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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Flame Out: Mary Jordan's "Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis"

    From the inventor of the wheel to the Ramones, originators repeatedly get the short end of the stick: unrefined and unfamiliar, their innovations usually fly over the heads of unappreciative audiences until someone shrewder comes along and renders them accessible. Thus goes the ecstatic yet tragic s...

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    REVIEW | Crass Course: Paul Verhoeven's "Black Book"

    The real value of Paul Verhoeven's career, above the lubricity of his craftsmanship, comes in the director's total committal to bug-up-the-ass ambivalence. In moving from Holland to Hollywood in the Eighties, and subsequently commanding massive budgets, he retained a distinctly "art-house" reticence...

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    REVIEW | I Am Sham: Lasse Hallstrom's "The Hoax"

    Painless while viewing and fruitless upon reflection, Lasse Hallstrom's latest addition to his own wing in the Miramax mausoleum - where art film goes to die - is a wholly predictable product: a true-life story that eschews truth and banalizes life. "The Hoax" is based on one of the most fascinating...

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    REVIEW | Californication: Jake Kasdan's "The TV Set"

    The inevitability of artistic compromise in the face of bottom-line chasing execs isn't exactly unmined satiric territory, but that doesn't stop Jake Kasdan from throwing himself whole-hog into another retread of "The Player," albeit one that benefits from its appropriately TV-style small scale. Kas...

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    REVIEW | Bright Young Thing: Amnon Buchbinder's "Whole New Thing"

    After being cooped up at home and schooled by his progressive, eco-friendly parents, confused adolescent Emerson Thorsen (Aaron Webber) starts school at age thirteen, eventually developing an enriching but finally unhealthy crush on his sad-sack English teacher, Mr. Grant (co-screenwriter Daniel Mac...

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    REVIEW | Homecoming: Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep"

    Over the past three decades, Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep" has become the stuff of cinephile legend. Shot on location in Watts, Los Angeles, mostly with amateur actors, Burnett's 16mm student-film never received a theatrical release, in part because of the substantial cost involved with cleari...

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    REVIEW | Soft Soap: Susanne Bier's "After the Wedding"

    Moving from its slow, somber, Sigur Ros-soundtracked opening scenes of an orphanage in India to the frenetic bustle of an office space in Denmark, "After the Wedding" initially makes us feel -- via quickened cuts on action -- as disoriented as principled protagonist Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) does upon ...

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    REVIEW | Old Scars: Peter Miller's "Sacco and Vanzetti"

    Odd as it seems to say of a movie that covers a crime that's more than 80 years old, but Peter Miller's "Sacco and Vanzetti" is distinctly behind the times on the latest developments of its subject. In December 2005, a letter surfaced in California, purportedly penned by Upton Sinclair during the re...

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    REVIEW | The Great Plain: Scott Frank's "The Lookout"

    The title, to start with. "The Lookout"? My God, that's slack -- and these movies don't make themselves; meetings were probably held to get to that. Then move on to the poster, one of those long-afternoon-of-Photoshopping jobs, featuring a moody headshot of leading man Joseph Gordon-Levitt, cheekbon...

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    REVIEW | Early Thaw: Mark Fergus's "First Snow"

    A classic cocky bastard, set up as such to better offset the impending humbling, Jimmy Starks (played to smooth and oily perfection by Guy Pearce) immediately reveals his nature alongside his broken down car on a deserted road: Holding up his cell phone to check reception, taking long drags off a c...

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