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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Easy Bake: Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs's "Humboldt County"

    From its simple title font evocative of another era to its opening and closing shots reminiscent of "The Graduate" to its casting of filmmaking icon Peter Bogdanovich, "Humboldt County" acknowledges its immodest aims early on. Taking as their subject matter a happy, hippie hideaway in the marijuana...

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    REVIEW | Jesus Fish in a Barrel: Larry Charles's "Religulous"

    Bill Maher has had quite a run. Fourteen years have passed since "Politically Incorrect" saved him from Shannon Tweed vehicles and endless stand-up. A Washington meets Hollywood twist on the McLaughlin Group, "PI" proved surprisingly durable for Comedy Central before losing steam (and some bite) on ...

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    REVIEW | We Regretfully Decline: Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married"

    What if Jonathan Demme threw a party and asked you to come? You'd probably initially be flattered by the invitation; after all, the Oscar-winning director and longtime music scenester has certainly racked up an impressive roster of friends over the years. But while it sure would be swell to hang out...

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    REVIEW | Just Don't Look: Fernando Meirelles's "Blindness"

    Perhaps a decent film couldn't have been made from Jose Saramago's "Blindness." Like any great work of art, Saramago's novel resists transference. A gathering of words beaded into narrative, paced by rhythmic commas that both push forward and trip the eye, organized into paragraphs like economically...

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    REVIEW | Back to School: Laurent Cantet's "The Class"

    Realism is the mode du jour of international art cinema, so it's fitting that the New York Film Festival opens with Laurent Cantet's Palme d'Or winner, "The Class," an exercise in naturalist mise-en-scene, improvisatory nonprofessional acting, and immediate handheld cinematography. These tropes should by now be familiar to audiences attending a festival that will also feature works by likeminded filmmakers such as Jia Zhangke and Kelly Reichardt (and hosted Hou Hsaio-hsien's and Lee Chang-dong's similar films last year). But Cantet's film impresses if even for the feat of credibly portraying the atmosphere of a classroom full of fourteen-year...

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    REVIEW | The Surge: Neil Burger's "The Lucky Ones"

    Maybe sometime in the next decade, the Iraq War will get its "Platoon" or its "Full Metal Jacket," but for now, we'll have to keep waiting for a memorably incisive, dramatically successful cinematic treatment -- at least, from a fiction film (documentaries are, happily, another story). Neil Burger's...

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    REVIEW | Sports Wear: Ryan Little's "Forever Strong"

    Ryan Little's "Forever Strong" is a friendly, heaping helping of rugby porn -- in senses both erotic and non. Seemingly cast top to bottom with holdovers from "Flaunt" photo-spreads and David DeCoteau flicks (in fact, fans of DeCoteau's boxer-brief brand of cheapo-homo horror will recognize the film...

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    REVIEW | Shock Defect: Clark Gregg's "Choke"

    Let's say the least you expect of art is that it shows signs of a coherent designing intelligence, and the least you expect of entertainment is that it doesn't make you wish you were looking at something else. Now let's move on to "Choke," which is neither, adapted from a Chuck Palahniuk novel by ac...

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    REVIEW | The New World: Wayne Wang's "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers"

    Since virtually inventing Asian-American cinema in 1982 with his film "Chan Is Missing," Wayne Wang has built a curiously Frankensteinian body of work, mixing indie and commercial productions and spanning subjects as diverse as a lazy Brooklyn afternoon and the last days of pre-handover Hong Kong. T...

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    REVIEW | Unanswerable Questions: Koji Masutani's "Virtual JFK"

    An inevitable byproduct of the study of history is the "What if?" game, the second-guessing of key events and decisions in light of the disasters that followed. One of the great American "What if?"s of the twentieth century is of course born from the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the cutting short of the promise of Camelot and all the youthful hope it embodied. Of course, Kennedy came to embody much of that youthful hope once he was immortalized by untimely death, and the romanticization of his presidency by the public in the last four decades has often had less to do with what he actually did in office than what he symbolizes as a lastin...

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