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08.01.2008 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By David Luhrssen
It�s not hard to imagine: Frank Capra, who directed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It�s a Wonderful Life, would have made Swing Vote had he lived today. He might have made this civics lesson in American politics more concise and a bit sharper, but he would applaud the spirit, the message and the delivery. Swing Vote is a movie dramatizing the hopeful democratic idea that everyone�s vote co...
Sunday, June 29, 2008

The final journey home

For the child named Blake, as for many boys, dad was invincible and immortal. But like many fathers and sons, problems began to mount along the way, especially as the boy passed through the thorny path of adolescence. When Did You Last See Your Father? concerns the inevitable decline of dad as witnessed by the now adult son. Diagnosed with inoperable cancer, dad is sent home to die, giving Blake time to ponder the many memories that rush from the hidden parts of his consciousness. Based on the novel by British author Blake Morrison, the story unfolds in the unhurried, not especially . . .
Sunday, June 29, 2008

Remaking the ’60s spy spoof

Would you believe they finally got around to making “Get Smart” into a movie? Would you believe they tried it once before? Well, scarcely anyone remembers The Nude Bomb (1980), starring Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, the bumbling spy struggling to make the world safe for democracy. Adams played Smart in the 1960s series, but no one was interested in seeing a remake of the spy spoof only 10 years after the show was canceled. Its creator, Mel Brooks, recently said that skipping a generation may help. He should know something about timing. A musical based on The Producers might not have flown in the ’80s, either.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Shuttering in the Dark. Another Asian horror

Night has fallen on a remote, deserted highway. A young married couple drives sleepily through the darkness toward their honeymoon cabin near Japan’s Mount Fuji when a gaunt, staring woman wanders into the road and is struck by their speeding car. When the couple regains consciousness after doing a figure-eight down a ravine, they can’t find the woman’s body. But the Body will find them, turning up especially in photographs . . .
Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Counting Cards. 21 ways to fall short

Ben is a working-class Boston kid bicycling to school in an ivy-covered world of privilege. He gained entrance to MIT for pre-med and wants nothing less than Harvard Medical School. Harvard was his dream from childhood. He has the grades and the recommendations but not, as the admissions counselor puts it, “the dazzle” for a full scholarship. With his $8an-hour assistant manager’s job at a posh men’s clothing shop, he might be able to save enough for tuition by the middle of his next life on Earth.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sorting out her mistress’ affairs

Frances McDormand strays far from the sardonic country of the Coen Brothers, her regular employers, for a jolly romp in 1930s London, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. McDormand stretches her acting range as Guinevere Pettigrew, a dowdy failure as a domestic servant. Her previous mistress calls her “the governess of last resort” while sacking her, sending her into a future where uncertainty shades into bleak prospects.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The muddled world of 10,000 B.C.

The world in those days was almost empty of humanity; a place of wideopen spaces tenanted by small bands of hunters and gatherers and settled villages where agriculture had been discovered. The woolly mammoth roamed the plains and other large creatures now extinct may have persisted into the dawn of Homo sapiens. This is the world of 10,000 B.C., a muddled extravaganza from Roland Emmerich, director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. At first the story concerns a tribe whose existence is threatened by climate change. Will the mammoths that sustained their way of life for longer than anyone’s memory ever return? The suspense evaporates when the beasts arrive within a few scenes. The plot then takes an abrupt turn when slave-raiding horsemen attack and carry off half the tribe. A small band of warriors pursues the raiders and their captives to what seems to be the end of the Earth.
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

Fast times, teen therapy

A good teenage comedy should nail the particulars of high school life, a purgatory period that remains rife with satirical potential generation after generation. It should also satirize the society that promulgated the purgatory. By those measures, Charlie Bartlett is a success. The adult problems it spoofs are magnified and distorted in the funhouse mirror of teen life. In Charlie Bartlett, everyone is troubled and seeking medication, whether
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Family faces dementia

More and more children are faced with parents lingering on in the dimming half-life of dementia. Unable to care for themselves or sometimes even remember who they are, the parents are a burden, a flashpoint of guilt, an opportunity for unselfish love. The problem is compounded when the parent is . . .
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

What is Cloverfield?

Filmed through a video camera carried around by participants in the catastrophe it depicts, Cloverfield has drawn understandable comparisons to The Blair Witch Project. But where the earlier movie was an interesting experiment, Cloverfield works as a full-blown feature film. Where Blair Witch meandered . . .