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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Checking Out: Brad Silberling's "10 Items or Less"

    Brad Silberling's "10 Items or Less" takes its title from the express checkout lane at the grocery store, and refers more particularly here to the aisle manned by Spanish actress Paz Vega as Scarlet in a working-class L.A. neighborhood. To this locale, Morgan Freeman--as himself, or someone like him--is somewhat randomly drawn in his research for a supermarket manager role in a "little indie thing." So it comes as no surprise that the movie often contents itself with initially clever but increasingly wearying meta-references to the big star's decision to slum it in Indiewood: Freeman tells the production runner such a move into "nicely und...

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    REVIEW | Bad Blood: Thom Fitzgerald's "3 Needles"

    Opening on World AIDS Day, Thom Fitzgerald's "3 Needles" sets itself up as a consciousness raiser from the get-go. Chronicling three stories built around the disease's manifestations across geographic and cultural distances in just over two hours, no wonder the result is reductive--but still, you s...

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    REVIEW | Agriculture Clash: Nikolaus Geyrhalter's "Our Daily Bread"

    In one of those coincidences that will inevitably have critics spotting a newly forming cultural zeitgeist, the food industry doc "Our Daily Bread" now follows fast on the heels of Richard Linklater's Saylesian fictional adaptation of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation expose. Whatever the reasons for their nearly simultaneous appearances (the ever-growing concern over globalization and mass manufactured food, most likely), watching both films provides an illuminating study on the possible approaches to political filmmaking: whereas Linklater skillfully works in the mold of the "multiple intersecting storylines" liberal drama (see: "Traffic,"...

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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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