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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | The Lower Depths: Asger Leth's "Ghosts of Cite Soleil"

    "Rap music influenced them people deep over there; they will live by it and they will die by it. And it ain't no Hollywood movie, it's the truth." So says Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean, speaking on the street-level reality in Cite Soleil, a shantytown outside Port-au-Prince, and the central character of "Ghosts of Cite Soleil," a documentary on which Jean boasts both executive producer and original music credits. It's a statement that the film fails to follow through on the implications of, showing little curiosity as to what such an "influence" might imply for hardcore hip-hop music - a genre which, incidentally, has always borrowed ...

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    REVIEW | Prognosis: Dire, Michael Moore's "Sicko"

    After announcing itself with the requisite George W. Bush-as-incoherent-idiot sound bite, Michael Moore's "SiCKO" officially begins with a close-up of an unhealed wound. From that point on, Moore will train his camera on countless gashes and sores, most of them psychological, all of which hit the viewer with the force of a hurricane. The subject matter is so inherently powerful and frustrating, and the horror stories "SiCKO" relates are so relatable to American audiences, that one almost wishes that Moore had simply allowed his participants to just speak: to let the running camera record these everyday people's woes, to create a nonstop ethno...

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    REVIEW | The World at Large: Jennifer Baichwal's "Manufactured Landscapes"

    Initially, Jennifer Baichwal's "Manufactured Landscapes" recalls last year's "Our Daily Bread." A clinical crawl through a gargantuan Chinese factory - with its endless, evenly spaced stations of laborers glued to tedious tasks - hauntingly echoes similar tracking shots Nikolaus Geyrhalter used in h...

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    REVIEW | Under the Rainbow: Pascale Ferran's "Lady Chatterley"

    Showered with Cesar awards in its native France, Pascale Ferran's "Lady Chatterley" faces a more uncertain fate stateside (Gallic awards committees can't resist a pretty woman in a field of sun-kissed wildflowers; just ask Claude Berri). Though based on a version of D.H. Lawrence's long-banned, "pornographic" final novel, it's too restive and restrained to draw in the blithe, shock-hungry Terry Richardson/"9 Songs" contingent, too explicit for the AARP-discount crowd looking for a period romance that'll act as a soothing tonic - and as for American critics, there's never any shortage of twits eager to reenact the aesthetic skirmishes of fifty...

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    REVIEW | Staying Afloat: Aki Kaurismaki's "Lights in the Dusk"

    There's a fine line between an artist spinning out variations of core themes and merely treading water. No doubt some will find Aki Kaurismaki's deceptively slight, 77-minute "Lights in the Dusk" a textbook example of the latter, especially given the strenuously laudatory response that greeted his previous film, the Academy Award-nominated "The Man Without a Past." While there's not much value (outside of sheer contrarian pleasure) in poking holes in a fine movie four years after the fact, it's still worth noting that "The Man Without a Past" probably represents less a high water mark for Kaurismaki's filmmaking (see "Shadows in Paradise") ...

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    REVIEW | Crazier Love: Taika Waititi's "Eagle vs. Shark"

    Quirky: the one adjective that if employed in a synopsis or review should cause any thoughtful person to avoid a film so described, and a perfect kiss-of-death salvo for "Eagle vs. Shark." This crowd-pleasing New Zealand indie, developed from the Sundance Director's and Screenwriter's Labs (from which the similar "Me and You and Everyone You Know" emerged) and plucked from the vine by savvy Miramax, is the latest in a recent trend of offbeat, adorable stillbirths about families of barely lovable misfits learning valuable life lessons in a world of kitschy crap. The parade of cute begins right off the bat when fast-food employee Lily (Loren Ho...

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    REVIEW | Aftermath: Olivier Meyrou's "Beyond Hatred"

    The straightforward, very American, talking-head "expose" approach to documentary, cribbed from television shows like "Dateline NBC" and "20/20," has become the norm - and, in exploitative dreck like "Capturing the Friedmans" and "Crazy Love," efficiently transformed real human lives into sound bite...

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    REVIEW | Domestic Violence: Andrew Currie's "Fido"

    The rom-zom-com--the romantic zombie comedy--spearheaded by "Shaun of the Dead" continues to build momentum with "Fido," a candy-colored satire of the "Leave It to Beaver" Fifties, in which the Eisenhower era is reimagined as a macabre world populated by the living dead. Writer-director Andrew Curri...

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    REVIEW | Children of the Revolution: Corneliu Porumboiu's "12:08 East of Bucharest"

    Unless I've missed the boat, the definitive take on the impetus behind the recent, unlikely surge in terrific Romanian cinema has yet to be published; that a country more often linked in the public consciousness (vampires aside) to vague ideas of post-Communist black market capitalism run amok should suddenly announce itself as a formidable player in the rarified world cinema scene seems worth at least a couple of think pieces. Perhaps what may well be looked back upon as a full-fledged movement hasn't moved far enough out of its infancy. For now, moviegoers can enjoy basking in the glow of these films, at least for as long as companies are...

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    REVIEW | Grand Dame: Olivier Dahan's "La Vie en rose"

    Encompassing hardship and tragedy of near-mythic proportions, the details of Edith Piaf's life story seem spawned from literature and are so well-suited to cinematic adaptation they appear invented. Abandoned by her mother as a child and raised for a time by her grandmother in a brothel, only to be later whisked away by her circus and street acrobat father - and that's really just for starters - the iconic French singer had a colorful history that most often resembles a Fellini film. Rather than downplay this almost otherworldly cast of characters in his biographical rendition, "La Vie en rose," writer-director Olivier Dahan heightens the in...

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