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Movie Reviews

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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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    REVIEW | Hack Attack: Darren Lynn Bousman's "Repo! The Genetic Opera"

    A helpful shortcut for negotiating the heaps of texts in this modern world: all attempts to give something familiar or antique a self-consciously edgy, gritty makeover can be, de facto, written off as terrible. Reassuring American songbook standards ("Over the Rainbow," "What a Wonderful World," etc...

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    REVIEW | The Other Side of the Fence: Mark Herman's "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"

    For a little, promising while, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" seems to be a welcome, if belated, response to "Life Is Beautiful." Whereas Roberto Benigni's self-deifying exercise in Holocaust schmaltz--one of the most repugnant and false movies ever made--sincerely believes obliviousness (not imag...

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    REVIEW | Out of the Past: Amos Gitai's "One Day You'll Understand"

    Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai doesn't seem to have a career so much these days as a mission. It would be difficult for this ambassador of his nation's cinema to break away from Capital-t Topics at this point, but his lugubriousness as a filmmaker indicates that he believes in his own cause as much as his admirers do. Long, slow single takes and tracking shots that call attention to themselves and humorless, self-consciously "penetrating" close-ups are normally the order of the day for Gitai. And this one-man film warrior has finally, with his latest, "One Day You'll Understand," made his first explicit fictional work of Holocaust remembrance. ...

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    REVIEW | Running Wild: Christina Clausen's "The Universe of Keith Haring"

    The best compliment that can be paid "The Universe of Keith Haring," a straightforward, fast-moving documentary about the Pennsylvania phenom who made his way from New York City bohemia to the art world and transcended all to become one of the most recognizable names in popular graphics in the late 20th century, is that it is as inspiring at the level of a cinematic portrait as its subject was at the level of pure creation. As directed by newcomer Christina Clausen, the film looks to Haring as an artistic role model for his preternatural talent, of course, but also for his infectious lust for life that had him as committed to social activism ...

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