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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | No Exit: Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani's "Ajami"

    "Ajami" gets right to the tragic heart of the matter. Before the viewer knows what or whom he's watching, a young boy is gunned down in the middle of a city street in broad daylight. Though a backstory is soon provided, the incident truly and crucially never makes sense. Revenge, recompense, clumsy justice, even apparently legitimate legal proceedings provide a measure of context and set the rest of the narrative in motion, but the brutal fact of the murder is never gotten over. Violence will return, again and again over the course of the film, but it is not to be justified by theoretical or political abstractions, and its impact is never sof...

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    REVIEW | The Toxic Avenger: Josh Fox's "GasLand"

    Josh Fox's "GasLand" is the paragon of first person activist filmmaking done right. Matching his perspective with a slew of infuriating case studies, Fox explores the influx of hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking"), a method of drilling natural gas that endangers the sanity of water supplies in the i...

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    REVIEW | Cholodenko's "All Right" with Forward Moving Family Film

    Lisa Cholondenko's "The Kids are All Right" succeeds at normalizing a once-progressive scenario. The story of a married lesbian couple and the chummy sperm donor responsible for their family produces a sitcom-ready plot that drifts to its natural finish. As the two moms, Julianne Moore and Annette B...

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    REVIEW | Off Peak: Philipp Stölzl’s “North Face”

    The lineage of cinematic mountain climbing extends back to the films of the 1900s. These early efforts evolved into the hugely popular German Bergfilme of the Twenties, the Alpine equivalent of the American Western; in both genres the activities of its characters are circumscribed by features of the landscape. The image of the heroic Aryan mountain climber conquering nature through force of will didn’t go unnoticed by the Third Reich in the 1930s (notably, Leni Riefenstahl began her career starring in Bergfilmes), and the Germanic mythology captured in these works certainly found a ready outlet in the epic pageants of the Nazi era. Aside f...

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    REVIEW | When Social Media Attack: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost's "Catfish"

    Many movies over last ten years have engaged with the dangers of online communication, but Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost's "Catfish" delivers the definitive narrative of social networking gone awry to cap off the decade. By turns hilarious, unsettling and sad, the documentary eng...

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    REVIEW | "Smash His Camera": Capturing the Phantom of Twentieth-Century Show Business

    The legacy of the paparazzo has never been a pretty one, but Leon Gast's "Smash His Camera" boldly suggests its artistic merits. Granted, his subject -- quintessential New York photographer Ron Galella -- has been around a lot longer than today's combative TMZ cameramen, but he's got a few battle sc...

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    REVIEW | Almost a Masterpiece: "Four Lions" an Explosive Comedy

    In the opening scene of "Four Lions," a group of British would-be terrorists attempt in vain to make the ideal suicide tape. It's not the first time that such risqué bloopers have been depicted in narrative form - both "Paradise Now" and the short-lived Showtime series "Sleeper Cell" contained similar moments - but it's certainly the funniest. Chris Morris's tragicomic portrait of jihad gone awry zips along with many of these contemporary references points in the service of humor, yet pulls off an unlikely feat by avoiding any kind of outright spoof. The characters are no laughing matter; instead, their bumbling tendencies suggest a universal...

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    Waititi's Remarkably Insightful "Boy" Succeeds On Many Levels

    Editor's note: A version of this review originally ran at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. "Boy" opens in limited release this Friday.

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    criticWIRE This Week: "Creation" Does Not Make The Grade

    criticWIRE is back with an updated calendar of releases that takes on January and February's specialty films - including three films opening this weel. More than 100 film critics and bloggers have their own pages on the indieWIRE site. The criticWIRE section includes RSS feeds and links for the ind...

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    REVIEW | Lives in Motion: Andre Techine's "The Girl on the Train"

    There's a brilliant tension at the heart of the new film by the consistently challenging French director Andre Techine, "The Girl on the Train." This is a work about an ambiguity--its disturbing central event is an act fueled by mysterious motivation, and it's enacted by a character whom we only think we have come to know and understand, a young Parisian woman named Jeanne (Emilie Dequenne). Yet, as is the case with Techine, the film is shot with a searching, unceasing motion that digs deep into the images onscreen, looking for answers. Techine's cinema is tactile, penetrative; with the help of director of photography Julien Hirsch (the immen...

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