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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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Contempt warning

“I adore ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ found ‘Hot Fuzz’ more than a little tedious, but I was still very much looking forward to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost re-teaming … this time for the big sci-fi blockbuster ‘Paul,’ which hits U.S. theatres March 18th. Because the film hits British theatres later this month, reviews are already starting to pour in and now my enthusiasm has cooled some. Really guys? Southerners and Christians? Needless to say, I expected something a little more creative and original than some lazy, cliched Kevin Smith-style of satire with about as much edge as a tuna sandwich.

“Below is a review round-up for what’s looking like a left-wing, atheist polemic disguised as escapist comedy so that Pegg and Frost can get their bigotry on and line us up for a series of sucker-punch cheap shots. Unlike Monty Python, present-day ‘satirists’ are too ignorant and mean-spirited to mock us with the kind of intelligence and affection we can appreciate, so it’s unlikely we’re looking forward to a couple hours of laughing at ourselves here. ‘Paul’ might well be the rare exception, but somehow I doubt it. Either way, it’s always good to know what you’re walking into, what you’re laying down your hard-earned money for. So here’s the heads up.”

John Nolte, writing on “Evangelical Atheism: Simon Pegg’s New Comedy a Bigoted, Left-Wing Attack on Southerners & Christianity?” on Feb. 8 at Big Hollywood

Weirdness warning

Nick Frost (left) and Simon Pegg team up again to star in "Paul," a science fiction satire that falls flat for some movie critics. (Universal Pictures)

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Nick Frost (left) and Simon Pegg team up again to star in ... more >

“‘Mom, can you pass me the phone, please,’ asks a young woman (Mary Tsoni) over dinner. Her mother (Michele Valley) hands her the salt shaker. What on earth is going on in the Greek [film] ‘Dogtooth’? As nearly as we can tell, this: Three kids, all in their early 20s and evidently missing names, never leave a massive, remote estate. There’s a strong possibility they never have. They don’t have jobs or go to school. What little education they receive is from vocab tapes made by their mother, who feeds them false definitions for things they should never know. …

“Feted at Cannes and recently (and justly) nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, ‘Dogtooth’ is already on DVD and Netflix Instant … a masterpiece of unease. … Clinical and darkly funny, ‘Dogtooth’ calmly and approvingly observes as this carefully controlled environment erodes through a holy trilogy of sex, the free market and Hollywood movies. … [T]hrough this extreme example, we’re shown the perils of living with blinders.”

Matt Prigge, writing on “Dogtooth: A Lease on Life,” on Feb. 9 at the Philadelphia Weekly

Hype warning

“For as long as it continues to parade through awards season,collecting enough silverware to compete with the Balmoral tea service, knocking ‘The King’s Speech’ looks pretty much like a mug’s game. … Like Slumdog Millionaire a few years ago, ‘The King’s Speech’ has become this year’s Film I’m Hiding From, which is in no way to say that it’s outright bad.

“But outside the stirring pas de deux [Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush] gracefully move through, the film is on much shakier ground, in its historical context, style and overall level of ambition, than its most ardent fans seem willing to admit. I’ve seen it twice, and neither time was I sold on the ostentatious arsenal of cinematic effects Hooper is deploying.

“Fish-eye lenses, both when Firth’s Bertie is publicly floundering, and when the quack therapist (“E-NUN-ciate!”) is looming up in his face, are cartoonishly overused. The film flaunts symmetrical pomp one minute, then throws its compositions to the far left or right of the screen, for no particular purpose other than to insist it’s a movie, and movies (lazy ones) do such things. Otherwise we might start to feel that this script belonged either on the stage (where it originated) or the television, where its cosy, charming, thoroughly consoling endorsement of stiff-upper-lip perseverance would feel right at home on the Sunday night BBC schedules.”

Tim Robey, writing on “Is ‘The King’s Speech’ really a great film?” on Feb. 10 at the Daily Telegraph

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