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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | You Can Go Home Again: Arnaud Desplechin's "A Christmas Tale"

    Though it often seems the nadir of schmaltz and sentimentality, the Hollywood Christmas movie has always been a bit bipolar. From "A Christmas Story" to "Gremlins," "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" to (undoubtedly) the forthcoming "Four Christmases," the subgenre requires a course of dysfunct...

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    REVIEW | Trivial Pursuit: Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire"

    A noisy, sub-Dickens update on the romantic tramp's tale, "Slumdog Millionaire" zips around a boy's hard-luck life with a strange verve. Ragtag children run through a labyrinthine Indian shantytown with a police officer in hot pursuit. Two boys ride atop a moving train, hanging upside down over the ...

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    REVIEW | Hack Attack: Darren Lynn Bousman's "Repo! The Genetic Opera"

    A helpful shortcut for negotiating the heaps of texts in this modern world: all attempts to give something familiar or antique a self-consciously edgy, gritty makeover can be, de facto, written off as terrible. Reassuring American songbook standards ("Over the Rainbow," "What a Wonderful World," etc...

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    REVIEW | The Other Side of the Fence: Mark Herman's "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"

    For a little, promising while, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" seems to be a welcome, if belated, response to "Life Is Beautiful." Whereas Roberto Benigni's self-deifying exercise in Holocaust schmaltz--one of the most repugnant and false movies ever made--sincerely believes obliviousness (not imag...

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    REVIEW | Out of the Past: Amos Gitai's "One Day You'll Understand"

    Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai doesn't seem to have a career so much these days as a mission. It would be difficult for this ambassador of his nation's cinema to break away from Capital-t Topics at this point, but his lugubriousness as a filmmaker indicates that he believes in his own cause as much as his admirers do. Long, slow single takes and tracking shots that call attention to themselves and humorless, self-consciously "penetrating" close-ups are normally the order of the day for Gitai. And this one-man film warrior has finally, with his latest, "One Day You'll Understand," made his first explicit fictional work of Holocaust remembrance. ...

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    REVIEW | Running Wild: Christina Clausen's "The Universe of Keith Haring"

    The best compliment that can be paid "The Universe of Keith Haring," a straightforward, fast-moving documentary about the Pennsylvania phenom who made his way from New York City bohemia to the art world and transcended all to become one of the most recognizable names in popular graphics in the late 20th century, is that it is as inspiring at the level of a cinematic portrait as its subject was at the level of pure creation. As directed by newcomer Christina Clausen, the film looks to Haring as an artistic role model for his preternatural talent, of course, but also for his infectious lust for life that had him as committed to social activism ...

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    REVIEW | A Matter of Taste: Philippe Claudel's "I've Loved You So Long"

    Juliette, a middle-aged woman, waits alone, gray and taciturn -- two words that pretty well describe "I've Loved You So Long." She stands to haltingly greet her rendez-vous, her sister, Lea. We gather they've been apart a long time. Juliette's been "away," her past a talked-around negative space tha...

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    REVIEW | Winter Kills: Tomas Alfredson's "Let the Right One In"

    With its calm, wintry rural setting, Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist's Swedish best-seller "Let the Right One In" depicts slaughter, death, and dismemberment as though sprung from the stanzas of Robert Frost. This is hardly the first film to drench teen angst and burge...

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    REVIEW | A Self-Made Man: Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York"

    Staring into the abyss through a kaleidoscope, Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" sees ecstatic, innumerable facets in the depths. Another of Kaufman's Alice in Wonderland narratives, his first directorial effort is more gnarled and coiled than his scripts for Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovic...

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    REVIEW | Army of Shadows: Fear(s) of the Dark

    Like any omnibus film, the Christophe Jankovic and Valerie Schermann-produced French collection of creepy, crawly cartoon shorts, "Fear(s) of the Dark," succeeds on the strength of its best components. Though it seems that in animation it's easier to convey an "idea" of fear to an audience than impart in the viewer fear itself, the film nevertheless pleasantly lodges in the brain. A persuasive showcase for a handful of contemporary animators, "Fear(s)" is comprised of mostly beautifully designed segments which get exponentially better as the film continues, going deeper and deeper into an ever darkening rabbit hole. Like the famed sixties com...

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