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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Pomp and Circumstance: Zhang Yimou's "Curse of the Golden Flower"

    Ever since Zhang Yimou's florid visual compositions and technicolor-vibrant hues first moved from the realm of social realist allegory to post-operatic martial artistry, he's been climbing ever more precipitous heights of action-movie gusto. Where to go after the endlessly looping, "Rashomon"-inflec...

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    REVIEW | Style Wars: Steven Soderbergh's "The Good German"

    It's an odd thing when a contemporary filmmaker apes an outmoded era of cinema. When Quentin Tarantino - whose "Kill Bill" literally lifted chop-socky zooms and cuts for some of its throwbacks - does it, the pastiche is a means of appropriation, to capture the sense of film history as ever-evolving, and an acknowledgement of film's subsuming, regurgitating nature. Steven Soderbergh's "The Good German," filmed in high contrast black-and-white, shot on soundstages and using blue screens, is more like Todd Haynes's "Far from Heaven" in that it calls attention to its era's social and political realities, even as it filters them through the gauze ...

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    REVIEW | Death of a Ladies' Man: Roger Michell's "Venus"

    Death be not proud. One hears stories of men on their deathbeds who, lucidity gone, expend their last energy on a vain attempt to masturbate; of Viagra-boosted sex that climaxes in cardiac arrest. This stubbornness of the erotic urge, past physical failing, is the subject of "Venus": Why can't I get...

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    REVIEW | Out of the Past: Isabel Coixet's "The Secret Life of Words"

    Spanish-born writer-director Isabel Coixet treads delicate territory with alternately slippered feet and hammer toes in "The Secret Life of Words," an admirably intimate, character-driven work that burdens itself with more importance than it can ultimately handle. Without spoiling the film's final revelations, it should be noted that Coixet's humanist drive and reach for topicality set it apart from the usual onslaught of good-intention indie films, and, thankfully, its central performance, by the always wonderful Sarah Polley, profoundly committed and convincingly melancholy, goes a long way in helping Coixet make her case. Unfortunately the...

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    REVIEW | Exit Wounds: Irwin Winkler's "Home of the Brave"

    At the very least, "Home of the Brave" is one for the history books: the first major fiction film about the Iraq War and its effect on those fighting it. Updating "The Best Years of Our Lives" before conflict has reached an end (if there ever is one), this too-earnest drama seeks to realistically portray returning wartime soldiers adjusting to civilian and family life and struggling to overcome physical and mental trauma. But Irwin Winkler, whose recent directorial credits include "The Net" and "De-Lovely"---you're already cringing, aren't you?---is no William Wyler, and "Home of the Brave" turns out to be nothing but good intentions, a film...

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    REVIEW | London Falling: Anthony Minghella's "Breaking and Entering"

    The kind of movie that makes a pejorative of words like "tasteful" and "intelligent," Anthony Minghella's "Breaking and Entering" arrives just in time to give the faint-hearted a refuge from the untidy pleasures of "Casino Royale" and "Borat." The latest from the director of "The English Patient" is...

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    REVIEW | Half Step: James Ponsoldt's "Off the Black"

    There's a lot about "Off the Black" to remind you that it's a directorial debut - the bearded indie-type clerking a small-town convenience store who just screams "director's buddy," for example - but that's not the real problem. Writer/director James Ponsoldt's screenplay never stops reminding us th...

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    REVIEW | Daily Grind: Daniel Burman's "Family Law"

    I don't go to the movies looking for modest intentions any more than your average baseball fan goes to the stadium hoping to see some well laid-down bunts, but Daniel Burman's "Family Law" is cause for exception. This story of a thirtyish law professor, Ariel Perelman, (Daniel Hendler), wriggling be...

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    REVIEW | Into the Woods: David Lynch's "Inland Empire"

    Since its wildly anticipated debut screening at this October's New York Film Festival, David Lynch's three-hour, digital-video freefall "Inland Empire" has been both castigated and commended for the same things: its jaggedness, its refusal to give up its secrets, and its merrily incongruous jigsawing of Lynch odds and ends, both new and previously produced. It's become clear in the past decade, at least, that the term "Lynchian" can't be used as a boilerplate; it doesn't dredge up any one image or consistency, and those merits that make a film so directly a Lynch product are as evident in the G-rated morning-in-America of ""The Straight Story...

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    REVIEW | Checking Out: Brad Silberling's "10 Items or Less"

    Brad Silberling's "10 Items or Less" takes its title from the express checkout lane at the grocery store, and refers more particularly here to the aisle manned by Spanish actress Paz Vega as Scarlet in a working-class L.A. neighborhood. To this locale, Morgan Freeman--as himself, or someone like him--is somewhat randomly drawn in his research for a supermarket manager role in a "little indie thing." So it comes as no surprise that the movie often contents itself with initially clever but increasingly wearying meta-references to the big star's decision to slum it in Indiewood: Freeman tells the production runner such a move into "nicely und...

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