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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Carnival of Old Souls: Margaret Brown's "The Order of Myths"

    It may come as something of a shock to most that in Mobile, Alabama, a culturally sanctified segregation still exists. And documentary filmmaker Margaret Brown must be relying on that shock from viewers of her exacting new film "The Order of Myths," even if it resolutely avoids sensationalism or pol...

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    REVIEW | Walking in the Air: James Marsh's "Man on Wire"

    A blow-by-blow account of how, in 1974, the impish French performance artist, and ludicrously appropriately named Philippe Petit achieved (and survived) the seemingly otherworldly when he walked on a tightrope situated 1350 feet in the air, anchored between the World Trade Center's twin towers, James Marsh's documentary "Man on Wire" is a fleet, engagingly narrated, and [insert "taut" here] suspense narrative. Like the events it's based on, "Man on Wire" is the kind of film that's more inspiring to witness than it is to later think (or write) about, but let it be said that Marsh's adeptness at mounting his tale is undeniable, and what the fil...

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    REVIEW | Disconnect Four: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass's "Baghead"

    A refreshingly high-concept low-budget outing, the Duplass Brothers' "Baghead" is an immensely likeable and surprisingly well-executed genre hybrid. The difficulty one finds in trying to categorize it is part of its charm, and this is not just whether one sees it as horror, comedy, or relationship roundelay but also how one defines and compartmentalizes its aesthetic: "Baghead"'s makers and at least one of its stars may have crawled out from under the "mumble"-corps, but its adherence to a somewhat conventional narrative framework successfully contorts and expands the boundaries of what that short-lived almost-collective of filmmakers were af...

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    REVIEW | Post Traumatic Stress: Aditya Assarat's "Wonderful Town"

    In many ways, the debut feature from Bangkok-born, American-educated Aditya Assarat, "Wonderful Town," has all the hallmarks of a workshopped Sundance indie: an eminently tasteful romance between two ingratiatingly sweet people burgeoning against a backdrop of recent tragedy, buoyed by delicate guitar score, bracketed by self-consciously lovely landscape shots. A detailing of the emotionally and physically ravaged coastal area of Takua Pa following the December 2004 tsunami that cost it more than 8,000 local lives, "Wonderful Town" means to use the event's aftereffects to evoke its characters' personal displacement. There's no doubt that Assa...

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    REVIEW | Sympathy Strike: Charles Oliver's "Take"

    Like Lee Chang-dong's 2007 "Secret Sunshine," Charles Oliver's debut feature "Take" deals with the awkward moral quandaries of infanticide and the subsequent, touchy relations between a killer and his victim's mother. That Lee's film remains unreleased in this country is no doubt due in part to the ...

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    REVIEW | Dear Johns: Jacques Nolot's "Before I Forget"

    The catchwords for "Before I Forget" would seem to be direct, intimate, unsparing; yet, conversely, it also feels cavernous and, in its seeming brutal frankness, slippery and elusive. Either drenched in unyielding shadow or flooded with harsh light, "Before I Forget" follows the sixty-something Pier...

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    REVIEW | The Material World: Silvio Soldini's "Days and Clouds"

    In its detailing of a couple's financial freefall after the loss of a job, Silvio Soldini's "Days and Clouds" -- recently featured in the Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual roundup of new Italian cinema -- couldn't ask for a more fittingly precipitous point in time for its American theatrical r...

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    REVIEW | Los Angeles Plays With Itself: Jason Freeland's "Garden Party"

    What is it about Los Angeles that makes it prone to multicharacter, excess-minded ensembles and devoted tributes to itself disguised as critiques? Well, as we learned from Paul Haggis's ethnography-as-racial-burlesque "Crash," everyone in that city just sort of, well, crashes into each other--presumptively it's strictly a car thing, because I've had my share of sidewalk collisions while walking on New York's even more crowded streets. Perhaps the city's denizens are united by a certain, unspoken shared misery, eventually exacerbated or cleansed by some greater destructive force, as in "Short Cuts" and "Magnolia." Or is it that everyone oozes ...

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    REVIEW | Gathering Moss: Alex Gibney's "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson"

    Hunter S. Thompson's prose was nervy and pugnacious, his judgments bullying and hyperbolic, his life as volatile as any in postwar American letters. "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson" couldn't be any more different in mien and spirit. A couple of passages aside, it is almost perversely straightforward in light of its unstable subject, a chronological march through the heavy '60s, the downer '70s and the post-Reagan blur with a dutiful assemblage of talking heads and archival footage. The historical and cultural insights are all textbook, the music choices "Gump"-esque (if I hear Jefferson Airplane playing over images of Summ...

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    REVIEW | House of Cards: Terry Kinney's "Diminished Capacity"

    One could surmise the mediocrity of "Diminished Capacity" from reading the synopsis alone: Cooper (Matthew Broderick), a small-town-boy-made-good in the big city but lately suffering from the lasting effects of a serious concussion, heads back home to visit his fading Uncle Rollie (Alan Alda). As Cooper's mother explains of the latter's condition in a letter, "Dr. Hoyt calls it 'diminished capacity'; that's the legal term for a man who thinks that fish are typing poetry out on the end of his pier." Got that last bit? To clarify: Rollie connects fishing lines to each letter on his typewriter, the nibbling of which results in a jumble of w...

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