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May 2010

Prissiest Queens of the Desert

MOVIE REVIEW
Sex and the City 2 (2010)

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Craig Blankenhorn/Warner Bros. Pictures

Twelve years after its launch helped herald a landmark in the dual histories of HBO and pop-culture portrayals of strong women, the “Sex and the City” franchise has officially landed in the toilet. It arrives there courtesy of “Sex and the City 2,” this pathetically moribund sequel to the 2008 movie which robs the material of every aspect of merit and interest while playing up its most vapid qualities to an uncomfortable extent.

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The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

MOVIE REVIEW
Four Lions (2010)

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2010 Sundance Film Festival

"Four Lions" and its monumentally stupid suicide bombers will be beyond the pale for some; but as with all of Chris Morris's ferocious satires, its faith in man's ability to cock things up is all too plausible. It would be nice to think that groups of angry young men engaged in low-budget terrorism don't ponder strapping bombs onto crows or occasionally point the bazooka backwards. But whom are we kidding?

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Grimly Reaping a Bounty

MOVIE REVIEW
Perrier's Bounty (2010)

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IFC Films

There’s a set formula to the witty-Irish-gangster narrative, with its blend of sudden bloody violence and offbeat characterizations. Ian Fitzgibbon’s “Perrier’s Bounty” adheres to that standard firmly, down to the griminess that informs its portrait of the Dublin underworld, the dapperly attired men with guns who spout unexpectedly hip viewpoints and the addled nature of overwhelmed protagonist Michael McCrea (Cillian Murphy).

Still, it’s an effective genre entry, propelled by the strong performances of Mr. Murphy, Jodie Whittaker and especially Jim Broadbent, a cohesive cinematic vision and a narrative that features enough moments of spontaneity to avoid coming across as just a tired rehash.

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Hell on Wheels

MOVIE REVIEW
The Ape (2009)

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The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival

"The Ape" is an unsettling and uncomfortable picture; it's raw, emotive, unforgiving and brutal. It's a trying and difficult piece of work that makes no concessions to its audience and proffers no apologies for neglecting to do so. Writer-director Jesper Ganslandt thrusts his audience into the rapidly unraveling world of Krister (an anxious Olle Sarri) who awakes on a bathroom floor covered in blood. What thus transpires is a visceral insight into Krister's fragmented psyche as he seemingly tries to recall — or indeed forget — what has gone before.

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Thickheaded as Thieves

MOVIE REVIEW
Robin Hood (2010)

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David Appleby/Universal Studios

You don’t need to see Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” to know exactly what you’d be in for if you did. For that, one need only look to the director’s “Gladiator” and “Kingdom of Heaven,” or, failing those, any swords-and-sandals Hollywood epic set in medieval England.

The charm and underdog attitude of the bandit of Sherwood Forest and his merry men have been scrubbed out, replaced by Russell Crowe’s intensely serious visage, a glum story about unjust taxation and expertly choreographed large-scale action scenes that are anathematic to the personality-driven legend.

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One Too Many Irons in the Fire

MOVIE REVIEW
Iron Man 2 (2010)

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Merrick Morton/Marvel Entertainment

The gang’s all here in “Iron Man 2,” the obligatory sequel to the extraordinarily successful 2008 comic adaptation. The first film helped redefine big-budget superhero cool, with the presence of the perennially bemused Robert Downey Jr. in the lead and the benefit of director Jon Favreau’s caustically hip perspective.

The second time around, the material suffers from standard sequelitis. Gone is the menace of the original’s virtuoso prison sequence, the serious regard for the details of the grounded real-world setting and with them the thrill of bad-boy weapons magnate Tony Stark (Mr. Downey) being transformed into an anonymous superhero in a giant tin suit.

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From Here to Fraternity

MOVIE REVIEW
Get Him to the Greek (2010)

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Glen Wilson/Universal Studios

“Get Him to the Greek,” the latest from the Judd Apatow bromance factory, is a spin-off from the “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” orbit. Brit comedian Russell Brand reprises the role of Aldous Snow, the pompous and wasted English rock cliché who could have been the bastard lovechild of Liam Gallagher and Amy Winehouse. Then you have Seth Rogen Jr., a k a Jonah Hill of “Superbad,” playing lowly record company operative Aaron, who has the unenviable task of escorting Aldous from London to Los Angeles for a comeback concert and dodging – albeit unsuccessfully – all the groupies, booze and drugs along the way.

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Raising Caine

MOVIE REVIEW
Harry Brown (2009)

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Harry Brown Productions Ltd./
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Michael Caine is “Harry Brown,” the ads for this revenge thriller tell us, and is he ever. Giving a performance that exudes distinguished, barely disguised ferocity, the legend creates another of his memorable characters. He’s the only reason to bother with Daniel Barber’s middling, grim genre effort, a movie so wedded to a realistically subdued take on its age-old premise that it forgets to be any fun.

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These Romans Are Crazy

MOVIE REVIEW
Centurion (2010)

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Gaia Elkington/Pathe Films

Several centuries after they did their thing, the Ninth Legion of Rome are back in business. Kevin Macdonald's film version of "The Eagle of the Ninth" will be along later, bringing with it Channing Tatum as a Roman centurion. But first, here's Michael Fassbender and a handful of British notables being hacked into small cubes by pissed-off Picts in "Centurion."

The best thing about "Centurion" is that it does not shoot for the moon, happy to be a low-ball gore fest of hacking, and slashing, and guts by the gallon, the kind of film where if someone's helmet comes off, it invariably still has his head inside.

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Uneasy Writer

MOVIE REVIEW
The Ghost Writer/The Ghost (2010)

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Guy Ferrandis/Summit Entertainment

Political thriller and political reality occupy the same space in "The Ghost Writer" (a k a "The Ghost" in Britain), as Pierce Brosnan's timely portrayal of a British prime minister in exile falls in sync with Roman Polanski's acutely tangled circumstances. Covered in Mr. Polanski's fingerprints, the film lets the director get stuck into his regular theme of small groups stuck in chilly isolation, and stirs in black satire about a misunderstood world figure looking simultaneously noble and a complete dope.

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