York today and will probably only play in a few other major cities before its TV premiere on MSNBC (of all places) in December. I’ll definitely keep you posted, because it’s an amazing movie.

That’s it for the movies. Enjoy the day’s satanic merriment!

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Friday movie roundup – Oct. 24

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Three wide releases this weekend, three movies that you’ve seen before.

“Saw V: Still Sawin'” offers nothing that was not already featured in the previous four entries. It is one of Hollywood’s Shameful Secrets®, too, which means I had to pay to see it at a midnight screening last night. The promotional screenings at the Lloyd Center are always full of weirdos and homeless people anyway; you can imagine what it’s like at midnight, especially when it’s a movie that attracts people who like to see movies at midnight and who are willing to pay for them.

“High School Musical 3: Senior Year” (review at is also more of the same, though that might be one of the selling points. It’s fine for what it is, and I’m glad they made some effort to be bigger for the big screen, rather than just filming another Disney Channel movie and plopping it into theaters.

At the “HSM 3” screening the other night, the cast of “High School Musical: The Ice Tour” was in the audience! The show is in Portland this week, and for sure the cast really wanted to watch “HSM 3” on the big screen on their night off. How terrible it must be to actually be owned by the Disney company.

In other news, apparently there is an ice-skating version of “High School Musical,” and apparently it is welcome in Portland.

“Pride and Glory” isn’t a sequel, but it might as well be. It’s a gritty, violent drama about a New York City cop investigating other cops who might be crooked. Sound familiar? Like maybe there have been 10,000 movies like this already? Yeah. I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival and it made me angry, especially the part where a bad guy threatens to burn a baby with a hot iron and almost actually goes through with it. I was appalled by that. Yet afterward, walking back to the hotel with my buddy Eugene, I was making jokes about ironing babies, because in the abstract sense, ironing a baby is very funny. It’s only when you put it in a realistic context that it’s offensive.

Finally, my review of Oliver Stone’s “W.” is online, if you didn’t already notice it. Don’t misunderestimate it.

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Friday movie roundup – Oct. 17

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Friday means one thing and one thing only: new movies! Also, starting at sundown, the Jewish sabbath. So I guess two things. Well, one and a half, since the sabbath thing doesn’t happen until tonight. Friday means mostly one thing, and that one thing is new movies. (Sorry, Jewish people.)

Speaking of Jews, Anne Hathaway — is she Jewish? Her character is, anyway — stars in “Rachel Getting Married,” an exceedingly well-acted drama about a woman who gets out of rehab just in time for her sister’s wedding. Good times!

Then you have “Max Payne,” a video-game-based movie that continues the genre’s perfect record of every single video-game-based movie being bad. (You’re thinking the first “Resident Evil” was an exception, but you’re mistaken.) My review is at Cinematical.

At, I’ve reviewed “Sex Drive,” a derivative but often very funny raunchy teen comedy.

I wish I had thought of referring to “The Secret Life of Bees” as “Oprah’s Book Club: The Movie,” but someone online beat me to it. Anyway, it’s a pretty generic, albeit well-meaning, drama set in 1964 in South Carolina.

Finally, Oliver Stone’s “W.” opens today having been screened in just about every other major and semi-major market except Portland. We have no idea why. The reason Lionsgate gave us, that it had to do with “market size,” was an obvious falsehood, given that it screened in many markets smaller than us. I’ll have a review this weekend. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure it will wind up being the shortest title of the year.

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Friday movie roundup – Oct. 10

Friday, October 10th, 2008

It’s a very C+ kind of week for movies, with nothing terrible but nothing really great, either.

The best of the bunch is “City of Ember,” based on a young-adult novel about an underground city. Lots of fun for the whole family, and Bill Murray plays the idiot mayor!

“Body of Lies” is a body of meh.

“The Express” (reviewed at takes the express train to Mehville. It’s about college football legend Ernie Davis, who surely deserves a more interesting and imaginative biopic than this one.

“RocknRolla” (reviewed at Cinematical) is Guy Ritchie’s latest “Snatch” remake.

Finally, there’s “Quarantine,” which is one of Hollywood’s Shameful Secrets©, and it must be quite shameful indeed: A screening was scheduled, and then canceled. Except that they didn’t actually cancel it — they just told the critics they did. It was still held Thursday night, with the public invited. Apparently it was the same scenario in a number of cities. Nice work, Screen Gems! I’ll have a review this weekend.

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Friday movie roundup – Oct. 3

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

If you were a movie critic this week, you’d be as busy as the proverbial one-legged man in the proverbial butt-kicking contest. And when I say “proverbial,” I really mean it’s mentioned in the book of Proverbs. Look it up!

Let’s run through today’s reviews alphabetically:

“An American Carol,” a right-wing spoof about a Michael Moore-ish figure being taught patriotism, is one of Hollywood’s Shameful Secrets®. I intend to review it this weekend.

“Appaloosa” (review at Cinematical) is an entertaining Western starring Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen that gets just a little soggy near the end. Two-thirds of it is vastly enjoyable, though.

“Beverly Hills Chihuahua” (review at Cinematical) belies its horrific trailer and is actually fairly charming and innocuous. I even laughed a few times!

“Blindness,” in which everyone except Julianne Moore mysteriously goes blind, will have to wait. I was prevented from seeing it not by blindness but by scheduling problems. Look for a review this weekend-ish.

“Flash of Genius”: Meh. True story. A guy invents something, then the Ford Motor Company steals it, then he fights them. Meh.

“How to Lose Friends & Alienate People” (review at also gets a “meh,” which is disappointing, because I do love the star, Simon Pegg. He’s miscast, though, as an oblivious jerk.

“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” about two teenagers falling in love over the course of one magical night in New York City, is hilarious, sweet, and effortlessly real. It captures the emotions of such an evening very nicely. Michael Cera for the win!

“Religulous” shows Bill Maher interviewing people who believe in God, making fun of them, then insisting everyone should just take his word for it that God is imaginary. Thanks, Bill! Will do!

Finally, if you’re near Portland this evening and have a radio within earshot, tune that radio to 101.1 KUFO at around 7:00 to hear me on the Cort & Fatboy show discussing some of these new releases. I believe listening online is also a possible thing that can be done. Usually my pal Mike Russell does the movie thing for C&F, but he’s out of town or sick or in rehab or something, so I’m filling in. Fun times for everyone! Except possibly Mike!

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Friday movie round up – Sept. 26

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Busy week! Good heavens! So many movies!

“Miracle at St. Anna,”
Spike Lee’s World War II epic about four black soldiers behind enemy lines in Italy, is the one that I think is the best of the new releases, though I note that I am in the distinct minority in liking it at all. I’m curious to read the other critics’ reviews and see what it is they found so disagreeable, because I quite enjoyed it.

“Nights in Rodanthe,” reviewed at, is based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, and … I’m guessing I can probably stop there.

“Eagle Eye”! Shia LaBeouf! Paranoid techno-thriller! Meh!

“Choke” is based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk (“Fight Club”), and while it’s not as good as a movie based on a Palahniuk novel ought to be, it’s not bad. Sam Rockwell helps a lot a the main character, a sex-addicted colonial-village re-enactor.

“The Duchess” stars Keira Knightley, and it’s — get this — a period piece! I know! Weird! Also: meh!

“The Lucky Ones” treats Iraq veterans’ problems like sitcom-y jokes, and not very funny jokes anyway. My review is at Cinematical.

“Battle in Seattle,” also at Cinematical, is a fictionalized account of the World Trade Organization riots that took place in Seattle in 1999. It’s an “issue” movie where they never actually explain what the issues are, which is kind of a serious liability.

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Friday movie roundup – Sept. 19

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Here is your weekly shipment of reviewage!

“Ghost Town” is a pretty funny comedy in which Ricky Gervais sees, and is annoyed by, dead people. (My review is at Cinematical.) Of course, if you don’t think Ricky Gervais is funny, you probably won’t care for the film. Then again, if you don’t think Ricky Gervais is funny, then what’s wrong with you?

“Lakeview Terrace” has Samuel L. Jackson, which is always a good thing, but it’s still just a generic thriller about a cop harassing his neighbors. My review is at

“Igor” (an animated film about a mad scientist’s hunchbacked assistant) and “My Best Friend’s Girl” (in which Dane Cook summons all his acting skills to play a douchebag) are two of Hollywood’s Shameful Secrets™. (“Igor” was apparently screened in some cities but not in others.) I’ll definitely have a review of “My Best Friend’s Girl” for Cinematical at some point this weekend.

Then there’s “Towelhead,” in limited release, an uncomfortable and controversial — but funny — film about a 13-year-old Arab-American girl living in Texas during the first Gulf War. It was written and directed by Alan Ball, writer of “American Beauty” and “Six Feet Under,” and it has the same kind of suburban-treachery vibe.

We’ve switched to a new feed for the podcast, but I think existing subscribers will be redirected automatically, so it shouldn’t affect your smooth podcast-listening enjoyment. I forgot to double-check with Jeff that everything was all set before it got late and he went offline. I wouldn’t be surprised if he barges into this post and inserts an update, though.

[JEFF’S FORESHADOWED UPDATE: As of this minute, the old feed is now being redirected to, and the old “Snide Remarks” podcast feed is being redirected to These are both aliases for the same URLs at, but it gives us control to later move to a different service without having to go through this same craziness. So anyway, your pre-existing iTunes subscriptions, etc., should all redirect immediately; if you have any issues, please email me directly at webmaster (at) the domain you’re looking at right now.]

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Friday movie roundup – Sept. 5

Friday, September 5th, 2008

The only wide release this week is “Bangkok Dangerous,” starring Nicolas Cage in a mullet, and for some reason Lionsgate didn’t feel comfortable letting critics see it before it opened. Imagine that.

So “In the Dark” is light this week, though it does have a review of a fine French thriller called “Tell No One.”

Toronto is nice so far! It’s smells like New York!

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Friday movie roundup – Aug. 29

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Hoo boy! Do you smell that? That’s the movie studios dumping their leftover crap into theaters because it’s the last weekend of summer. Four wide releases this week, and THREE of them are Hollywood’s Shameful Secrets©®™. I don’t know if we’ve ever had that many in one weekend before. Perhaps this is Hollywood’s most shameful weekend in history.

The one that was screened for critics was “Traitor,” which actually opened Wednesday. I reviewed it for It stars Don Cheadle as a man who might be a terrorist. Great cast, a few good ideas, not a very good movie.

The three that the studios were embarrassed by are:

  • “Disaster Movie,” which is the latest from the masterminds who brought us “Date Movie,” “Epic Movie,” and “Meet the Spartans,” which probably tells you everything you need to know right there.
  • “Babylon A.D.,” starring Vin Diesel as a mercenary transporting a woman from Russia to America. The director, Mathieu Kassovitz, has already publicly disowned the film, saying Twentieth-Century Fox forced him to water it down, cut 15 minutes out of the running time, and totally ruin it. Generally, if the director of a film tells you it’s lousy, you should go ahead and take his word for it.
  • “College,” in which some high school kids go on a “campus preview” weekend at the college; hilarity ensues. The film wants to be the “Animal House” or “American Pie” of the 2000s. I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.

I’ll have reviews of “Disaster Movie” and “College” by tomorrow. I’m seeing them back-to-back this afternoon, so keep me in your prayers. “Babylon A.D.” is still up in the air. Of the three, it’s the one that has the most potential for being entertaining — bad sci-fi films are funnier than bad comedies — but it’s also the one that nobody’s paying me to review, and cramming three Shameful Secrets into one weekend is kind of rough. So we’ll see.

Also reviewed are the terrific indie drama “Frozen River” and the so-so prestige flick “Elegy,” starring Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz’s breasts. (For real! Both of them! They practically have speaking roles!)

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