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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 18.49%
Average: 5.88%
Pretty Bad: 2.1%
Total Crap: 5.04%

10 reviews, 178 user ratings

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Dark Knight, The
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by Erik Childress

"All These Words Can't Do Justice To Nolan's Brilliance"
5 stars

When a movie gets things so right, the least a writer can do is to take them time and find the exact words that it deserves. While hyperbolic phrases and fanboy adjectives swim around in my head, they are somewhat cheap and childish compared to what a rich and mature piece of work that The Dark Knight is. Yes, the word mature has been applied to a comic book translation. No less to a character that has endured the campiness of a Ď60s TV show, Tim Burtonís Prince soundtrack and Joel Schumacherís emasculating reimagination. Christopher Nolan brought him into the 21st century and took so much care in setting up Batman Begins that it immediately became the best comic book film ever made. For its inevitable sequel it would have been so easy, now having reinvigorated Batman fanatics and hooking a few uninitiated, to take the standard studio approach to bigger, faster, louder. Throw money at the venture and let the filmmakers run wild until it acted and sounded like every other big budget summer tentpole. Along with his screenwriting partner brother, Jonathan, Christopher Nolan has gone beyond every call of duty including the unwritten rule that sequels cannot possibly measure up to the original. You will notice that those which are almost universally accepted as accomplishing that feat are also considered some of the finest films ever made (i.e. The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back). The Dark Knight rises to that ranking as the most brilliantly complex, perfectly paced, nerve-jangling, moral-wrangling film ever based on a graphically detailed literary work and, dare I say, one of the most important American films to be made in years.

For those remembering the tease at the end of Nolanís first chapter, a criminal known as The Joker (Heath Ledger) has been robbing banks across Gotham. We are witness first hand to one in the opening scene led by the mysterious sociopath colored with green hair and white makeup. Meanwhile, the Batman phenomenon has really taken hold around the city. Before he can even answer the bat signal, crude amateurs arrive on the scene in homemade outfits and awkwardly try to thwart the criminals. It may seem like precisely the kind of inspiration that Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) was hoping for with his little gambit but their sloppiness is liable to eventually produce greater harm than good. Those scars and late nights are catching up to him though and it would be nice to have a little more reliable help.

Bruce isnít sure what to make yet of District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), especially since heís dating his childhood friend, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, taking over for Katie Holmes). Heís out there making speeches and doing his best to put away mob boss Sal Maroni (Eric Roberts) but is he just another politician or a true-to-life do-gooder that can operate within the law instead of outside it? Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) isnít about to introduce his avenging wild card to the establishment but Dent and Wayne/Batman find each other on their own and recognize the otherís importance to stopping crime for good in Gotham. The Joker isnít interested in stability though. Once a detriment to the mobís cash stash, he is also joining forces to produce a reign of terror and restore his own twisted sense of balance back to the big city.

When history looks back upon the great villains of the cinema, it would be shortsighted and downright foolish not to include Ledgerís Joker in the discussion. And note I said Ledgerís Joker because this is more than just a full embodiment of even the most nightmarish view of the character. Every affectation, lizard-like tongue slurp, dialect octave and devil-eyed clarity that hypnotizes us into believing every word heís uttering turns the take of the character from Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson into a literal interpretation of his name. Ledgerís turn is no joke. His ďwar paintĒ isnít just for show. He is death incarnate; a terrorist of the first order that nothing on the color chart could warn us about, committing crimes in the light of day, escaping under cover of night and a large piece of The Dark Knightís master puzzle of moral contempt.

Ledger certainly doesnít ignore the flamboyance of the Jokerís twisted mental state. (Youíll never look at a disappearing trick the same way again.) But even as heís sliding down a mountain of cash, we are brought up to speed on the modernization of the character. The gangster archetype of old in it for the money now being replaced with the ďburn, baby, burnĒ psyche who would rather introduce fear into the world and watch it implode. While many accept the chemical bath method as the most common theory of the Jokerís creation (from the comics or Burtonís 1989 film), the Nolans have done something very clever. Not just by throwing us into an already established villain (and not wasting a minute on a visual origin), but making him a mystery to even himself. Decades of comic issues have developed varying stories for the Jokerís existence and past speculation by his accomplices in the opening scene, Ledger spins one horrific tale after another feeding into his own legend but also the more terrifying prospect that evil has no definitive explanation.

Whatever he may or may not have done to himself, to go out on a performance of this magnitude will only feed into the tragedy of Ledgerís passing, especially when he IS nominated for supporting actor. Itís unfair to disspirit the chances of all the unseen performances of 2008, but whatever may be in store for us during the final five months, The Dark Knight still should be nominated for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Makeup, Cinematography, Editing and Sound. Just to name a few. Itís also off the mark to spend multiple paragraphs on Ledgerís Joker when The Dark Knight is a true ensemble piece with even minor characters like Morgan Freemanís Lucius Fox, Michael Caine's Alfred and Gary Oldmanís welcomely elevated Lt. Gordon receiving major moments that define them.

Without clocking each actorís screen time, it would not surprise one if you were told that Bale, Ledger and Eckhart were within seconds of each other. As Batman Begins dealt primarily in beginnings, Baleís Bruce Wayne/Batman was a necessary dominance. The Dark Knight delves deeper into duality; another chunk of the giant puzzle. Batman on one side. The Joker on the other. Harvey Dent in-between; a split that obviously achieves an further allegorical slant towards the end. And still, Dent is no black-and-white figure. Making it clear early on that he sees Batman as a necessary evil, Dent cannot help but be fueled by the same anger when he feels unable to protect the citizens or even himself by those who donít prescribe to rules and codes. His lucky coin of chance allows him to ignore the tough choices and leave it to the higher power of fate, which has a not-so-funny way of deciding who lives and who dies. Since seeing the film, Iíve already been asked twice by colleagues why we should care about Harvey Dent. Itís very simple. Because Bruce Wayne cares about him and what he represents. Hope. Promise. A Better Life. Weíre already keyed into Bruce from the first film and instinctually we care about his interests and relationships, which are slowly being torn apart since his newly minted nightlife. First his house, the Wayne legacy and everything in-between. The Dark Knight is the tragedy of Harvey Dent for certain, but it is foremost a tragedy of us all.

With an election forthcoming this November, no matter what side youíre on we can all agree that the prevailing factor in one candidateís popularity is our belief in what he represents Ė Hope. Promise. Change. We want to believe. We want to care. We are Bruce Wayne wanting to protect him and will share the devastation if he turns out to be just another politician. Gotham is our world, the grungy half-empty glass where the Arkham inmates are running the asylum. (Even the privacy vs. safety debate surfaces during a key moment.) At least it was until Batman began making a difference, so it makes sense for Nolan & Co. to drop the pretense of Gotham being otherworldly and making the city look a whole lot like Chicago. (We are, after all, the much cleaner New York.) We all, also, have a little vigilante in us. Could just be through words or an errant thought on some unspeakable crime we hear on the nightly news. The Dark Knight finites the concept though (to far more lasting effect than Neil Jordanís pretentious The Brave One last year) and has its villain do what another Gotham-esque hero preached and thatís (paraphrasing) ďtaking the battle to us.Ē How will the public react when presented with the choice. Will we Ė could we Ė kill? Or would we BE killed? Boasting a lionís share of solid action set pieces (and drink-clutching moments of suspense), Nolan has avoided making everything that Batman does as ďcool.Ē Sure he can handle a motorbike as well as any circus performer and overend a semi like nobodyís business, but we also see the scars, the consequences and the outrage of his actions.

The only film that even comes close this year to matching the power of this experience is WALL-E. But if that masterwork spoke to the child within me then The Dark Knight assuredly spoke to the adult. Blowing out of the water the elevated perception that fans have about the Spider-Man series (which went from good to outstanding to outright bad), Nolan is only two chapters in and heís already not just given us the greatest comic book series ever (with the two best films), he is only wetting our appetites for a finale to this presumed trilogy. Unlike Superman II and Spider-Man 2 (the now #3 and #4 of the cinema comics), the Nolans leave a lot of room for an even greater psychological mindscrew about our own roles as masters of our society. The Dark Knight is bursting with so many ideas, so much tragedy, so much brilliance that its tempting to suggest that the filmmakers have thrown everything into it the way Spidey or Kal-El did in their second outings. As illustrated, tempting fate is never a good idea, but Iíd be willing to stake everything that by the time Christopher Nolan, his brother Jonathan and all the cast members deliver the final chapter, we will be looking at the definitive comic book series that is likely to endure for centuries. As long as we allow our Gotham to endure.

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originally posted: 07/17/08 14:00:00
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell AWESOME GRITTY EXCITING 5 stars
2/21/17 Dave One of the better superhero films out there, but I am not a huge fan of Nolan's direction 4 stars
4/27/16 Ken Amazing film. Heath Ledger was a great Joker, even though Jack Nicholson was great, too. 5 stars
3/14/16 Charles Tatum One of those films where everything absolutely works 5 stars
9/11/15 misterfilms my top 3 films of 00s: LOTR, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, THE NEW WORLD 3 stars
5/03/15 Cooler One of the greatest movies ever made 5 stars
3/02/15 mira storm all nolan's film is shit 1 stars
2/17/15 roxelena it waste my time and my money when i watched this film in theatre 2 stars
2/15/15 enicmatic al is this gay movie? YES 1 stars
2/14/15 jason gracio this movie are GAY! 2 stars
2/08/15 russel fuck you fanboy this is the most SHITTIEST MOVIE EVER MADE!!!!! 1 stars
1/08/15 vendoza overrated piece of shit in cinematic history 1 stars
1/06/15 brando i hate this crap! 1 stars
1/05/15 crovie i didn't like this movie 1 stars
6/18/14 Haley S. This was such a great movie. It's one of my favorites! 5 stars
3/24/14 Justin R. Mesmerizing! 5 stars
1/14/13 austin one of the best movies of the century 5 stars
10/11/12 austin wonderful 5 stars
9/19/12 Gabrielle Barnard The Best Superhero Movie. Dark, dramatic, intriguing, riveting...I could go on all day. 5 stars
9/07/12 austin fantastic 5 stars
8/29/12 Alex Figueroa Epic! 5 stars
8/09/12 Kcaj fuck yeah 5 stars
7/27/12 Amanda Smith Captured my attention. 5 stars
7/25/12 the truth yes 5 stars
6/20/12 Jordan Kentris Holy cow, this movie blew me away. Heath Ledgers performance was amazing. 5 stars
12/22/11 Isaac Simply the best comic book film ever made; it works on every level. 5 stars
12/15/11 cr Even if christian bale is not my fav batman, this movie and heath ledger perf. were soild. 3 stars
10/19/11 Magic An apocalyptic movie, Wagnerian in scope. The escalation in nihilism is exhilarating. 5 stars
5/26/11 Glenn Laurence Hardy Junior this movie is great. no question or doubt in my mind. friend me on facebook!mypic. is sonic 5 stars
4/27/11 the rock one of the best action crime films around 5 stars
3/10/11 bored mom The DC Comics equivalent of Chinatown? In the end, there is only madness and death. 5 stars
12/01/10 Barbara Leaf I cried every time I saw Heath Ledger, r.i.p.,but he was the best thing in the fillm 3 stars
2/06/10 Jessica Pretty long, Ledger was absolutely amazing though! 4 stars
1/24/10 MP Bartley Ledger is quite terrific. I'm not convinced the rest of the film is as good as he. 4 stars
1/20/10 Stanley Thai One of the best movies of 2008 and easily the best in the entire mythology. 5 stars
1/11/10 David Overlong and overblown. Not impressed with Bale, Ekhart or Gyllenhaal. 2 stars
7/03/09 Jonathan Birch Very Overrated. Boring, pales in comparison to other crime films it tries to imitate 3 stars
6/29/09 budo Poor performance by Ledger? He won by the greatest margin in Academy Award history. He was 5 stars
6/15/09 R Lan Simply the best of the Batman movies. A perfect marriage of a great script and great action 5 stars
6/09/09 freak awesome 5 stars
4/29/09 Dr.Lao One of the few things in this world that actually lives up to the hype 5 stars
4/10/09 Raul Valdez Jr POSSIBLY THE BEST MOVIE OF 2009 5 stars
4/09/09 Chris F such a poor performance by heath ledger not a patch on jack nicholson 1 stars
3/28/09 Dani O. Epic win. 5 stars
3/17/09 austin wertman best superhero movie ever 5 stars
2/24/09 man best superhero movie ever 5 stars
2/11/09 Stewart Sadistically violent with no moral purpose. Boring convoluted story and bad action scenes. 1 stars
2/03/09 Piz great adaptation of the comic book, but felt a little too rushed in the end. 4 stars
2/01/09 lo& Kinda overrated.I must be the only person alive that thinks 'Begins' was better than this. 4 stars
1/15/09 dude best movie of the year 5 stars
1/04/09 Lucy whoever gives this film a bad rating is crazy. 5 stars
1/03/09 FrankNFurter Gritty, chilling thriller--probably the first superhero Academy Award contender! 5 stars
12/30/08 Flounder This is a dark, morally complex crime drama - and one of the best I have ever seen at that 5 stars
12/29/08 the dork knight my only complaint is my mom didn't like it. :P 5 stars
12/19/08 Craig D. It's not The Godfather. It's not even the best movie of 2008. Get a hold of yourselves. 4 stars
12/11/08 Richard Remington Adam West is and always will be the best Batman,the rest are all clowns! 1 stars
12/11/08 K. Sear Surprisingly complex. 4 stars
12/11/08 Hope people are going far in saying "the best movie ever"but it is great and i saw it 2x =] 5 stars
12/06/08 Jared Robb Very epic film, casting was perfect. Excellent acting all around. 5 stars
12/01/08 killer feels epic this film 5 stars
11/27/08 little Red best movie ever. Heath Ledger was perfect as the joker. to bad hes dead 5 stars
11/26/08 Leo T very dark, but never lost the Batman 'feel'.... awesome 5 stars
11/20/08 Joker Fan one of the best films ever created 5 stars
11/16/08 killer one of the best crime films ever 5 stars
11/16/08 Meep Has it's moments certainly, and better than Begins, but still just ok 3 stars
11/12/08 Michael M Not perfect, but indeed a great film. And like all Nolan films, has an incredible ending. 4 stars
11/01/08 ldavies Could have used some editing. Ledger and Bale were fantastic. 4 stars
10/20/08 heath electrifyimg 5 stars
10/18/08 AshleyRockO The Best Superhero movie ever made. Period. The acting from everyone is impeccable. 5 stars
10/14/08 The Dork Knight A bit too much speechifying by the villains but otherwise good 4 stars
10/10/08 man best superhero movie ever 5 stars
10/10/08 dude best superhero movie ever 5 stars
10/06/08 jokera mindblowing 5 stars
10/01/08 Danny BEST...MOVIE...EVER!!! 5 stars
9/27/08 Ken It's not a great movie if at least one person in the world didn't like it 3 stars
9/17/08 joker face mindblowing cinema 5 stars
9/16/08 Brad The Joker is the best villian in the DC universe and Heath Ledger nailed the role 5 stars
9/16/08 Carla A. Amazing film, brilliant performances, intelligent script. What more could you ask for? 5 stars
9/15/08 g. AWESOME 5 stars
9/12/08 Joker's Younger Brother incredible movie....The Joker is the best villian EVER....!!! 5 stars
9/10/08 dark knight ledger is the new hannibal lecter 5 stars
9/06/08 Halad65 Amazing film. 5 stars
8/31/08 another one fucking kicks ass 5 stars
8/31/08 AnnieG Better than ĎBeginsí, although it could have ended much sooner. 4 stars
8/27/08 Quigley Amazing, brilliant, well-acted/directed, this film is unforgettable. Ledger was incredible 5 stars
8/23/08 pantera best film ever 5 stars
8/22/08 black_queen_marches Ledger's performance was the best i've ever seen, awesome movie, ending was anticlimatic 5 stars
8/22/08 Jen Minor flaws aside, the most earnest, thought-provoking and satiating movie in years. 5 stars
8/21/08 Christ An ok movie, but certainly not great. 3 stars
8/18/08 jonathantstorm mindblowing cinema 5 stars
8/17/08 Ricky This film honestly blew me away. The ending gave me chills. Top notch in every respect 5 stars
8/15/08 Allan Jackson not the great film that I had expected to see, but satisfactory. Michael Caine was good and 3 stars
8/15/08 Melissa Ledger was wonderful. If you get the opportunity you should see it at IMAX! 4 stars
8/15/08 Alice Heath Ledger was very very good as the psycho Joker.He is the reason I give 4 stars. 4 stars
8/14/08 jessica speechless! cristian bale and heath ledger were great! 5 stars
8/13/08 snakeeyes awesome 5 stars
8/12/08 RB The best of the Batman movies. Ledger, Oldman and Eckhart carry the movie though 4 stars
8/11/08 M Took it self a bit too seriously, but nonethe less great. Heath was perfect! 4 stars
8/09/08 JW Heavyhanded, confused storytelling. Good performances. Good explosions. 3 stars
8/09/08 Bnorm Freaking amazing. with out a doubt the best superhero movie ever made 5 stars
8/08/08 Tiffany Losco LOved it!! Heath was crazy lookin though. But he is a great actor. 5 stars
8/07/08 Ameisha It was long...but worth it! 4 stars
8/06/08 Paul Sweet, sweet brilliance. 5 stars
8/06/08 E K Zimmerman Am I the only one who loathed this garbage flick? 1 stars
8/05/08 Zim my favorite super hero movie 5 stars
8/03/08 Mark Glazer The Joker was the scariest ever. Great movie!!! 5 stars
8/03/08 J Smaltz Boreing, fell asleep somewhere in the final hour, never did see Ledger die or what ever 1 stars
8/02/08 R.W. Welch Chaotic actioner is carried by Ledger's inspired Joker characterization. B+ 4 stars
7/30/08 johnnybgoode Ledger was great. This film overall was well-done but a bit over-rated. 4 stars
7/30/08 zenny top-10 action movie, all-time 5 stars
7/28/08 austin wertman best superhero movie ever 5 stars
7/27/08 Samantha Pruitt too long, dragged a bit, the only good part was the Joker. 3 stars
7/27/08 Roland same old bat...boring..exept for heath ledger who actually carrys anoter ways tired pot 2 stars
7/27/08 christy this movie is thoughtful and incredible. best in '08. 5 stars
7/26/08 Ry Great film with a message! 5 stars
7/25/08 erick definitely, the best superheroes movie ever. heath ledger deserves the oscar. 5 stars
7/23/08 Albert Darmawan L Fantastic&Superior.The best Batman movie i`ve ever seen. 5 stars
7/23/08 Roy Smith This should be 6 Stars ------------> 5 stars
7/23/08 mr.mike First half rocked , 2nd half fell off 4 stars
7/23/08 The Talking Elbow TDK WAS flawed. Tried to fit too much into one film. Choppy editing. This made it boring. 4 stars
7/22/08 COUSINSEXx TDK is not your tweeny superhero flik but an epic crime saga in the realm of The Godfather2 5 stars
7/22/08 mike Ledger was freakin awesome. One of the best villains ever 5 stars
7/22/08 Luisa Heath Ledger is very disturbing, what a great performance. Movie is good but ran too long! 4 stars
7/22/08 Koitus Just - "wow." BUT - I checked the rating as I left; totally a border-line "R", IMHO. 5 stars
7/22/08 Heat1996 Good story, okay script, excellent acting, really good cinematography...Ledger, genius. 4 stars
7/21/08 ES It was good, but something was missing, i just didn't get absorbed into the story 4 stars
7/21/08 orpy Am I the only one who was bored, bored, bored? 3 stars
7/21/08 Simon Wow. What a loaded film, so many thoughts and themes to ponder.. THIS is why we love movies 5 stars
7/21/08 I Luv Heath Heath Ledger was so good in this movie, I couldent ask for a better joker than him 5 stars
7/21/08 Jiz Bale continues his ridiculous scowl, Eckhart hams it up, and Ledger/Nolan own the movie. 4 stars
7/21/08 Adi Wonderful! I loved it, every moment of it. Will probably go watch it agian in IMAX!!! 5 stars
7/21/08 Toni Awesome, best movie of the year by far. 5 stars
7/21/08 carlos G I wish 2face was held off til next film, but NO JOKE, give Ledger and Nolan their Oscars! 5 stars
7/21/08 james Aaron Eckhart steals the show 5 stars
7/21/08 Diana Kee Awesome movie. Far exceeded my expectations!!! 5 stars
7/21/08 Jonathan This is a deep great philosophical and action pact movie, you keep your eyes off of it! 5 stars
7/21/08 Ryan W Ledger lived up to the hype 5 stars
7/21/08 Adrian Want to see a magic trick? 5 stars
7/21/08 Pete K I agree; Batman and robin was more my cup of tea over this muddled in your face overly long 2 stars
7/21/08 Dan While Ledger's Joker was great, the rest was mediocre. Batman/ Wayne wasn't written well. 3 stars
7/20/08 Tripp Speechless. Beyond anything I expected..god help us all. 5 stars
7/20/08 Dave Yep...This is going in my top 10...ever! 5 stars
7/20/08 D Somehow exceeds the hype....simply put an incredible film 5 stars
7/20/08 Paul Levinson eons beyond any prior Batman ... 5 stars
7/20/08 Obi Wan Absolutely amazing...Best SuperHero movie EVER! Joker/Ledger best Villian EVER!! 5 stars
7/20/08 jm I think ledgers performance is overrated. Sad but great ending. Batpod intro was brilliant. 5 stars
7/20/08 Phil B Truly Epic 5 stars
7/20/08 paulette This was a beautiful, well-acted, dark, intense film for 110 min, then long & gratuitous. 3 stars
7/20/08 Moose This is possibly one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. Heath was incredible. 5 stars
7/20/08 Darkstar I'm fucking speechless. 5 stars
7/20/08 Dimu Brilliant...just bloody Brilliant!!! 5 stars
7/20/08 Drew Simply Amazing 5 stars
7/20/08 Michael S T Simply amazing.. Actually the movie shies away from CGI in the action-heavy scenes. 5 stars
7/20/08 kimryan an amazing, scary, great story. You glory in Heath's performance and mourn at the same time 5 stars
7/20/08 twilightbringer Brilliant and brutal, The Dark Knight is now the defining event of our cinematic era. 5 stars
7/20/08 Gazza Jack Nicholson STILL personifies The Joker, ledger more hannibal lecter. 3 stars
7/19/08 Eugene True to it's comic book roots, excellent film. 5 stars
7/19/08 TyrantisTerror The polar opposite of Batman and Robin. A defining movie of our generation. 5 stars
7/19/08 Dab Great friggin movie. 5 stars
7/19/08 joker steals the show.very good but too damn long. damalc 4 stars
7/19/08 bullit16 Went in thinking, "it can't possibly be as amazing as the reviews say." I was dead wrong 5 stars
7/19/08 TheClown Ledger is vastly overated. Any hack with that makeup would have made a great joker! RIP 4 stars
7/19/08 Stacy It was just perfect. 5 stars
7/19/08 long johnson liked batman and robin better 1 stars
7/19/08 David V Believe the hype, this is absolutley a fantastic movie. 5 stars
7/19/08 larkin Good Lord 5 stars
7/19/08 Gary Simply Outstanding! Ledger is The Joker. 5 stars
7/19/08 KieranDraven Considering other countries hate us but want to live here, the movie was great! 5 stars
7/19/08 Matt Craven It can not be said enough - Ledger was one of the best villains in history. 5 stars
7/19/08 Flounder Saw it in IMAX last night. I was BLOWN away. One of the best films I have seen 5 stars
7/19/08 Shaun Wallner The Joker looks pretty wild in this film. 5 stars
7/19/08 Guy Smiley Considering Americans have the attention span of a peanut, I'm not surprised by the review. 5 stars
7/18/08 ben dover the best comic book film ever and yet so much more 5 stars
7/18/08 BrianWilly I cannot believe how good this movies was. 5 stars
7/18/08 tmcmistress Absolutely fantastic. 5 stars
7/18/08 alex r. not just a great comicbook movie--it is a great movie! 5 stars
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  18-Jul-2008 (PG-13)



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