Stardust (2007) – a fairytale for grown-ups

This is such a wonderful misfire of a movie, that despite all its flaws and weaknesses, it must be seen. Absolutely must be seen – both on the big and small screen. A fairy-tale for grown-ups, but nothing like Shrek or Ratatouille. Released in the peak of Summer, even though it’s got so much romance, it’s a better fir during the holidays or on Valentine’s. This film is actually aimed at grown-ups, but is comes from such a rickety universe, you have to leave a lot of hang-ups at the door, otherwise the movie will fall apart in ten minutes. And you really, really want to sit through the whole thing.
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The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

In his review, Roger Ebert mentioned ‘seemingly long takes’, and talked about how the movie kept the viewer on top of the action, following the chase sequences seamlessly, and easily. In reality, Bourne Ultimatum uses the same visual technique as its predecessor, Bourne Supremacy. For any given sequence, the action is broken down into series of very short takes, that are edited together to create an illusion of uninterrupted action. This is a powerful trick, but it’s not for everyone. Some people reacted badly to quick cuts – sometimes by vomiting and losing balance on their seats – but that wouldn’t be a good way to advertise a movie, would it? It’s so good it will make you puke. Why did the filmmakers choose this tactic?
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Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

“Yippee-kai-yey, motherf…” That was the big promo that popped up on the side of buses, above highway ramps, along the roads. Yes, that familiar, comforting, even melancholy phrase from the blockbuster 1988 film was used to promote the 4th movie in the series. It was a cool promo, an interesting way to appeal to seasoned fans of Jonh McClane, as well as new audience. As soon as I first saw that poster, I had to go see John kick some ass. Little did I know at the time that the famous phrase really does get cut off, much like in the poster. You see, in order to get more people into seats the movie was cut – after being filmed – to get a PG 13 rating. Along with the cuts, as you excepted, went excessive violence, mature language and whatever else that kids are not allowed to see these days. The worst part is that decision was made after the film was done, leaving plenty of good ol’ action footage somewhere on the editing room floor. Bad move. Really bad move.
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300 (2007) – still looks homoerotic, or just over-the-top?

Oh, the silent beauty of a strong, muscular body. Whether it’s male or female, it’s always a beautiful sight, especially if presented well, with confidence and taste. After all, just like the character in that old Mel Brooks film (later to be remade into a musical, and back into film) – “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”. The sports industry and the fashion industry are all built on that single premise – good, appealing looks. So what’s wrong with a movie celebrating good, healthy bodies? Especially if it’s disguised as a historical drama. Apparently, there’s plenty wrong with it. You’ve read all the previews and reviews of Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel (a fancy new-age title for “comic book”), 300. Almost every one of these reviews reeks of homophobia – calling the movie “macho”, “homoerotic”, “exploitative”, and so on. What’s wrong with scantily-clad men, fighting side by side, dripping sweat and blood all over corpses? Visually stunning – yes, but homoerotic – no. This is Sparta. Or, in the words of Leonidas, the main character – THIS IS SPARTA!!!
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The Prestige (2006)

Which one do I like? The Illusionist or the Prestige? This is a difficult question – both films deal with specific subject matter (magic), yet both are very different, and highly entertaining. I recommend you check them out – maybe even back to back. In this review I’ll be mentioning both, but please search our database for an exclusive Illusionist review. I also must mention here that Hugh Jackman can do no wrong – he’s brilliant in everything he does – so I may be a little bit biased. Of course, after seeing The Machinist and American Psycho, I’m a pretty big fan of Christian Bale. How about a double bias for you? Here’s an even bigger confession – when I saw the cast of The Prestige, I almost forgot all about The Illusionist. By chance, I got to see the two films back to back, and if I only saw the former, my “magic” experience wouldn’t be nearly as complete.
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The Illusionist (2006)

Usually when Hollywood churns out similar movies back to back, there’s a lot of confusion. The second film typically suffers, even though it might be the better one. Or, in some rare cases, the second one does much better because the first one makes just enough people interested in the subject matter, and “builds up” an audience. In vast majority of the cases, both films get very different reaction from audiences and critics. This past summer, two movies dealing with magic have entertained us – The Illusionist and The Prestige (just wait until we post our belated Pan’s Labyrinth review). Surprisingly, both were embraced by the critics, and, what’s even more unusual, despite being rather philosophical in nature (as opposed to typical summer fx-travaganza) they did solid business. We saw both, but with Toronto Film Fest, and other events, completely forgot about these fine films. The Illusionist is coming out on DVD – why not review it now, and quickly follow by The Prestige – after all, both films are worthy of your time. In spite of their similarities.
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Casino Royale (2006)

You know you’re getting old and cranky when an old movie franchise is revived to the delight of both fans and critics, but you sit back in the theater and ask yourself “so this is Bond?” I really liked Brosnan in this role (even though deep inside I bow down to Connery), and I have a hard time understanding how a 40-year-old novel can be adapted to post 9/11 world of international crime and spying. But I have to accept that actors can be replaced and novels – rewritten. Casino Royale is a solid action flick, but it’s missing so many trademark Bond elements that I don’t know if it’s an issue of “starting over” or “trimming down”.
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100 top TV catchphrases

Yes, the end of the year must be here – all kinds of lists are popping up. Here’s one list we just had to share with you. The TV Land cable network has compiled a list of the 100 greatest catchphrases in TV, from the serious — Walter Cronkite’s nightly sign-off “And that’s the way it is” — to the silly: “We are two wild and crazy guys!” The network will air a countdown special, “The 100 Greatest TV Quotes & Catch Phrases,” over five days, starting December 11. You should tune in – and memorize all these gems. Meanwhile, here’s an alphabetical listing.
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Miami Vice (2006)

So what the hell went wrong with Miami Vice? Michael Mann’s latest film made about half of its cost at the box office. It was a solid, gritty cop thriller, with a plot you could follow, and with characters you could care for. It starred Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell, and was released in the summer. A guaranteed blockbuster. What happened? Is this a new trend – summer blockbusters must be over-the-top loud and offensively dumb? The same thing happened a year ago with The Island – it was smarter than the usual Michael Bay picture and starred unusually compelling characters (as opposed to meatheads and dumb blondes). The audiences rejected it, and the subsequent DVD release was OK. Will Miami Vice follow the same pattern – too smart to make any money? Too stylish to appeal to wide audiences? Or was the film just too damn expensive? Read on to find out what we think (and what you should be thinking as well).
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TIFF 2006 – First few days

Wow, what a lineup this year. We thought Toronto Film Fest was outstanding in 2005 (Everything’s Illuminated, Mrs. Henderson Presents, A History of Violence, and dozens of other films), but so far this year we haven’t seen (or heard of) anything bad. Every screening we go to, every review we hear is just great. Stay tuned for in-depth reviews coming to the site, meanwhile a little tease. Babel is a multilingual drama, a tearjerker in today’s ever-shrinking world; Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fairytale, told in a background of 1944 fascist Spain, a fascinating parable of today’s evils…
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