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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Wistful Thinking: Morgan Neville's "The Cool School"

    "The Cool School" is one of a subset of documentary biographies that might best be called "Scenes of Yesteryear." Like the recent "Weather Underground," "Commune," and "American Hardcore"--whose respective subjects include radical terrorists, hippie collectives, and indigenous, anticommercial punk r...

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    REVIEW | Family Feud: Jeff Nichols's 'Shotgun Stories"

    The presence of David Gordon Green's name in "Shotgun Stories"' billing block is probably both a blessing and a curse for the reception of Jeff Nichols's feature film debut. On the one hand, it broadcasts what sort of film this is -- an earnest character study with a touch of that neo-Southern Gothi...

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    REVIEW | Gross National Product: Olivier Assayas's "Boarding Gate"

    Olivier Assayas's "Boarding Gate" arrives on these shores like a battered shipment of cheap goods. True, it's only sat moldering for ten months in its film canister since its Cannes premiere -- a relatively short period in these hazy days of distribution -- but it shows a distinct lack of freshness all the same. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing: there's a tantalizing whiff of mediocrity to "Boarding Gate," and it's consistently set off by high levels of self-awareness and undeniable craft. Assayas's later career has been a heady stew of class and crass, yet not even in his terrific, audience-baiting pseudo-technothriller "demonlover," ...

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    REVIEW | Over the Borderline: Patricia Riggen's "Under the Same Moon"

    The main question "Under the Same Moon" poses is whether its story, which follows the basic outline of a separated mother and son fairy tale, befits its subject, the plight of illegal Mexican immigrants. The immigration issue has in the last few years become a hot one in part due to economic angst and homeland security paranoia, but Mexican director Patricia Riggen and screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos don't use their film to explore the larger political picture of fence-hopping workers and the varied American responses to their increasing numbers. Instead "Under the Same Moon" remains at ground level, showing audiences the unique backgrounds of...

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    REVIEW | Sweet Nothings: Christophe Honore's "Love Songs"

    As in last year's "Dans Paris," 37-year-old filmmaker Christophe Honore ventures back to that lost Eden known as the French New Wave, this time to punch up a featherweight tale of young love and loss with high-concept tomfoolery. And though "Love Songs" (or, if we could please use its original, more melodic title, "Les Chansons d'amour") better evokes that era's carefree cinematic spirit, it's similarly bound by dictates and referents, twice-removed and over-rehearsed. Hence "Love Songs" is not merely a musical -- in which passionate, lost twentysomethings wend their way through difficult times by breaking into pop tunes with puppy-love ingen...

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    REVIEW | Dead Again: Michael Haneke's "Funny Games"

    Michael Haneke's 1997 "Funny Games" always seemed more like an instruction manual than a thriller, with the famously dyspeptic Austrian auteur hesitantly going through the genre motions only to teach us something he feels we really ought to learn. Now, as if to put all doubts of his intentional dida...

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    REVIEW | The Road Well Traveled: William Maher's "Sleepwalking"

    When a film opens with shots of a straight and anonymous American highway -- that most overdetermined of American film locations -- as "Sleepwalking" does, one must be braced for a story about emotional journeys. A ribbon of asphalt stretching to the horizon is immediate shorthand for personal growth along the road of life (for, to paraphrase Tom Cochrane, life is a highway); this is as true for Captain America and Billy as it is for Steve Martin and the late John Candy. Though "Sleepwalking" offers little variation on the modern automotive odyssey to maturity (as its protagonists carpool their way to catharsis and fulfillment, sensitive pop ...

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    REVIEW | A Winning Argument: Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp's "War Made Easy"

    Though the early to mid-aughts documentary boom has recently died down, it's still difficult to believe there hasn't been a serious nonfiction indictment of the collusion between the government and the media in selling the invasion of Iraq to the American public. This accounts for a somewhat shameful omission in the ever-growing Iraq War doc catalogue--the sheer amount of lies, distortions, and fear-mongering titillations on display in a typical CNN or Fox News broadcast circa 2002 (and today) would offer enough evidence on the sorry state of our national media for a book-length study, let alone a feature film. Columnist, critic, and antiwar ...

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    REVIEW | Quiet Anger: David Gordon Green's "Snow Angels"

    [EDITOR'S NOTE: Steve Ramos reviewed David Gordon Green's "Snow Angels" following its world premiere at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.]

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    REVIEW | Like, Actually: Bharat Nalluri's "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day"

    A middle-aged, getting-your-groove-back Cinderella story: Miss Pettigrew, an unsuccessful domestic used to taking her meals in breadlines, maneuvers a job with a flighty American "actress" abroad, Delysia Lafosse. Just like that, prim Pettigrew is off the streets and hovering around the nexus of the...

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