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Thompson on Hollywood

NOFF Review: In Neil LaBute's 'Some Velvet Morning,' Sex on a Slow Boil (VIDEO)

Stanley Tucci doesn't receive nearly enough credit for being sexy as hell. Unconventionally handsome, a craftsman of the second fiddle, he's the thinking man's fantasy of middle age. But in Neil LaBute's surprising two-hander "Some Velvet Morning," the allure is twisted, and Tucci elicits another variety of attraction: the hint of menace.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • October 19, 2013 3:29 PM
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NOFF Review: Naomie Harris' Breakout Performance Can't Save Staid, Reverent 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' (TRAILER)

"You alone are small," a Xhosa elder tells Nelson Mandela and his contemporaries during a rite of passage marking the transition from adolescence to manhood. "Together, your people are big." A wise sentiment, and perhaps a cautionary one: "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" is a lesson in the cinematic pitfalls of portraying a figure who's larger than life.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • October 17, 2013 2:37 PM
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In Criterion's New Boxed Set, Bergman and Rossellini Make Love Among the Ruins

In 1947, Ingrid Bergman dashed off an admiring letter to Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Inspired by his neorealist classics "Rome, Open City" and "Paisan," she suggested he might use her multilingual talents. "I am ready to come and make a film with you," she wrote, as though it were destined all along. To watch the fruit of their collaboration is to believe it was.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • September 25, 2013 12:51 PM
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Ophuls' 'The Earrings of Madame de...' on Blu-ray from Criterion: Before the New Wave, a New Woman (VIDEO)

More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones, Saint Teresa of Avila reputedly opined, but she never met Louise, Madame de... (Danielle Darrieux). For the vain, tragic heroine of Max Ophuls' "The Earrings of Madame de..." (1953), the price of a direct line to the heavens comes in a foreign currency. (Watch Paul Thomas Anderson's introduction to the Criterion Blu-ray, below.)
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • August 7, 2013 11:33 AM
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DVD Review: Pema Tseden's 'Old Dog,' a Powerful Political Allegory of Modern Tibet (TRAILER)

Forget Uggie. My favorite canine companion in recent cinema is the shaggy, steadfast nomad mastiff of Tibetan writer-director Pema Tseden's contemplative and ultimately wrenching "Old Dog" (2011), available today on DVD from Icarus Films Home Video/dGenerate Films Home Video Collection.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • July 30, 2013 2:40 PM
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  • 1 Comment

Review: Microbudget Indie 'By Way of Home' Punches Above Its Weight (TRAILER)

Reunited after a two-year estrangement, childhood friends Brooke and Morgan spend the early stages of "By Way of Home" catching up. The former, laid off and living with her parents, describes this state of affairs with a gentle euphemism ("the whole family's home"), but her delivery carries the unmistakable twang of disappointment.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • July 18, 2013 2:01 PM
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Now and Then: Mizoguchi's Bitter Masterpiece 'The Life of Oharu' Now on Criterion

Director Kenji Mizoguchi's "The Life of Oharu" (1952), newly available in a high-def digital restoration from the Criterion Collection, teems with contradictions. It's epic yet delicate, set in feudal Japan but animated by modern anxieties, at once a traditional picaresque and a bold feminist classic.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • July 10, 2013 1:44 PM
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Now and Then: Hollywood's Civil War Obsession

Director Ron Maxwell's "Copperhead," on VOD and in select theaters Friday, is the sixth Civil War-era film to debut in the past 12 months, the most earnest and straightforward in a burgeoning subgenre. Nearly 150 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, The War Between the States remains Hollywood's favorite war.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • June 25, 2013 8:25 PM
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  • 1 Comment

Now and Then: Obituary for 'The Big C,' Starring Luminous Laura Linney

Cathy Jamison was a brave bitch. Through four seasons of Showtime's "The Big C," which ended its run Monday, she suffered the indignities of metastatic melanoma, chemotherapy, brain tumors, hospice, and bad insurance, yet remained steadfast in her belief that "surviving" and "living" do not necessarily amount to the same thing. She will be missed.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • May 22, 2013 12:18 PM
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  • 5 Comments

Now and Then: In Two 'Steel Magnolias,' the Times Are Not A-Changin'

The first thing one notices about "Steel Magnolias" (Herbert Ross, 1989) is the hair. Truvy's Beauty Shop overflows with tight-rolled pastel curlers and foot-high teases, held in place by enough hairspray to commit arson -- a style so far out of fashion it seems historical, as rococo as Marie Antoinette's bedsheets.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • May 14, 2013 3:07 PM
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  • 0 Comments

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