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    REVIEW | Hamburg with Cheese: Fatih Akin's "Soul Kitchen"

    German-Turkish director Fatih Akin's penchant for plot contrivance and convolution would seem to have found the perfect fit in the high-decibel comic confection "Soul Kitchen." Appropriately broad (as opposed to his last film, "The Edge of Heaven," which could have used more subtlety in place of its narrative glibness), Akin's new one, concerning a young man's desperate attempts to keep his roadside restaurant open and thriving amidst many setbacks, is overstuffed, more than a little too pleased with itself, yet often winning. As far as European comedies go, it's fairly by the numbers, assembling a motley crew of emphatically crazy characters...

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    REVIEW | Egoyan's Accidental Black Comedy "Chloe" Succeeds as Guilty Pleasure

    Part film noir, part unintentional B-movie parody, Atom Egoyan's "Chloe" is a weirdly compelling expansion of the themes permeating the director's work. Marred by an uneven screenplay, numerous implausibility issues and oddly dry, moody performances, it nevertheless maintains a basic guilty pleasure...

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    REVIEW | Climax First, then the Build Up: Ozon Finds Satisfaction in "Refuge"

    Francois Ozon's "Le Refuge" begins where most movies climax. It opens with junkie Parisian couple Mousse (Isabelle Carre) and Louis (Melvil Poupaud) overdosing on heroin in weary ecstasy. The next morning, Louis dies; when Mousse wakes up in a coma, she's single and pregnant. Retreating to a quiet home in the countryside, she settles into a lonely existence. Louis's brother Paul (Louis-Ronan Choisy) pays her a visit, introducing a new chance for Mousse to obtain emotional catharsis with the family of her late lover. The connection that blossoms between these two characters forms the bulk of the running time, leading to a gentle portrait of em...

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    REVIEW | Business or Pleasure: Mia Hansen-Love’s "The Father of My Children" Twists the Dark

    In "The Father of My Children" French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love makes something oddly beautiful and complex from a basic comic template. A story of a workaholic dad who has an immensely difficult time juggling business and family, the film nevertheless takes its conventions in a unexpected direction. From the start, all the cliches are in place: a disheveled man (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) wearing a rumpled suit negotiates about seven different associates squawking into his cell phone while rushing down a Paris sidewalk, both on foot and behind the wheel of a car. His harried wife (Chiara Caselli) sits impatiently at home with the kids, who in...

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    REVIEW | Faith No More: Bruno Dumont’s “Hadewijch”

    Following in the grand tradition of austere European filmmakers, Bruno Dumont gives religious faith quite a workout in his new film, "Hadewijch." Not that this should come as a surprise to anyone who's followed Dumont's career. One of French cinema’s most illustrious provocateurs, Dumont has moved r...

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    REVIEW | Drifting Through Layoffs: Clooney Plays his Trumpcard in Reitman's "Up in the Air"

    George Clooney may not possess tremendous range, but he sure knows his sweet spot. In "Up in the Air," the highly anticipated third feature from "Juno" director Jason Reitman, Clooney plays a man who likes to control his enviornment. As the corporate downsizing expert Ryan Bingham, he portrays the s...

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    REVIEW | For the Love of Trash, Korine's "Humpers" Fetes the Freak

    If "Mister Lonely" suggested that Harmony Korine had developed a sentimental streak, "Trash Humpers" proves that his original subversiveness was merely in hibernation. The movie, a succession of incomplete scenes shot on lo-fi video, plays like a first person version of "The Devil's Rejects." A psyc...

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    REVIEW | The Coens Get Personal With Oddly Compelling "Serious Man"

    If Joel and Ethan Coen's "A Serious Man" were classifiable in familiar movie terms, one might consider this oddly compelling period piece as "The Chosen" meets "American Beauty." But, as usual, there's nothing familiar about the Coen brothers except their own quixotic ways. While their latest black ...

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    REVIEW | Authenticity Takes on Absurdity - and the "Goats" Lose

    Grant Heslov's "The Men Who Stare at Goats" opens with a patronizing title card that, in retrospect, sounds more like a plea: "More of this is true than you believe," we're told, as though excusing the subsequent incredulousness on the grounds of its nonfictional content. That's not a good sign for ...

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    REVIEW | Missing Pieces: Amiel's "Creation" Lacks Sense of Awe

    The legacy of Charles Darwin — not unlike those of Jesus, Moses, or Abraham Lincoln — presents a daunting challenge for storytellers: When a nonfictional character carries such widespread familiarity, audiences automatically prejudge the results. "Creation," the rare non-Canadian movie to open the Toronto International Film Festival, displays no awareness of these trappings and obliviously falls into them. The movie recounts Darwin's emotional and theological struggles immediately prior to writing "On the Origin of the Species" in 1859. Paul Bettany plays the groundbreaking researcher as a stiff, broken man — equally wrecked by the atheistic ...

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