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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | Moving Up: Jule Gavras's "Blame It on Fidel"

    Julie Gavras's first feature "Blame It on Fidel" is based on an Italian novel of the same name, but given that the filmmaker's father is Costa-Gavras, the famously committed leftist director behind "Z," a sense of covert autobiographical impulse hovers over the adaptation. Her protagonist, Anna (Nina Kervel, in her film debut), is a precocious nine-year-old living in a typical bourgeois French household complete with nanny, garden, multilevel apartment, and (most importantly for Anna) easily understandable codes of conduct. Her father, Fernando (Stefano Accorsi), may be Spanish and speak slightly accented French, but that small blip aside, ...

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    REVIEW | Dark Undercurrents: Stefan Krohmer's "Summer '04"

    Crystal blue waters on which sailboats glide; cooling, hushed evenings for night drives; creaking floorboards of vacation retreats: "Summer '04" uses familiar elements from seasonal coming-of-age and romance films and twists them to sinister, damaging effect. Director Stefan Krohmer and screenwriter Daniel Nocke, both veterans of German TV and collaborators on Krohmer's 2003 debut, "They've Got Knut," set out on a seemingly standard course when adolescent Nils (Lucas Kotaranin) takes along younger girlfriend Livia (Svea Lohde) on a trip with his parents, Andre (Peter Davor) and Mirjam (Martina Gedeck), to the Baltic coast, where the family ow...

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    REVIEW | Most Unbecoming: Julian Jarrold's "Becoming Jane"

    Towards the end of "Becoming Jane," a new - and generally lousy - dramatization of the early life of novelist Jane Austen, a would-be suitor to the inimitable Ms. Austen utters the phrase, "It is a truth universally acknowledged...," and the great opening line to "Pride and Prejudice" is born. It's no small concern that screenwriters Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams imagine their protagonist snatched one of her most famous lines from the lips of a man; indeed, "Becoming Jane" would have us believe that Austen, played here by the perennially boring Anne Hathaway, was nothing less, or more, than a watered-down variation on one of her own heroines,...

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    REVIEW | Farce of Habit: Laurent Tirard's "Moliere"

    The release of Laurent Tirard's "Moliere," in close proximity to the U.S. arrival of Christophe Honore's "Dans Paris," should provide further proof that the inexplicably in-demand Romain Duris is one of the most smug, unresourceful, unsurprising, and thoroughly infuriating actors to emerge in recent memory. "Dans Paris" is one brand of prestigiously awful screen acting: precious, grandiose brooding, with attendant beard and dark-rimmed eyes to give the proper impression of seriousness. "Moliere," a flouncy 17th-century costume comedy, would seem on the surface more properly suited to Duris's showy, sharply accented performance style - he gets...

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    REVIEW | The Good Fight: Anthony Giacchino's "The Camden 28"

    Even as "The Camden 28" documents from multiple perspectives and in minute detail a crucial, if somewhat lesser known, moment in the storied Vietnam antiwar movement, it's hard not to feel that director Anthony Giacchino's aim isn't merely historical recordkeeping. Created amidst an ongoing war that has been widely compared to the nation-devouring Vietnamese conflagration (and is arguably lacking that conflict's broad activist counterforce), the film exudes a certain sense of awe at the actions of the Camden 28, coupled with some (very) mild finger-wagging, almost as if to say to the current antiwar crowd: "Look what these folks were doing."...

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    REVIEW | Strangeways Here We Come: Shane Meadows's "This Is England"

    It's 1983, in the interminably gray council estates of the Midlands, and runty 12-year Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is in a dire spot. His father won't be coming back from the Falklands War; at school, everyone else has adopted the uniforms of their respective clans - goths, mods, New Romantics - while h...

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    REVIEW | Burn This: Danny Boyle's "Sunshine"

    Any respectable slab of sci-fi pop needs a good hook, and "Sunshine," the third collaboration between director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland, is almost instantly hummable. It's the year 2057, and a crew of hottie astronauts (including Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, and Michelle Yeoh) are sent to reignite our dying sun with a massive nuclear payload. How exactly the situation got so dire, and why these particular men and women were selected for the voyage that will ostensibly save the human race, are details that matter less than questions such as: how in the hell are they going to complete their ...

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    REVIEW | Domestic Disturbance: Curt Johnson's "Your Mommy Kills Animals"

    Attempting a more shaded vision of an issue that's all too easy to view in strictly black-and-white terms, Curt Johnson's documentary "Your Mommy Kills Animals" takes an expansive look at the American animal-rights movement, and all the savagery, nobility, and hypocrisy therein. Though told via a rotating gallery of talking heads and overly reliant on obscured images repeated ad nauseam (we see the same decontextualized image of a helpless puppy being smacked in the head at least four times), "Your Mommy Kills Animals," the title of which is ironically lifted from a grotesque PETA comic book intended to scare children witless, makes for a sur...

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    REVIEW | Paint by Numbers: Milos Forman's "Goya's Ghosts"

    "Goya's Ghosts" is half what one expects from Milos Forman. As in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Amadeus," "The People vs. Larry Flynt," and "Man on the Moon," its protagonist is a daring iconoclast who stands intrepid against the uncomprehending conventionalists of his time. But it significant...

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    REVIEW | The Bad Touch: Kim Ki-duk's "Time"

    "Time," the thirteenth film by that most disposable of Asian auteurs, Kim Ki-duk, should finally, definitively, expose the filmmaker's patented layering of ambiguities as nothing more than the tawdry covering-up of an empty imagination. As if the indignity of "3-Iron," with its ridiculous descent i...

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