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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Story Telling: Rolf De Heer's "Ten Canoes"

    I'm usually left slightly anxious by those works of western filmmakers that take as their subjects the nature and stories of indigenous peoples. The potential for exploitation - artistic, commercial, moral - runs so deep in these instances of cultural intersection that it's amazing such films don't all turn out like the garishly insensate "Apocalypto" which, if not for its bloated running length, might have worked perfectly as part of a "Grindhouse"-style tribal-exploitation double bill. We can point to films like "Walkabout," "Where the Green Ants Dream," or "The Fast Runner" (interesting in how it adopts an Inuit media workshop ground-up a...

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    REVIEW | Earthbound: Luc Besson's "Angel-A"

    In a comeback that I've been anticipating only slightly more than the reemergence of JNCO jeans or polio, Luc Besson now returns to American theaters after a nearly decade-long absence. The occasion is the release of "Angel-A," a Paris-set variation on "It's a Wonderful Life," which replaces Clarenc...

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    REVIEW | Panic Room: William Friedkin's "Bug"

    Even during the heyday of the American paranoia thriller, there was never a performance quite like the one given by Michael Shannon in William Friedkin's take-no-prisoners adaptation of Tracy Letts's off-Broadway play about fear and loathing in an Oklahoma motel room. As Peter Evans, the blandly named, seemingly innocuous drifter who appears one evening at the doorstep of Agnes White (Ashley Judd), a battered wife terrified of her ex-con husband's return, Shannon has either officially arrived onscreen or carved out a memorable cult niche. It was a sly move on Friedkin's part to have Shannon reprise his stage role; largely unknown to movie aud...

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    REVIEW | Simple Men: Bruno Dumont's "Flanders"

    Like Gaspar Noe with a colder, reptilian eye, or a brutalist Robert Bresson, Bruno Dumont cut a divide through contemporary cinematic circles with his first three features. That this swath is tiny and both his detractors and supporters fall largely within that camp we could label "serious cinephile...

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    REVIEW | Sweet Sounds: John Carney's "Once"

    A new almost-musical from Ireland, "Once" neatly transcends even the hoariest of cliches about the sublime communicative powers of pop music. This is a treat and a surprise, as films this slight and unassuming often seem more apt to curl up into themselves than approach any sort of expansiveness. A...

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    REVIEW | Unspoken Truth: Tsai Ming-liang's "I Don't Want to Sleep Alone"

    Even as Tsai Ming-liang nearly hypnotizes the viewer with his elegantly composed static images and methodical pacing, rarely does a filmmaker encouraged such active engagement with stillness. The Taiwanese director might be the visual narrative stylist par excellence working in cinema today; an entire story, a life, a world, breathes through his films, even as he rarely burdens them with language. Often, it will take a moment for your senses to adjust to a new Tsai composition - at once teeming with life and emptied out, this place will force your eyes to wander and scan the frame for signs of movement, color, or familiarity. Tsai gives us ti...

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    REVIEW | Remote Control: Julia Loktev's "Day Night Day Night"

    There's no doubt that filmmaker Julia Loktev makes quite an impression with her debut feature "Day Night Day Night," which shows off her expertise at oblique storytelling and subjective suspense. Yet the bigger questions of why "Day Night Day Night" exists, and what tensions it's capitalizing on can...

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    REVIEW | Picking Up the Pieces: "Paris, je t'aime"

    Chock-a-block with recognizable directors and thespians, "Paris, je t'aime" is a series of vignettes commissioned by producers Emmanuel Benbihy and Claudie Ossard. Each of its 18 segments is ostensibly connected through the concept of L'amour in the City of Lights (introduced, dazzling, under millennial fireworks), which is presumably more spiritually satisfying or noteworthy than the provincial love practiced in, say, Lexington, Kentucky. As a personalized triptych through Paris, the city and entity, there's not much here; read Edmund White's "Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris" if you're in the market for local color. And taken as a whol...

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    REVIEW | Frozen Assets: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romney's "L'Iceberg"

    Considering "L'Iceberg," a cute-as-a-button-and-about-as-sharp-as-same feature debut comedy from Belgium by writing/directing/acting team Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romney, it seems the deadpan ethos of Wes Anderson has found a home in mainland Europe. In a way, this style has come full circle - one of his guardian angels, Jacques Tati, harkened from France, and it makes conceptual sense that the playful wonders of controlled composition and quirky production design should return to their Gaul origins. But something has gone wrong here. Despite a desire to provide the most whimsical of entertainments, "L'Iceberg" feels contrived ...

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    REVIEW | Terror Bull: Jeff Renfroe's "Civic Duty"

    Waiting for "Civic Duty" to start, I browsed its synopsis: an everyday guy, recently unemployed, spends all day taking in alarmist TV news and, saturated with images of swarthy bad guys, decides to undertake a paranoiac surveillance operation on his new Middle Eastern neighbor. As the lights went do...

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