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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Hoodwinked: David Ayer's "Harsh Times"

    "Harsh Times," the directorial debut of screenwriter David Ayer ("Training Day," "Dark Blue"), is the spectacle of an anemic talent thrashing amidst oversized ambitions. Ayer seems to have some strong feelings about street life, government skullduggery, masculinity (his he-man cred's well establishe...

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    REVIEW | Natural Beauty: Byambasuren Davaa's "The Cave of the Yellow Dog"

    Possessed of the most minimal of storytelling arcs, "The Cave of the Yellow Dog" can't be summed up easily--to do so is to miss the core of its uncommon loveliness. Though ostensibly the film hinges on a young girl, Nansaa (Nansal Batchuluun), and the conflict that arises when she finds a stray dog...

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    REVIEW | Little Voices: Joey Lauren Adams's "Come Early Morning"

    Is "Come Early Morning" a parallel universe imagining of what would've become of Ruby Lee Gissing had she stayed stuck in her small Southern town? As the titular twentysomething of Victor Nunez's 1993 "Ruby in Paradise," Ashley Judd went off to Florida to find herself; as thirtysomething Lucy in th...

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    REVIEW | A Close Shave: Steven Shainberg's "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus"

    If Diane Arbus is an artist whose work has held any importance for you, then here's the good news that accompanies the release of "Fur," starring Nicole Kidman as the late photographer: none of Arbus's photos ever get dragged onscreen, and Kidman's hazy, de-Semitized performance is such a disconnect...

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    REVIEW | A Million Little Pieces: James Longley's Iraq in Fragments

    It seems nary a month goes by without a new documentary about the Iraq War arriving at the local art house, with results ranging from the political thesis on the current U.S. military industrial complex in "Why We Fight" to brutal firsthand accounts of combat in "Occupation: Dreamland" and "The War ...

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    REVIEW | Unknown White Males: Simon Brand's "Unknown"

    Five characters in search of an author: That could be the subtitle for "Unknown," Columbian director Simon Brand's English-language feature debut, which is being released this Friday through the IFC First Take day-and-date program. Known for making music videos (Jessica Simpson's "Irresistible," Ric...

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    REVIEW | Coming Around: Pedro Almodovar's "Volver"

    Count me in the minority, but it wasn't until "Volver" that I really began taking Pedro Almodovar seriously as an artist. Almodovar the high stylist is inarguably on display in "All About My Mother" and "Talk to Her," but both films, for all their scandalous dealings, felt far too eager to please, e...

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    Borderline: Eric Steel's "The Bridge"

    Great clouds of fog often roll over the city of San Francisco and its surroundings, obscuring the city and its dazzling suspension bridges from view across the bay. "The Bridge," Eric Steel's very fine documentary feature debut, opens with a fast-motion shot of the fog as it slowly recedes to revea...

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    Demon Lover: Hans-Christian Schmid's "Requiem"

    The eloquent humanism of German director Hans-Christian Schmid's "Requiem" is as far a departure in both form and content from last year's hokey "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" as shared source material would seem to allow--both films are loosely based on the real-life story of Anneliese Michel, who died of exhaustion after failed exorcism attempts. Though each circles around the clash between spiritual and scientific belief systems brought into tension by a young girl's apparent "possession," they take startlingly divergent paths and reach opposite conclusions. Where the American version focuses on the ensuing court case against the priest (un...

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    Loony Bin: Terry Gilliam's "Tideland"

    It's amazing the mental leaps one will make in attempts to compensate for a trusted filmmaker's deficiencies. Delusions of mad, misunderstood genius fall away quickly in Terry Gilliam's "Tideland." Not to put too fine a point on it, but what Terry Gilliam's latest creation elicits from its first mom...

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