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For Colored Girls

Director: Tyler Perry
Cast: Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, Kerry Washington, Phylicia Rashad

5


For Colored Girls
Lionsgate


For those familiar with Tyler Perry’s previous films, this adaptation will not be a surprise. The material intrinsically plays into the writer’s well known frame of retro-reference, and while not as bawdy and burlesque as his other works, it sums up his strategies surprisingly well. At his core, Perry is a showman, someone who understands the inherent value in melodrama, manipulation, and most importantly, music. His theatrical pieces are like revivals, simplistic Bible and relationship messages measured out in cliche filled conversations and powerful gospel songs. In the case of For Colored Girls, poems are now the tunes. Indeed, this adaptation is unusual in that it feels like a musical without a score. In the movie translation of the title, Perry never lays a foundation for the concept. He just sets up his story, introduces his cast, and then delivers the devastating insights. Bill Gibron


 

 



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Hot Tub Time Machine

Director: Steve Pink
Cast: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Chevy Chase, Collette Wolfe, Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan
Review [26.Mar.2010]

4


Hot Tub Time Machine
MGM


The title says it all. Hot Tub Time Machine is a high-concept comedy that’s completely aware of its utter silliness, and mostly embraces it. Getting former teen icon John Cusack to tweak his ‘80s roles by playing a dissatisfied fortysomething who travels back in time with his buddies to a rockin’ Greed decade ski resort was great. But what really makes the movie work is the rest of the cast of friends. The always-dependable Craig Robinson, the perfectly-cast Rob Corddry as the pompous ass, and Clark Duke in a breakout performance as the young nephew who wasn’t alive in the ‘80s. What makes the movie a guilty pleasure are its missteps, like too many cheap jokes about fashion and music and the casual homophobia. There’s also the uselessness of Chevy Chase’s hot tub repairman, not to mention the painfully forced romantic subplot between Cusack and Lizzy Caplan. But the real joy of Hot Tub Time Machine comes from its shameless tweaking of time travel cliches, particularly those found in Back to the Future. The kicker is seeing Marty McFly’s Back to the Future dad, Crispin Glover, as a grumpy one-armed bellhop in the present who has both arms and a sunny attitude in the past. Chris Conaton


 

 



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The Book of Eli

Director: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals
Review [15.Jan.2010]

3


The Book of Eli
Warner Brothers


If The Road Warrior was a morality play that met up with M. Night Shayamalan (when he made quality films), the end result would be The Book of Eli.  A simple concept of a man on a mission to preserve a book that will save post-nuclear holocaust mankind, The Book of Eli’s screenwriter Gary Whitta endows his tale with several surprises and well-written roles that don’t play like stock characters. Denzel Washington stars as Eli, the aforementioned man whose aforementioned mission is complicated by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), an opportunistic warlord / Wild West throwback who has seized power in one of the world’s last thriving outposts and wants the book for his own ends.  With top-shelf action scenes choreographed by martial artist Jeff Imada and equally top-notch performances from the always-solid Washington and Oldman and a strong showing by Mila Kunis (now receiving raves for her pirouette-turn in Black Swan), The Book of Eli’s surprise twist of an ending jettisons the film into the rare category of “guilty pleasure” viewing minus the guilt. Lana Cooper


 

 



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Kick-Ass

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong
Review [16.Apr.2010]

2


Kick-Ass
Universal


It should have been more popular. Instead of arguing over the controversial nature of a clearly fictional tween assassin, cults and online shrines should be speaking out about their love for Hit-Girl’s heroism. As an attempt to both mimic and mock the superhero ethic, as a warm love letter to the genre and another noted installment in same, this more than meta geek out should have been the Spring’s break out hit. Instead, its invention and excitement were moderated by a proto-PC desire to turn every aspect of the movie into a full blown debate. Three decades ago, kids could ninja their way through a lame family film experience and no one really cared. Add in a serious subtext and some curse words, and suddenly it’s time to readjust one’s moral compass. Too bad they missed the fantastic forest for the talking point trees. Bill Gibron


 

 



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The Expendables

Director: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis

1


The Expendables
Lionsgate


The Expendables is Sylvester Stallone’s latest very silly attempt to revisit his glory days, a movie about violence as a brutish conduit for moral justice. Greedy Somali pirates, crooked Latin American dictators, slimy rogue CIA drug kingpins, and even some good old All-American abusive lunkheads all get their just desserts, as delivered by a coterie of muscle-bound übermensches under Sly’s watchful command. Much of that righteous violence is impressively staged—Sly has learned some tricks over the years, not the least of which is how to film furious action with clarity and power—but simple, dumb, righteous violence it remains. The politics of morality, gender, and society in this film are about as subtle as an explosion (and there are a few of those as well, as should be expected). Taken for what it is, it’s not without its delights; just don’t dare to take it for anything it isn’t. Ross Langager


 
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