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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | The New World: Wayne Wang's "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers"

    Since virtually inventing Asian-American cinema in 1982 with his film "Chan Is Missing," Wayne Wang has built a curiously Frankensteinian body of work, mixing indie and commercial productions and spanning subjects as diverse as a lazy Brooklyn afternoon and the last days of pre-handover Hong Kong. T...

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    REVIEW | Unanswerable Questions: Koji Masutani's "Virtual JFK"

    An inevitable byproduct of the study of history is the "What if?" game, the second-guessing of key events and decisions in light of the disasters that followed. One of the great American "What if?"s of the twentieth century is of course born from the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the cutting short of the promise of Camelot and all the youthful hope it embodied. Of course, Kennedy came to embody much of that youthful hope once he was immortalized by untimely death, and the romanticization of his presidency by the public in the last four decades has often had less to do with what he actually did in office than what he symbolizes as a lastin...

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    REVIEW | Don't Worry, Be Angry: Stuart Townsend's "Battle in Seattle"

    A mere couple of weeks after a polarizing Republican National Convention, it will be difficult for some of us to criticize a film like "Battle in Seattle." For many, Stuart Townsend's ensemble fictionalization of the 1999 protests against the WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle may strike a welcome note, harkening back to a triumphant, nonviolent-turned-violent demonstration which caused -- directly or indirectly -- a collapse in trade negotiations that even some participants characterized as imbalanced. Townsend's film portrays this moment as a victory for the antiglobalization movement (and the Left, broadly defined), an example of how pu...

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    TORONTO '08 CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK | "Paris," "Agnes," Rock Stars and "Religulous"; TIFF Docs Go Personal

    If a single lesson emerges from this year's crop of documentaries at the Toronto International Film Festival, it might be this: Who needs Paris Hilton when you have Agnes Varda? Both the overexposed starlet and the French New Wave legend showed up in Canada this week to watch themselves on the big s...

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    REVIEW | Everything Is Privates: Alan Ball's "Towelhead"

    Not far into his feature directorial debut, "Towelhead," Alan Ball offers us the sight of a thirteen-year-old girl having her first period in a bathroom stall; this is shot from a low angle, with the camera positioned near the floor, peering up through the girl's blood-stained panties as she stares ...

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    REVIEW | Troubling the Water: Irena Salina's "Flow"

    To the long and ever growing list of pressing environmental concerns we can add the global water crisis. Despite its indispensability for human survival, water hasn't gained traction as a political issue (at least not in America), and so filmmaker Irena Salina interjects "Flow" into the conversation as a corrective; she wants her film to do for the world water crisis what "An Inconvenient Truth" did for climate change. While the facts revealed in the documentary, as conveyed in interviews with numerous activists and scientists, are not exactly stunning revelations -- or maybe at this point I'm just unsurprised by tales of apathetic governmen...

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    REVIEW | Adult Swim: Chris Smith's "The Pool"

    The value of a film like Chris Smith's "The Pool" becomes more tangible when you begin to imagine what a lesser filmmaker might have wrought from the same material. Extending his sympathy for, and fascination with, the American working class beyond the boundaries of his home country, Smith, the dire...

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    REVIEW | I Wish I Was a Baller: Jessica Yu's "Ping Pong Playa"

    After a string of documentaries, including "In the Realms of the Unreal," and an Academy Award win for Best Documentary Short, Jessica Yu makes an unlikely, deceptively slight narrative feature debut with "Ping Pong Playa." What's perhaps most surprising about the film, however, is that Yu (who has also directed a fair amount of television drama) is actually quite adept as a comedy director. Adhering to well-worn underdog sports humor, her film follows the slow, amiable rise of Christopher "C-dub" Wang, a slacking Asian American with more of a penchant for the urban culture of hip-hop and basketball than for his family's business and passion:...

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    REVIEW | Setting the Record Straight: Robert Cary's "Save Me"

    Robert Cary's "Save Me" is hardly the incendiary, ripped-from-the-headlines passion play that a short description of it might imply. And indeed its poster, depicting its star, Chad Allen, skull-capped and mouth slightly agape, pointing an inverted cross to his temple, revolver-style, likewise promises a scorching take-down of bullying American fundamentalism. Yet "Save Me" isn't a teeth-bared addition to the culture wars; surprisingly docile and rigorously even-handed in its portrait of a New Mexico Christian sexual "re-education" house for men, Cary and screenwriter Robert Desiderio are not courting controversy as much as curiously surveying...

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    REVIEW | Once Upon a Time in the East: Takashi Miike's "Sukiyaki Western Django"

    Django, Tarantino, Miike: These names alone are enough to tell anyone whether or not "Sukiyaki Western Django" is for them. If you only know the middle guy, don't bother (and for shame!); if you know and like all three, you've probably already seen and blogged about the movie anyway.

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