Rachel Kolb

Staff Writer

I love movies, writing, and breaking into song in public. You can follow me on Twitter @rachelekolb or check out more of my work at http://rachelekolb.wordpress.com.

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A Sure "Hand" Guides This Thriller Review

Claire Bartel (Annabelle Sciorra) is a happily married mother with another child on the way, but her life is changed when she is sexually assaulted during a routine pregnancy check-up with a new doctor. When she publicly accuses the doctor of sexual assault, he kills himself leaving behind a pregnant widow (Rebecca De Mornay). Traumatized by his death, she suffers a miscarriage, and to make matters worse, her husband's assets have been frozen. Vowing revenge, she takes on a new name Peyton Flanders, and when the Bartels post an ad in the paper for a nanny, she applies for the job. Claire, her husband Michael (Matt McCoy), and her daughter Emma (Madeline Zima) warm up to Peyton immediately, but Claire's best friend Marlene (Julianne Moore) and their handyman Solomon (Ernie Hudson) are less convinced by Peyton's act. When her story starts to unravel, Peyton's plan to steal Claire's husband and children is revealed, and she is ready to take out anyone that will stand in her way.

Oct
17
2012
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"The Good Wife" Only Gets Better and Offers Fans a Massive Payoff in its Third Season Review

In season 1 of The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) was a Highland Park socialite and wife of the district attorney, and her life was shattered by her husband Peter's very public affair. She is thrown head-first from a life of privilege into single-handedly supporting her family. Her law degree, which has been gathering dust for years, is now Alicia's only way of keeping a roof over her kids' heads. Season 1 was about survival, nothing more and nothing less. Luckily, Alicia is smart and finds an ally in Kalinda (Archie Panjabi), her firm's private investigator who teaches her the value of self-preservation. Season 2 is about Alicia moving past mere survival and testing the waters with both Peter (Chris Noth) and her long-time friend and boss Will (Josh Charles). Does she want her family and life with Peter back, or does she want to find a place in her life for Will?

Sep
28
2012
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"My Sucky Teen Romance" Offers Therapeutic Geeky Fluff with Its Bite Review

It is the weekend of SpaceCON, and Kate (Elaine Hurt) is enjoying her last weekend with her high school friends before she heads off to college. However, there are a few problems standing in the way of Kate having the best weekend ever. First, she has never had a boyfriend and never been kissed. Second, she has been inadvertently bitten by a newly turned vampire Paul (Patrick Delgado), and her thirst for blood is growing stronger with every minute. Worst of all, a vampire who is a dead ringer for Edward from the Twilight series is using the book's popularity to lure more teen girl prey. The only good news is that they are at SpaceCON, and the world's foremost expert in vampires is hosting a panel. Will Kate ever be human again? Is Paul forever doomed to be a vampire? Why do teenagers think that soulless blood-suckers are sexy? All these questions and more are answered in My Sucky Teen Romance!

Sep
24
2012
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"Wallflower" Brings the Perks and Angst of Teenage Years to Life Review

During the summer before my senior year, I was getting over a particularly nasty break-up. I know looking back on that time that I was all angst and must have been really annoying to be around, which is why I appreciate what my friends did for me. Whenever I started moping, we would all pile into the car, and they would take me for a long drive. One of my friends had a knack for making the best mixed CDs, and he would turn up the music so loud that I could sing along at the top of my lungs and not feel self-conscious. We would sit in the cold grass under the night sky and talk for hours until I knew that everything would be alright. They understood me and accepted me when I was happy and pleasant to be around, and on my really bad days, their only concern was bringing me back.

Sep
21
2012
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Better Stick With Ryder and Bale's "Little Women" Review

Little Women is a collection of stories about the March family women and how they live, love, and survive during the Civil War. Marmee (Dorothy McGuire) is the kind but firm matriarch who is left to raise her daughters Meg (Meredith Baxter), Jo (Susan Dey), Beth (Eve Plumb), and Amy (Ann Dusenberry) when her husband Jon leaves home to serve as a military chaplain. Meg has reached the age where she very aware of her family's poverty, and she wants to keep up in fashion with her wealthier friends. Jo is completely unconcerned with fashion or marriage. Her dream is to become a famous adventure writer with stories full of suspense, intrigue, and plenty of sword fights. Beth has medical conditions that keep her close to home, but she loves to play her family's old piano. Amy (Ann Dusenberry) is an aspiring artist, but as the youngest of the sisters, she worries constantly about being left out of her older sisters' fun. The movie follows the March girls from childhood to the teen years and their transformation into “little women.”

Sep
17
2012
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Everyone Should Check-In to "Childrens Hospital" for its Third Season Review

More accessible than Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, riskier than Family Guy and only slightly more linear than Robot Chicken, Childrens Hospital is a comedy gem in the Adult Swim line-up. Underneath its juvenile humor and wholly idiotic characters is a smart satire of TV medical dramas from M*A*S*H to ER and Grey's Anatomy. The third season pokes fun at the “secret romance” storyline, flashback episodes, Our Town, and on-set cast feuds, and while the humor might be off-kilter, the show never goes too far off the rails.

Aug
30
2012
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"Transformers Prime" Becomes Something Overly Complicated and Clunky Review

Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand is a series of seven episodes from the Transformers Prime animated TV show that have been compiled into a feature-length film. Optimis Prime (Peter Cullen) has to team up with his fellow Autobots Arcee (Sumalee Montano), Ratchet (Jeffrey Combs), Bulkhead (Kevin Michael Richardson), and Bumblebee along with some new human friends Jack (Josh Keaton), Miko (Tania Gunadi), and Raf (Andy Pessoa) to defeat the Autobot's arch nemesis Megatron (Frank Welker) and a new villain Unicron (John Noble). Along the way, there are new revelations about Optimis Prime and his connection to Megatron, and Jack finds the courage to become a hero fighting alongside the Autobots.

Aug
30
2012
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Jodi Picoult Collection Review

Lifetime Original Movies have earned a reputation for being movies made for women that usually involve a disturbing amount of brutality towards women. Plot-lines often include domestic abuse, rape, and ripped-from-the-headlines crimes. The Jodi Picoult Collection, which includes Salem Falls, Plain Truth, and The Pact, doesn't exactly break from this trend. Salem Falls is about a high school soccer coach falsely accused of raping an underage student. In Plain Truth, a high-power attorney takes on a murder trial of an Amish girl accused of killing her baby. Finally, The Pact follows a teen couple who make a suicide pact and only one of them dies. While the Lifetime Original Movies might have a weirdly addictive quality to them, the Jodi Picoult Collection is empty TV calories at its best and utterly depressing schlock with anti-woman tendencies at its worst.

Aug
15
2012
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Kick Up Your Heels For "Newsies" Review

Back in 1992, Kenny Ortega teamed up with Disney and songwriters Alan Menken and J.A.C. Redford to make an original movie musical about the newsboy strikes of 1899. All the elements were in place for a smash hit. The film starred up-and-comer Christian Bale. Director/choreographer Ortega had already choreographed dance sequences in highly successful projects like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Dirty Dancing, and Pretty in Pink. Menken and Redford were established Disney composers having written some of the studio's most memorable songs of recent years. Yet when Newsies hit theaters, the film performed poorly both critically and financially. It was written off as a misfire with Roger Ebert calling the music forgettable and the story “warmed-over Horatio Alger.” How is it then that 20 years later, this seemingly unexceptional movie has transformed into a cult classic of the 90s with a hit stage adaptation and rabid fan base? What changed in 20 years?

Aug
13
2012
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A Film "Hijacked" By Its Own Stupidity Review

Secret agent Paul Ross (Randy Couture) and his team are tracking a terrorist group “The Tribe.” When Ross' team is wiped out in a raid gone wrong, he inadvertently discovers a lead back to a luxury jet flight and talks his way on-board. Coincidentally, his former fiance Olivia (Tiffany Dupont) is also on-board, and when the plane is hijacked, Ross has to protect Olivia and the rest of the passengers and take the plane back from the terrorists. Strangely enough, I was excited about Hijacked. My expectations were very low, and the back cover description was pure cheesy goodness packed full of terrible airplane puns. “The 'fasten seatbelt signs are off...and one very pissed-off agent is now free to move about the cabin.” Who doesn't want to watch that? Imagine my surprise that Hijacked is really, really boring.

Aug
13
2012
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We Seem to "Recall" the Original Being Fun Review

In recent years, it seems like Hollywood has churned out remake after remake in hopes that a known property will bring in big money. However, film remakes are a double-edged sword. Fans of the original film might show up out of loyalty or curiosity, but the film cannot escape being compared to the original. In the case of Total Recall, I thought I was fortunate because I didn't have the baggage of the original Arnold film, and I could experience the story with fresh eyes. The problem with Total Recall is that even with fresh eyes, I have seen this movie before. Wednesday night, I walked into a movie theater, excited for what I expected to be a big dumb adrenaline rush with some good cheese from Bryan Cranston. Instead I walked out of the theater bleary eyed, not quite sure what had just happened but with a pain in my head and the feeling that I had completely wasted my time.

Aug
03
2012
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You Can't Go "Home" Again Review

Back in 2004, Walt Disney Studios decided to close down their 2D animation studio, and the last film released was the box office and critical dud Home on the Range. This was a heartbreaking moment for so many Disney fans, seeing the studio known for revolutionizing animation to go out on such a mediocre movie. As I sat down to watch Home on the Range in 2012, it was a different experience since I knew there was a “happy ending” ahead for Disney animation. The animation studio is alive and well today, and films like Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh have more than restored its reputation. What struck me most when I watched Home on the Range now was that this movie is a sort of time capsule that holds so many terrible tropes and trends from animated movies of the 2000s.

Aug
02
2012
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"A Necessary Death" Makes Necessary Points About the Desire for Fame Review

A Necessary Death is a faux documentary from writer/director Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism). It follows student filmmaker Gilbert (G.J. Echternkamp) as he produces his senior project, a documentary about suicide. His crew, Valerie (Valerie Hurt) and Michael (Michael Traynor), are less comfortable with it, but they get sucked into the project once they pick the film's subject Matt (Matthew Tilley), a young man with terminal cancer. As they explore Matt's life and document the way he plans to kill himself, Valerie and Michael grow closer to Matt and feel increasingly uneasy about standing by while he kills himself.

Throughout the entire ordeal, Gilbert is an insufferable pseudo-artist who throws around lines about pushing buttons and how art isn't really art if it doesn't upset audiences. In reality, he is blinded by his own ambition to the point where he insists that the suicidal subject of his documentary must kill himself in order to be authentic. One of the most disturbing moments of the movie is when Gilbert sells his documentary to an edgy news producer. He throws a party and invites Matt and Matt's sister Konima (Konima Parkinson-Jones) to celebrate selling the documentary, not realizing how sick and twisted it is.

Jul
21
2012
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PBS's Look Into Buddhism is Only Somewhat Awe-Inspiring Review

PBS's Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World is a sightseeing tour and a “Buddhism for Dummies” overview of a religion that is extremely hard to pin down. The filmmakers get beautiful views of some of Buddhism's most important monuments and places of worship, and host/historian Bettany Hughes gets to sit down with a variety of modern-day practitioners, monks, and other historians to discuss Buddhism's history and what it is today.

I studied Buddhism throughout high school and college, and I was glad I had that background knowledge going into Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World. If I had gone in not knowing anything about Buddhism, I probably would have walked away very confused by the seemingly conflicting ideas and practices. One scene in particular that could have used more explanation or scrutiny was the eager parents bringing their children for a blessing. For being a faith that has tried to separate itself from other organized religions, this scene was familiar to Catholics baptizing their children, especially with the extravagant decorations in these temples. I would have liked to hear from Buddhists how they feel about living a life that strives for less while in a place built with wealth. After all, Siddhartha Gautama lived a life that rejected earthly possession. I wish Hughes would have dug deeper and questioned the disconnect between the Buddhist life of less and the riches present in their places of worship.

Jul
10
2012
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By Playing to His Strengths, Seth MacFarlane Creates the Summer's First Must-See Comedy in "Ted" Review

“To thine own self be true.” Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, is a comedian who has perfected a formula of pop culture non-sequiturs and goofy raunchiness, and people either love him or hate him for it. When MacFarlane announced that he would write, direct, and star in his first big screen venture, critics speculated whether the final product would be a feature-length episode of Family Guy with cutaway flashbacks and epic chicken fights. The verdict? Ted is distinctly MacFarlane's work, and it won't convert anyone who wasn't already a fan of his brand of comedy. For those who worried that Ted would feel like an overstuffed TV episode, though, put those worries to rest. Ted is a solid comedy packed to the brim with quotable one-liners and enough clever moments and heart to make it worth watching a few times.

Jun
29
2012
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Shoddy Action Thriller "Seeking Justice" Only Finds Cliches Review

High school English teacher, Will (Nicholas Cage), and professional cellist, Laura (January Jones), are happily married living in New Orleans. Their world is changed, however, when Laura is brutally attacked and raped. While Laura is in the hospital, Will is approached by Simon (Guy Pearce), a mysterious figure who promises to take care of Laura's attacker. In exchange, Simon will ask a favor from Will at some point in the future. Months later, Will gets a call from Simon, and big surprise, Simon wants a favor. He asks Will to trail a child pornographer and coordinate a convenient “accident.” Unfortunately, Will doesn't have the stomach for Simon's favors and refuses, until Simon threatens to disrupt his perfect life.

Jun
18
2012
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"This Means War" Surrenders to Ridiculousness Almost Immediately Review

When a romantic-comedy gets panned by critics, I get suspicious. Is the movie really that bad, or do these critics just hate romantic-comedy tropes? Usually, their reviews have the exact opposite effect on me, and I end up watching it because I can't believe that it is really that bad. This is why I agreed to watch This Means War. It couldn't be that bad. I love Reese Witherspoon. Chris Pine and Tom Hardy are both talented, charismatic guys. How could it go wrong?

I was so very, very foolish.

Jun
11
2012
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"Snow White and the Huntsman" Hearkens Back to an Earlier Age of Fantasy Adventure Films Review

Snow White and the Huntsman is a visually spectacular adventure hearkening back to the 1980s era of fantasy. With the gorgeous production design and Charlize Theron's performance as the queen, Snow White and the Huntsman has the potential to be a box office smash and the inspiration for many cosplayer costumes. Really, the costumes are amazing. Colleen Atwood, who is probably best known for her Oscar-winning costume design work on every Tim Burton movie ever, created some stunning works for the film including Raveena's raven dress. There is a scene in the film where Raveena is wearing that dress and dragging her mutilated body across her royal chambers, and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind all week.

Jun
01
2012
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The Aggression Scale Review

When I first saw the case for The Aggression Scale on Blu-ray, I assumed that it was either a torture porn reveling in bloody B-movie effects (The Burning Moon) or an obnoxiously pretentious film festival export that follows the B-movie tropes but thinks it is high art (A Horrible Way to Die, The Strangers). The obscure title and the textbook definition of aggression scale on the cover made me expect obnoxiously pretentious, but as it turns out, The Aggression Scale is something completely different. It is a dark, brutal, and completely engrossing thriller that will probably go down as one of my favorite horror movies of the year, right behind Cabin in the Woods.

May
31
2012
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"Haywire" Bucks Traditional Gender Roles While Still Kicking Ass Review

Mallory (Gina Carano) is an operative for hire, one part James Bond and two-parts Jason Bourne. She can put on a gown and fit into a high society dinner while also taking down anyone who gets in her way. When she is betrayed by her former partners, she is forced to go on the run while trying to unravel the mystery as to why she was set up for a fall.

Stylistically, director Steven Soderbergh was clearly going for the look and feel of a 1970s spy flick with the twist that the James Bond role is played by a woman. The soundtrack was cool and understated, the dialogue minimal and clipped, and much of Mallory's past is only hinted at. The Bond girls are now Bond boys with a full line-up of male eye candy. With Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Fassbender, Soderbergh has quite the line-up of talented supporting men who are also easy on the eyes.

May
29
2012
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