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Movie Reviews

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    Reverse Shot's Best of '05: "Kings & Queen" and 9 More

    A grab bag of 2004 festival faves just getting "wider" releases. Misunderstood studio experiments. Inventive indie charmers. It becomes increasingly ridiculous to try and separate one year's best-of list from the next in any sort of edifying ideological, spiritual, or political manner, as the disparity of visions and points of view from around the globe just happen to be reflected in a handful of films lucky enough to see the light of a projector. So, at Reverse Shot, as always, our notion of a panoply of critical voices never seems more appropriate than when compiling a top ten. As with last year's poll, each staff writer voted for ten films...

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    A History of Reference: Woody Allen's "Match Point"

    There are those who will take the opportunity to elevate "Match Point" to instant classic status and those who will damn it with faint praise -- yet both will do so by saying the same thing: "Woody Allen's best in years!" Never mind that Allen stands utterly alone in output quantity, and that approximately the same amount of time has elapsed between "The Thin Red Line" and "The New World" and Woody's last very good film ("Sweet and Lowdown") and his latest very good film. There have become simply too many expectations surrounding each release -- Woody Allen diehards, who feel a harsh jab to the heart every time another "Jade Scorpion" or "Hol...

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    A View to a Kill: Michael Haneke's "Cache"

    Shock the bourgeois. That rallying cry of early 20th Century European art and art cinema -- apres Baudelaire -- becomes less effective as each passing year pulls us further from the canonized abrasions of modernity and deeper into the postmodern neutralization of visceral, disarming violence. In ret...

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    Dead Man Riding: Tommy Lee Jones' "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada"

    This season's other cowboy bonding pic, Tommy Lee Jones' spare, deeply warped theatrical directorial debut may not be as socially radical and ultimately important as "Brokeback Mountain." But in all other respects (structure, dialogue, and detail) it's "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," with its sun-drunk flights into the absurd, that takes the risks. There's something so admirably cavalier about Jones, who could have taken on any subject, devoting himself to this story of a "simple" cowboy hauling his best friend's decaying corpse across the border. Guillermo Arriaga wrote the screenplay, and as with his Inarritu collaborations, "Amo...

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    Don't Fence Me In: Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain"

    Even on the eve of "Brokeback Mountain"'s release, it's difficult to separate the actual movie onscreen from the media attention that's been swirling around it for months. Is Ang Lee's effective tragic romance to be viewed as just another epic love story unfolding under a panoramic azure sky or as a groundbreaking mainstream cinematic evocation of homosexual love? While it's beyond doubtful that "Brokeback," even if it proves to be a multi-Oscared box-office success, will open the floodgates for a bevy of studio-financed gay-themed movies, its very conception seems to have created a heavy social burden that the film simply may not be able to ...

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    Video Drone: Takashi Shimizu's "Marebito"

    "By looking at her through the lens," explains cameraman and obsessive voyeur Masuoka (Shinya Tsukamoto), speaking of a mysterious woman he films from his apartment building, "I believe that I've salvaged her soul." But Masuoka wants to accomplish even greater, and more disturbing, metaphysical feats in Takashi Shimizu's "Marebito." After capturing footage of a gruesome suicide in an underground tunnel, Masuoka seeks to experience the ultimate sensation of fear--he's just as interested in recording "the terror of the victim on my retina and video tape" as in learning exactly what the man in the subway saw that produced such a horrified counte...

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    A Schlock to the System: Laurence Dunmore's "The Libertine"

    Laurence Dunmore's film "The Libertine" sketches the glory days and final detumescence of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, the notorious Restoration wit and rakehell who wrote highly allusive poems, some sexually explicit, others philosophical, many a vexing combination. Based upon the play by Stuart...

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    Wedding Crashers: Eran Riklis' "Syrian Bride"

    Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis recognizes the cinematic potential in an absurd political situation--it's easy for him, perhaps, because the country he lives in provides so much irrationality and insanity. His new downcast wedding film, "The Syrian Bride," takes place on the matrimonial day of Mona (Clara Khoury), a young Druze woman who is about to marry a Syrian television star she has never met. For Mona, this meaningful day entails drastic consequences: once she crosses the border from Majdal Shams, the Druze village where she lives with her family, to her new life in Syria, she will never be able to come back. The happiest day of her life ...

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    "Ragged Little Pill": Scott Coffey's "Ellie Parker"

    It's difficult to now recall that the first hour of "Mulholland Drive" was predicated upon the question of whether or not Naomi Watts could act. Her performance worked because the film trafficked in the thrill of the unknown: For the audience, grimacing doubt segued into rapt attention when Watts's Little Mary Sunshine, Betty, mouth full of gleaming pearly whites orthodontized in Deep River, Ontario, entered her first backroom Hollywood audition. Prior to her tremulous and emotional, if admittedly B-movie, line delivery as she read a hokey swath of dialogue with a craggy James Brolin wannabe, we could have only expected more awkward Rebecca o...

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    Three Extremes: Craig Lucas' "The Dying Gaul"

    Craig Lucas' "The Dying Gaul" features a wonderful, winking twist: A studio head offers a neophyte scribe one million dollars for his beautiful autobiographical screenplay about a man dealing with the death of his lover to AIDS -- as long as he changes the central relationship into a heterosexual one, of course. Taking its own title from that script, this engagingly postmodern film about selling-out in Hollywood purposively retains the very elements which Jeffrey (Campbell Scott) would have Robert (Peter Sarsgaard) negate, as the former ends up paradoxically pursuing the constantly cruised latter with an unabashedly spirited lust. Playwright-...

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