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Movie Reviews

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    Big Screen | "Love," "Killer" and "Cyrus" Heat Up Summer Art Houses

    An eclectic trio of indie films featuring some consider star power are looking to continue the specialty box office surge that - of all things - Joan Rivers and a dark drama set in the Ozark Mountains started last weekend. This Friday, Luca Guadagnino's "I Am Love," Mark And Jay Duplass's "Cyrus," and Michael Winterbottom's "The Killer Inside Me" will all hit theaters and, between them, feature casts that include Tilda Swinton, Catherine Keener, John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, Kate Hudson, Casey Affleck and Jessica Alba. Like last weekend's "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" and "Winter's Bone," they all also hail from Sundance 2010 (t...

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    REVIEW | Anatomy of a Psychopath: Michael Winterbottom's "The Killer Inside Me"

    Notorious from the moment it first unspooled at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Michael Winterbottom's "The Killer Inside Me" certainly has a fair share of brutal indulgences. However, as much as the controversy may scare off the faint of heart, the viciousness comes and goes -- which could a...

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    REVIEW | In Search of Happiness: Agnes Jaoui's "Let It Rain"

    "I'm basically really happy," says the genial hotel clerk Karim (Jamel Debbouze) in the first scene of Agnes Jaoui's "Let It Rain," a brisk French dramedy in which happiness constantly lurks just barely outside the frame. Looking for an escape his unremarkable life, Karim joins forces with self-described "reporter" Michel (Joui's ongoing writing partner, Jean-Pierre Bacri) to make an ill-fated documentary about the established feminist writer Agathe Villanova (Jaoui), whose long-standing family maid happens to be Karim's Algerian mother. There are tensions of both racial and professional natures in this arrangement, but they lurk in the nuanc...

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    REVIEW | Music & Fashion Love: "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky"

    The second movie released in a year's time to involve fashion designer maven Coco Chanel, the brooding drama "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky" delivers its goods on constant repeat. A fictionalization of the rumored liaison between Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) and the famed Russian composer (Mads Mikkelsen) in the 1920s, this spare, elegantly-made period piece creates a visually dazzling portrait of misguided passion. But the remarkable sights and sounds, which culminate with Stravinsky composing a masterpiece after the conclusion of his torrid affair, don't quite overwhelm the lack of story. Instead, we get continuous overstatement: Sex! Art! Tortu...

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    Big Screen | "Bone," "Joan" Give June a Critical Boost

    A unlikely duo of Sundance 2010 alums are giving this summer a much needed boost of critical acclaim this weekend, with Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's doc "Joan RIvers: A Piece of Work" and Debra Granik's U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner "Winter's Bone" each beginning their limited releases c...

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    REVIEW | Where the Comic Lies: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work"

    With late night television dominating entertainment headlines this year in a less-than-flattering light, the time seems ripe to revisit the public's neglect of Joan Rivers. The 77-year-old comic's reputation sank from rising star to showbiz disaster over the course of a decade, mainly due to a shift in media perspective: The subversive broadcast performer became the disastrous face of plastic surgery. "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," the new documentary from directorial team Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, initially deals with that trajectory in visual terms. The comedienne first appears in unflattering close-up, getting mobbed with make-up, l...

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    REVIEW | Drama in Absence: Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone"

    An elegant, soft spoken noir, Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone" exudes desolation. Adapting Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name, Granik simultaneously develops a dreary backwoods environment while situating her layered story of deceit within it. Set in the heart of Missouri's Ozark woods, the movie revolves around despondent teenager Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence, in a focused, incessantly serious performance), whose father vanishes after selling their house as jail bond. Serving as a surrogate mother for her two younger siblings, Ree begins a trenchant investigation into her father's whereabouts, desperately seeking to keep her family from ...

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    REVIEW | Grown-Up Fairy Tale: Neil Jordan's "Ondine"

    The era of earnest fairy-tales for children quite possibly ended with the rise of "Shrek," a cynically-minded franchise that replaced sincere, imaginative storytelling with mostly heartless parody. Even when the bitingly sarcastic approach succeeds - the fourth and ostensibly final "Shrek" movie has its fair share of pointed one-liners and clever sight gags - it sacrifices the magic of invention that made its cliché-filled target so alluring in the first place. (There's nothing wrong with liking those particular clichés when they're properly served, but even Tim Burton's visually audacious "Alice in Wonderland" was a terribly self-aware imita...

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    Fifty Years Later, Radical as Ever: Revisiting Godard's "Breathless"

    Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" woke me up to the vitality of film language -- and, by extension, the medium's potential as an art form. I first encountered this existential slice of genre deconstruction on VHS, a format generally unkind to preserving dated moving image experiences, but perfectly ali...

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    Big Screen | Jeunet's "Micmacs" Hits America

    With "Sex and the City 2" continuing summer 2010's now month-long tradition of Hollywood films sucking, what better weekend to turn your summer filmgoing over to the art house? Though with films like "George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead" and "Agora" getting similarly horrific critical responses, perhaps it's just as bad on the other side. There is one arguable glimmer of cinematic hope this weekend though, care of the divisive magical realism of Gallic director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("Amelie," "A Very Long Engagement"). His "Micmacs," a comic satire on the arms race, premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and is being r...

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