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Movie Reviews

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    The Play's the Thing: John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt"

    On paper, John Patrick Shanley did everything right in bringing his Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Doubt" to film. He adapted the screenplay and directed himself, assembled a cast with 17 Oscar nominations to their collective credit, and brought in the extraordinary cinematographer Roger Deakins. Given the strength of the source material and the pedigree of its cast and crew, "Doubt" may be the ultimate low-risk, high-reward prestige product, and it would be wrong for me to suggest that Shanley has produced anything less than a gripping piece of work. Despite its many virtues, though, "Doubt" is also bloodless. Handsome, well played, and oddly ...

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    Mad Dog: Paul Schrader's "Adam Resurrected"

    There's no joy to be had in enumerating the shortcomings of "Adam Resurrected," an ambitious and long gestating adaptation of a much-admired novel by Yoram Kaniuk. But in most respects the film just doesn't click: tone stumbles and fumbles meaning, dialogue meanders above uneven visuals, and scenes ...

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    REVIEW | Life on the Margins: Kelly Reichardt's "Wendy and Lucy"

    The Pacific Northwest on display in Kelly Reichardt's latest film isn't restorative, as in her lovely last, "Old Joy," the lust forests of which temporarily heal an ailing friendship; nor is the setting here milked for moody, romantic potential as in the recently released "Twilight." In "Wendy and L...

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    REVIEW | Stark Relief: Yen Tan's "Ciao"

    During a time when American independent cinema either grunts elliptically under moody skies or chatters banally cross-legged on the living room floor, the purposeful, probing dialogue in Yen Tan's "Ciao" feels like a throwback to an entirely different reality. When characters talk in "Ciao," they ar...

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    REVIEW | Blue(s) Movie: Darnell Martin's "Cadillac Records"

    When Syd Nathan, the CEO of King Records, died in 1968, James Brown, the label's greatest star, bought the desk from Nathan's office and had it fitted with a gold plaque reading "I Remember the Man Syd Nathan." Nathan was white, and Brown boastfully black--so how to account for this? If we were to b...

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    REVIEW | A Hero for Our Time: Gus Van Sant's "Milk"

    "Politics is theater," observes Harvey (Sean Penn) in Gus Van Sant's terrific "Milk." And sometimes, of course, theater -- or cinema -- is politics. When they first embarked on this project, Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black could never have anticipated that 2008 would see the election of a minority candidate and former community organizer, running on a message of hope, to the highest office in the land, nor could they have expected that Obama's historic victory would coincide with the passage of Proposition 8 in California, delivering a major setback for the gay rights movement in the United States. But this is "Milk"'s political ...

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    REVIEW | Dream On: Tom Gustafson's "Were the World Mine"

    The least one could ask of a wish-fulfillment fantasy film is a little buoyancy and breeziness. Yet for all its good-natured intentions, Tom Gustafson's "Were the World Mine," in which a put-upon small-town gay teen converts his hopelessly straight town (including his corn-fed jock crush) to the pin...

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    REVIEW | Dull Flame: Shamim Sarif's "I Can't Think Straight"

    You would think that a cross-cultural, cross-religious lesbian romance should have enough built-in conflict to sustain an 80-minute feature, but Shamim Sarif's "I Can't Think Straight" slumps and stretches its way from its first uninspired set piece, an engagement party for Jordanian-Christian Tala ...

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    REVIEW | Close Encounters: Yair Hochner's "Antarctica"

    One can't accuse director Yair Hochner of not giving his target audiences what we want: in the opening fifteen minutes of the Israeli filmmaker's ensemble dramedy of hook-ups and hang-ups among a small group of gay men in Tel Aviv, he fills the screen with all manner of groping titillation. As one e...

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    REVIEW | Fan-dumb: Josh Koury's "We Are Wizards"

    Full disclosure: I have never read any of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. I have never seen any of the blockbuster movies based on her series. That I plan to never do so is not entirely because of any perceived intellectual and emotional poverty of these books and movies--I know plenty of smart ...

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