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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Imagine That: Tarsem Singh's "The Fall"

    Playwright John Guare must have had Indian director Tarsem Singh (or as he's often simply known, Tarsem) in mind when he wrote about the increasing exteriorization of the term "imaginative": "Why has 'imagination' become a synonym for style?" Singh makes films that inspire a bevy of similarly misuse...

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    REVIEW | Changes: Lucia Puenzo's "XXY"

    Though it's as sullen and damp-grey as its morose 15-year-old protagonist, Argentinean filmmaker Lucia Puenzo's directorial debut "XXY" doesn't really get inside the mind of young Alex as much as watch her with an awkward combination of fascination and empathy. It's both a success and a failing on the new filmmaker's part; her intention in making "XXY," to humanely depict a character who might in other films or literature be relegated to oddball supporting status, is undoubtedly noble. Yet by focusing almost exclusively on Alex's differences (she was born with both female and male genitalia), rather than offering other facets of her life for ...

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    REVIEW | Let's Go to the Videotape: Garth Jennings's "Son of Rambow"

    There's rarely a moment in "Son of Rambow" that isn't polished or primped for prime demographic impact; a whirlwind for those who get nostalgic for British school-chum pictures, Sylvester Stallone actioners, early Eighties camcorders, and breakdance-era outre outfits, Garth Jennings's ingratiating lark would seem to court snorts of recognition more than active engagement. Yet this backward-looking pint-sized "Ed Wood" often sails by on the charms of its formula - it's an appealingly rambunctious boy's adventure in the guise of a paean to the artistic process (not the other way around). Along with "Be Kind Rewind," Jennings's film may be on th...

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    REVIEW | The Archaeologist's Dilemma: Jeremy Podeswa's "Fugitive Pieces"

    Nostalgic, deeply felt, and refreshingly astute, "Fugitive Pieces" is something of a rare bird these days -- a big-budget, transnational historical drama that actually justifies its scope and subject matter with more than visual opulence. On the surface, it looks like the kind of mainstream art-house fare that marries historical romance with a superficial exoticism; with its meandering sense of space and time and its rich sensual engagement, Anne Michaels's novel has drawn comparisons to Ondaatje's "The English Patient," and similarly Podeswa's adaptation will draw comparisons to Minghella's film. But what might have been an overly sentimenta...

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    REVIEW | Knock Off: Claude Lelouch's "Roman de gare"

    Sixties art-house standby Claude Lelouch is, as it turns out, alive and well and living in Paris. He's even directed a new film; the title, "Roman de gare," incessantly punned with in the film, apparently refers to those cheap paperback thrillers available at train stations, tawdry stuff good for a ...

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    REVIEW | Seeing Is Believing: Errol Morris's "Standard Operating Procedure"

    Often when it comes to Errol Morris, the more you see, the less you know. Some documentarians aim to answer and resolve, but Morris is almost too content to leave us adrift in ambiguity, regardless of the political, moral, and epistemological repercussions. After a New York Film Festival screening of his last film, the Oscar-winning "The Fog of War," the woman seated next to me was angry -- violently, vocally angry -- at what she perceived to be the film's sympathetic treatment of Robert McNamara (or should I say, its failure to unequivocally indict him?). I wondered then: why the vitriol? Was it because she disagreed with the film, or becaus...

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    REVIEW | I'll Be Seeing You: Vadim Perelman's "The Life Before Her Eyes"

    Diana and Maureen are in the girls' room, gossiping about boys and bio between classes, when shots ring out. It's the sound of an assault rifle wielded by Michael Patrick, the school nerd, on a violent, Columbine-like rampage. How do we know? "Yesterday in trig he told me he was going to bring a gun...

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    REVIEW | Growth Factor: Sue Williams's "Young & Restless in China"

    With the controversial Beijing Olympics just around the corner, the eyes of the world continue to attentively watch the rapid and profound changes taking place in the social, cultural, and environmental life of China, currently staking a claim as the global market's most powerful economy. "Young & Restless in China," a documentary in the vein of the ongoing "Up" series, examines how these radical transformations are affecting the latest Chinese citizens to enter the workforce, a dislocated and confused generation of young people awkwardly caught in the move from, as director Sue Williams puts forth, "idealism to materialism." It's a shift dir...

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    REVIEW | Strange Fascination: Ari Libsker's "Stalags"

    Many Americans have never heard about the Stalag fiction phenomenon; Ari Libsker's short but valuable documentary, simply titled "Stalags," makes for a troubling, though thoughtful, introduction. Stalags constituted a genre of cheap exploitation novels that briefly thrived in Israel in the early Sixties during the period of the Adolf Eichmann trial, when the atrocities of the Holocaust were initially and tentatively broached in the public sphere. Stalags usually stuck to the same tried and true formula, pawning themselves off as translations of memoirs by American or British soldiers who had been imprisoned during World War II by the Nazis an...

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    REVIEW | Weird Science: Shi-Zheng Chen's "Dark Matter"

    "Dark Matter" begins with a shot of Meryl Streep practicing tai chi, and therein lies a precise encapsulation of the film's attitude toward the intersection of Eastern and Western cultures. In its 90-minute duration, the film grapples with a number of weighty themes: the origins of the universe, the...

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