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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Shrill Life: Cherie Nowlan's "Introducing the Dwights"

    A first impression of the titular family in Cherie Nowlan's "Introducing the Dwights" (formerly known as "Clubland") has one imagining the film will be a sunny, Aussie-style quirkfest in the vanilla vein of many a Sundance flick. When his new girlfriend, Jill (Emma Booth), asks about meeting the pa...

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    REVIEW | Body Contact: Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr's "One to Another"

    There's an ever more prevalent, if still marginalized, subgenre in international films today that is difficult to classify. In such films as Larry Clark's "Bully" and Gael Morel's "Le Clan" (released here as "Three Dancing Slaves"), groups of teenagers descend into violent oblivion while the filmmakers dispassionately, purposely objectify their supple flesh. The gap between the actions of the characters and the voyeurism of the filmmakers makes for an awkward, sometimes stimulating dialogue, even if it also leaves the actors somewhat adrift. The recurring image of these films are young, lithe bodies, supine, entangled: in "Le Clan," three eye...

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    REVIEW | Zero for Conduct: Fredi M. Murer's "Vitus"

    Of the thin trickle of foreign films that ever see proper U.S. release, the "subtitled moppets" subgenre seems to me the most superfluous - and when a film like Switzerland's "Vitus" comes along, press kit boasting an Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote on the cover, one can only prepare to be cloyed to ...

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    REVIEW | The Lower Depths: Asger Leth's "Ghosts of Cite Soleil"

    "Rap music influenced them people deep over there; they will live by it and they will die by it. And it ain't no Hollywood movie, it's the truth." So says Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean, speaking on the street-level reality in Cite Soleil, a shantytown outside Port-au-Prince, and the central character of "Ghosts of Cite Soleil," a documentary on which Jean boasts both executive producer and original music credits. It's a statement that the film fails to follow through on the implications of, showing little curiosity as to what such an "influence" might imply for hardcore hip-hop music - a genre which, incidentally, has always borrowed ...

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    REVIEW | Prognosis: Dire, Michael Moore's "Sicko"

    After announcing itself with the requisite George W. Bush-as-incoherent-idiot sound bite, Michael Moore's "SiCKO" officially begins with a close-up of an unhealed wound. From that point on, Moore will train his camera on countless gashes and sores, most of them psychological, all of which hit the viewer with the force of a hurricane. The subject matter is so inherently powerful and frustrating, and the horror stories "SiCKO" relates are so relatable to American audiences, that one almost wishes that Moore had simply allowed his participants to just speak: to let the running camera record these everyday people's woes, to create a nonstop ethno...

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    REVIEW | The World at Large: Jennifer Baichwal's "Manufactured Landscapes"

    Initially, Jennifer Baichwal's "Manufactured Landscapes" recalls last year's "Our Daily Bread." A clinical crawl through a gargantuan Chinese factory - with its endless, evenly spaced stations of laborers glued to tedious tasks - hauntingly echoes similar tracking shots Nikolaus Geyrhalter used in h...

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    REVIEW | Under the Rainbow: Pascale Ferran's "Lady Chatterley"

    Showered with Cesar awards in its native France, Pascale Ferran's "Lady Chatterley" faces a more uncertain fate stateside (Gallic awards committees can't resist a pretty woman in a field of sun-kissed wildflowers; just ask Claude Berri). Though based on a version of D.H. Lawrence's long-banned, "pornographic" final novel, it's too restive and restrained to draw in the blithe, shock-hungry Terry Richardson/"9 Songs" contingent, too explicit for the AARP-discount crowd looking for a period romance that'll act as a soothing tonic - and as for American critics, there's never any shortage of twits eager to reenact the aesthetic skirmishes of fifty...

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    REVIEW | Staying Afloat: Aki Kaurismaki's "Lights in the Dusk"

    There's a fine line between an artist spinning out variations of core themes and merely treading water. No doubt some will find Aki Kaurismaki's deceptively slight, 77-minute "Lights in the Dusk" a textbook example of the latter, especially given the strenuously laudatory response that greeted his previous film, the Academy Award-nominated "The Man Without a Past." While there's not much value (outside of sheer contrarian pleasure) in poking holes in a fine movie four years after the fact, it's still worth noting that "The Man Without a Past" probably represents less a high water mark for Kaurismaki's filmmaking (see "Shadows in Paradise") ...

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    REVIEW | Crazier Love: Taika Waititi's "Eagle vs. Shark"

    Quirky: the one adjective that if employed in a synopsis or review should cause any thoughtful person to avoid a film so described, and a perfect kiss-of-death salvo for "Eagle vs. Shark." This crowd-pleasing New Zealand indie, developed from the Sundance Director's and Screenwriter's Labs (from which the similar "Me and You and Everyone You Know" emerged) and plucked from the vine by savvy Miramax, is the latest in a recent trend of offbeat, adorable stillbirths about families of barely lovable misfits learning valuable life lessons in a world of kitschy crap. The parade of cute begins right off the bat when fast-food employee Lily (Loren Ho...

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    REVIEW | Aftermath: Olivier Meyrou's "Beyond Hatred"

    The straightforward, very American, talking-head "expose" approach to documentary, cribbed from television shows like "Dateline NBC" and "20/20," has become the norm - and, in exploitative dreck like "Capturing the Friedmans" and "Crazy Love," efficiently transformed real human lives into sound bite...

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