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Review: Daybreakers

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Daybreakers

If the last mainstream vampire film in the theaters seemed to lack much bite, then perhaps vampire sci-fi film Daybreakers might fulfill horror fans' appetites. It is the year 2019 and a plague has transformed most every human into vampires. Many humans were "turned" against their will by others, and feed off  pig blood. Vampires have regular jobs, but they work reverse hours, live in protected homes and drive UV-protected vehicles. The remaining humans are hunted down so that a constant supply of fresh blood is available for the ruling population of vampires. However, the blood supply is dwindling, as humans are becoming extinct, and so the dominant vampire species are concerned with their survival.

Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a hemotologist vampire who is working on a synthetic blood that will substitute for human blood. Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) is the bloodthirsty capitalist vampire who plans to sell the synthetic juice at a premium price to wealthy vampire connoisseurs. Only trouble is that the synthetic blood doesn't work out too well in clinical trials, with some gory effects. Meanwhile, resistance groups of humans are attempting to find and gather survivors. Edward encounters a covert group of human resistance fighters that will bring him closer to the real solution of the vampires' dilemma -- finding a cure for the immortality that relies on human blood.

Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

I'm starting to realize that I probably need to see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus a second time. The problem with my first viewing was that my expectations were still set very high for Terry Gilliam movies. Yes, my expectations stayed high even after Brothers Grimm and Tideland, although Tideland was one of those odd movies that I thought was very good and yet didn't like.

Imaginarium is not at all bad, and it's certainly more fun to watch than the two previously mentioned Gilliam films, but it's not Brazil. It's not even 12 Monkeys or Time Bandits. Now that I know what I'm getting from this slight but lovely fantasy film, I think I'd enjoy it more if I saw it again.

The title character, Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), runs what looks like an anachronistic worn-down traveling sideshow, along with his friend Percy (Verne Troyer), his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), and young Anton (Andrew Garfield). And yet when passersby enter the Imaginarium, they fall into a world of wonder and horror and lots of CGI. Okay, okay.

Review: The Young Victoria

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The Young Victoria

The historical biopic The Young Victoria focuses on the political struggles surrounding the throne of the United Kingdom of Great Britain as well as the romance of one of the most influential monarchs in history. Written by award-winning writer Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), this film is a visually stunning and engaging portrayal of Victoria's ascent to the throne at a time when the monarch held few political powers. 

The title character in The Young Victoria (Emily Blunt) is the object of a royal power struggle. Her uncle, King William (Jim Broadbent), is dying and Victoria is next in line for the throne. Everyone is vying for her favor, but Victoria is kept from the court by her overbearing mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), who in turn is controlled by her own ambitious advisor, Lord Conroy (Mark Strong). Imposing the Kensingston system, the manipulative pair keep Victoria isolated in an attempt to keep her weak and therefore dependent on them.

Review: It's Complicated

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It's Complicated

Writer/director Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, The Holiday) brings another romantic comedy to the screen with It's Complicated featuring veteran actors Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. This film about love and divorce puts a spin on the Other Woman story, and will leave most older women either shaking their head in disbelief or hopeful for re-kindled love. 

Jane (Streep) is the mother of three grown kids, and ten years after their divorce is on amicable terms with her ex-husband, attorney Jake (Baldwin). He is remarried to Agness (Lake Bell), a much younger woman who had been Jake's mistress. Jane has hit her stride as owner of a bakery/cafe, and looking to expand the house she'd moved into after the divorce.

Review: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

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Alvin and the Chipmunks

Just in time for the holidays comes the latest animated movie featuring the furriest pop sensations of the last 50 years, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Based on characters created by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. in 1958, the singing group consists of three chipmunk brothers: Alvin, the lead of the group and the head troublemaker; Simon, the bespectacled nerdy intellectual; and Theodore, the chubby and gullible brother. The group is managed by Dave Seville, who also acts as a father figure to the young chipmunks.

In Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, an unfortunate accident leaves Dave(Jason Lee) laid up in Paris, so Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) are left in the care of Dave Seville's twenty-something gamer nephew Toby (Zachary Levi).

Review: Avatar

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Avatar Neytiri and Jake Sully

Apparently James Cameron was not content just being "King of the World" with Titanic -- now he's tackling other planets, with lovers even more star-crossed than Jack and Rose in one of the most anxiously awaited epic science fiction film of the decade, Avatar.

The story takes place on Pandora, a lush planet light years from Earth where a multinational corporation has established a mining colony. Harvesting of the rich deposits of the fittingly named unobtanium on the planet is made difficult by the toxic air and seemingly primitive and hostile inhabitants, the Na'vi. In an attempt to make nice with the natives, the conglomerate uses "avatars", remotely controlled biological bodies created by mixing the "driver" human DNA with that of the native genome. The avatars can then act as proxies within the local inhabitants to infiltrate and then negotiate their exodus from a prime mining location. The guns for hire military forces prefer wielding a heavy stick, with oversized armored robots and firepower, than finding a peaceful solution. In a world where everything is connected -- think biodiversity -- mining under the Na'vi Hometree and the "Sky People" brute force has cataclysmic effects.

Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

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Bad Lieutenant

My goodness. I hardly know where to begin. Werner Herzog took me on the strangest trip, with Nicolas Cage as my erratic, no, insane tour guide, and I still feel exhausted and weirdly exhilarated every time I think about it.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is not a conventionally Good Movie. It's not gonna sweep the Oscars. I stifled laughter in the wrong places, and in a few places I simply could not stifle a giggle. But I must say there was never a dull moment, and it was rarely predictable ... and how many movies can you say that about these days? I was having far too much fun to look at my watch or take notes or fidget.

Review: Invictus

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Invictus

After the success of his first sports movie, Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood takes on the sport of rugby, but with a social consciousness slant. Based on the novel by John Carlin, Invictus tells the story of Nelson Mandela's ambitious plan to use South Africa's national rugby team, the Springboks, to help unite the country in the wake of apartheid. The Springboks had to defy the odds to be able to make it to the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship, held in South Africa.

After the first democratically run election in 1994, South Africa was still divided racially in the financial and political sectors as well as the sports arena. Reminders in the colors and symbols of the white supremacist rule are despised, but President Mandela recognized the opportunity to unify both races of his recovering country through the universal language of sport. Mandela's decision to keep the Springbok name, jersey, and colors is not approved of by the sports association or his advisors, yet he stands his ground in an attempt to reconcile with the Afrikaners.

Review: Everybody's Fine

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Everybody's Fine with Robert DeNiro

I'm not a fan of movie trailers. I like a short teaser, but three-minute trailers -- for example, the Edge of Darkness trailer currently playing in theaters --  that appear to reveal the entire plot bother me. Even more so are the misleading trailers. Yes, you need to entice folks in to the theater, but I'm quite baffled at the main trailer for Everybody's Fine, the American adaptation of the 1990 film Stanno Tutti Bene with Marcello Mastroianni. This trailer reminded me of the recut trailer for The Shining, depicting a happy-go-lucky about a boy and his dad. How could such a somber film be portrayed as a joyful coming home movie?

Much like Massimo De Rita's original screenplay for Stanno Tutti Bene, everybody's far from fine -- widower Frank Goode (Robert De Niro) realizes that his only connection to his children had been his wife, so he sets out to visit each of them. Things aren't as they seem, as the viewer sees that his adult children are hiding the truth from their father. A sibling in trouble, drug use, divorce, an illegitimate child -- these are all issues that have been kept from Frank's view. But were they? The implication is that his wife may not have always shielded him, but rather he chose to ignore the signs. His journey is not just revealing of his children's secrets, but also an opportunity for self-examination.

Watch Locally Made 'Pigeon: Impossible' Online

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Pigeon ImpossibleAt Fantastic Fest this year, I was pleased to see that one of the animated shorts was from a local filmmaker -- Lucas Martell's Pigeon: Impossible. I was even more pleased that it turned out to be one of the funniest shorts in the collection.

The film is about a secret agent with a briefcase and what happens during an encounter with, well, a pigeon. The street where the action takes place is supposed to be set in Washington, D.C., but I noticed some oddly familiar landmarks, like the Driskill and the Paramount. Look at the picture on the right to see what I mean.

Martell's short animated comedy also played Austin Film Festival this year. Pigeon: Impossible is now available online for everyone to enjoy. It's a little more than six minutes long, and just what you need to add some fun to your morning. Check it out after the jump or directly on YouTube.

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