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AARON ARADILLAS: Loving LOVE STORY means never having to say you're sorry

Watching "Love Story" today is like opening a time capsule you didn’t know had been buried. The movie is at times shocking, not because it’s bad (it’s actually surprisingly good), but because it is a movie unaware of the time and place where it is set.
  • By Aaron Aradillas
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  • February 14, 2012 10:25 AM
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  • 0 Comments

SIMON SAYS: THE WICKER TREE needed a different director

Robin Hardy’s "The Wicker Tree" could have been a much stronger film had it not been directed by Robin Hardy. Which is a weird thing to think when you actually waste time thinking about it. Hardy is the director of the original 1973 film "The Wicker Man" and the author of "Cowboys for Christ," a thematic sequel to "The Wicker Man." He’s now synonymous with "The Wicker Man," a canonical British horror film about a murderous community of Scottish pagans. Hardy’s the first guy that balked in terror and dismay when Neil LaBute’s "The Wicker Man" underdone parody-cum-remake came out (also in 2006). So while playwright Anthony Schaeffer scripted the original "The Wicker Man," it is now considered Hardy’s baby. So who else could direct "The Wicker Tree," an adaptation of "Cowboys for Christ," but Hardy?
  • By Simon Abrams
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  • February 3, 2012 1:25 PM
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  • 0 Comments

REVIEW: KILL LIST is a killer thriller that spills into horror

Few things bring out the worst tendencies of Hollywood than the genre mash-up, as evidenced by two of last year's worst films, "Cowboys vs. Aliens" and "Battle: Los Angeles" (aka "Independence Day" filmed as part Iraq War documentary, part video game). The "movie-x-meets-movie-y" mentality seems to inspire little more than z-level creativity in the land of big budgets and small minds. And yet, somehow the British have a better track record at bringing together disparate elements into a compelling whole. One of the best British crime movies, "The Lavender Hill Mob," is also one of their best comedies. Their most famous horror movie, "The Wicker Man," is actually a trifecta of horror, crime thriller and musical. And now there's Ben Wheatley's "Kill List," which takes seemingly familiar genre elements and offsets them in ways that can be confounding, but leave an unforgettable impact. And by impact, I'm not just talking about a scene involving a tied-up librarian and a hammer.
  • By Kevin B. Lee
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  • January 26, 2012 6:22 PM
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  • 0 Comments

KEVIN B. LEE: The strange case of the 103 year-old film director

Few of us can expect to live 100 years, much less have that age represent the prime of our career. But Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira, who last month celebrated his 103rd birthday, has averaged one new film a year since 1985 (Ron Howard's "Cocoon," in which Florida retirees meet space aliens who hold the secret to youth, was released the same year -- coincidence?). Two-thirds of Oliveira's 30 features were made in his eighties and nineties; Clint Eastwood, who last year turned 81, has his work cut out for him.
  • By Kevin B. Lee
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  • January 19, 2012 10:31 AM
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  • 0 Comments

REVIEW: Virtues of a Nasty Girl: Jason Reitman's YOUNG ADULT

It would be easy to mistake Charlize Theron’s words and deeds in Young Adult for plain nastiness.
  • By Peter Tonguette
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  • January 17, 2012 8:52 AM
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  • 4 Comments

DVD REVIEW: JEAN-PIERRE GORIN: a new DVD box set spotlights the director's best documentaries

At first glance, the title of "Three Popular Films by Jean-Pierre Gorin" looks like a joke. If Jean-Pierre Gorin, a Frenchman who moved to San Diego to teach at UCSD in the ‘70s, is known in the U.S. at all, it’s because he collaborated with Jean-Luc Godard as a member of the Dziga Vertov Group. However, except for Tout Va Bien and Letter to Jane, most of the Dziga Vertov Group’s work is now difficult to see. Eclipse’s 3-DVD set of Gorin’s California-made documentaries, completed between 1980 and 1992, rescues them from oblivion. They’ve rarely been screened theatrically in the U.S. in the twenty years since the most recent one, "My Crasy Life," was made, apart from a 2010 retrospective at New York’s Migrating Forms festival.
  • By Steven Erickson
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  • January 16, 2012 12:06 PM
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  • 0 Comments

SIMON SAYS: As another year passes, Chris Gorak's RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR reminds us where we have been

Writer/director Chris Gorak's "The Darkest Hour" hit theaters on Christmas Day; to give you an idea of why you should be excited, here's an appreciation of Gorak's topical 2006 chiller, "Right at Your Door." “They don’t really know anything,” Rory Cochrane murmurs wonderingly at one point early on in Right at Your Door, writer/director Chris Gorak’s nightmarish horror parable about the "War on Terror" as it's imagined at home. That line of dialogue guilelessly gets to the heart of Gorak’s drama, which features the best and not-so-best aspects of George Romero’s trenchantly moralistic horror movies.
  • By Simon Abrams
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  • December 30, 2011 8:51 AM
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  • 3 Comments

GREY MATTERS: HOMELAND and the art of playing crazy

As a certified crazy person, I’m here to tell you that either vampires burn in daylight or they don’t. I’ll accept no wiggle room on this. Anything less and you’ll quickly lose my suspension of disbelief. To get what I’m babbling about, this way, please. I’m talking about "Homeland," which is, by the way, about almost nothing but crazy people. "Homeland," in case you’ve been busy catching up on something more realistic – I suggest Syfy’s zero-dollar wonder, Alphas – is about Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a C.I.A. operations officer haunted by the notion that she failed to do something that may have stopped 9/11 from happening. She was also compromised in an Iraq operation because of an American soldier who’d turned against his country.
  • By Ian Grey
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  • December 28, 2011 4:17 AM
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  • 6 Comments

GREY MATTERS: Martin Scorsese's interesting year

Aside from being a lousy whitewash out to prove God-knows-what, Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living in the Material World doesn’t even live up to some simple realities, things like the fact that when you’re Martin Scorsese, you most certainly do have a huge responsibility when taking on such an undertaking. Nobody will ever again have your resources, access or your name, and the sobriety of purpose and sheer cred that goes with it. And now, to super-complicate matters really interestingly, we have Hugo, easily one of Scorsese’s top five films, a masterpiece, coming mere months on the heels of the Harrison debacle. The two films, in eternal orbit and connected by “George” as a name and notion – of the guitar player and his revolution in sound, and of the disgraced special effects trailblazer, Georges Méliès, who, in our world, delighted a small, asthmatic Italian-American boy in Little Italy almost 60 years ago with his lowest-fi wonders.
  • By Ian Grey
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  • December 19, 2011 1:33 PM
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  • 2 Comments

SIMON SAYS: Tom Cruise in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4: "it is my destiny to be the king of vain."

In the recent Mission: Impossible movies, Tom Cruise has basically played a charismatic body under stress. While Mission: Impossible III is still the most satisfying film of the series because it takes the Ethan Hunt character and gives him personal stakes to fight for, Hunt’s main appeal has always been his charm as a humorless beast of burden. No film in the series makes this more apparent than the fourth and most recent entry in the film franchise, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Here, Cruise, who gets a prominent producer credit in the film’s opening credits, shows his age; in fact, he flaunts it. Not in an “I’m getting too old for this shit” kind of way. More like a “My body has seen better days but I’m still pretty amazing, so shut the hell up and watch me scale the tallest building in the world...one-handed” kind of way.
  • By Simon Abrams
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  • December 19, 2011 6:03 AM
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  • 9 Comments

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