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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Come and See: Andrea Arnold's "Red Road"

    Two paths cross in British director Andrea Arnold's debut feature "Red Road" - not in the story, but in the story mechanics. There's a tale of a woman, Jackie (Kate Dickie), confronted with the appearance of a harbinger of destruction from her past, Clyde (Tony Curran). And there's the manner in which this potentially combustive situation unfolds: Jackie is a CCTV security operator who spots Clyde on her monitors and then proceeds to spy on him with the advantage of the technology at her disposal. At once universal and unmistakably modern, "Red Road" combines elements of both no-nonsense realism and Foucaultian paranoia to produce a unique, n...

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    REVIEW | Stranger in Paradise: Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam's "Dreaming Lhasa"

    Few films promise as enticing a glimpse into such an iconic but unknown reality as "Dreaming Lhasa" does; the title itself evokes a descriptive yearning. Seeking to explore the dynamics of Tibetan cultural identity in the absence of a homeland denied independence, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam's feat...

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    REVIEW | Flame Out: Mary Jordan's "Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis"

    From the inventor of the wheel to the Ramones, originators repeatedly get the short end of the stick: unrefined and unfamiliar, their innovations usually fly over the heads of unappreciative audiences until someone shrewder comes along and renders them accessible. Thus goes the ecstatic yet tragic s...

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    REVIEW | Crass Course: Paul Verhoeven's "Black Book"

    The real value of Paul Verhoeven's career, above the lubricity of his craftsmanship, comes in the director's total committal to bug-up-the-ass ambivalence. In moving from Holland to Hollywood in the Eighties, and subsequently commanding massive budgets, he retained a distinctly "art-house" reticence to inject moral clarity into his work. Unkind reviews revealed a none-too-subtle elitism from writers who might have no trouble endorsing similar opacity safely fenced off in the subtitle ghetto, but who didn't trust the multiplex patron to navigate ambiguity. As such, he's never enjoyed the unanimous praise that's greeted far lesser artists - on ...

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    REVIEW | I Am Sham: Lasse Hallstrom's "The Hoax"

    Painless while viewing and fruitless upon reflection, Lasse Hallstrom's latest addition to his own wing in the Miramax mausoleum - where art film goes to die - is a wholly predictable product: a true-life story that eschews truth and banalizes life. "The Hoax" is based on one of the most fascinating scams of the 20th century. In 1971, author Clifford Irving pitched his publisher, McGraw-Hill, a fascinating proposal: an autobiography of America's most famous recluse, Howard Hughes, authorized by the tycoon himself. Truth was, Irving had never met the tycoon, but had concocted an elaborate smoke-and-mirrors ruse to hoodwink his publisher and th...

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    REVIEW | Californication: Jake Kasdan's "The TV Set"

    The inevitability of artistic compromise in the face of bottom-line chasing execs isn't exactly unmined satiric territory, but that doesn't stop Jake Kasdan from throwing himself whole-hog into another retread of "The Player," albeit one that benefits from its appropriately TV-style small scale. Kas...

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    REVIEW | Bright Young Thing: Amnon Buchbinder's "Whole New Thing"

    After being cooped up at home and schooled by his progressive, eco-friendly parents, confused adolescent Emerson Thorsen (Aaron Webber) starts school at age thirteen, eventually developing an enriching but finally unhealthy crush on his sad-sack English teacher, Mr. Grant (co-screenwriter Daniel MacIvor). Naturally, as the coming-of-age drama "Whole New Thing" contends, everyone surrounding the gifted Emerson (he's already completed a fantasy novel at age 13) has a lot of growing up to do themselves: mom Kaya (Rebecca Jenkins), has lately begun flirting with local studs in plain view of her husband, Rog (Robert Joy), himself something of a st...

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    REVIEW | Homecoming: Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep"

    Over the past three decades, Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep" has become the stuff of cinephile legend. Shot on location in Watts, Los Angeles, mostly with amateur actors, Burnett's 16mm student-film never received a theatrical release, in part because of the substantial cost involved with cleari...

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    REVIEW | Soft Soap: Susanne Bier's "After the Wedding"

    Moving from its slow, somber, Sigur Ros-soundtracked opening scenes of an orphanage in India to the frenetic bustle of an office space in Denmark, "After the Wedding" initially makes us feel -- via quickened cuts on action -- as disoriented as principled protagonist Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) does upon his reluctant return home to satisfy potential benefactor Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard). The latter, a mysteriously motivated businessman, hardly talks shop at all, more enthused that the expatriate should attend his daughter's big day than about making a possible organization-saving donation. His reverse culture shock notwithstanding, Jacob's sense of ...

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    REVIEW | Old Scars: Peter Miller's "Sacco and Vanzetti"

    Odd as it seems to say of a movie that covers a crime that's more than 80 years old, but Peter Miller's "Sacco and Vanzetti" is distinctly behind the times on the latest developments of its subject. In December 2005, a letter surfaced in California, purportedly penned by Upton Sinclair during the re...

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