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Review

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    Venice '11 Review: 'Shame' A Fascinating Follow-Up To 'Hunger,' With A Tour-De-Force From Fassbender

    As English-language directorial debuts in the last few years go, Steve McQueen's "Hunger" ranks up there as one of the most uncompromising. An award-winning, sometimes controversial British artist, McQueen chose to move into feature film by examining the life of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, managing not to flinch from any of the grim details, using takes of up to 20 minutes in length, and showcasing a tour-de-force performance from the now firmly-planted-on-the-A-list Michael Fassbender. It picked up an enormous amount of critical support, including the Camera D'Or at Cannes in 2008, and signified both director and star as major talents to...

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    Telluride '11 Review: Jennifer Garner's 'Butter' Churns and Churns But Doesn’t Produce Cream

    Ostensibly an edgy satire that fancies itself having a wicked bite, Jennifer Garner’s pet-project “Butter,” instead employs long and broad satirical strokes that never land many effective laughs or blows. You know a comedy is seriously in trouble when there are long, uncomfortable stretches where no...

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    Venice '11 Review: Al Pacino's 'Wilde Salome' An Oddity Dominated By Titanic Jessica Chastain Turn

    When did Alfredo James Pacino, Greatest Actor Of His Generation, turn into Shouty Al, Star Of "Righteous Kill" And "Jack and Jill"? The exact moment that the transformation took place is debatable, but it's hard to deny that, aside from some occasional good HBO work, Pacino has become a grotesque, bellowing inflation of former glories more often than not. But we live in hope that it's not a one way street, and that the star may find his way back to subtler movie work that he actually cares about. After all, he does, unlike many of his contemporaries, continue to return to the stage frequently, for much-praised performances, in the likes of "O...

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    Review: Direct-To-DVD 'Blitz' Falls Somewhere In The Middle Of The Jason Statham Spectrum

    The world of “Blitz” is made up almost entirely of cops. On this cop planet, where the occasional child wanders into trouble and eventually is saved by said cops, these 9-to-5ers struggle to pay bills, worry about pensions, and operate from dingy, drab boardrooms. There’s a stark contrast between th...

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    Telluride '11 Review: Glenn Close's Exquisite Performance Powers 'Albert Nobbs'

    The 19th century Ireland of director Rodrigo García's "Albert Nobbs" is rigid with insurmountable societal distinctions: every soul has his or her station firmly proscribed at birth, and escape is virtually unheard of. Against this stifling backdrop, García crafts an engaging, entertaining and enlightening piece of work that is richly dramatic and underscored by moments of wry, quiet humor. It doesn't hurt that, making good on all the pre-festival buzz, the film features Glenn Close in a performance that seems destined to earn her a sixth Oscar nomination and perhaps her first win (it would be well deserved).  She plays a woman who is passing...

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    Venice '11 Review: 'Persepolis' Follow-Up 'Chicken With Plums' Is Amiable & Pretty, But Twee & Thin

    It can be difficult to shift from animation to live-action direction; the processes are very different, and even an accomplished animation helmer can sometimes be undone once they're faced with cameras, actors and the breakneck schedule of a feature film shoot, as opposed to the multi-year process that produces a feature cartoon. Some have managed it, Tim Burton being the most obvious example (at first, anyway...) and Pixar dons Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton are both hoping to make the leap in the next few months. But it's got to be even harder to go from working in graphic novels, to animation, to live-action, but that's been the path for Mar...

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    Venice '11 Review: 'Contagion' Is A Propulsive, Terrifying Picture With A Top-Notch Cast

    Disaster -- an eternally popular obsession of film. Audiences have turned up in droves over the last century or so to watch mankind against their own extinction in the form of meteorites, earthquakes, alien invasions, exploding suns, planetary collisions, and whatever it was that was happening in "T...

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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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