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Review: 'The House I Live In' A Messy, But No Less Potent Examination Of The Misguided War On Drugs

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 3, 2012 3:05 PM
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  • 0 Comments
$1 trillion dollars have been spent over the past forty years on The War On The Drugs, causing a 705% increase in the American prison population since 1973. And perhaps most bracing of all, while African-Americans only make up 13% of the population, and 14% of its drug users, they account for 56% of those behind bars. These are just some of the infuriating statistics about The War On Drugs that come to light in Eugene Jarecki's "The House I Live In." And while it's messily put together, with a sprawling and at times unfocused narrative that often gets in the way of itself, it doesn't deny the power of the facts Jarecki brings to bear on a misguided program that hasn't stopped the demand for drugs, that has disenfranchised the poor and minorities, and created an expensive prison industry.

NYFF Review: 'Araf' Stirs & Shocks In Equal Measure

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • October 3, 2012 9:57 AM
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  • 2 Comments
There isn’t much that can prepare you for the drastic second-half turn of “Araf,” an often-gorgeous drama playing in the Main Slate at the New York Film Festival. Evocative and somewhat alien in equal measure, “Araf” takes place in a withered Turkish countryside that might as well be another planet. We see the economic strife through the lava runoff that occurs in the very first shot of the film, lumbering out of a cauldron, spilling out onto the land. Though fairly mundane within the lives of the characters (one of whom is discussing sex in voiceover as the orange-red substance burns all that lies underneath it), it’s an introduction that rivals the eye-opening early shots of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus,” though while it was that film’s high point, here it’s an example of a world dying while underdeveloped, neglected, managed and monitored by day laborers barely getting by on their own.

Review: 'Beatles Stories' A Collection Of Celeb Tales Tall & Small About The Fab Four

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • October 2, 2012 4:30 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Everyone has some kind of celebrity story. And even if you don't, in this six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon world, you probably know somebody that does. And when it comes to one of the most important bands of all time, who not only touched the world of music, but film, art, politics and social change as well, it's no surprise that the reach of The Beatles stretches far and wide. And so one man with a camera, and passion for the band hit the road (and his Rolodex) and set out to document as many stories about the Fab Four as he could, and Seth Swirsky's "Beatles Stories" does just that. This breezy, no-frills documentary sets out to do exactly what it intends to, both for better or for worse, with a project that while rarely illuminating, will probably be a delight for diehard Beatles heads.
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Review: Lee Daniels' 'The Paperboy' With Matthew McConaughey & Nicole Kidman Is A Disastrous Flop

  • By James Rocchi
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  • October 2, 2012 2:03 PM
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  • 24 Comments
Many people will tell you that "The Paperboy" -- based on Pete Dexter's novel, brought to the screen by "Precious" director Lee Daniels -- is a trash masterpiece, an instant camp classic, so bad it's good. These people, these critics, are simply not to be trusted about any question of judgment for a long time based on that half-hearted ironic "endorsement" of one of the worst films of the year, never mind at Cannes. Like the patina on a bronze roof, there are two ways to acquire trashterpiece/camp/so-bad-it's-good status. One is through time, and patience, as entropy and erosion bring down the bright gleam to a more interesting set of colors and nuanced shades; the other is to spray it on artificially with a hose, with plenty of spillage and waste, toxic and cheap and jumped-up and unconvincing.

NYFF Review: Alain Resnais Makes A Delightful Final Film With 'You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!'

  • By Peter Labuza
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  • October 2, 2012 11:04 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Alain Resnais is no stranger to the absurd. For over fifty years, his films—beginning with “Hiroshima, Mon Amour,” have asked questions through their oblique narratives about the way we think about story, performance, and cinema. But such a serious statement also obscures the pure delight it is to get lost in the filmmaker’s lush imagery and his pure sense of magic. Surrealism can spark at any moment, and never feels unnatural. And in “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!,” the filmmaker’s purported last film, he’s gone to new wild imaginations of delight, a true send off from one generation of cinematic legends to the next.

NYFF Review: 'Barbara' A Fresh Look Into 1980s Germany, Focusing On Life & Love

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • October 1, 2012 12:58 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Though maybe a bit too stiff and straight-laced, "Barbara" is a frequently subtle, moderately interesting character study set in a grievous East Germany during the 1980s. What are especially nice are the painstaking ways that director Christian Petzold ("Jerichow," "Dreileben: Beats Being Dead") avoids obvious nods to the time period -- forget drenching the film in some kind of filter as a signifier (a la the once-abused-now-Instagram-friendly sepiatone), the filmmaker even refuses simple explanatory title cards and instead dresses the environment appropriately, offering hints of the current year in the background set pieces and radio programs. This kind of understated nature runs the entire feature; in fact, one of the most intriguing aspects of "Barbara" is the lack of narrative hand-holding, with the lead's main intent remaining a mystery for a good chunk of the movie. There are no twists to spoil, but admittedly, much of the film's pull anchors on its masterful use of low-key storytelling -- take a gander at the next paragraph at your own risk.

Review: Joe Dante Can't Quite Recapture His Earlier Magic With 'The Hole'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • September 29, 2012 12:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Some directors are simply in the right place at the right time. This is why Tim Burton has spent the last decade recycling the same ideas, visuals and motifs to ever-diminishing returns with ever-escalating budgets. Surely Burton would not be where he was had the ever-underestimated Joe Dante not turned down directing “Batman” in the late '80s, citing the self-awareness that has eluded Burton his entire career: Dante famously refused the job on the grounds of being a Joker fan more than a Batman one. Sadly, it’s that sort of vision that allows Burton to keep lighting studios’ money on fire while Dante is reduced to low-fi time-wasters like “The Hole."

NYFF Review: 'Life Of Pi' Is An Inspiring & Visually Stunning Tale Of Faith, Hope & Self-Discovery

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • September 28, 2012 3:27 PM
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  • 11 Comments
Taiwanese-born American film director Ang Lee’s career is difficult to pin down. He’s constructed nuanced and well-crafted dramas of various milieus and textures (from “The Ice Storm,” and “Sense and Sensibility” to the more erotic “Lust/Caution” and “Brokeback Mountain”) and orchestrated films of more action-oriented visual pizzazz and flair as well ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Hulk"). Perhaps bridging all of his eclectic interests, Lee configures a lovely and winning formula for the dazzling and emotionally rich “Life Of Pi.”

NYFF Review: 'Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out' Depicts A Filmmaker In Crisis Mode Overshadowing Her Subject

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • September 28, 2012 9:57 AM
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  • 1 Comment
In “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” filmmaker Marina Zenovich attempted to shine a light on the darker corners of the Polanski rape case that forced him to flee the country. Its affect was considerable in the public perception of his case, to the point where it was soon reopened by investigators. Unfortunately, that led to a legal reconsideration as well, bringing heat to a longstanding desire from law enforcement officials to bring Polanski to justice. There’s no room for compassionate reconsideration in the world of law enforcement, but Zenovich’s follow-up, “Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out,” suggests that there’s possibly room for deception and corruption.

Fantastic Fest Review: The Kids Are Alright In Dan Bradley's Sturdy Remake of 'Red Dawn'

  • By William Goss
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  • September 27, 2012 9:00 PM
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  • 5 Comments
After North Korean forces set foot on American soil in a clandestine invasion, one character utters that “this was bound to happen sooner or later.” He may just as well be referring to the fact that yet another beloved ‘80s title has been tapped for a remake by Hollywood; this time around, it’s “Red Dawn,” John Milius’ moderately beloved 1984 paean to small-town might and Soviet panic. Dan Bradley’s version won’t sway anyone who already construes the mere prospect of an update as something resembling sacrilege, and it’s unlikely to leave as potent an impact on its current generation, but it stands well enough on its own as an efficient, exciting tale of teenage insurgency.

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