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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Sweatin' to the Oldies: Darryl Roberts's "America the Beautiful"

    Opening with "vintage" black-and-white footage of women from the Fifties huffing and puffing through antiquated exercise routines, set to Bruce Channel's "Hey, Baby," the ostensible investigative documentary "America the Beautiful" establishes its de-facto glibness within seconds. Throughout the course of the film, further video montages will be set to such ferociously on-topic chestnuts as Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy," Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People," and Letters to Cleo's "I Wanna Be a Supermodel," ironically backing images of primped, preening girls or magazine model cut-outs. Director Darryl Roberts's mode of address is so hac...

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    REVIEW | Soft Shoe: Alex Holdridge's "In Search of a Midnight Kiss"

    From "Sunset Boulevard" to "Mulholland Drive" and beyond, most movies revolving around Hollywood hopefuls portray the greater Los Angeles area as a soulless cesspool into which the hordes can't help but sink. But in his Tinseltown-set feature "In Search of a Midnight Kiss," Alex Holdridge reimagines L.A. as a place of renewal and unsung beauty: Skyline shots inclusive of freeway traffic, graphic compositions incorporating the city's variegated architecture, and even the Hollywood sign shrouded by smoggy haze are lovingly lensed in stark black-and-white in obvious homage to Woody Allen's "Manhattan" (though this hipster kid on the block scor...

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    REVIEW | Dropped Ball: Paul Weiland's "Sixty-Six"

    There is a certain class of British film -- for which John Boorman's "Hope and Glory" is perhaps the prototype -- which follows an adolescent boy's coming of age during a notable or sentimentality-laced period of twentieth-century English history. Invariably in such films, there is a female object o...

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    REVIEW | Carnival of Old Souls: Margaret Brown's "The Order of Myths"

    It may come as something of a shock to most that in Mobile, Alabama, a culturally sanctified segregation still exists. And documentary filmmaker Margaret Brown must be relying on that shock from viewers of her exacting new film "The Order of Myths," even if it resolutely avoids sensationalism or pol...

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    REVIEW | Walking in the Air: James Marsh's "Man on Wire"

    A blow-by-blow account of how, in 1974, the impish French performance artist, and ludicrously appropriately named Philippe Petit achieved (and survived) the seemingly otherworldly when he walked on a tightrope situated 1350 feet in the air, anchored between the World Trade Center's twin towers, James Marsh's documentary "Man on Wire" is a fleet, engagingly narrated, and [insert "taut" here] suspense narrative. Like the events it's based on, "Man on Wire" is the kind of film that's more inspiring to witness than it is to later think (or write) about, but let it be said that Marsh's adeptness at mounting his tale is undeniable, and what the fil...

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    REVIEW | Disconnect Four: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass's "Baghead"

    A refreshingly high-concept low-budget outing, the Duplass Brothers' "Baghead" is an immensely likeable and surprisingly well-executed genre hybrid. The difficulty one finds in trying to categorize it is part of its charm, and this is not just whether one sees it as horror, comedy, or relationship roundelay but also how one defines and compartmentalizes its aesthetic: "Baghead"'s makers and at least one of its stars may have crawled out from under the "mumble"-corps, but its adherence to a somewhat conventional narrative framework successfully contorts and expands the boundaries of what that short-lived almost-collective of filmmakers were af...

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    REVIEW | Post Traumatic Stress: Aditya Assarat's "Wonderful Town"

    In many ways, the debut feature from Bangkok-born, American-educated Aditya Assarat, "Wonderful Town," has all the hallmarks of a workshopped Sundance indie: an eminently tasteful romance between two ingratiatingly sweet people burgeoning against a backdrop of recent tragedy, buoyed by delicate guitar score, bracketed by self-consciously lovely landscape shots. A detailing of the emotionally and physically ravaged coastal area of Takua Pa following the December 2004 tsunami that cost it more than 8,000 local lives, "Wonderful Town" means to use the event's aftereffects to evoke its characters' personal displacement. There's no doubt that Assa...

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    REVIEW | Sympathy Strike: Charles Oliver's "Take"

    Like Lee Chang-dong's 2007 "Secret Sunshine," Charles Oliver's debut feature "Take" deals with the awkward moral quandaries of infanticide and the subsequent, touchy relations between a killer and his victim's mother. That Lee's film remains unreleased in this country is no doubt due in part to the ...

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    REVIEW | Dear Johns: Jacques Nolot's "Before I Forget"

    The catchwords for "Before I Forget" would seem to be direct, intimate, unsparing; yet, conversely, it also feels cavernous and, in its seeming brutal frankness, slippery and elusive. Either drenched in unyielding shadow or flooded with harsh light, "Before I Forget" follows the sixty-something Pier...

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    REVIEW | The Material World: Silvio Soldini's "Days and Clouds"

    In its detailing of a couple's financial freefall after the loss of a job, Silvio Soldini's "Days and Clouds" -- recently featured in the Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual roundup of new Italian cinema -- couldn't ask for a more fittingly precipitous point in time for its American theatrical r...

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