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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | The Road Well Traveled: William Maher's "Sleepwalking"

    When a film opens with shots of a straight and anonymous American highway -- that most overdetermined of American film locations -- as "Sleepwalking" does, one must be braced for a story about emotional journeys. A ribbon of asphalt stretching to the horizon is immediate shorthand for personal growth along the road of life (for, to paraphrase Tom Cochrane, life is a highway); this is as true for Captain America and Billy as it is for Steve Martin and the late John Candy. Though "Sleepwalking" offers little variation on the modern automotive odyssey to maturity (as its protagonists carpool their way to catharsis and fulfillment, sensitive pop ...

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    REVIEW | A Winning Argument: Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp's "War Made Easy"

    Though the early to mid-aughts documentary boom has recently died down, it's still difficult to believe there hasn't been a serious nonfiction indictment of the collusion between the government and the media in selling the invasion of Iraq to the American public. This accounts for a somewhat shameful omission in the ever-growing Iraq War doc catalogue--the sheer amount of lies, distortions, and fear-mongering titillations on display in a typical CNN or Fox News broadcast circa 2002 (and today) would offer enough evidence on the sorry state of our national media for a book-length study, let alone a feature film. Columnist, critic, and antiwar ...

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    REVIEW | Quiet Anger: David Gordon Green's "Snow Angels"

    [EDITOR'S NOTE: Steve Ramos reviewed David Gordon Green's "Snow Angels" following its world premiere at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.]

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    REVIEW | Like, Actually: Bharat Nalluri's "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day"

    A middle-aged, getting-your-groove-back Cinderella story: Miss Pettigrew, an unsuccessful domestic used to taking her meals in breadlines, maneuvers a job with a flighty American "actress" abroad, Delysia Lafosse. Just like that, prim Pettigrew is off the streets and hovering around the nexus of the...

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    REVIEW | Aural Examination: Gus Van Sant's "Paranoid Park"

    Gus Van Sant's so-called "Death Trilogy" may have culminated two years ago with crowning achievement "Last Days," but to judge by his latest film, "Paranoid Park," the entropic weight of mortality is still very much at the center of the filmmaker's concerns. Moving beyond the Death Trilogy's Bela Ta...

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    REVIEW | "Burbs of a Feather . . . " : Ira Sachs' "Married Life"

    "Married Life," the third feature from Ira Sachs, marks a major departure for the Memphis-born filmmaker. The first of his movies to take place away from his native South, and his only period picture, "Married Life" stakes out new thematic ground for a director whose previous efforts, "The Delta" and "Forty Shades of Blue," focused resolutely on outsiders, people on the margins trying to navigate their way through an unfamiliar, unfriendly, and even hostile social environment. By contrast, "Married Life," tackles a far more commonplace -- and rather banal -- subject: suburban heterosexual partnership and the mysterious, often unspoken undercu...

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    REVIEW | Son of God: Paulo Morelli's "City of Men"

    2000's art-house megahit "City of God" has officially attained franchise status -- after spawning a made-for-television series, "City of Men," it's now passing a licensed spin-off of the same title along to theaters. Director Paulo Morelli, who had a hand in the TV show, looks at the favelas of Rio ...

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    REVIEW | Malignant Growth: Laura Dunn's "The Unforeseen"

    Due to the onslaught of environmental documentaries that prioritize urgency over intelligence, Laura Dunn's "The Unforeseen," an inquisitive, elegant rendering of the battle between land development and dwindling natural resources in Austin, might get lost in the shuffle. And what a shame that would be, for Dunn's refreshingly thorough look at the encroachment of capital on untouched land is smart enough not to treat its subject as a horror show. The film is more sobered than alarming, yet it's hardly defeatist. An impressionist's portrait of contemporary American economic life, "The Unforeseen" is for nature both a paean and an elegy, and fo...

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    REVIEW | Street Poetry: Ramin Bahrani's "Chop Shop"

    Scraping for a living in the shadow of that holy of professional baseball holies, Shea Stadium, twelve year-old Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco) does everything an impoverished, parentless, out-of-school 12-year-old can do to survive in the lowest depths of one of New York City's strangest and direst areas, Willets Point, Queens. He calls his boss Rob's (Rob Sowulski) auto body shop both his workplace and home, hustles pornographic DVDs, robs U.S. Open patrons, steals hub caps from Shea's parking lot for extra cash, and saves up precious money to buy a used mobile-food van along with his 16-year-old prostitute sister, Isamar (Isamar Gonzales), i...

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    REVIEW | Holding Court: Jacques Rivette's "The Duchess of Langeais"

    A chamber piece for two tragic almost-lovers, a coquettish Duchess and a noble French General. A chance flirtation at a Fauborg St-Germain party initiates an arduous campaign of romantic outflankings, accomplished through feigned illnesses, epistolary sallies, evocations of God, and threats of force. Abstemious with close-ups, "The Duchess of Langeais" is a two-shot duet for Jeanne Balibar and Guillaume Depardieu. The performances are precise in the extreme, the combatants' war games regulated by elaborate rules of engagement, incremental charges and retreats. In visits to the Duchess's residence, they push and pull their conversations betwee...

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