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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | I Wish I Was a Baller: Jessica Yu's "Ping Pong Playa"

    After a string of documentaries, including "In the Realms of the Unreal," and an Academy Award win for Best Documentary Short, Jessica Yu makes an unlikely, deceptively slight narrative feature debut with "Ping Pong Playa." What's perhaps most surprising about the film, however, is that Yu (who has also directed a fair amount of television drama) is actually quite adept as a comedy director. Adhering to well-worn underdog sports humor, her film follows the slow, amiable rise of Christopher "C-dub" Wang, a slacking Asian American with more of a penchant for the urban culture of hip-hop and basketball than for his family's business and passion:...

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    REVIEW | Setting the Record Straight: Robert Cary's "Save Me"

    Robert Cary's "Save Me" is hardly the incendiary, ripped-from-the-headlines passion play that a short description of it might imply. And indeed its poster, depicting its star, Chad Allen, skull-capped and mouth slightly agape, pointing an inverted cross to his temple, revolver-style, likewise promises a scorching take-down of bullying American fundamentalism. Yet "Save Me" isn't a teeth-bared addition to the culture wars; surprisingly docile and rigorously even-handed in its portrait of a New Mexico Christian sexual "re-education" house for men, Cary and screenwriter Robert Desiderio are not courting controversy as much as curiously surveying...

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    REVIEW | Once Upon a Time in the East: Takashi Miike's "Sukiyaki Western Django"

    Django, Tarantino, Miike: These names alone are enough to tell anyone whether or not "Sukiyaki Western Django" is for them. If you only know the middle guy, don't bother (and for shame!); if you know and like all three, you've probably already seen and blogged about the movie anyway.

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    REVIEW | Dite-moi: Jiri Menzel's "I Served the King of England"

    For the last decade American movie audiences have been bludgeoned so mercilessly with poorly and vacuously executed whimsy ("We're drowning in quirk," Michael Hirschorn famously wrote in the September 2007 issue of Atlantic Monthly, and I wholeheartedly agree) that an even partially successful excur...

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    REVIEW | The Rising: Tia Lessin and Carl Deal's "Trouble the Water"

    "I'm showing the world that we had a world before the storm," says Kimberly Rivers Roberts, a.k.a. Black Kold Madina, on August 28, 2005, the day preceding Hurricane Katrina's devastating touch down in New Orleans. Kimberly is poor, black, and, unlike the majority of the city's wealthier white citiz...

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    REVIEW | Tomb of the Mommy: Azazel Jacobs's "Momma's Man"

    Considering that Azazel Jacobs, the director of "Momma's Man," is the offspring of American avant-garde filmmaker extraordinaire Ken Jacobs, one would be forgiven for expecting his film to be more experimental and abstract than the seemingly conventional narrative that plays out. Yet buried beneath ...

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    REVIEW | Split Ends: Claude Chabrol's "A Girl Cut in Two"

    At first glance, Claude Chabrol's latest seems yet another in his long line of slow-boiling thrillers, set mostly amongst the upper classes, in which the sinister bobs up above a seemingly placid surface -- compulsively watchable and strangely unsettling, sure, but par for the course for the erstwhi...

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    REVIEW | Pale Fire: Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

    Each review of a new, annual Woody Allen film needn't require an overarching, state-of-his-art introduction, but it's hard to fight the urge to do so. The fact that, even at this late stage in his career, America's most prolific just-off-mainstream filmmaker instigates such charged responses from so...

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    REVIEW | Age of Consent: Isabel Coixet's "Elegy"

    In what may be a perfect sophisto storm, none other than Sir Ben Kingsley plays Philip Roth's academic antihero David Kepesh, a solemn piano underscoring his negotiations with sex, art, and mortality in the Continental Manhattan of Isabel Coixet's new film, "Elegy." Kepesh teaches literature at Colu...

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    REVIEW | Circle Jerk: Rodger Grossman's "What We Do Is Secret"

    The world certainly isn't wanting for hagiographies of Seventies punk-rock trailblazers, but rarely has one felt as inauthentic as Rodger Grossman's feature debut, "What We Do Is Secret." Grossman short-changes his subject by framing the tragic, brief musical career and suicide of the Germs' front m...

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