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    Telluride '11 Review: George Clooney Riffs On Family, Love, Loss & Death In 'The Descendants'

    Shifting from heartbreak to cathartic laughter and back, sometimes within the same shot, director Alexander Payne and star George Clooney have collaborated on "The Descendants" to give us a very human story about a very flawed man and his very flawed family. Just like his previous pictures, the success of Payne's film rests on whether he can coax a nuanced performance from a strong male lead who is capable of accessing intense vulnerability. In “About Schmidt” (2002) he found what he needed in Jack Nicholson’s Oscar-nominated turn and two years later in “Sideways” (for which he shared the Oscar for Best Screenplay with Jim Taylor) he scored a...

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    Review: Derivative & Dumb 'Apollo 18' Never Gets Off The Launchpad

    Generally speaking, the biggest problem for found-footage horror movies is creating sufficient reason or motivation for the characters to keep filming even when everything is going wrong. But “Apollo 18” somehow manages to solve that problem while creating a whole host of other ones, not the least of which happen because because filmmaker Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego decided to set his mash-up of “Paranormal Activity” and “The Fourth Kind” on the moon in 1973. Derivative, dumb, suspenseless and worst of all boring, “Apollo 18” fulfills no expectations except those of the low quality of films released over Labor Day weekend, a notorious dumping groun...

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    Venice '11 Review: 'Alps' Another Unique & Remarkable Film From Director Yorgos Lanthimos

    Until a couple of years ago, few outside his native Greece were aware of theater director-turned-filmmaker Giorgos Lanthimos. But when his third film, "Dogtooth," came from seemingly nowhere to win the top prize at Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2009, it kicked off a process that's deservedly seen t...

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    Venice '11 Review: Jet Li's 'The Sorcerer & The White Snake' Is Wuxia-Lite, With Bad Action & CG

    It might have a highbrow reputation (something anyone who's caught one of the sidebars can confirm), but that doesn't mean that the organizers of the Venice Film Festival don't like to watch a little ass get kicked sometimes. Last year, in fact, was something of a banner year for action at the festival, with "13 Assassins" and 'Detective Dee' in competition, and "Machete," "The Town," "Reign of Assassins" and "Legend of the Fist" all playing out of it. 2011 is a little lighter on the chop-socky, but there is a single film that's here to let film critics scratch their face-punch itch, and that's the Jet Li vehicle "The Sorcerer & The White Sna...

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    Venice '11 Review: 'Un été brûlant' Is A Thundering Bore That Verges On Self-Parody

    There are certain cliches associated with European cinema -- they're not necessarily always accurate but they do exist. Ask a layman -- a well educated, smart, nice person who might not be quite as subtitle-happy as you or I -- what they imagine they might see in, say, an average French film, and a ...

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    Venice '11 Review: Cronenberg's 'A Dangerous Method' An Insightful Look At Sexuality & The Mind

    The recent career of David Cronenberg has been an interesting thing to watch. Having made his name with a very particular, icky brand of fetish-happy body horror, he hasn't dipped back into that well for a decade now, preferring instead to take his obsessions and use them to spice up what in other hands could be standard fare. And generally speaking, it has worked well: "Spider," "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises" all have much to recommend them, all peculiarly Cronenbergian, but each pushing in a slightly different direction. But now he's made what, on the surface at least, might seem to be his biggest departure to date: a period...

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    Review: 'Shark Night 3D' A Joyless, Trashy Thriller

    When Rogue Pictures announced that their forthcoming horror film “Shark Night 3D” was going to be rated PG-13 instead of R, they shepherded it into theaters with two strikes already against it. Especially following the go-for-broke gratuitousness of Alexandre Aja’s “Piranha 3D,” but really in the wake of every single killer fish movie since the original “Jaws,” to deny an audience gory dismemberments or even just gloriously pointless nudity feels, well, irresponsible. But with “Snakes on a Plane” director David R. Ellis behind the camera, “Shark Night 3D” is a full-fledged, bottom-of-the-ninth strikeout, a trashy, stupid, joyless, and overlon...

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    Venice '11 Review: 'Carnage' Is Fun While It Lasts, But Insubstantial & Anonymous

    Compared to his last film, Roman Polanski's "Carnage" must have been a breeze. Not that the shoot for "The Ghost Writer" was "Fitzcarraldo" or anything, but, famously, the project hit a major speed bump in September 2009, while the film was in post-production, when the helmer was arrested in Zurich,...

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    Review: ‘Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life' Is An Ambitious Biopic That's Disappointingly Incomplete

    The following is a reprint of our review from the Quebec release of the film in 2010. "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life" is now in limited release.

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    Review: 'A Good Old Fashioned Orgy' Is A Good New-Fashioned Slob Comedy

    The following is a reprint of our review from the Tribeca Film Festival.

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