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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Stark Relief: Yen Tan's "Ciao"

    During a time when American independent cinema either grunts elliptically under moody skies or chatters banally cross-legged on the living room floor, the purposeful, probing dialogue in Yen Tan's "Ciao" feels like a throwback to an entirely different reality. When characters talk in "Ciao," they ar...

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    REVIEW | Blue(s) Movie: Darnell Martin's "Cadillac Records"

    When Syd Nathan, the CEO of King Records, died in 1968, James Brown, the label's greatest star, bought the desk from Nathan's office and had it fitted with a gold plaque reading "I Remember the Man Syd Nathan." Nathan was white, and Brown boastfully black--so how to account for this? If we were to b...

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    REVIEW | A Hero for Our Time: Gus Van Sant's "Milk"

    "Politics is theater," observes Harvey (Sean Penn) in Gus Van Sant's terrific "Milk." And sometimes, of course, theater -- or cinema -- is politics. When they first embarked on this project, Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black could never have anticipated that 2008 would see the election of a minority candidate and former community organizer, running on a message of hope, to the highest office in the land, nor could they have expected that Obama's historic victory would coincide with the passage of Proposition 8 in California, delivering a major setback for the gay rights movement in the United States. But this is "Milk"'s political ...

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    REVIEW | Dream On: Tom Gustafson's "Were the World Mine"

    The least one could ask of a wish-fulfillment fantasy film is a little buoyancy and breeziness. Yet for all its good-natured intentions, Tom Gustafson's "Were the World Mine," in which a put-upon small-town gay teen converts his hopelessly straight town (including his corn-fed jock crush) to the pin...

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    REVIEW | Dull Flame: Shamim Sarif's "I Can't Think Straight"

    You would think that a cross-cultural, cross-religious lesbian romance should have enough built-in conflict to sustain an 80-minute feature, but Shamim Sarif's "I Can't Think Straight" slumps and stretches its way from its first uninspired set piece, an engagement party for Jordanian-Christian Tala ...

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    REVIEW | Close Encounters: Yair Hochner's "Antarctica"

    One can't accuse director Yair Hochner of not giving his target audiences what we want: in the opening fifteen minutes of the Israeli filmmaker's ensemble dramedy of hook-ups and hang-ups among a small group of gay men in Tel Aviv, he fills the screen with all manner of groping titillation. As one e...

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    REVIEW | Fan-dumb: Josh Koury's "We Are Wizards"

    Full disclosure: I have never read any of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. I have never seen any of the blockbuster movies based on her series. That I plan to never do so is not entirely because of any perceived intellectual and emotional poverty of these books and movies--I know plenty of smart ...

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    REVIEW | Yawn of the Dead: Vadim Glowna's "House of the Sleeping Beauties"

    Intended as a meditation on mortality and morality, Vadim Glowna's adaptation of a Yasunari Kawabata novel simultaneously strives towards portentous poeticism and thriller intrigue, but falls more into tawdry B-movie territory instead. Written, directed, and produced by the German filmmaker, who a...

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    REVIEW | You Can Go Home Again: Arnaud Desplechin's "A Christmas Tale"

    Though it often seems the nadir of schmaltz and sentimentality, the Hollywood Christmas movie has always been a bit bipolar. From "A Christmas Story" to "Gremlins," "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" to (undoubtedly) the forthcoming "Four Christmases," the subgenre requires a course of dysfunct...

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    REVIEW | Trivial Pursuit: Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire"

    A noisy, sub-Dickens update on the romantic tramp's tale, "Slumdog Millionaire" zips around a boy's hard-luck life with a strange verve. Ragtag children run through a labyrinthine Indian shantytown with a police officer in hot pursuit. Two boys ride atop a moving train, hanging upside down over the ...

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