July 2011 Archives

Four Weddings and a Funeral Blu-ray Review: Not a Run-of-the-Mill Romantic Comedy

While it remains a delightful film 17 years later, it doesn't reap much benefit from high definition.
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Four Weddings and a Funeral is a 1994 British romantic comedy that follows a group of friends as they attend the five events listed in the title. The film received critical acclaim along with winning several BAFTA awards and earning Hugh Grant the Golden Globe for Best Actor - Musical or Comedy. This film also started a successful relationship between writer Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant which lead to Notting Hill and Love Actually. Charles (Hugh Grant) is a perennial bachelor who believes in the lightning bolt of love and is searching for his soul mate. He meets Carrie (Andie

Honeymoon in Vegas Blu-ray Review: Enjoyable Movie but the Blu-ray Should Be Annulled

MGM craps out with this title due to poor video and no extras.
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Oh, I how I remember the days when Nicholas Cage made good movies. Honeymoon in Vegas was one of them. Originally released in 1992, it was nominated for two Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy. Jack Singer (Nicholas Cage) makes a promise to his dying mother that he will never get married. Several years later, his girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) is ready to call it quits unless he commits. Worried that he will lose her, he abruptly decides that they should fly to Las Vegas and tie the knot. Upon arrival at their hotel, Betsy is spotted

High and Low Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Kurosawa and Mifune: The Gold Standard

Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune team for another classic film.
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Master director Akira Kurosawa and his acting muse Toshiro Mifune teamed up once again for this kidnapping drama set in the modern times of its 1960s production, a departure from their most well-known period dramas Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. Mifune plays a wealthy businessman named Kingo Gondo, a captain of industry on the verge of the biggest business move of his career. He has been quietly amassing control of the major shoe company he works for, putting into place intricate financing that requires precise timing in order to pull off his coup without losing his riches. If it was a

Beneath The Planet Of The Apes Movie Review: An Extreme Guilty Pleasure

A movie that was "direct-to-video" long before it was ever fashionable.
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Long before the term "direct-to-video" was even so much as a twinkle in a greedy movie exec's eye, the idea of making a sequel to a science fiction film was as propitious to a motion picture studio as was Orson Welles trotting off to his favorite all-you-can-buffet one day with a 50%-off coupon, only to encounter a "Closed For Good!" sign hanging on the door. The reason for this was simple: film studios shied away from the manufacturing of sci-fi flicks in-general, believing them to be for losers, nerds, geeks, dorks, and people that would come to be known as

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: Two Women (1960)

"Do you know what they have done those "heroes" that you command?" - Cesira
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Based on the novel of the same name by Alberto Moravia, Vittorio De Sica's Two Women (La ciociara) is a powerful film about the horrors of war experineced by innocent bystanders stuck in the middle of it. Sophia Loren, in an internationally acclaimed performance that earned the first ever Best Acting Oscar presented to a foreign film, stars as Cesira, a widow living in Rome with her young daughter Rosetta (Eleonora Brown). To avoid the city's bombing by Allied Forces, the two head to the province of Ciociaria in Central Italy where Cesira is from. There she meets Michele(Jean-Paul

Planet of the Apes (1968) Blu-ray Review: A Franchise Started with a "Smile"

You'll want to get your stinking paws on this one.
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Set in the year 3978, after having traveled for 2006 years, a trio of ANSA astronauts led by Taylor (Charlton Heston) crashes lands into a lake on an unknown planet. They make their way through a desert where nothing will grow, and after passing some scarecrow-like objects, they discover plants and water. As the men begin to explore this new world, they find it very different from the one they left behind. Humans here are the primitive species and, as the title hints, the planet is run by apes. This is revealed in a very exciting action sequence as gorillas

The Myth of the American Sleepover Movie Review: Naturalism and Awkwardness in Equal Measures

A film that feels truer than most about the teenage experience, Myth is hindered somewhat by its self-conscious cast.
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It's to writer/director David Robert Mitchell's credit that he takes the concerns of his teenage characters seriously in his debut feature The Myth of the American Sleepover. Anyone for whom high school is in the rearview mirror will likely recognize many of the preoccupations -- the politics of slumber party invitations or the all-consuming crush on an absolute stranger -- as ultimately inconsequential, but that doesn't mean they seem that way at the time. Mitchell imbues his film with a wistful, even elegiac tone as summer winds down and an extensive cast of characters navigates one night of parties and

Life During Wartime Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Alternative Happiness

Todd Solondz revisits his characters from Happiness (1998)
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Writer/director Todd Solondz has forged a cottage industry out of exploring the foibles of odd suburban characters, popping in every few years with another unconventional tale from the dark recesses of his unusual mind. For his latest excursion, he decided to revisit the characters from his 1998 film Happiness, but recast the roles with an entirely different set of actors. The recasting idea also recalls his 2004 film Palindromes, where the lead role was shared by eight different actors/actresses who had no similar physical characteristics. In his latest work, characters struggle to find love and acceptance while battling their own
One might think that the average sci-fi fan would have equal love for the beloved classics of Star Wars and Star Trek. But as it turns out, there has been...tension. The internets have a good share of comparison essays and speculation columns and even a documentary DVD was made in 2001. Now - all the comparisons are laid out in a 241-page book by science fiction author and game designer Matt Forbeck. The book begins with plenty of food for thought - two forewords - one by Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett of Star Wars) and the other by Tim Russ

Limitless Blu-ray Review: The Film Reaches Its Potential

For fans of intelligent thrillers and those who think Bradley Cooper is hot.
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What would it be like to utilize 100% of your brain? This is the question posed in the film Limitless based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. I was expecting a fun thrill ride but was pleasantly surprised by the performances and depth of story. Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling writer. He is broke, about to get kicked out of his apartment, and has lost his girlfriend when he runs into Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), an ex brother-in-law. Vernon recognized instantly that Eddie is down on his luck and offers him a solution, a new drug

Take Me Home Tonight Blu-ray Review: A Flashback to '80's Comedies

Entertaining and fun to watch.
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It's 1988 and Matt Franklin (Topher Grace) works in the mall at Suncoast Video. Normally a recent MIT graduate would find a much better job than one that pays minimum wage, but after all of his schooling, Matt still hasn't decided what he really wants to do with his life and finds himself completely paralyzed with fear. But all that is about to change when the girl of his dreams Tori (Teresa Palmer) returns from college and comes in looking for a video to buy. Having been terrified to ask her out when they were in high school, Matt does

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: Attack of the Monsters (1969)

"Let's make the Earth a great place to live, without war, and traffic accidents." - Aoki
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With Comic Con International: San Diego 2011 in full swing, I wanted to this week's selection for the Saturday Public Domain Movie to be one that would be right at home if it was screened there and could also help pass the time for those waiting in line with nothing to do because they've read all their comics and magnas. It's also a fun choice for anyone not in San Diego. Attack of the Monsters is the English-dubbed version of Gamera vs. Guiron, the fifth movie in the Japanese kaiju series starring Gamera, the giant, flying turtle. In this

Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill A Mockingbird DVD Review: A Pretty Flawless Documentary

We walk a mile in Harper Lee's shoes and learn the story behind the great American novel.
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On July 19th, First Run Features releases a new documentary on "To Kill A Mockingbird" on DVD. The timing is interesting because we're one year removed from the 50th Anniversary of the book and next year will be the 50th Anniversary of the movie. The book is an excellent portarit of a typical Deep South town in Alabama and the quirky characters that inhabit it. It's a book about coming of age. And it just happens to have a morality tale about racism, injustice, and staying true to your values flow through the heart of the book. It's a book

AC/DC Let There Be Rock Limited Edition Blu-ray Review:

Listen to it loud!
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AC/DC's 1980 concert film Let There Be Rock captured the Bon Scott-led version of the band at what would unknowingly be its peak, though there were no signs the band was stopping their ascendancy. The outstanding rocker Highway to Hell led to an international expansion of the band's fanbase as the album charted in more countries than previous ones had. They broke the U.S. Top 100 for the first time, getting as high as #17, and nabbed their highest spot in France at #2, which might explain why they decided to shoot their December 9, 1979 performance at the Pavillion

Naked Criterion Blu-ray Review: Anti-Hero's Odyssey Through Thatcher's London

Mike Leigh examines a generation lost the after the economic and personal mess of the '80s.
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In Mike Leigh's 1993 UK film, Naked, I don't think a main character has turned the audience against him quicker than Johnny does here. We cut to a sex act happening in an alley in Manchester. The aggresive sex turns quickly into more than the woman wanted and she starts yelling "No! No!" Eventually she slaps him away and he steals a car and heads to London. That's our opening scene and introduction to our main character - a scraggly, unwashed, rapist named Johnny. This Criterion release on Blu-ray follows an earlier release of the film on DVD. It's a

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: The Navigator (1924)

"Rollo Treadway - Heir to the Treadway fortune - a living proof that every family tree must have its sap"
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This week's installment of the Saturday Public Domain Movie presents our first silent movie: The Navigator, starring and co-directed by Buster Keaton. In his fourth feature film, Keaton portrays Rollo Treadway, a wealthy young man who one day at the spur of the moment decides to propose to his neighbor across the street, Betsy O'Brien (Kathryn McGuire). She rejects him and though disappointed he decides not to waste the honeymoon tickets to Hawaii. Through a mix-up, he unknowingly boards the Navigator, a ship owned by Betsy's father John (Frederick Vroom), which has been sold to an unnamed country at

Make Believe Movie Review: Teen Magicians Vie for Glory

Cut from the same cloth as similar documentaries before it, Make Believe is still a fairly charming film.
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Somewhere, there's a stack of embarrassing pictures of me as a kid, dressed in one of my dad's suit coats and standing behind a cardboard podium, wand in hand and preparing to unleash a new set of magic tricks from some big pre-fabricated set. I never got very far with the magician ambitions -- I blame it on never mastering the fake thumb prop -- but the interest I had as a kid still lingers somewhere. That means I'm fairly predisposed to enjoying Make Believe, a new documentary executive produced by the directors of The King of Kong: A Fistful

Have A Laugh! Volume 3 and 4 DVD Review: Samplers of Disney's Animated Stars

The series introduces classic Disney cartoons to young children.
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Disney's Have A Laugh! series is aimed at introducing classic Disney cartoons to young children. Both recent volumes offer five full-length cartoons that have been restored and remastered in their original version with 2.0 audio and edited versions with 5.1 audio. Not sure what the point of the edited versions are, unless it's someway to trick a kid into going to bed early. Volume 3 begins with "Mickey's Delayed Date" (1947). Mickey awakes from a nap to discover he is late for a date with Minnie for a date. Things don't run smoothly as he rushes around, but Pluto comes

Tom and Jerry Fur Flyin' Adventures Volume 2 DVD Review: Another Helping of the Famous Twosome

Ninety-nine minutes of classic Tom and Jerry fun.
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Tom and Jerry have been entertaining audiences for over 70 years now, and we still can't get enough of them. The very first Tom and Jerry short, "Puss Gets the Boot" appeared in theatres in 1940, and the two were a hit right off the bat. Although Tom was named "Jasper," and Jerry was "Jinx," the famous twosome were off and running. By the time of their next outing, "The Midnight Snack," they were being called Tom and Jerry. While the characters have remained constant for all these years, the people who work on them have changed many times over.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Movie Review: The Empire Strikes Back of the Harry Potter Series

Arguably the best adaptation of the series up to this point.
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As the film begins, the Death Eaters rampage has spilled over into the Muggle world while forces appear coming to a head in the wizard world. Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) collects Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) before the semester has begun to help coax former professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) to return to Hogwarts. Dumbledore believes Slughorn, a former teacher of Tom Riddle before he became Lord Voldemort, may have some insight into the Dark Lord's magical powers, and that Harry is the key to getting Slughorn to open up. Narcissa Malfoy goes to see Professor Snape (Alan Rickman), requesting his assistance

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Ultimate Edition Blu-ray Review

Harry, Ron, and Hermione deal with the external forces working for Lord Voldemort and the internal ones associated with growing up.
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Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire is the fourth film of the series based on the fourth book of the same name by J.K. Rowling and finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) in their fourth year at Hogwarts. It's another enjoyable installment as the film strikes a good balance as the characters not only deal with the external forces working with the evil wizard Lord Voldemort but also the internal ones associated with growing up. Goblet opens with Voldemort, a tiny misshapen creature at this point, growing in strength, which Harry sees in a

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Movie Review: Why So Sirius?

Plenty of characterization and plot developments keep the viewer's interest.
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It is year three for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends at Hogwarts School and the big news as the year begins is that Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped Azkaban Prison. We first see Sirius as a screaming madman on the headlines of the paper. He was put in prison years ago when he was charged with assisting You-Know-Who in the murder of Harry's parents, and it's assumed he's headed to Hogwarts to find Harry. Knowing that someone is out to murder you is a lot for any teenager to take, but the trauma is compounded when Harry learns

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Movie Review: Mysteries and a Riddle

Though frequently derided as the least favorite film in the franchise, it does contain some magic.
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As Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets begins, life has slightly improved for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) at the Dursley residence. He's moved from the cupboard under the stairs into a room, but his Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) and Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths), who are raising the boy because his parents are deceased, are still very rude towards him. Dobby the house elf (voiced by Toby Jones) has come to warn Harry not to return to Hogwarts, but when Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and his brothers Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps) show up one night in a flying

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Movie Review: Darker Times for the Boy Wizard

The intensity of the storylines correspond with the maturation of the Hogwarts students.
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The movie opens on a late summer day with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) hanging aimlessly around a neighborhood playground. Soon he is approached by cousin Dudley (Harry Melling) with his posse and some bitter taunts are exchanged. Harry loses his temper and draws his wand. But before he can actually use it, the skies darken and the wind whirls about. Naturally, Dudley thinks that Harry is the cause of the sudden weather disturbance. Harry denies it but the point becomes moot as the storm intensifies and the two run for home. And the story continues at a gallop. Dementors attack Harry

Au revoir les enfants Criterion Blu-ray Review: Louis Malle's Remembrance of Things Past

Another valuable WWII-inspired entry in the Criterion Collection.
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Writer-director Louis Malle's childhood informs Au revoir les enfants, a story about two boys at a Catholic boarding school in occupied France during the winter of 1943. The film presents the period through the point of view of children but that doesn't lessen the story's power as viewers know from history what was unfolding outside the school's walls. Julian Quentin (Gaspard Manesse), when we first see him at the train station, doesn't want to leave his mother's side and return to school from the holiday break, but once there he acts like a tough guy to establish himself with the

The Dark Knight Rises and Teases with New Poster

Take a peek at the poster from Christopher Nolan's new film.
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Don't know if you heard, but Christopher Nolan is doing a sequel to his highly successful The Dark Knight, which continues the adventures of Batman/Bruce Wayne as portrayed by Christian Bale. The villians he faces against in the next film are Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and Bane (Tom Hardy), though when we last saw Batman, the city of Gotham thought he was a villian as well. That's because he took the blame for the murders committed by Harvey Dent, corrupted into the villian Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart) by The Joker (Heath Ledger), in order to protect Dent's memory. The reason why,

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Movie Review: The Magic Begins

Year One at Hogwarts is a true celebration of magic.
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The start of any series of films is problematic at best. If you're Star Trek - you're seeking to recapture and continue some of the magic of the television show with the same cast. If you're X-Men or Batman or Spider-Man - you're capitalizing on decades of comic continuity that may make it hard historically to last beyond three or four films with the same cast. If it's Jurassic Park or Pirates Of The Caribbean or The Matrix - you don't necessarily know you are launching a series until the runaway success of your film makes it a neccesity. But

Spike Lee Signs On To Direct Oldboy Remake. Will It Finally Happen This Time?

Lee + Korean revenge flick = unlikely bedfellows
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As reported in Variety earlier today, Spike Lee has officially signed on to direct the long-gestating U.S. remake of the 2003 South Korean revenge thriller, Oldboy. Frankly, there’s no reason to remake the near-perfect original, but since U.S. studios completely lack originality and will probably make this someday, let’s discuss this attempt a bit. The original film was based on a lengthy Japanese manga series but diverged enough from its source material and had such a strong directorial voice that it eclipsed its origin, winning fans around the world for both director Chan-wook Park and star Min-sik Choi, and to a lesser extent

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

"All you of Earth are idiots!"
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Welcome to The Saturday Public Domain Movie. Our first installment is Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space. The movie mixes elements of science fiction and horror as aliens come to Earth and resurrect the recently deceased, but for what purpose?! And can they be stopped?! Does our military have the capabilities to defeat both aliens and the undead? Tune in and find out. Starring Vampira, Tor Johnson, and a posthumous appearance by Bela Lugosi from footage intended for other films, Plan 9 has gone on to become a cinema classic in spite of itself, immortalized in Tim Burton's

The Music Room Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Solitary Man

A moving rumination on the fading opulence of a broken man and his estate
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Right from the opening shot of this film, it's evident that viewers are witnessing the work of a masterful director. The film opens with a prolonged silent close-up of a forlorn, world-weary Indian man, immediately informing without dialogue that he has been through some terrible life-altering tragedy and has largely retreated from his community. As the camera moves back to a wider shot, we find him occupying an ornate but run-down palatial estate, seemingly not caring about the decay around him as he stares off into space. An elderly servant approaches and offers refreshment, further reinforcing the impression that he

Game Review: Scene It? - Harry Potter 2nd Edition

Discontinued fun for the whole family.
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Screenlife's Scene It? is the first classic game of the 21st century. It combines aspects of Trivial Pursuit with the capabilities of a DVD technology to show video clips and feature an array of puzzles. Their first release in 2002 dealt with movies and sold more in its first year than the combined first-year totals than Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, and Cranium. Expansion games were created dealing with other pop-culture subjects both generally (Music, Sports, and TV, the latter of which won the Toy Industry Association's 2005 Game of the Year) and specifically (Disney, James Bond, and Marvel Comics). Quite possibly

Black Moon (1975) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Gloria Steinem Meets Lewis Carroll

Louis Malle's 1975 surreal take on "Alice In Wonderland" almost defies description.
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I don't know the exact definition of a "black moon" just as I'm not exactly clear on the definition of a blue moon. As opposed to a blue moon - I'd consider it to be a month without a full moon. And what that has to do with this 1975 film by Louis Malle, recently released by The Criterion Collection makes about as much sense as the rest of the film. I've seen a few early films of Louis Malle - he directed a part of Spriits of the Dead and a wonderful coming-of-age film in Murmur of the Heart

The Boondock Saints Truth and Justice Edition Blu-Ray Review: It Will Have You Seeing Red

A few nice touches, but was this Blu-Ray necessary?
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"...But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men." With the words of their parish priest following them out to the Boston streets on a crisp Saint Patrick's Day morning, Connor (Sean Patrick Flannery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) MacManus begin their day. These lads, who enter the story as butchers in a meat packing plant, become accidental vigilantes, and ultimately - (questionable) heroes. The Boondock Saints, originally released in 1999, has been given a new look in a Blu-ray format. But was the do-over necessary? When one thinks of

Tigerland Blu-ray Review: Yet Another Vietnam War Movie

This 2000 film features Colin Farrell's first lead role in a motion picture.
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In 1971 the Vietnam War was coming to a close and it was a common notion that the war had already been lost. But in Fort Polk, Louisiana all personal opinions were left at the door. This was the United States' toughest infantry training base. Not only did you have to go through the hardcore training camp, but you also had to survive Tigerland before you were shipped overseas to enter the combat. Tigerland was a section of the base filled with dense foliage and marshland similar to what was found in Vietnam, and the men were completely immersed in

30-Day Film Challenge: Your Favorite 2010 Film This Time Last Year

The Challenge is complete. Hope you enjoyed the ride.
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Toy Story 3 by Shawn Bourdo I'm taking this category to mean - a movie that I was a huge fan of last summer. Since we're knee deep in the Summer of 2011 - it's hard to think back just a mere 12 months ago to that fateful Summer of 2010. It wasn't nearly as great as the Summer of 2009 that gave us The Hangover, Up, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Star Trek. The summer was much less hyped and that's kinda appreciated. Early in the summer I enjoyed but was underwhelmed by Iron Man 2.

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