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The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu (NR)

Dark Sky Films

Forget Shaun of the Dead. I laughed harder during Devin McGinn and Henry Saine's The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu than during anything Pegg and Frost ever did. Two losers, toiling away at a gift-basket company, become embroiled in an ancient, worldwide conspiracy to resurrect the monstrous Old God known as Cthulhu, which was always thought to be the stuff of fantastical fiction written by H.P. Lovecraft. One of the guys is a descendant of Lovecraft and given half of a relic that, when joined with the other half, will unlock the creature from his watery prison. Along for the ride is a geeky Lovecraft fanatic and a crotchety old sea captain who claims to have been raped by fish-monsters. McGinn and Saine have made this low-budget flick look like a multimillion-dollar feature, right up to its Antarctic coda that sets things up for a sequel. Cool, nerdy fun from start to finish! — Louis Fowler

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Faster (R)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Just when it seemed like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was ready to join the Disneyland character breakfast, he pumps out this fairly satisfying little revenge thriller. There's nothing new to savor in George Tillman's Faster (except its insistence on forcing Point Blank-style spectral vengeance into the short-attention span era of video games and unlistenable emo rock), but it doesn't cut corners or apologize for the mercenary way it fetishizes big guns, muscle cars, righteous gore and barely subtexted homoeroticism. As a newly released prisoner whose only ambition is to mete out bloody payback to the bastards who killed his brother, Johnson isn't asked to do much but look intense and bulge his neck muscles, and he's certainly the man for the job. Much more disappointing is Billy Bob Thornton, entering the Gary Busey Zone as a corrupt cop on Johnson's trail. — Daniel Barnes

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The Killing Jar (R)

Image Entertainment

Michael Madsen is one of the hardest-working men in movies today, with some 20 films due out in 2011. Sadly, most of them are straight-to-DVD efforts that many will never see. This low-budget thriller, The Killing Jar, is a cool little claustrophobic hostage flick that would have worked as a dirty, tense episode of The Twilight Zone. A group of not-so-colorful characters is locked in a roadside diner and held hostage by Madsen, a nameless, mysterious stranger who plays various morality games with the captives, wherein the wrong answer typically leads to a shotgun shell to the head. One of the diner patrons is responsible for the murders of a family in the next town over, and while we're led to believe Madsen is responsible, well ... maybe not. In the end, The Killing Jar turns into a little immoral morality tale that ties up pretty neatly. — Louis Fowler

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