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The Dark Knight The Dark Knight   A
review by Rob Vaux

Did we Batman fans ever really know how scary the Joker could be? We sure thought we did. Alan Moore... yeah, he wrote a pretty scary Joker story once. Frank Miller too. Mark Hamill had his share of creepy moments during the groundbreaking animated series, especially towards the end when the writers were given leeway to really go nuts. But we always had something of an escape clause with those tales because they were set in a fantastic universe -- the same universe shared by flying demigods, islands full of amazons, and blonde Atlantean princes who talk to fish.

flipside's review | DVD at amazon.com

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Peanuts Holiday Collection Peanuts Holiday Collection   B+
review by Rob Vaux

There comes a time in life when one feels too cool for the Peanuts. Thankfully, it passes quickly and never returns. When faux sophistication and distain for simplicity gives way to a better understanding of the world, the sad, funny wisdom of Charles Schultz always seems to shine a little brighter. Many of us were introduced to his characters through one of the innumerable holiday specials which have aired annually since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. Warner Bros. has collected three of the best -- A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown -- into a classy gift set for the holidays.

flipside's review | DVD at amazon.com

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Step Brothers Step Brothers   C-
review by Rob Vaux

What a calamitous summer for comedies. It's like the wreck of the Hindenburg out there: flaming wreckage fed by a steady supply of hubristic flop sweat as America's "funniest" people launch bomb after abysmally ill-conceived bomb. Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and now Will Ferrell joined by the normally reliable John C. Reilly in Step Brothers. How bad have they been? They have all been trumped in the comedy department by Heath Ledger.

flipside's review | DVD at amazon.com

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Wanted Wanted   B
review by Rob Vaux

The central question behind Wanted is one that no summer action picture should have to answer: is flashy technique enough to justify fundamentally amoral content? Should we excuse the film's nasty ethical tone because the images are so gorgeous and Angelina Jolie looks so cool? One can, of course, and given the mindless kinetics on display in Wanted, one probably should. But that still doesn't get rid of the troubling notions lurking underneath all the nifty gunfights, sexy editing, and dulcet sounds of Morgan Freeman saying, "Kill this motherfucker."

flipside's review | DVD at amazon.com

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian   B
review by Rob Vaux

Prince Caspian fails to equal the first film in Disney's new version of the Chronicles of Narnia only because its source novel was a bit of a step down too. Not a huge drop -- and certainly containing eerie and admirable energy all its own -- but like a lot of sequels, its magic was a bit more threadbare the second time around. There's not much to be done for it. Make any but the most perfunctory changes and you dishonor author C.S. Lewis' vision, which director Andrew Adamson loves and appreciates far too much to let happen.

flipside's review | DVD at amazon.com

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Hancock Hancock   B-
review by Rob Vaux

Through good movies and bad, Will Smith's characters have always had a few things in common. They're all smart, they're all capable, and they all endeavor to do the right thing. But with Hancock? Not so much. Its high-concept thesis meditates on how Superman might behave if he were a great big jerk, which lets Smith have a great deal of fun playing off of his previous clean-cut image. That's enough to take Hancock through a fair number of rough spots, though only barely at times.

flipside's review | DVD at amazon.com

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Tropic Thunder Tropic Thunder   B+
review by Rob Vaux

Man alive, is that an actual funny movie? I'd forgotten what they look like! But sure enough, writer/director/star Ben Stiller has finally delivered what the summer multiplex has sorely lacked this year: honest-to-god quality comedy. Ostensibly, Tropic Thunder relies on the same basic notions that 2008's other would-be laughers do -- a high-concept gimmick, a passel of gross-out gags, and established comedic stars out to prove that they're still relevant. The difference is that it views those qualities as genuine inspirations rather than an excuse to put the whole affair on autopilot.

flipside's review | DVD at amazon.com

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WALL·E WALL·E   A+
review by Rob Vaux

Is WALL·E the best Pixar movie ever? That may be jumping the gun just a bit. We'll see how well it ages alongside the likes of Toy Story and Finding Nemo before handing it such an illustrious crown. But is it the best movie of the year so far? By a country mile. We have been starved for something like WALL·E. We've waded our way to it through film after mediocre film, starting in January when the last of the Oscar contenders straggled across the screen. Oh, there have been some decent ones between then and now. Even a few good ones. But nothing that gets people to sit up and take notice. Nothing that trumpets the artistic potential of the medium for all to see.

flipside's review | DVD at amazon.com

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars Star Wars: The Clone Wars   B-
review by Rob Vaux

It's a little bit unsettling to see a Star Wars movie without hearing the 20th Century Fox fanfare to kick it off. So closely is the music identified with George Lucas' space saga that it might as well belong to John Williams rather than its composer Alfred Newman. So when The Clone Wars opens with the Warner Bros. logo and their usual rendition of "As Time Goes By," it lends a strange and unfamiliar air to the proceedings.

flipside's review | DVD at amazon.com

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Hellboy II: The Golden Army Hellboy II: The Golden Army   C+
review by Rob Vaux

I just can't figure it out: I love Guillermo del Toro, I adore Ron Perlman, and I remain fascinated by the work of Mike Mignola. And yet for the second film in a row, I'm curiously nonplussed by their adaptation of Mignola's infernal superhero Hellboy. This latest go-round features a number of improvements over the original, but still can't shake the random grab-bag quality that kept it from solidifying into a coherent whole.

flipside's review | DVD at amazon.com

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  •  The Dark Knight
  •  Peanuts Holiday Collection
  •  Step Brothers
  •  Wanted
  •  The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  •  Hancock
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  •  WALL·E
  •  Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  •  Hellboy II: The Golden Army
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