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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Missing Pieces: Amiel's "Creation" Lacks Sense of Awe

    The legacy of Charles Darwin — not unlike those of Jesus, Moses, or Abraham Lincoln — presents a daunting challenge for storytellers: When a nonfictional character carries such widespread familiarity, audiences automatically prejudge the results. "Creation," the rare non-Canadian movie to open the Toronto International Film Festival, displays no awareness of these trappings and obliviously falls into them. The movie recounts Darwin's emotional and theological struggles immediately prior to writing "On the Origin of the Species" in 1859. Paul Bettany plays the groundbreaking researcher as a stiff, broken man — equally wrecked by the atheistic ...

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    REVIEW | A Long and Dreary Path: John Hillcoat's "The Road"

    With its drearily brief paragraphs and poetic emphasis on imagery over dialogue, Cormac McCarthy's 2006 post-apocalyptic novel "The Road" practically reads like a screenplay. Not unreasonably, John Hillcoat's tense, discomfiting big screen adaptation remains almost entirely faithful to the book's di...

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    Watch Your Step: Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein's "No Impact Man"

    Intriguingly high concept yet visually and structurally artless in the way of so many modern documentaries, Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein's "No Impact Man" chronicles Colin Beavan's yearlong experiment to reduce his carbon footprint as much as possible while living in New York City. Necessarily participating in the project are Colin's wife, Michelle Conlin, and toddler daughter, Isabella. Giving up trash-producing luxuries such as takeout meals, as well as non-locally sourced food products, any form of carbon-producing transportation, and, eventually, electricity, the family comes off as admirable on the one hand -- such extreme efforts on ...

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    Small Wonder: Shane Acker's "9"

    The release of Shane Acker's "9," an expansion of his compelling Academy Award-nominated short of the same name, adds another to 2009's slate of intelligent, distinctive animated features. "Coraline," "Up," "9.99," and "Ponyo" all represent antidotes to increasingly homogenized studio animation via a blend of unique, considered visual styles and depth of storytelling ability. "9"'s no slouch in either of these regards. (If "Fantastic Mr. Fox" turns out well, this might be remembered as a watershed year.) An apocalyptic steampunk vision in which a ragged band of miniature sock puppet figures risk their lives to defeat the remnants of evil ma...

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    Colossal Youth: Alexis dos Santos's "Unmade Beds"

    As long there as there are young people living out their dreams in cities, there will always be young filmmakers eager and willing to follow them around churning out Bohemian anomie portraiture. Kids in urban settings constitute a broad enough arena of exploration that we'll always have the good (P...

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    Basic Formula: Cherien Dabis's "Amreeka"

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This review was originally published as part of indieWIRE's coverage of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. "Amreeka" opens this Friday.

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    No Sense or Sensibility: Lee's "Woodstock" Undercooked

    This review was originally published as part of indieWIRE's coverage of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

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    An Engaging Portrait of Obsession: Robert Siegel's "Big Fan"

    This review was originally published as part of indieWIRE's coverage of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. "We Live In Public" is being released in theaters this Friday.

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    Portraying Chaos: Ondi Timoner's "We Live In Public"

    This review was originally published as part of indieWIRE's coverage of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. "We Live In Public" is being released in theaters this Friday.

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    Surface Tension: R.J. Cutler's "The September Issue"

    About five minutes into R.J. Cutler's "The September Issue," an almost-expose of the production of Vogue magazine's annual fall spectacular, electroclash act Ladytron's icy "Destroy Everything You Touch" spikes on the soundtrack. By this point Cutler's already established his hands-off nonfiction f...

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