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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | A Self-Made Man: Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York"

    Staring into the abyss through a kaleidoscope, Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" sees ecstatic, innumerable facets in the depths. Another of Kaufman's Alice in Wonderland narratives, his first directorial effort is more gnarled and coiled than his scripts for Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovic...

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    REVIEW | Army of Shadows: Fear(s) of the Dark

    Like any omnibus film, the Christophe Jankovic and Valerie Schermann-produced French collection of creepy, crawly cartoon shorts, "Fear(s) of the Dark," succeeds on the strength of its best components. Though it seems that in animation it's easier to convey an "idea" of fear to an audience than impart in the viewer fear itself, the film nevertheless pleasantly lodges in the brain. A persuasive showcase for a handful of contemporary animators, "Fear(s)" is comprised of mostly beautifully designed segments which get exponentially better as the film continues, going deeper and deeper into an ever darkening rabbit hole. Like the famed sixties com...

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    REVIEW | Crash Landing: Gonzalo Arijon's "Stranded: I Have Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mou

    In his 1993 review of "Alive," a film based on the infamous 1972 true story of the survivors of a Uruguay rugby team that crashed in the Andes on their plane ride to a tournament, Roger Ebert wrote, "We care about the characters while we watch the movie. But at the end it all seems elusive. The movie characters complete their dreadful ordeal, but somehow, walking out, we feel the real Andes survivors would not quite recognize themselves." Ebert suggested that "Alive"'s problem was one of evocation: despite the attempt to impart what the survivors went through, their incredible physical endurance (72 days in freezing cold temperatures) and men...

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    REVIEW | Like a Virgin Redux: Madonna's "Filth and Wisdom"

    The filmmaker of "Filth and Wisdom" has a lot to say. She's got big ideas and some clever ones too, and she's letting it fly. She's repulsed and fascinated by hypocrisy in the world, and wants people to just get over themselves, to abandon fear, pride, and learn to fly their freak flag high. She fou...

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    REVIEW | Electoral High School: Caroline Suh's "Frontrunners"

    This year's race comes down to a clear choice between vitality and experience. On the one hand, you have a young outsider running on a ticket of change; on the other, an older, more experienced candidate who nonetheless wants to "raise the bar." The former is accused of being all style and no substa...

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    REVIEW | Junior League: Luke Eberl's "Choose Connor"

    Often notable for the ways in which its naive, teenage protagonist's slowly eroding positive outlook seems to be duplicated by the director himself, "Choose Connor" is a movie about politics and disillusionment made by a first-time filmmaker barely out of his teens. This film, in which a middle scho...

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    REVIEW | The Naked Truth: Joe Swanberg & Greta Gerwig's "Nights and Weekends"

    Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig, the costars, cowriters, and codirectors of "Nights and Weekends," spend a good part of their film naked. At the film's outset, while in a long-distance relationship, James and Mattie enter the former's Chicago apartment and promptly make love on the floor; toward the end of the film, after a year and an off-screen break-up, they fleetingly try something similar in a hotel in New York. In between, the film often pauses to ponder the many levels of these characters' self-exposure: showering, sitting on the can, dressing and undressing themselves and each other, critically scrutinizing themselves in mirrors and pho...

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    REVIEW | Taking No Prisoners: Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky"

    Happy-go-lucky is a term that smacks of anachronism in both diction and meaning. Conjunctively evocative of will-o-the-wisp and devil-may-care, merry-go-rounds and tilt-o-whirls, any present use of the term usually implies irony or condescension. The word, and whomever it might describe, can't possibly survive in today's jaded world. Coming from a filmmaker who has put his share of characters through reality's ringer ("Naked," "Career Girls," "Vera Drake"), and has at times (though not as often as some would assert) slipped into theatrical caricature, the title of Mike Leigh's latest film, "Happy-Go-Lucky," would seem like an invitation to wa...

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    REVIEW | The Perfect Storm: Wong Kar-wai's "Ashes of Time Redux"

    Eradicating bad memories of the moldy "My Blueberry Nights" in one fell swoop, Wong Kar-wai's gussied-up reissue of his 1994 "martial-arts action epic" (in quotes because it never actually feels like any of those things) is a reminder of why we fell in love with the Hong Kong auteur in the first place. Just as "Fallen Angels" is hardly a crime caper, "In the Mood for Love" is never quite able to blossom into the romance we expect and hope for, and "2046" only elegantly limns the edges of the science-fiction it intimates, "Ashes of Time" promises a wuxia saga that never quite arrives. ("Chungking Express," meanwhile, barely fits a genre templa...

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    REVIEW | Easy Bake: Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs's "Humboldt County"

    From its simple title font evocative of another era to its opening and closing shots reminiscent of "The Graduate" to its casting of filmmaking icon Peter Bogdanovich, "Humboldt County" acknowledges its immodest aims early on. Taking as their subject matter a happy, hippie hideaway in the marijuana...

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