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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Starring: Sylvester Stallone ... John Rambo
Julie Benz ... Sarah Miller

Matthew Marsden ... School Boy

Graham McTavish ... Lewis
Reynaldo Gallegos ... Diaz (as Rey Gallegos)

Jake La Botz ... Reese
Tim Kang ... En-Joo

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Synopsis: Written by Drew Lahat

Vietnam veteran John Rambo has survived many harrowing ordeals in his lifetime and has since withdrawn into a simple and secluded existence in Thailand, where he spends his time capturing snakes for local entertainers, and chauffeuring locals in his old PT boat. Even though he is looking to avoid trouble, trouble has a way of finding him: a group of Christian human rights missionaries, led by Michael Burnett and Sarah Miller, approach Rambo with the desire to rent his boat to travel up the river to Burma. For over fifty years, Burma has been a war zone. The Karen people of the region, who consist of peasants and farmers, have endured brutally oppressive rule from the murderous Burmese military and have been struggling for survival every single day. After some inner contemplation, Rambo accepts the offer and takes Michael, Sarah, and the rest of the missionaries up the river. When the missionaries finally arrive at the Karen village, they find themselves part of a raid by the sadistic Major Pa Tee Tint and a slew of Burmese army men. A portion of the villagers and missionaries are tortured and viciously murdered, while Tint and his men hold the remainder captive. Concerned by their disappearance, the minister in charge of the mission gathers a group of mercenaries and pleas Rambo transport them with his boat, since he knows their last exact location. But Rambo can't stay behind: he joins the team where he belongs, to liberate the survivors from the clutches of Major Tint in what may be one of his deadliest missions ever.

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Review: by Patrick Walsh, Cinematical:

As I eased into my seat to watch Sylvester Stallone crack some skulls in Rambo -- the first Rambo movie in twenty years -- I'll admit to feeling a bit giddy. A blast of 1980s excess is exactly what the slumping action genre needs right now, if you ask me. To paraphrase the old John Candy SCTV character -- I wanted to see everything get blowed up real good. So you can imagine my surprise when the film opened with a montage of real-life footage documenting atrocities in Burma. And this is serious stuff -- we're talking slaughtered women and children here. Quickly, my excitement turned to discomfort and disgust. But just as I was preparing to mount my high horse and cry "Exploitation!," I started to get excited again. Because I knew that Rambo was going to get the bastards responsible.

It's an uneasy reaction, but that's what Rambo does! Whether he's standing up to authority in First Blood, symbolically winning the Vietnam War for America in Part II, or saving Afghanistan from the Soviets (ah, how times have changed!) in Rambo III, Rambo's job is to take the action that no one else will. And it can be pretty exhilarating to watch. In interviews, Stallone (who also wrote and directed Rambo) has said he hopes the new film will force people to take note of the civil war raging in Burma. But let's be honest here -- the guy's using an immeasurably tragic situation to make his action movie more effective. And distasteful as it may be -- it works.

The film opens with Rambo puttering around the swamps of Thailand, only opening his mouth to grunt wacky catchphrases like "F*** the world." A group of missionaries tries to recruit him for protection against pirates on an aid mission to Burma. (As Seinfeld's J. Peterman says "You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me.") The missionaries are led by Michael (Paul Schulze, Father Phil on The Sopranos) and Sarah (Julie Benz, Rita on Dexter) -- characters who are every bit as exciting as their names. Rambo's not interested, but is eventually worn down by Sarah, for reasons not made entirely clear. (Although the fact that the dude's been living with snakes and pigs for years and Benz is a foxy lady probably has something to do with it.) So Rambo takes them down river, fights off some decidedly non-Jack Sparrowesque pirates, drops them off at their destination and returns home to Snaketown. But when the missionaries are later kidnapped by Burmese soldiers, their pastor visits Rambo in his tent (a hilariously unlikely scene) and recruits him (again!) to lead a team of mercenaries on a rescue mission.

Rambo's merry band of mercenaries, played by, among others, Matthew Marsden, Reynaldo Gallegos, and Graham McTavish (whose agent probably pitches him as "the poor man's Jason Statham") are unfortunately every bit as bland as the missionaries. If you're going to team people up with the stoic Rambo -- they've got to have some personality! Stallone should have studied Schwarzenegger's awesome crew of hardasses in Predator. No one here leaves an impression, but luckily these dudes spend more time shooting people than talking. And as Stallone depicts them, the Burmese aren't people you could talk with anyhow. They're less civil than the cobras.

How bad are these Burmese dudes? Stallone pulls out all the stops. They mow down innocent civilians while cackling. They rape women left and right. There's a jaw-dropping subplot about a captain who molests young boys. And at one point -- I kid you not -- a small child is bayoneted, lifted into the air, and thrown into a roaring fire. Yeah. That happens. Fair and balanced this is not. If all that seems like overkill, just you wait. This thing might as well have been called Rambo: Overkill.

The climax of this film is probably the most violent sequence I've seen since the opening of Saving Private Ryan -- a film whose style Stallone tries to emulate through the use of drained colors and excessive shaki-cam. That Rambo received an 'R' rating while something like Ang Lee's Lust, Caution received an NC-17 confirms again how absolutely silly the MPAA is. The last half hour of Rambo is just people exploding. Rambo shoots you with a gun, you explode. Rambo hits you with an arrow, you explode. Rambo gives you a wedgie, you explode. And those who don't explode probably wish that they had -- it's certainly better than having your larynx slowly ripped out by a 61-year-old man in a bandana! (Just wait until you see that scene! Yowza!) It's insane carnage, and -- pardon the pun -- it's a blast. It's hardcore, it's unflinching, it's hard to tell who's killing who, and it doesn't really matter. This is the sort of balls-out action sequence violence junkies will watch and re-watch.

The simple title (believe it or not, this is this first Rambo movie to be called Rambo!) suggests the same back-to-basics approach that worked beautifully for the surprisingly excellent Rocky Balboa, Stallone's previous attempt at re-inventing a thought-dead franchise. But in my humble opinion, Stallone doesn't have near as much to prove here. Rambo was never as lovable a character as Rocky, and re-watching the Rambo movies this week, I realized none of them are particularly great. Fun sure, but nothing more. He's not trying to match the power of the Best Picture-winning Rocky here, he's trying to match the entertainment level of some solidly enjoyable shoot 'em up action flicks. And on those grounds, Rambo is a complete success.


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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Monday, February 18, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Starring: Freddie Highmore ... Jared Grace / Simon Grace
Mary-Louise Parker ... Helen Grace

Nick Nolte ... Mulgarath (voice)
Sarah Bolger ... Mallory Grace

Andrew McCarthy ... Richard
Joan Plowright ... Aunt Lucinda

David Strathairn ... Arthur Spiderwick
Seth Rogen ... Hogsqueal (voice)

Martin Short ... Thimbletack
Jordy Benattar ... Young Lucinda

The Spiderwick Chronicles
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Synopsis: Upon moving into the run-down Spiderwick Estate with their mother, twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, along with their sister Mallory, find themselves pulled into an alternate world full of faeries and other creatures.

The Spiderwick Chronicles
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Review: Author: trench 671 from Guam, USA

Although The Spiderwick Chronicles did fall short in comparison to other films in the same genre, it did offer some fun entertainment for the entire family.

Being a fan of most fantasy novels and films, I had the wonderful opportunity to read through the entire series last year and was actually looking forward to its adaptation on the big screen.

What surprised me the most was actually the length of the film. It was fairly short (90 minutes) and I felt that the producers made a huge mistake by attempting to cram all five books into one film instead of dividing them into separate features. I had recognized a few of the scenes from the books, but overall it seemed very rushed and excluded many of the series most exciting moments. Any fan of the books would probably be disappointed in the way the series was handled and executed.

As for the rest of film, I thought it was well done. The CGI continues to be to focal point in most of these types of family films and the producers spent a great time with its detail and design. The fairies looked neat, the goblins were frightening, and the big bad ogre looked well… big and bad.

Overall, I would say this film would make for a great matinée on a Sunday with the kids. There are several moments that may scare children under the age of five, but otherwise it should appeal to children of all ages.


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Starring: Hayden Christensen ... David Rice

Samuel L. Jackson ... Roland

Diane Lane ... Mary Rice

Jamie Bell ... Griffin

Rachel Bilson ... Millie

Michael Rooker ... William Rice

AnnaSophia Robb ... Young Millie

Max Thieriot ... Young David

Jesse James ... Young Mark

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Synopsis: A genetic anomaly allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years between "Jumpers" and those who have sworn to kill them.

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Review: Author: Eruanion from United States

It is finally here—the first mega-budget, CGI-laden, "blockbuster" of the year, but its' jump falls short of great, and lands on moderate instead.

David Rice (played Hayden Christensen) learns at age fifteen he as the ability to teleport anywhere, through anything, at anytime. He quickly learns how to harness his power and control it, and then before long he as robbed a bank and is on his way to the "good life". Fast-forward till he is older, he now has a dream apartment in New York and spends his days trotting the globe—breakfast in Paris, surfing in Fiji, lunch on top of the Sphinx, one night stand in London, etc.—you get the picture.

He returns home wanting to find his high school crush, Millie (played by Rachel Bilson). He finds her working at the local bar and obviously wants to share his dream-existence with her. There lies a big problem as she quickly suspects something, and before he has time to explain everything to her his "perfect" existence is suddenly threatened. It is threatened by a detective Roland (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who is investigating the first bank robbery, and slowly starts tracking David. Roland knows about these "jumpers", and tracks them down to kill them reminding each one repeatedly "Only God should have the power…." As he gets closer to David and his loved ones, the film accelerates into a blinding pace of "jumping" action until the end which neatly setup a new franchise.

Because of its' poor script, direction, and editing, the special effects and settings are what make this film good. Yes we have seen other superheroes teleport, but I do not remember ever seeing Night-crawler lounging in a beach chair on top of the Sphinx's head or riding thirty-foot waves in Fiji. Watching him do everything you could ever want with this new power is what makes it entertaining, as you anticipate the next destination you will be whisked off to.

Hayden Christensen proves he really can act after, and he gives a solid performance, although Jamie Bell (playing another jumper) steals any and all scenes he appears in with his intense, energetic, comic-relief presence. Diane Lane's cameo is a pleasant surprise, and Rachel Bilson's performance as the girlfriend is sincere.

My main complaint was the ending, which is so happily clique and a blatant setup for a sequel it leaves you with the feeling "that's it?" I still liked it. Overall this is a pure popcorn, eye-candy thriller that is entertaining enough if you do not try to think about it to hard, and can hold you over till this Summer's "real" blockbusters!


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