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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Dental Damned: Mitchell Lichtenstein's "Teeth"

    Writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein's feature debut takes high-concept to its zenith with "Teeth," a story about the myth of vagina dentata manifest in a teenage girl named Dawn. With an opening bird's-eye view onto a family home scored to Danny Elfman-esque music, the film quickly establishes the atmosphere of a grim fairy tale: A primal I'll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours encounter between a young Dawn and soon-to-be stepbrother Brad (John Hensley) leaves the boy sans fingertip. This memory, repressed by both, hangs heavy over the present day, which finds our pretty, blond heroine overzealously active in a chastity group, and multip...

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    REVIEW | You've Got Male: Hong Sang-soo's "Woman on the Beach"

    It's clear that South Korean director Hong Sang-soo knows a thing or two about human relationships, of longings, self-delusions, attitudinal dead ends, and, once in a very miraculous while, he has a revelation or insight suggesting a new way to conduct them. On the basis of six heralded films, including 2004's "Woman Is the Future of Man" (his only one before "Woman on the Beach" to have gained distribution in the U.S.) Hong has been labeled an Asian Rohmer. At first glance he seems to have learned lessons directly from the French master in how to tell conversation-heavy, behavior-observant stories by means of an "economic" visual grammar, wh...

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    Reverse Shot's Best of 2007: "Syndromes and a Century" and 9 More

    Despite the tortured self-analysis some critics feel the need to use as ostensibly humbling preface for their top tens, at Reverse Shot we're thankful for best-of-year round-ups -- we savor any chance we get to reiterate our love for films that might not have had the benefit of a massive marketing t...

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    REVIEW | Middle of the Road: John Sayles's "Honeydripper"

    Because John Sayles specifically sets his latest film, "Honeydripper," in rural Alabama in the year 1950, one would assume the socially conscious writer-director means to explore racial tensions in the South, by focusing on the titular bar run by Danny Glover's Tyrone "Pine Top" Purvis. But black-w...

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    REVIEW | Scare Quotes: Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Orphanage"

    The organic foreboding conjured by an opening prelude torn from the past -- depicting children at play outdoors on a beautiful summer day full of pollen and petals, their caretakers looking on from inside a looming manor -- calls to mind elusive, unclassifiable films like Lucile Hadzihalilovic's "I...

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    REVIEW | Design for Living: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's "Persepolis"

    At a moment in history where Iran, famously dubbed one-third of an "Axis of Evil" by Dubya, has again been making headlines as the next country with whom the Republicans wanna preemptively rumble (though the NIE's latest report on its lack of a nuclear weapons program throws this political gambit into a tailspin), Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical and surpassingly exquisite "Persepolis," co-written and directed with fellow comic book artist Vincent Paronnaud, is a corrective bomb of beauty launched lovingly into a terrified world. Based upon Satrapi's likewise superlative graphic novels and detailing her upbringing in Iran and eventual depar...

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    REVIEW | Monkey See . . . Adam Rifkin's "Look"

    The gimmick of Adam Rifkin's forgettable "Look" is that it's comprised entirely of footage from surveillance cameras, or at least footage from cameras meant to simulate surveillance cameras. So guess what happens in its very first scene? Two teenage girls strip and cavort in a clothing store dressin...

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    REVIEW | Time Out of Mind: Francis Ford Coppola's "Youth Without Youth"

    Francis Ford Coppola has been quietly touting "Youth Without Youth," his first film in a decade, as a return to his independent roots, an experimental project for which he once again became a "student of cinema." It's a nice thought, one thematically linked to the film in its evocation of regeneration, as well as a possible self defense for such a foolhardy endeavor -- yet for all Coppola's possibly false modesty, the delightful fact remains that "Youth Without Youth" could only be the work of a seasoned master. In fact, opaque and challenging though it may be, and even if it was shot cheaply and on the fly in Romania, Coppola's new film isn'...

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    REVIEW | Match Point: Stefan Schaefer and Diane Crespo's "Arranged"

    "Arranged," the film itself and the story behind its conception, makes for a feel-good holiday story. Inspired by the experiences of Yuta Silverman, "Arranged" was written by Stefan Schaefer after he met with the young Orthodox Jewish woman, who had no previous connections to the New York film world, and decided the tale of her experiences finding a husband through traditional matchmaking was one worth telling. Co-directed by Schaefer and partner Diane Crespo, the final film evidences intimate knowledge of its subject, and even if it waters down that knowledge with pat nods to mainstream fare, it still maintains genuine integrity as a story o...

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    REVIEW | Frequent Flyer: Marc Forster's "The Kite Runner"

    Right off the bat, there are two telltale signs in the Hollywood adaptation of "The Kite Runner" that portend the safe, diluted entertainment about to unfold. Perhaps nervous that a prestige drama mostly told in the Afghani language of Dari, and headlined by a cast of unknown middle-Eastern actors, might not sell to the multiplexes, the producers have inserted a fancy, interminable credit sequence, backed by Alberto Iglesias's overly insistent, lute-heavy score, and adorned with some faux-Persian, animated curlicues. Then it's straight to the English-language San Francisco prologue, flatly filmed to look like any anonymous American studio pro...

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