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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Back in the Saddle Again: David Von Ancken's "Seraphim Falls"

    It begins with a gunshot, as from a starter's pistol, and the race is on. Gideon (Pierce Brosnan) - heavily bearded, feral from chase - is pursued across a frozen landscape by the steady, vengeance-driven Carver (Liam Neeson) and his posse. Motives stay opaque; Carver's gang churns through the snow in implacable advance, Gideon doubles back to pick off stragglers, and both men rankle with a hidden hurt that they cannot or will not forget. Shot under the auspices of Mel Gibson's Icon Productions (with "Braveheart" cinematographer John Toll), David Von Ancken's marathon-man Western trades in Mel's favorite things: out-of-breath action filmmaki...

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    PARK CITY '07 REVIEW | The Girl Couldn't Help It: David Stenn's "Girl 27"

    My favorite David Stenn book is "Bombshell: The Life and Death of Jean Harlow," a wonderful look at Hollywood's first blonde sex symbol and the dark and tragic circumstances regarding her too-short life. Insights about early Hollywood, sex scandals and ruthless exploitation by studio executives are similar themes in another Stenn book, the equally wonderful "Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild." Everything I enjoy about Stenn's writings can be found in his debut documentary, "Girl 27," a fascinating investigation into a late 1930s sex scandal involving MGM. In 1937, at a MGM sales convention, 17-year-old dancer Patricia Douglas was raped at a convention ...

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    PARK CITY '07 REVIEW | New York Shuffle: Alfredo de Villa's: "Adrift in Manhattan"

    The intersecting lives that amble throughout "Adrift in Manhattan," director Alfredo de Villa's good-natured but forgettable New York street life drama include a young Latino named Simon (Victor Rasuk) who snaps photographs of just about everyone he meets. One person in particular captures his attention. Rose (Heather Graham), an eye doctor, first appears on a Manhattan park bench wearing a pretty scarf that contrasts with her sour facial expression. Rose is separated from her husband Mark (William Baldwin) for reasons described in a flashback involving their infant son late into the movie. By the time Rose and Simon meet face-to-face, in an ...

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    PARK CITY '07 REVIEW | Beautiful Squalor: Steve Berra's "The Good Life"

    The standout surprise on the slow burning melodrama "The Good Life" never appears on-screen. It has more to do with its origins. Writer/director Steve Berra is a top skateboarder turned self-taught filmmaker but "The Good Life," his solid debut effort, has little to do with skateboarding and takes p...

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    PARK CITY '07 REVIEW | Heartache Free of Language Barriers: Christopher Zalla's "Padre Nuestro"

    Good ambiguity is a film that enthralls audiences and yet, manages to give a variety of pleasures. That's "Padre Nuestro," a wonderful Spanish-language debut from writer/director Christopher Zalla and arguably the best dramatic feature I've watched so far at the festival. My initial response would b...

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    PARK CITY '07 REVIEW | Bad, Bad Boy: George Ratliff's "Joshua"

    At many film festivals, Cannes comes to mind; audiences would openly jeer a disastrous movie like director George Ratliff's unintentionally silly, bad seed horror drama "Joshua." At Sundance, where the film made its premiere over the weekend, the audience I sat with was polite and only laughed at al...

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    PARK CITY '07 REVIEW | What Women Want: Zoe Cassavetes' "Broken English"

    The downside for Zoe Cassavetes regarding her famous family, actress Gena Rowlands and her late father, actor/filmmaker John Cassavetes, is that there will always be comparisons. The upside, at least regarding her New York-to-Paris romantic comedy, "Broken English" is that it's something of a homeco...

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    PARK CITY '07 REVIEW | The Kids Aren't Alright, But They Can Be: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine's "Wa

    The frequent documentary template when dealing with suffering children in Africa is to choose those lucky enough to escape, often to the United States, and tell their fish-out-of-water stories ("Lost Boys of Sudan" and "God Grew Tired Of Us" follow this recipe). Husband-and-wife documentary team Sea...

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    REVIEW | Upstart: Andrei Kravchuk's "The Italian"

    It's something of a shame that the two most striking bits in Andrei Kravchuk's "The Italian" come, like bookends, at its beginning and end. The first finds a group of young children emerging like phantoms from the mist hovering over a bleak Russian bog to push an SUV run short of gas to its destination - the crumbling orphanage where much of the film takes place. For a moment "The Italian" seems to be taking cues from countryman Aleksandr Sokurov's hypnotic cinema. The other captures plucky six-year-old orphan Vanya (the remarkable Kolya Spiridinov), near the end of a long journey, carefully smoothing his hair before, hopefully, meeting hi...

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    REVIEW | Paris Is Burning: Philippe Garrel's "Regular Lovers"

    Circa 1974, Amos Vogel wrote that Philippe Garrel was "one of the most unknown important new directors" but "like Werner Herzog, he is too original and self-willed to become popular." What a difference thirty years makes: Herzog's the self-promoter of his folk-art persona, so successful that anyone ...

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