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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Dear Johns: Jacques Nolot's "Before I Forget"

    The catchwords for "Before I Forget" would seem to be direct, intimate, unsparing; yet, conversely, it also feels cavernous and, in its seeming brutal frankness, slippery and elusive. Either drenched in unyielding shadow or flooded with harsh light, "Before I Forget" follows the sixty-something Pier...

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    REVIEW | The Material World: Silvio Soldini's "Days and Clouds"

    In its detailing of a couple's financial freefall after the loss of a job, Silvio Soldini's "Days and Clouds" -- recently featured in the Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual roundup of new Italian cinema -- couldn't ask for a more fittingly precipitous point in time for its American theatrical r...

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    REVIEW | Los Angeles Plays With Itself: Jason Freeland's "Garden Party"

    What is it about Los Angeles that makes it prone to multicharacter, excess-minded ensembles and devoted tributes to itself disguised as critiques? Well, as we learned from Paul Haggis's ethnography-as-racial-burlesque "Crash," everyone in that city just sort of, well, crashes into each other--presumptively it's strictly a car thing, because I've had my share of sidewalk collisions while walking on New York's even more crowded streets. Perhaps the city's denizens are united by a certain, unspoken shared misery, eventually exacerbated or cleansed by some greater destructive force, as in "Short Cuts" and "Magnolia." Or is it that everyone oozes ...

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    REVIEW | Gathering Moss: Alex Gibney's "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson"

    Hunter S. Thompson's prose was nervy and pugnacious, his judgments bullying and hyperbolic, his life as volatile as any in postwar American letters. "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson" couldn't be any more different in mien and spirit. A couple of passages aside, it is almost perversely straightforward in light of its unstable subject, a chronological march through the heavy '60s, the downer '70s and the post-Reagan blur with a dutiful assemblage of talking heads and archival footage. The historical and cultural insights are all textbook, the music choices "Gump"-esque (if I hear Jefferson Airplane playing over images of Summ...

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    REVIEW | House of Cards: Terry Kinney's "Diminished Capacity"

    One could surmise the mediocrity of "Diminished Capacity" from reading the synopsis alone: Cooper (Matthew Broderick), a small-town-boy-made-good in the big city but lately suffering from the lasting effects of a serious concussion, heads back home to visit his fading Uncle Rollie (Alan Alda). As Cooper's mother explains of the latter's condition in a letter, "Dr. Hoyt calls it 'diminished capacity'; that's the legal term for a man who thinks that fish are typing poetry out on the end of his pier." Got that last bit? To clarify: Rollie connects fishing lines to each letter on his typewriter, the nibbling of which results in a jumble of w...

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    REVIEW | Best Kept Secret: Guillaume Canet's "Tell No One"

    Guillaume Canet's "Tell No One" begins with a certain nonchalance that one wouldn't ordinarily expect from a suspense thriller, least of all one that adapts Harlan Coben's multi-twist mystery plotting with the brio of a distinctly "Bourne"-again action film. In its first minutes, the film draws us into a group of French yuppies summering enviably in woody Rambouillet. Kristin Scott-Thomas rolls a joint, someone passes a baby around, and all seems serene enough for Dr. Alex Beck to take his wife Margot for a languorous, moonlit skinny-dip at a nearby lake where they used to swim as children. How cruel it seems of Canet to ruin this moment, all...

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    REVIEW | Woman on Top: Catherine Breillat's "The Last Mistress"

    The first time Asia Argento appears in Catherine Breillat's "The Last Mistress," she fills the frame, reclining on a couch with devilish confidence as her character, Vellini, discusses the upcoming marriage of Ryno (Fu'ad Ait Aattou), her lover of ten years, to another woman. It's an appropriate ent...

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    REVIEW | Found and Lost: Peter Tolan's "Finding Amanda"

    Over the years, it's been both disconcerting and somehow satisfying to watch Matthew Broderick gradually morph from a lithe, cocky teen heartthrob to a pudgy, middle-aged sad sack. The puppy-dog eyes have sunken deeper into down-turned crevices of disappointment, and he seems lost in his burly torso...

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    REVIEW | Staged Craft: Peter Askin's "Trumbo"

    "Trumbo" tells the eventful story of the best-known name in the Hollywood Ten, screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, with an unsurprising emphasis on the leftist's misadventures with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Famous and well-paid before HUAC sentenced him and nine other fellow Communist sympathizers and members to jail, Trumbo toiled for years afterward to win back his career, returning to the movies under pseudonyms and "fronts" designed to keep a blacklisted name unconnected to the scripts he was working on ("Roman Holiday" and "The Brave One," for which his front, Robert Rich, won the 1957 Academy Award) and then being the first to...

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    REVIEW | Winning Losers: Cecilia Miniucchi's "Expired"

    It's an incontrovertible truth that Samantha Morton is among the best actresses in the world, a fact somehow aided and not obscured by her insistence on playing, from "Sweet and Lowdown" to "Mister Lonely," the same character: the innocent, all-forgiving punching bag of a self-obsessed, self-hating asshole. And in Cecilia Miniucchi's "Expired," Morton once again owns this self-abnegation, here in its most socially and municipally abject form: that of the meter maid. Reluctantly writing up parking tickets to the ever irate and incredulous population of Santa Monica, Morton's Claire, in voice over, identifies herself as "one of the most hated p...

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