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A Messy Dish, Good Laughs on the Side

Movies: ‘To Rome With Love’

If Woody Allen’s “To Rome with Love” was an Italian restaurant dish, it would be a mélange of every leftover in the chef’s refrigerator. But it’s a movie, and Allen has dumped story ideas, time, characters, cinematic styles, most of his own neurotic tics and tropes and a gaggle of actors into a film that wanders around the city looking for cohesion and meaning, which it never finds.

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Inventive and Delightful, “Brave” Is Fun

Movies: ‘Brave’

Reinventing fairy tales and princess stories to have a strong heroine is nothing new. Merida, the spunky, independent princess in “Brave,” insists she doesn’t want to marry one of the dopey princes she’s being presented with, but that’s not where the film breaks new ground. The innovation is in its depiction of Merida’s mother, and the relationship between the two of them.

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Good Try, But . . .

Movies: ‘Bernie’

In 1996, a murder occurred in the backwoods city of Carthage, Texas. A man named Bernie Tiede, who had arrived some years before to take a job as assistant director in the city’s funeral home, shot a rich, 81-year-old widow, Marjorie Nugent, whom he had befriended at her husband’s funeral.
The peculiar story of this killing and the city’s character is told in the indie film “Bernie,” directed by Richard Linklater and based mainly on a 1998 article by Skip Hollandsworth in Texas Monthly, “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas.”

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Dark, Eerie And Familiar

Movies: ‘Prometheus’
patricks@lakevillejournal.com

I saw “Alien” when it came out in 1979 at the fancy Uptown Theater movie house on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. It was a great barn of a place, with an enormous screen and all the bells and whistles — Dolby sound, speakers everywhere and a decidedly liberal policy about smuggling in your own libations. They didn’t even mind if you smoked a little reefer in the alley.
So when the alien thing popped out of the guy’s stomach, it was, er, memorable. More so than it is at age 50, sipping herbal tea and watching the Netflix stream on a laptop, that’s for sure.

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Exotic, of Course, and Touching Too

Movies: ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’

This has been a good season for feel-good movies. I felt good after watching “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” pretty good after watching the “Five Year Engagement,” and not bad at all after seeing “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” I would have felt better if I hadn’t seen the preview a handful of times. All the best jokes, and there were many, were spoiled by seeing them so many times. Is there anything we can do about that?

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So, What’s Not To Like?

Movies: ‘The Dictator’

Like President Obama, Sacha Baron Cohen is evolving.
The British comic began in the early 2000s with “Da Ali G Show” on TV, using a faux interview format to dupe real-life pooh-bahs and rednecks into making embarrassing candid-camera admissions of foolishness.
From there, he went to the big screen with two of his fake TV characters — “Borat,” the newsman from Kazakhstan, and Brüno, the fey German fashion reporter. The humor became broader, the smashing of sacred cows noisier.
The pointed satire resembled less a skewering than a firing squad execution of easy targets.

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Love, Paisley And the Fanged Life

Movies: 'Dark Shadow'
patricks@lakevillejournal.com

Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows” doesn’t quite make it. Based loosely on the goofy ABC soap (which ran from 1966-1971), the film starts off with a whole bunch of plot and flashback that’s mostly necessary.
Long story short: Johnny Depp is Barnabas Collins, scion of the Collinsport, Maine, fishing baron family, who declines to fall in love with Angelique Bouchard, one of the maids, played with great bosoms, I mean aplomb, by Eva Green).
Barnabas is a bit of a cad. He’s OK with doing the whap-a-dang with the maid, but his heart belongs to another.

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Droll and Spectacular . . .

Movies: ‘The Avengers’
leong@lakevillejournal.com

But Wait, No Character Development?

Director Joss Whedon, who combines cerebral humor (“Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”) with a broad sentimental streak (“Toy Story 1”) and even a sense of parody (“Cabin in the Woods”), was not the first to come to mind for “The Avengers.” Yet in a logistical triumph, he has woven together a hectic story from a wide selection of Marvel Comics superheroes. The movie is like a bag of miniature chocolate bars: Your favorites are mingled with ones you don’t like so much, but you buy the bag anyway for the ones you like.

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Growing Up Is Hard To Do

Movies: ‘The Five-Year Engagement’

I am going to go out on a limb here and say “The Five-Year Engagement” is a worthy heir to “Annie Hall.” It’s a very funny relationship comedy that gently parodies a very specific place and the various subcultures of people who live there; and while the treatment of its female characters verges on
objectionable, it’s rescued by truly terrific actors. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Jason Segel, the co-writer and star, is the next Woody Allen, but that’s OK. One is plenty.

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Mysticism, Romance And Also Great Pecs

Movies: ‘The Lucky One’

In the annals of movies about post-war experience and PTSD, as we now know it, “The Lucky One” will sink into the mire of forgettable films.
It’s a mainly tedious and mushy love story about a Marine, Logan (Zac Efron), returning home from his third tour of duty in Iraq, and the cute owner of a dog kennel in small-town Louisiana, Beth (Taylor Schilling), with whom Logan has a, let’s say, extrasensory connection.

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