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  • Published
    February 20, 2012

    Hoover and ‘Heist’

    J. Edgar (Warner, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 137 min.). J. Edgar Hoover was never a sympathetic person, although he did and does have his admirers. At his best, he brought organization to crime fighting and, more importantly, to crime solving. At his worst, he compiled secret files, even against presidents, one reason he lasted 48 years on the job and served eight different presidents. Arguably, he is the …

  • Published
    February 13, 2012

    The enticement of dark in drama, humor

    The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Summit, Blu-ray or 2 standard DVDs, PG-13, 117 min.). We’ve been with the characters for three films, so director Bill Condon has no need to set any stage. The invites have gone out for the marriage of human teenager Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) to vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) bursts out of his house, throws his invite on the ground, …

  • Published
    January 30, 2012

    ‘Real Steel’ is for the kid in all of us

    Real Steel (Touchstone, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 127 Min.). This mechanical “Rocky” finds most of its heart through the wonderful, this-is-so-amazing performance of Dakota Goyo as 11-year-old Max, the estranged son of robot boxer handler Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman). When Max teaches his robot Atom to dance and then they dance together before a match, the film lands an emotional upper-cut that has you …

  • Published
    January 10, 2012

    How the world would react to ‘Contagion’

    Contagion (Warner, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 106 min.). Director Steven Soderbergh presents a rather clinical look at the introduction of a new virus and its rapid spread and the societal aftermath, which is mostly looting and rioting as panic sets in over lack of food and other necessities. The ensemble piece has a large cast including Gwyneth Paltrow as Beth Emhoff, whose coughing we first hear over a …

  • Published
    January 2, 2012

    Oh the horror: ‘Final Destination,’ ‘Apollo 18’

    Final Destination 5 (New Line, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 92 min.). Probably the most entertaining movie in the series, which many had thought ended with the previous installment, the predicted disaster is a huge effects one this time — the collapse of a suspension bridge that is under repair. On the bridge at the time is a bus filled with 25 workers from the same company, Presage Paper (this is the first of …

  • Published
    December 19, 2011

    ‘Margin Call’ is engrossing look at the meltdown

    Margin Call (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 107 min.). This film looks at the onset of the mortgage meltdown that triggered the financial crisis of 2008 by focusing on about 27 hours at one firm. It does so in a way that is both understandable and intense, as the knowledge of impending doom is passed up the ladder of the company and decisions are made on how to react. It is about closing time the day …

  • Published
    November 28, 2011

    ‘Super 8’ is superior

    Super 8 (Paramount, Blu-ray and standard DVD, PG-13, 111 min.). Writer-director J.J. Abrams (TV’s “Lost”) produced this film along with his longtime idol Steven Spielberg, and there are lots of emotional echoes of Spielberg’s earlier films. It starts off as a simple tale of a small group of junior high students (they call their school a middle school, but I don’t believe that concept existed back in the 1970s) …

  • Published
    November 21, 2011

    Depp-charged ‘Pirates’ still entertains

    Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Disney, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 136 min.). The fourth Pirates movie may be on autopilot a bit with some of the swordplay, such that so much of it is stitched together rather than continuous takes anyway, but it is still entertaining enough to watch. The sense of fun commences right at the start, when Capt. Jack Sparrow’s (Johnny Depp) former right-hand man …

  • Published
    August 15, 2011

    Stake ’em: ‘Priest,’ ‘Stake Land’

    Priest (Sony Blu-ray, NR, 87 min.). In this film’s alternate world, vampires and humans have fought for centuries, with the vampires forcing the humans into large fortified cities, until the creation of the Warrior Priests. So skilled were they that they turned the tide and the vampires were put in locked-down reservations. However, fearing their creations, the Church disbanded the Priests and those who remain …

  • Published
    July 5, 2011

    Sword play in ‘13 Assassins,’ ‘Warrior’s Way’

    13 Assassins (Magnet/Magnolia, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 125 min.). Japanese director Takashi Miike is noted for pushing the envelope, but here he presents a very traditional film, reminiscent of the “Seven Samurai” and a remake of a 1963 film. The story is set in 1844 at the end of Japan’s feudal era, a time when the samurai era was ending due to extended peace. However, that peace is threatened by Lord …

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