RHYTHM AND BOOS

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Samuel L. Jackson’s wearying trash talk and truculence finally meets its match when Bernie Mac, a first-rate comic and a superb actor, out-cusses Jackson like a sailor trading insults with a school kid. This isn’t just low comedy, it’s what Pauline Kael’s review of Altman’s M*A*S*H called “the art of talking dirty” but taken to [&hellip
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STRUMMING ALONG

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There’s a certain masochistic enjoyment to be gleaned from watching The Guitar during our current economic meltdown. An indie version of Queen Latifah’s Last Holiday, Amy Redford’s directorial debut tells the story of the emotionally dead Melody (Saffron Burrows), a woman told she has two months to live just a few hours before being fired [&hellip
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TACTICAL RETREAT

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There I was: Ten minutes before midnight this past Saturday at a packed downtown multiplex auditorium, right before the coming attractions to Saw V, and not one pair of seats could be found together. Any way you sliced it, it was a lose-lose situation. Anyone else might have sucked it up and sat down, but [&hellip
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LADY VENGEANCE

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Behold the powers of Spike Lee to get under people’s skin! By some unaccountable phenomena, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling resembles a Spike Lee movie. It starts with a simple premise: single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) asks police to find her pre-teen son gone missing in 1928 Los Angeles. Then, like Lee, Eastwood piles on extraneous, [&hellip
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ALTERED EGO

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One has not truly suffered as a moviegoer until seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman perform a seizure in Synecdoche, New York. This freak-out has nothing to do with art and more to do with career promotion: Our cultural gatekeepers have rushed to crown ham-actor Hoffman King of the Ugly and Obvious Art Movie. And Charlie Kaufman’s [&hellip
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MINIMUM GOODNESS

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There’s something in the New York City air that Detective Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) doesn’t care for. Oddly, it’s not the perpetual shower of snowflakes (or rain or sparks) that surround him, turning Manhattan into a gritty fairyland. Inclement weather isn’t what’s bothering Payne; those winged creatures killing junkies are. And no, the movie doesn’t [&hellip
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TEEN SMART

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Four teams vie for Student Union president in Frontrunners, a documentary about the competitive nature of Stuyvesant High, New York’s top-ranked public school. (Only 3 percent of 25,000 yearly applicants gain admission.) Director Caroline Suh looks at each ticket (headed by drama student Hannah Freiman, jock Alex Leonard, debonair Mike Zaytsev and cagey George Zisiadis) [&hellip
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THE BEE WORD

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That’s the question director Gina Prince-Bythewood poses in her adaptation of The Secret Life of Bees, which is based on a novel that rips off the female-empowerment angle of The Color Purple. Prince-Bythewood, who directed the 1999 romance Love and Basketball, may have intended a showcase for strong black screen actresses, but she neglected to [&hellip
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CYNICAL SELL-OUTS

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Bad movies beget worse ones. That’s the lesson of What Just Happened, a behind-the-scenes Hollywood spoof from Barry Levinson, director of the unbelievably overrated Wag the Dog. At least back in 1992, Levinson’s script was by David Mamet, someone with few ideas about film industry venality and how to construct political satire. Now Levinson’s way [&hellip
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