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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Scare Quotes: Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Orphanage"

    The organic foreboding conjured by an opening prelude torn from the past -- depicting children at play outdoors on a beautiful summer day full of pollen and petals, their caretakers looking on from inside a looming manor -- calls to mind elusive, unclassifiable films like Lucile Hadzihalilovic's "I...

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    REVIEW | Design for Living: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's "Persepolis"

    At a moment in history where Iran, famously dubbed one-third of an "Axis of Evil" by Dubya, has again been making headlines as the next country with whom the Republicans wanna preemptively rumble (though the NIE's latest report on its lack of a nuclear weapons program throws this political gambit into a tailspin), Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical and surpassingly exquisite "Persepolis," co-written and directed with fellow comic book artist Vincent Paronnaud, is a corrective bomb of beauty launched lovingly into a terrified world. Based upon Satrapi's likewise superlative graphic novels and detailing her upbringing in Iran and eventual depar...

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    REVIEW | Monkey See . . . Adam Rifkin's "Look"

    The gimmick of Adam Rifkin's forgettable "Look" is that it's comprised entirely of footage from surveillance cameras, or at least footage from cameras meant to simulate surveillance cameras. So guess what happens in its very first scene? Two teenage girls strip and cavort in a clothing store dressin...

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    REVIEW | Time Out of Mind: Francis Ford Coppola's "Youth Without Youth"

    Francis Ford Coppola has been quietly touting "Youth Without Youth," his first film in a decade, as a return to his independent roots, an experimental project for which he once again became a "student of cinema." It's a nice thought, one thematically linked to the film in its evocation of regeneration, as well as a possible self defense for such a foolhardy endeavor -- yet for all Coppola's possibly false modesty, the delightful fact remains that "Youth Without Youth" could only be the work of a seasoned master. In fact, opaque and challenging though it may be, and even if it was shot cheaply and on the fly in Romania, Coppola's new film isn'...

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    REVIEW | Match Point: Stefan Schaefer and Diane Crespo's "Arranged"

    "Arranged," the film itself and the story behind its conception, makes for a feel-good holiday story. Inspired by the experiences of Yuta Silverman, "Arranged" was written by Stefan Schaefer after he met with the young Orthodox Jewish woman, who had no previous connections to the New York film world, and decided the tale of her experiences finding a husband through traditional matchmaking was one worth telling. Co-directed by Schaefer and partner Diane Crespo, the final film evidences intimate knowledge of its subject, and even if it waters down that knowledge with pat nods to mainstream fare, it still maintains genuine integrity as a story o...

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    REVIEW | Frequent Flyer: Marc Forster's "The Kite Runner"

    Right off the bat, there are two telltale signs in the Hollywood adaptation of "The Kite Runner" that portend the safe, diluted entertainment about to unfold. Perhaps nervous that a prestige drama mostly told in the Afghani language of Dari, and headlined by a cast of unknown middle-Eastern actors, might not sell to the multiplexes, the producers have inserted a fancy, interminable credit sequence, backed by Alberto Iglesias's overly insistent, lute-heavy score, and adorned with some faux-Persian, animated curlicues. Then it's straight to the English-language San Francisco prologue, flatly filmed to look like any anonymous American studio pro...

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    REVIEW | Grace Notes: Eran Kolirin's "The Band's Visit"

    Though it's both a predictable culture-clash comedy and a gentle plea for people of different political backgrounds to "just get along," "The Band's Visit" nevertheless manages to use its central contrivances and inevitable cliches to its favor, and becomes something ethereal and winning. This debut from Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin, in which the soft-spoken members of an Egyptian brass band (the stodgy Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, to be precise) find themselves stranded in a small Israeli town on the way to a gig, parlays its initial good-natured dullness into surprisingly robust drama. Kolirin's schematics, both in its narrativ...

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    REVIEW | Southern Discomfort: Paul Schrader's "The Walker"

    Paul Schrader's fascination with life's seamier underside continues in "The Walker," whose titular character, Carter Page III is something of a latter-day incarnation of Richard Gere's American gigolo. He escorts bored, rich wives around town but, this time, he's effectively neutered: "Car" is gay (though aside from a few chaste forehead pecks and a single kiss shared with his supposedly hot-for-him boyfriend, you wouldn't know it), and trades on his Wildean (he wishes) wit rather than orgasms, a Washington D.C.-set Will for any Grace to hire. Schrader's final entry into the so-called "night worker" or "lonely man" saga, loosely beginning wi...

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    REVIEW | Attitude Adjustment: Jason Reitman's "Juno"

    The hype machine is chugging along at full speed for "Juno," and it's amazing what a little festival attention can do. A well-timed Telluride premiere, to an already almost legendarily appreciative audience, was soon followed by Toronto and Austin unveilings, all of which led award pundits and Enter...

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    REVIEW | The Kid Is Alright: Jennifer Venditti's "Billy the Kid"

    Like its protagonist, Jennifer Venditti's acclaimed documentary "Billy the Kid" is both pretty hard to dislike and difficult to parse. It's already scooped up awards at Edinburgh, Los Angeles, and South by Southwest film festivals, and it's easy to see why: this compelling, ingratiating portrait of some days in the life of a charming and troubled fifteen-year-old New Englander, with its canny intimacy and sharp editing, manages to be up-close-and-personal as well as safely discreet. Venditti, following around the not-quite-outcast teenager Billy verite-style, is inoffensive in her intrusion, yet also manages to make the boy a compelling scree...

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