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Long time no post! I know it’s been a while.

I stopped blogging when I started writing reviews for a new website (, but my posts over there are limited to about one a week. I still have a lot of reviews that weren’t posted, and my top ten list remains a notebook scribbbling.

I may not write as often as I used to–college is being particularly soul-sucking now as I wallow in the middle of my junior year–but I will be posting what I can’t put on the other website. [I’d put all my writings on my blog, but I don’t get paid for this.]

Indeed, this has been a year of disappointments in movies (“WALL-E,” “The Dark Knight,” “Doubt,” “Revolutionary Road”) along with some surprises (see list below). I haven’t seen nearly all the films that were released this year, including some highly-praised movies that played at Toronto and Cannes but haven’t been released in New Orleans yet (“Che,” “Waltz with Bashir,” “Gomorrah,” etc.) I still managed to come up with a decent list of films for those behind in their movie-watching to check out. Some are still playing in theaters while others are now—or will soon be—on DVD.

Since no one can safely fit all the notable movies of the year in a list of ten, honorable mentions are essential additions to every top-ten list. My few for this year:

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Cowards Bend the Knee (2004) - Im not even going to try to explain the plot.

"Cowards Bend the Knee" (2004) - I'm not even going to try to explain the plot.

Style is a wonderful thing, especially when you come across one that you can recognize as belonging to a particular director. What are movies by Federico Fellini, Preston Sturges, or Stanley Kubrick without the trademark styles of their directors?

But some directors, even the best, can go overboard with and depend too much on their style (think Tim Burton’s lesser films). Maybe I take Guy Maddin way too seriously, but “Cowards Bend the Knee” is nothing more than an overly silly exercise in style.

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penelope poster

"Penelope" (2008) - A modern-day fairy tale about a girl with a pig snout looking for love.

“Penelope” arrives on DVD Tuesday.

I’m a fan of magical realism, but I have a problem with the concept of a “modern-day fairy tale.” I believe the idea can be executed well, but the magical elements must be handled realistically. “Penelope,” the most recent example of the modern-day fairy tale, doesn’t work because the filmmakers don’t realize that even suspension of disbelief has its boundaries.

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"CJ7" (2008) - The lives of a poor father and his son in China improve when the father discovers a mysterious creature at a junkyard.

“CJ7” arrives on DVD August 12.

For entertainment value alone, I haven’t seen a better movie this year than “CJ7,” the new film from director/actor/co-writer Stephen Chow (“Shaolin Soccer,” “Kung Fu Hustle”). The movie isn’t some kind of revelation, though: one subplot could have been handled better, and from a technical level, the movie isn’t phenomenonal. But like the character of the father who finds shoes in the dumpster and improves them, Chow takes bits and pieces from different genres and styles to make what is, on the whole, a wonderful piece of work.

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“Meet the Browns,” the latest adaptation of a Tyler Perry play, arrives on DVD Tuesday.

"Meet the Browns" (2008) - A woman finds out her estranged father has passed away, and she goes to the funeral to meet the family that she never knew she had.

I live in New Orleans and work at a locally-owned video store, so I have a maximum exposure to Tyler Perry and his target audience. He hails from the Big Easy, and a large following has been growing ever since his plays started debuting at the Saenger Theater in downtown New Orleans. Now that he has been turning his plays (“Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Why Did I Get Married?” and now “Meet the Browns”) into films (popular at both the theater and video stores), Perry has been gaining national exposure and acclaim all across the country.

And I’ve just been dying to figure out this Perry phenomenon that swept New Orleans a long time ago and is working its way through America right now.

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