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MISSISSIPPI GRIND Review – ****

"Machu Picchu." (Source)

“Machu Picchu.” (Source)

For the first time in a while, I sit down to write a review without knowing what rating I’ll give the film in question. Mississippi Grind, in evoking the low-key, ambiguous character pieces of the 70s, could end up at any one of several places along my critical spectrum. Of course, it could be argued I get a little too tied up in those five stars and 100 points, but I’ve been applying them to films for years now, and it’s not like Mississippi Grind is the kind of game-changing film to break the pattern. (If anything, the film which has most defied my scale has been Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas.)

One might say it’s an unshowy film about showiness. Or a con film without a con. It’s the kind of film which had me waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it rarely does in quite the way I expected. I don’t think it quite packs that extra punch to make it a great film, but it is without doubt a good one.

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PAWN SACRIFICE Review – ***½

Although the general rule that a film pushed from a prime release date to a terrible one will itself likely be terrible does not entirely apply to Pawn Sacrifice, the fact remains that it premiered at Toronto last year and seemed headed for an awards-season release. The reviews weren’t quite there, it was picked up by a lesser-known distributor (Bleecker Street, who might be making a play for awards attention later this year–but never mind), and now it bows in September, one of the slowest movie months.

And while it isn’t terrible, it falls rather short of the mark, with much of the blame falling on the hazily focused script and the uneven, often TV-level direction. And while Tobey Maguire does do a solid job as chess phenom Bobby Fischer, it’s the supporting cast who steal the film from him.

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