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THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (2007) (**)

Based on Jack Ketchum’s book, which is based on the real life murder of Sylvia Likens, this realistic horror flick suffers more depending on what you take into it. The more you know about the real life story the film’s exaggerations seem gratuitous. If you’ve seen the film AN AMERICAN CRIME, which is based more directly on the real story, you’ll find the acting in this film lacking. But the biggest problem with the film is Gregory Wilson’s voyeuristic direction, which makes the audience uncomfortable in all the wrong ways.

Following the death of their parents, Meg (Blythe Auffarth, KEEPING THE FAITH) and Susan Loughlin (Madeline Taylor, JOHN ADAMS) go to live with their Aunt Ruth (Blanche Baker, SIXTEEN CANDLES), who has too many kids of her own to handle. She rules over Meg like a warden, severely punishing her for any presumed offense. Meg does everything she can to deflect the abuse away from her sickly little sister. Eventually Ruth chains Meg up in the basement subjecting her to continuous torture, including branding and rape. She encourages her own children and the neighbor kids to join in.


RE-CYCLE (2006) (**)

This horror/sci-fi film comes from the Hong Kong filmmakers Oxide and Danny Pang, who are best known for making the Chinese horror film THE EYE. The story places a writer in a fantasy world where her discarded ideas go. Writers discard a lot of ideas. Like a writers trash bin this film is filled with a bunch of disjointed and under developed ideas.

Ting-yin (Angelica Lee, THE EYE) is the successful writer of a series of romance novels. She’s having trouble coming up with new material and her publisher is eager to get another book from the hot writer on shelves. In a very unfair push during a press conference for the film adaptation of her love stories, her agent Lawrence (Laurence Chou, THE EYE) announces that her new book is titled “The Recycle” and will deal with supernatural themes. Ting-yin gets to work on the new book, but isn’t satisfied. During the writing, she seems to be plagued by inexplicable events. Finally she decides to delete her novel and start over. Once she does she’s transported into the world she created, trapped within a series of her rejected things.


ROLE MODELS (2008) (***1/2)

This comedy actually does something that raunchy comedies rarely do – develop a full cast of compelling and original characters. Raunchy comedies often have man-boys acting like idiots, but this comedy has unique and realistic immature men at its center. They’re not role models, but that might be exactly what the kids they mentor need.

Danny Donahue (Paul Rudd, I LOVE YOU, MAN) is very unhappy with the way his life has turned out. But instead of changing anything, he just complains… a lot. His girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks, ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO), an up-and-coming lawyer, is getting tired of his cocky, pessimistic attitude. He works with his best friend Anson Wheeler (Seann William Scott, AMERICAN PIE) as a spokesperson for an energy drink, travelling from middle school to middle school giving out free samples. On one particularly pissy day, he ends up driving the work vehicle into a statue while it’s still attached to a tow truck. As part of their punishment, they are ordered to volunteer as mentors to children.


LAND OF THE LOST (2009) (*1/2)

I haven’t seen the original LAND OF THE LOST kids’ program since I was a kid, but I have fond memories of it being one of my favorite Sid and Marty Krofft production. But it’s been so long I can’t really say if it’s something worthy of a big screen adaptation. But what I know is that it certainly deserved a better adaption than this crude debacle.

Dr. Rick Marshall (Will Ferrell, ANCHORMAN) goes on TV and tells Matt Lauer that he needs millions of dollars in government grants to study time warps. This cocky blowhard is humiliated and relegated to teaching elementary school science classes. But graduate student Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel, TV’s PUSHING DAISIES) believes in his theories and encourages him to complete his tachyon amplifier and exploit a nearby time warp, which is located at a rundown roadside attraction run by Will Stanton (Danny McBride, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS). There the trio is warped into a lost land where artifacts from all over time and space are sucked in.


OLD SCHOOL (2003) (**)

This weak attempt at college humor takes all the juvenile escapades of ANIMAL HOUSE and blows them out into cartoonish proportions. All the sense of nostalgia and youthful rebellion that was in the National Lampoon classic has been replaced with pointless man-boy raunchiness. ANIMAL HOUSE relied on characterization, while OLD SCHOOL barely reaches caricature.

Mitch Martin (Luke Wilson, BOTTLE ROCKET) comes home from a business trip to find his girlfriend Heidi (Juliette Lewis, NATURAL BORN KILLERS) engaged in an orgy in their bedroom. Distraught, Mitch gets plastered at the wedding of his friend Frank Ricard (Will Ferrell, ANCHORMAN) and tries to suck spilled coffee off the dress of his high school sweetheart Nicole (Ellen Pompeo, MIDNIGHT MILE). Set up at a house close to the campus of their alma mater, Harrison University, Mitch’s best friend Bernard (Vince Vaughn, WEDDING CRASHERS), a married stereo store owner, throws an elaborate bash to lift Mitch’s spirits. The party makes Mitch a legend, but the bash draws the attention of Dead Gordon Pritchard (Jeremy Piven, TV’s ENTOURAGE), who was the butt of jokes from Mitch and friends during high school. Dean Pritchard wants to get them kicked out of the house, so the man-boys devise a plan to turn the house into a frat.


THE LAST STATION (2009) (***)

In this film, Leo Tolstoy says that the one unifying element in all religions is love. That's the unifying theme of this film, which tells two love stories. The first romance is between Tolstoy and his wife Sofya, who seem to have grown in opposite directions. The second love story is between Valentin Bulgakov, who is completely dedicated to the Tolstoyan way of life, and Masha, who seems dedicated to Tolstoy's way of life.

Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as Sofya both received Oscar nods. Plummer makes the writer of WAR AND PEACE into a Christ-like grandfather type, who allows the leaders of his movement to guide his decisions about what to do with his life's work once he has past. Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti, SIDEWAYS) is the chief leader who demands strict adherence to the principals of Tolstoyan philosophy and wants the copyrights to the work to go to the people of Russia. This of course put him in direct conflict with the countess who fears a far less comfortable life once her husband has passed if she loses control of his work and parts of their property. Vladimir hires Valentin (James McAvoy, ATONEMENT) to watch the countess and serve as Tolstoy's secretary. His devotion to the Tolstoyan way is strong, having remained a virgin into his 20s. But his devotion is challenged when he meets the less devout Masha (Kerry Condon, UNLEASHED), who works at a Tolstoyan retreat.


SALT (2010) (***1/2)

To get a sense of this actioner take an awesome Bond girl, say like Tatiana, have her train with Jason Bourne and let her loose against the CIA. And one of the main reasons it all works is that you have Angelina Jolie at the helm. She really is the first female action star.

To start Evelyn Salt (Jolie) has been taken prisoner by the North Korean government. When a prisoner swap is arranged, she asks her partner Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber, TAKING WOODSTOCK) why the CIA didn't just write her off — his answer is that her boyfriend Mike Krause (August Diehl, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS) wouldn't let them. Now free and married, Salt is looking to take a desk job. But a Russian spy named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski, BREAK POINT) walks into CIA HQ and wants to defect. He has an elaborate tale of Russian agents planted in the U.S. since they were children and that one is about to assassinate the Russian president on U.S. soil. He says the agent's name is Evelyn Salt.

Work Blogs

Core Competencies - A Proposed Structure for Standards

By Robin King | Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 5:08pm

This post, together with the last one, is intended to elicit feedback and comments from institutions and companies interested in exploring standards as a framework for further development and to promote discussion on standards development. It describes a simple standards system for discussion.


DISGRACE (2009) (***1/2)

Based on J.M. Coetzee's Booker Prize-winning novel, this story, on the simplest level, is about it's title. A white man is disgraced. His black student is disgraced. His daughter is disgraced. A black family is disgraced. Taking place in post-apartheid South Africa, a nation is disgraced. But who and why are not as they seem in this enigmatic tale of regaining some kind of grace.

Prof. David Lurie (John Malkovich, BURN AFTER READING) has a dominating sexual appetite. He is drawn to black women, frequenting a black prostitute. He teaches a class on the romantic poets and develops an infatuation with a black student named Melanie (Antoinette Engel). He uses his position of power to seduce her and when they make love for the first time it's not technically rape, but technicalities don't change they way people feel. Lurie aggressively pursues Melanie until the affair is publicly exposed. Instead of trying to defend himself, Lurie arrogantly pleads guilty and flaunts his disgust with the  whole school inquiry against him.

Animation Blogs

Made4mobile – Or Is It?

When I first started aggregating content and approached my colleagues in the animation industry looking for distribution rights I would get very blank looks or often silence on the end of the phone as in the hearts and minds of most content providers the mobile was still essentially considered a device for making phone calls. That has changed significantly in the last few years. But ever-the-less the animated made4mobile content business has not become as significant as I anticipated.

Business Blogs

It's not always best to put all of your eggs in one basket

A small piece of advice - even good, honest people make mistakes and use poor judgment. The secret is not to buy into what someone tells you just because you believe the person would never lie to you. Better be cautious, even your mom and dad can lead you astray because they believe you'd make a great lawyer or sword-swallower or pickle maker - A person doesn't have to be a liar to be wrong so while you can respect others' judgment, never set your own aside.


Do You Deserve Success?

By Lisa Kaye | Monday, July 19, 2010 at 8:59am

Standing in the way of every great dream, each new idea, a desire to excel and the will to achieve is a nagging doubt, an uncertainty, a question you should ask yourself, do you deserve to succeed? Knowing what you want and how to get it are factors in your ability to take hold of your career and forge a plan towards achieving any goal. Looking beneath the surface of where you are in your life now, if you are happy and if you are not, why you may be unable to change could provide the hidden key towards unlocking the door towards your success.


When in doubt, change it up...

By Lisa Kaye | Monday, July 19, 2010 at 8:51am

Making the most of a bad situation these days takes a lot more than prayer, a glass of champagne, and getting lost in your iPad. If you’ve been lost looking for a ray of hope in the otherwise cloudy skies of the job market, just look up and if that doesn’t help and you are still in some serious doubt, then change it up.


ENTRE NOS (2010) (***1/2)

This indie drama deals with new immigrants to the U.S., but at its core it's a story of survival. It's difficult to be new anywhere, but what if you had two kids, didn't speak the language and didn't know anyone? Could you make it? How would you do it? This story from the directing/writing team of Gloria La Morte and Paola Mendoza looks at what one mother did.

Mariana (Mendoza) moves from Colombia to New York City with her two kids, 10-year-old Gabi (Sebastian Villada) and six-year-old Andrea (Laura Montana), to reunite with their husband and father Antonio (Andres Munar, CHE). But his life changes too abruptly when they arrive; he's been use to the single life. Soon he tells them that he must move to Miami for a job and will send for them later. Mariana is set to fend for herself after being in a new country for six days. Antonio never calls; he just disappears.


Blu-ray Buzz – Between Us It's the Red Shoes

This is a jam-packed week. We have a Blu-ray and DVD Pick of Week. Some great classics coming from Criterion. There's also a long list of films I'm curious to hear from readers about, some got trashed by other critics and some our critical darlings.

Blu-ray Pick of the Week
The Red Shoes
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's THE RED SHOES is considered by many to be one of the best films ever made. Martin Scorsese has said it is his favorite film. The story takes an honest behind-the-scenes look at the rise of a young ballerina. Boris Lermontov, played by Anton Walbrook, is the impresario of the ballet. He takes promising dancer Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) under his wing and begins to control every aspect of her life much to the chagrin of her boyfriend, young composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring). Lermontov is more than a controlling lover type — he wants to be Victoria. The character is one of the most complex ever put on screen. And the standards of 1940s cinema make him all the more fascinating because Powell and Pressburger needed to dance around many tawdry interpretations. The closing ballet number is one of the best dance sequences ever put on film for its artistry of movement and its metaphoric comment on the plot. I can only imagine how his richly filmed early color film looks on Blu-ray. This is an essential for any real movie fan.


INCEPTION (2010) (****)

An idea can change the world. In Christopher Nolan's mind-bending thriller, big ideas are vulnerable to be stolen within a person's dreams. Powerful businessmen spend millions on setting up projections in their minds to protect them from extractors who are hired by competitors to steal secrets. But what's infinitely more difficult is to put an idea they did not think of in their mind. This is inception.


INCEPTION (2010) (****)

An idea can change the world. In Christopher Nolan's mind-bending thriller, big ideas are vulnerable to be stolen within a person's dreams. Powerful businessmen spend millions on setting up projections in their minds to protect them from extractors who are hired by competitors to steal secrets. But what's infinitely more difficult is to put an idea they did not think of in their mind. This is inception.

Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio, BLOOD DIAMOND) is a skilled extractor who has been hired to steal company secrets from billionaire Saito (Ken Wantanabe, THE LAST SAMURAI). While Cobb ultimately fails, Saito is impressed with his skills and hires him to attempt an inception on the son of his rival. The mission seems impossible, but Saito promises to use his connections to allow Cobb to return to the U.S. where there is a warrant out for his arrest.


CREATION (2010) (***)

Controversy surrounded this production when it was trying to secure distribution in the U.S. Major studios were afraid of the subject matter. So what is this shocking film about? The life of Charles Darwin whose work on evolution, an accepted scientific fact. This is still too hot to touch 150 years after the publication of his revolutionary book ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIE? If this movie about a man who loves his daughter is dangerous than we're in danger from something bigger than this film.

In the film, Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany, A BEAUTIFUL MIND) is suffering great physical and mental pain on whether to publish his findings or not. Alfred Wallace has published an essay that proposes the same theory of species evolving over time, but he doesn't have the facts that Darwin has. Nonetheless Darwin is torn. Part of his hesitation is with his wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly, A BEAUTIFUL MIND), a devout Christian, who worries about Charles not spending eternity with her in heaven. But for Charles the facts are too clear and he won't deny them.