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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Peter Cattaneo's "Opal Dream"

    The greatest service one can do for a "family film" like "Opal Dream" is to not slap that condescending label on it at all. "Family" may be a useful generic stamp, but British director Peter Cattaneo's very good, very involving movie doesn't deserve to be qualified as such, with the accompanying sug...

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    REVIEW | Hard Lessons: Nicolas Hytner's "The History Boys"

    What was evidently innovative on stage has become turgid and rote onscreen: Nicolas Hytner's big-screen adaptation of Alan Bennett's wildly praised, Tony-winning "The History Boys" is, as will be noted even in positive reviews, saddled with clumsy musical cues, dreadful montages of frolicking, and overtly sentimental efforts to "open it up" for the cinema. But putting aside the obvious, there are more reasons to dredge up why this doesn't work on film, where isolated shots and close-ups of the actors detract from the conception of the classroom as a solitary entity, and the very Written, sing-song-y rhythm of the dialogue, when not bouncing f...

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    REVIEW | Raw Meat: Richard Linklater's "Fast Food Nation"

    Everything about Richard Linklater's terrific new movie "Fast Food Nation" is something of a red herring. A film about huge subjects writ tiny, this freeform fictional adaptation of Eric Schlosser's best-selling nonfiction expose of the meat and processed food industries is not really about the meat...

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    REVIEW | Buzz Kill: Christopher Guest's "For Your Consideration"

    Breaking free of the mockumentary shackles that had become his exclusive domain, Christopher Guest gets back to mirthful basics with "For Your Consideration," which is less a La-La-Land satire than a glorious sketch comedy throwback. The Guest troupe, many of whom hail from the Seventies Canadian show "SCTV," as well as "Saturday Night Live," amass fresh talent with each new feature--one of the true pleasures of Guest's films is discovering additions to the gang and watching their talents blossom, such as the reliably gung-ho toothiness of Don Lake, the tremulous neuroses of Deborah Theaker, and the high-strung, bird-like mannerisms of Michae...

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    REVIEW | Obscure Object: The Brothers Quay's "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes"

    The degree to which you're able to fully invest in the Brothers Quay's new full-length "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes" may well depend on your relationship to their earlier works. Quay regulars will probably look past the general opacity of "Piano Tuner"'s narrative, which is simple in its arc but ...

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    REVIEW | Last Trance: Fabian Bielinsky's "The Aura"

    "The Aura" begins with a promising enough premise: A taxidermist (Ricardo Darin)--his "nobody" anonymity underscored by his namelessness--toils away and daydreams of committing the perfect crime when, as in the recent release "13 Tzameti," a sudden death opens up a dangerously exciting opportunity. Add to this the protagonist's photographic memory and ability to vividly visualize events before they occur, not to mention late Argentinean filmmaker Fabian Bielinsky's evocative forest setting of pallid greens and fluorescent light, and the elements for a superlative slow-simmering potboiler seem to be in place. Oh, and one more tantalizing ch...

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    REVIEW | Hoodwinked: David Ayer's "Harsh Times"

    "Harsh Times," the directorial debut of screenwriter David Ayer ("Training Day," "Dark Blue"), is the spectacle of an anemic talent thrashing amidst oversized ambitions. Ayer seems to have some strong feelings about street life, government skullduggery, masculinity (his he-man cred's well establishe...

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    REVIEW | Natural Beauty: Byambasuren Davaa's "The Cave of the Yellow Dog"

    Possessed of the most minimal of storytelling arcs, "The Cave of the Yellow Dog" can't be summed up easily--to do so is to miss the core of its uncommon loveliness. Though ostensibly the film hinges on a young girl, Nansaa (Nansal Batchuluun), and the conflict that arises when she finds a stray dog...

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    REVIEW | Little Voices: Joey Lauren Adams's "Come Early Morning"

    Is "Come Early Morning" a parallel universe imagining of what would've become of Ruby Lee Gissing had she stayed stuck in her small Southern town? As the titular twentysomething of Victor Nunez's 1993 "Ruby in Paradise," Ashley Judd went off to Florida to find herself; as thirtysomething Lucy in th...

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    REVIEW | A Close Shave: Steven Shainberg's "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus"

    If Diane Arbus is an artist whose work has held any importance for you, then here's the good news that accompanies the release of "Fur," starring Nicole Kidman as the late photographer: none of Arbus's photos ever get dragged onscreen, and Kidman's hazy, de-Semitized performance is such a disconnect...

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