Sins From a Marriage

MOVIE REVIEW
Hall Pass (2011)

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Peter Iovino/Warner Bros. Pictures

In most respects, “Hall Pass” is a standard second-decade Farrelly brothers production. The fiery, scatological brilliance of the New England comedy icons’ earliest efforts — the beloved troika of “Dumb & Dumber,” “Kingpin” and “There’s Something About Mary” — has given way to works imbued with a mildly ribald spirit tempered by a strong dose of morality.

While the new Farrelly template surely reflects the married, middle-aged-family-men brothers’ general outlook, the movies it’s produced don’t have the same jaw-dropping, outrageous kick of those earlier efforts. Still, “Hall Pass” shows flashes of ’90s-Farrelly magic; and even at its most reductive, the picture can still fall back on one basic tenet: These guys know their way around a gag.

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The Mouse That Has but One Hole

MOVIE REVIEW
Unknown (2011)

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Warner Bros. Pictures

Liam Neeson continues his descent from leading-man respectability to run-of-the-mill action star in “Unknown,” a passable Hitchockian thriller. For a time, director Jaume Collet-Serra sustains the mystery at the picture’s core with a hint of vivid conspiratorial edge, but the movie builds up to a climax that makes one question whether it was ever worth the effort.

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Abyss-mal

MOVIE REVIEW
Sanctum (2011)

Sanctum-richard-roxburgh-allison-cratchley
Universal Pictures

The problem with the new disaster movie “Sanctum” is not that it features one-dimensional characters and poor acting. Those are genre standards, essential stock elements without which one would have to question the very nature of the enterprise.

No, the problem with “Sanctum” is that the characters are so one-dimensional, the acting is so bad and the dialogue is so composed of ham-fisted one-liners spoken VERY, VERY LOUDLY that the flick transcends the usual allowance for such things.

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Mysterious Skin Flick

MOVIE REVIEW
Kaboom (2010)

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Marianne Williams/IFC Films

It’s been widely asserted that “Kaboom” is a return to form for beloved New Queer helmer Gregg Araki after the one-two punch of his dark, emotionally ravaging “Mysterious Skin” and the lighthearted stoner midnight-movie romp “Smiley Face.” If so, one wishes the filmmaker had stayed away from his old self. Part sex romp and part mysterious fare centered on a cult, the film consists of two sides that are so incongruent they might as well belong to different movies.

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Love and Other Drags

MOVIE REVIEW
No Strings Attached (2011)

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Dale Robinette/Paramount Pictures

There’s an art to making candy-coated big-budget entertainment, and Ivan Reitman has mastered it. Doubters need only hold the consistently funny, unrelentingly sweet “No Strings Attached” up against such immediate predecessors as last year’s abominable “Valentine’s Day” to recognize the imprint of a quality director on even the most mainstream of fare.

One would be hard-pressed to expect much from an Ashton Kutcher-Natalie Portman vehicle centered on a gimmicky friends-with-benefits exploration. But Mr. Reitman maintains a buoyant tone throughout, capturing millennial life in Los Angeles with squeaky clean affection for the sunny city’s perfectly manicured delights. Elizabeth Meriwether’s screenplay is attuned to the ways well-to-do young people communicate and fall in love in a fast-paced, tech-obsessed world, filling the movie with moments that are essentially recognizable even while heightened to reflect a particular brand of Hollywood weirdness.

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The Science of Swede

MOVIE REVIEW
The Green Hornet (2011)

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Jaimie Trueblood/Columbia Pictures

The odd-couple combination of Michel Gondry and a Seth Rogen-inhabited superhero plays out about as one would expect in “The Green Hornet,” a 19-year long-gestating project finally come to fruition. Elements of Mr. Gondry’s trademark minimalist whimsy combine with Mr. Rogen’s frat-boy exhortations and a whole lot of unchecked, off-the-wall action in a potpourri that never quite works, but always keeps on moving.

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Serving a Run-On Sentence

MOVIE REVIEW
If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (2010)

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Film Movement

The renaissance in Romanian cinema continues with “If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle,” a small release that kicks off the 2011 film calendar. First-time filmmaker Florin Serban’s gritty prison drama — shot on a hand-held camera largely in close-up — offers a paired-down, intense character-driven experience that propels its viewer into the suffocating world of life in juvenile detention.

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Another Year We Make Contact

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Simon Mein/Sony Pictures Classics

The 2010 movie year played out in predictable fashion, with a lot of noteworthy gems submerged beneath the usual Hollywood garbage and the occasional big studio success story sprinkled in for good measure. For adventurous moviegoers, those willing to break free from the bonds of mass-marketed, 3-D-centric product, the year offered its share of rewards, with a strong crop of documentaries and some characteristically fine work from well-established directors leading the pack.

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A Woman, a Gun and Some Noodling Around

MOVIE REVIEW
True Grit (2010)

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Lorey Sebastian/Paramount Pictures

In “True Grit,” the Coen brothers play it straight. The masters of caustic pastiche and razor-sharp observational cinema return to the western, but not with the tension of “Blood Simple” or the existential weirdness of “No Country for Old Men.” Instead, their adaptation of the 1968 Charles Portis novel (and not, it must be stressed, the 1969 Academy Award-winning John Wayne vehicle) is largely a return to the genre’s classical form.

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For Whom the Belle Tolls

MOVIE REVIEW
Hemingway's Garden of Eden (2010)

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Susan Allnutt/Roadside Attractions

A soft-core, Jazz Age skin flick masquerading as high art, “Garden of Eden” nonetheless could well be a faithful adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s posthumously published novel. Maybe the icon really did write characters as obtuse and superficial as these, and maybe the man who wrote “The Old Man and the Sea,” “A Farewell to Arms” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” actually produced a narrative so fully comprised of superficial psychobabble.

Controversies over the editing of the work and the usual luxuries of page-to-screen adapters make it impossible to know exactly what Papa intended. Yet, no matter the pedigree, the movie director John Irvin has given us is a cornball, slide-show assemblage of luxurious images, beautiful women in various states of undress and some childhood-in-African flashbacks ripped from the pages of the worst boilerplate fiction.

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