Ice Castles (2010)

1978’s “Ice Castles” was a minor hit, but it struck a particular chord with teenage audiences, who ate up the treacly figure skating melodrama. The picture is a distant memory now, which leaves a sizable opportunity for a remake; something soft and sentimental to appeal to a whole new generation of young romantics. Stripped of its apple-cheeked Midwestern identity, grainy cinematography, and amusing histrionics, “Ice Castles” doesn’t make much of an impression the second time around. Forgoing nostalgia to play shamelessly to the Radio Disney generation, the upgrade is a gawky misfire, criminally monotonous from start to finish.

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Rating: D+

The Boys Are Back

“The Boys Are Back” had every possible invitation to fully submerge itself in the comforting folds of teeth-grinding melodrama. A story of parental misconduct, the picture is swarming with opportunities for grandstanding performances, domestic tragedy, and teary acts of forgiveness. Thank heavens for writer Allan Cubitt and director Scott Hicks, for they attack the material with an aim toward emotional realism, for better and for worse. A convincing drama helped along by a refreshingly vulnerable turn from star Clive Owen, “The Boys Are Back” shows unexpected resolve to approach the central conflict with sincerity, and that small effort takes something with the potential for dispiriting routine and makes it a truly responsive motion picture.

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Rating: B


Director Jonathan Mostow has never offended me as a filmgoer. His pictures have been routinely well-constructed and visually interesting (“Terminator 3,” “U-571,” “Breakdown”), even in the face of underwhelming plots and misguided performances. “Surrogates” is undoubtedly a misfire for the filmmaker, but it’s an interesting failure, peppered with a few memorable sequences and an appropriate, timely message highlighting the acceleration of social disconnect. While ambitious, the rhythm is off on this limping picture, with hints of severe studio interference derailing the movie from the moment it starts.

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Rating: C

Cinematic Titanic Live – East Meets Watts

Cinematic Titanic took off the majority of the 2009 DVD release year to do something few riffing outfits do: tour across America. While a joyous occasion, the cities the group visited were limited, keeping to only a few hotspots, while the rest of us unlucky souls were left in a comedy phantom zone, without any new product to satisfy the insatiable Cinematic Titanic urge. Well, the wait is finally over, with our riff heroes blazing back to ravenous DVD players with their most harmonious project yet, “East Meets Watts,” which not only serves as their long-awaited new release, but also as a document of the live Cinematic Titanic event a majority of admirers haven’t had the opportunity to devour.

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Rating: A


I’m sure there will be much hullabaloo accompanying the release of Mike Judge’s “Extract,” as the film is a return to the workplace blues genre that made Judge a cult hero with the 1999 picture, “Office Space.” The comparison needlessly reduces “Extract” to an afterthought when it’s actually a sturdy, uproarious comedy that solidifies Judge’s voice as a relaxed filmmaker with impeccable timing and a valuable interest in blending the absurd with the awkwardly real.

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Rating: A-