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Bless the Child

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Cast: Kim Bassinger, Rufus Sewell, Jimmy Smits, Christina Ricci

Seeing this cast of actors should mean quality film. But it doesn't. It was soooo bad that I found myself ready to flee to the lobby to play video games, every 20 minutes. Kim Bassinger plays the lovable Mim to her niece, left by her drug-addict sister. Fast Forward 6 years. The little girl's now six and everything is pretty much the same. Oh wait. I forgot to mention that the little girl has special powers (can spin things with her mind). Now a self-help guru/Satanist has been stealing and killing 6-year-olds, branding them with a medieval Satanic mark. Pause. Mim's drug-addict sister returns from nowhere with a new hubby (see self-help guru/Satanist above). Now she wants her daughter back. Of course Mim refuses, but they take her anyway. Mim must rescue her with the help of a strung out Ricci and ex-seminary/Medieval Satanism student Smits. Bad acting, horrible special effects (digital rats, demons, and angels!), a wasted cameo by Christina Ricci and poor film quality as well as annoying slo-mos and over-the-top cheese. And is it me or was there a strong wanna-be Exorcist vibe? In the mood for a good laugh? See this movie. Drama? Next. D- (Comedy B+)

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Croupier

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Cast: Clive Owen, Alex Kingston

Jack Manfred (Owen) had a secret past. But he's moved from South Africa to the UK to begin again as an upstanding author with a doting girlfriend. Only he can't write. His father, an ardent gambler, gets him an interview with a casino as a croupier, but Jack refuses on the grounds that he doesn't gamble nor does he want to be in that environment. He's desperate for money though, and goes to the interview. Jake, his alter ego "the croupier", becomes the subject of his book or is it really Jack? This is a good example of a film noir done to perfection. Owen is incredibly sexy as Jack/Jake and he shows his ability to be a chameleon changing from blonde to brunette, sweet to heartless, devoted to untrustworthy. All sides of Jack work because he is difficult to understand even from the beginning of the film. He also gets tied up with three different women all of which he feels very little for, including his girlfriend. B+

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Est-Ouest (East-West)

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Cast: Catherine Deneuve

A man (Alexei) has been living in France with his wife (Marie) and their son (Sergei)because he has been exiled from his homeland, Russia. Now, he is being allowed to return, although the Russian people do not welcome his wife, a French woman. Marie can not bear Russia and spends the rest of the film trying to find ways to escape with her son and husband. This is a touching story about the strength of love and the spirit of humanity. Through the kindness of others Marie, Alexie and Sergei learn to cope with life’s difficulties (infidelities, abuse, and hatred) and to strive for a better life outside of Russia. This is a good film told in both Russian and French. There are times when the plot drags and others when it moves too quickly, but overall it is well done. Good acting and Deneuve makes an appearance as a French actress with a good heart. B

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The Eyes of Tammy Faye

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Narrator: Rupaul Charles

The fact that Rupaul Charles, a black transvestite, narrates the story of Tammy Faye Bakker exposes the personality and character of one of religions most misunderstood ladies.

Being only 20 years old myself, I barely remember the 80s and Jim Bakker. I do remember thinking that Jim Bakker got what he deserved from swindling his followers. After seeing this film I realize that what was being shown to the public was not the whole picture. I could say that this movie was purely propaganda for Tammy Faye to clear her name as well as Jim's, but she asked every person who accused her and Jim of wrongdoing to be interviewed for this documentary, and they all refused, with the exception of one reporter, and he looked very awkward when confronted by her. I believe the Christian community owes Tammy Faye an apology for turning their back on her in her time of need. She is the victim of hypocrisy, greed, and ill-will. In this documentary, the misdeeds of Jerry Falwell loom the largest. I am apalled at the things he's done to get where he is, and Tammy Faye states the she's forgiven him, but that he really needs to "make it right with God". He too declined to be interviewed. This is a powerful documentary that sheds light on an old subject, one that we should remember and discuss. A+

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Gladiator

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Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Derek Jacobi

Crowe. Phoenix. Jacobi. What more could you ask for in a movie. How about fantastic special effects? A tasteful war scene? Good(gasp) acting? This movie has it all.

For those who crave constant excitement, there are war scenes, hand-to-hand combat, gladiator-versus-beast, gladiator-versus-gladiator, and so on. I am by no means a war person. Yes I saw Saving Private Ryan, and yes I was grossed out by that 30 minutes of useless “understanding the horrors of war” scene. What Gladiator was able to do with footage of the same caliber, was make it interesting. Okay, so in the opening scene of Gladiator there is death and, I suppose it is more gruesome than Saving Private Ryan, but only because of the nature of combat in Roman times. Then soldiers fought with swords, bow-and-arrows, shields, and others which kind of require hand-to-hand combat on a much different level than today’s wars. But when there was excessive violence, the camera suddenly became not so clear and everything began to blur and circle. This allows the viewer to see the scene without looking inside someone’s colon. Completely unnecessary I think! And if the not-so-real tiger dissuaded you from going to see this film, have faith, the animation on the fight scenes is much more believable than the trailers.(However, some of the other animated scene were not so well done.)

For those who can’t resist a good love story, there are four played out in this film. Maximus’ love for his family, Lucila’s love for her son, Marcus Aurelius’ love for Maximus, and lastly, Commodus’ love for Lucila, his sister. While generally the relationships are typical, I found it refreshing that the director chose to stay true to history when he decided to incorporate Commodus and Lucila’s strange relationship. At the beginning of the movie, it is clear that something has gone on between them, but we are not that familiar with them, so we are not sure yet what exactly has happened. As we become better acquainted with the two of them, it is almost obvious what has transpired, although by the time we figure it out, it has all but fizzled. While there were gasps of horror and disgust during certain almost-love scenes, the real Commodus was actually much worse than his screen version, seducing any female relative he could find. Such was Rome.

The most memorable aspect of this movie was the acting. And while I love Russell Crowe and think that he is a great actor, and the afore-mentioned Derek Jacobi is a film and theatre legend, Joaquin Phoenix, who portrays the young Commodus with an uppity gracefulness, is the star of this movie. Joaquin Phoenix is so breath-taking in this role that I find it difficult to believe that he will not be nominated for an Oscar. I know what you are thinking. People rarely get Academies for action-type films, but this is an action film with an actual story behind it, and Joaquin brought that story to us with a perfectly manufactured English accent, volcanic emotions, and vulnerability, which make us want to coddle him instead of punish him.

The bottom line? Go see this film. It is so far the best film to come out this “summer”! A+

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Sunshine

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Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz

Ralph Fiennes playing the son of Ralph Fiennes playing the son of Ralph Fiennes playng the son of. . . well you get the idea. In this film about the many generations of one Jewish family living in Budapest, Hungary, we watch them battle everything from mild incest (cousin-to-cousin), infidelity (too numerous to count), and shame. The one real constant is the Anti-Semitism that each member must deal with. And tying everything together is a secret family elixir that brings happiness to all who swallow it. Weisz makes an appearance as one of the Fiennes' lover. C+

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X-Men

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Cast: Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos

Based on the comic book series and the cartoon, X-Men does not disappoint. The basic story line is not complex. Wolverine must remember his past while the other X-Men stop Magneto from destroying mankind. In the first of what will be a series of great movies, we are introduced to the whole crew: Cyclops, Storm, Jean Gray, Professor Xavier, Rogue, and Wolverine. Because it is the first I will excuse the fact that Cyclops and Storm were barely touched upon. The other characters are well-developped, and the special effects well-used.

The real beauty of this film is using veteran actors to anchor the relatively young cast. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, two classic British stage actors, play rivals better than any pair. McKellen's impressive as Magneto, and Stewart perfection as the wheelchair-bound Xavier. Hugh Jackman is amazing as Wolverine, straight from the pages themselves. The hair, the face, the attitude, the body- it's too much! A real surprise is Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. In a time where all models want to be actresses, she proves that she's a step above the others with a deliciously dark Mystique.

This is a great film and I would see it (have seen it) again. Can't wait for the sequel! A-

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