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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Buy the Book: Sarah Gavron's "Brick Lane"

    Sarah Gavron's "Brick Lane" is the kind of movie a critic would just as soon let pass without comment. Unchallenging and inoffensive, it gives little to work with, its soft-focus take on a rich novel less outrageous than enervating. The potential for a banalized transposition was always there. Monica Ali's bestseller approached issues of cultural dislocation and female empowerment with sensitivity and nuance, but faint whiffs of Lifetime wafted through at certain moments. In Gavron's hands, those shortcomings find their full flowering. If you had never read Ali's novel, no one would blame you if after Gavron's movie you thought it was a high-...

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    REVIEW | Life and Limb: Carlos Brooks's "Quid Pro Quo"

    Castrated twice in "Sin City," stabbed and beaten to death in "Bully," shot in the face in "In the Bedroom", and most recently a mentally abused emotional adolescent in this year's "Sleepwalkers," Nick Stahl is steadily carving out a niche for himself as the whipping boy of contemporary American independent cinema. For good or ill, Carlos Brooks's debut feature "Quid Pro Quo" allows Stahl to graduate from this bit of typecasting, making him less the passive recipient of violence, and more one who endures in its aftermath. A paraplegic Ira Glass-like public radio commentator, Stahl's coyly named Isaac Knott is the survivor of a childhood autom...

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    REVIEW | Life of the Mind: Jan Schutte's "Love Comes Lately"

    Viewers of "Love Comes Lately" may find themselves wishing they had curled up with a Phillip Roth book instead. Not that Jan Schutte's film, awkwardly grafted together with three short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, doesn't have its share of charms, most of which are to be found in its glowing su...

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    REVIEW | Cold Comforts: Werner Herzog's "Encounters at the End of the World"

    "Encounters at the End of the World" is the latest missive from world cinema's Marco Polo / Jack London / Great White Image Hunter, Herr Werner Herzog, out for a deserved large-screen airing before entering its inevitable Discovery Channel rotation. The spoils of Herzog's latest expedition are an enjoyably idiosyncratic series of home movies. Lured by ethereal underwater scenes shot beneath Antarctica's ice, and funded by the National Science Foundation, Herzog disembarks to the tamed final frontier, on the trail of Ernest Shackleton, whose expedition haunts the film in gray archival footage, and whose preserved base of operations is visited ...

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    REVIEW | Real Men: Tina Mascara and Guido Santi's "Chris & Don: A Love Story"

    If only someone would make a fictional gay romance that had as much feeling and depth as Tina Mascara and Guido Santi's "Chris & Don: A Love Story." A wistful, at times unbearably intimate study of the life-long love affair that Los Angeles portrait artist Don Bachardy has had with now-deceased Brit...

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    REVIEW | Paternity Case: Anand Tucker's "When Did You Last See Your Father?"

    Based on British writer Blake Morrison's 1993 memoir, "When Did You Last See Your Father?", directed by Anand Tucker ("Hilary and Jackie," "Shopgirl"), is a slightly awkward revisiting of the classic melodramatic story wherein a son or daughter must deal with the death of an adversarial parent. At once over-reliant on the visual cliches of its genre (oversaturated light for outdoor scenes, metaphor-reflecting mirrors for indoor ones, slow-motion everywhere) and thoroughly unabashed in juxtaposing the gravity of mortality with the uncouth avenues of expression people take to get through it, the film oscillates wildly between middlebrow preciou...

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    REVIEW | Troublemaker: Erik Nelson's "Dreams with Sharp Teeth"

    In a 1978 essay, Harlan Ellison enumerated what he deemed "The 3 Most Important Things in Life": Sex, Violence, and Labor Relations. Such a succinct list doesn't encompass all of the writer's many facets -- Ellison the political activist, Ellison the anti-anti-intellectual, Ellison the (self-describ...

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    REVIEW | Back from the Dead: Dario Argento's "Mother of Tears"

    When Dario Argento's now enshrined horror classics "Suspiria" and "Inferno" are fondly recalled, it's never in terms of their narratives, characters, or even forward momentum. Rather, it's the isolated images and set pieces: dark rooms drenched in red or blue gels, horrific deaths choreographed with the obsessive-compulsive precision of a ruthless artisan, gorgeous framing and pummeling soundtracks that heighten all the senses at once. Of course, then there are the idiotic plots: for while Argento illuminates the occult as a tactile, living thing, he has never shown the slightest interest in making that terror seem like something that could e...

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    REVIEW | Fascist Faux Pas: Sergei Bodrov's "Mongol"

    "Mongol" marks a personal first for this reviewer: a bloated epic so boring and unengaging that by its numbing conclusion (the word anticlimactic can only be used for stories that actually build) he was zapped even of the conviction to hate it. An international co-production that probably broke the ...

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    REVIEW | Everything Is Deracinated: Nina Davenport's "Operation Filmmaker"

    Thanks to a steaming pile of liberal-minded good will, Muthana Mohmed, a 25-year-old aspiring filmmaker was brought from Baghdad to the Czech Republic to intern on the set of an American movie production. Muthana received the invitation after having been spotted in an MTV-produced documentary about ...

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