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Listen Up Philip

The terrific cast all delves into the material full-bore, which contributes to its peculiar resonance. Perry may hate everyone and everything, but in making a…

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Private Violence

A look at the complexity of domestic violence, especially when it comes to the difficulty of prosecuting abusers in a court of law, "Private Violence"…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Cast and Crew

* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

#104 February 29, 2012

Marie writes: my friend Cheryl sent me the photo below, taken by an ex-coworker (Cheryl used to work for a Veterinarian.) The wolf's name is Alpha; one guess why. He's from the Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge in North Vancouver; not a zoo. The veterinary clinic is also located in North Vancouver and Alpha is having his regular dental check up and cleaning. (Click to enlarge.)

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#72 July 20, 2011

"I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out." - from LIFE ITSELF

(click image to enlarge)

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Oscars: The king vs. the nerds vs. the Rooster

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The 2011 Oscar race seems to be shaping up among the King of England, two nerds, and Rooster Cogburn. "The King's Speech," about George VI's struggle to overcome a stammer, led all nominations with 12. The nerds won eight nominations each for "The Social Network," the story of the founder of Facebook, and "Inception," about a man who hacks into other people's dreams. "The Fighter" followed with seven.

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Dafoe admires Lars, but "his impulses are often perverse."

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Has there been a more harrowing and courageous performance this year? Willem Dafoe plays a wholly evil man occupying a wholly evil world in Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist," a new film that challenges its viewers so boldly that some have fled from the theater. Von Trier's films often stir up heated discussion, but never has he made a film quite this formidable.

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Movie Answer Man (09/16/2009)

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Q. Why do you seem to categorically refuse to review Tyler Perry movies? "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" is now the No. 1 movie in America, as were a few of his previous films, but there is rarely a review on your site. Am I missing it or are you avoiding reviewing them?

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The Fall of the Revengers

The day will come when "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" will be studied in film classes and shown at cult film festivals. It will be seen, in retrospect, as marking the end of an era. Of course there will be many more CGI-based action epics, but never again one this bloated, excessive, incomprehensible, long (149 minutes) or expensive (more than $200 million). Like the dinosaurs, the species has grown too big to survive, and will be wiped out in a cataclysmic event, replaced by more compact, durable forms.

Oh, I expect the movie will make a lot of money. It took in $16 million just in its Wednesday midnight opening. Todd Gilchrist, a most reasonable critic at Cinematical, wrote that it feels "destined to be the biggest movie of all time." I don't believe "Titanic" and "The Dark Knight" have much to fear, however, because (1) it has little to no appeal for non-fanboy or female audiences, and (2) many of those who do see it will find they simply cannot endure it. God help anyone viewing it from the front row of a traditional IMAX theater--even from the back row. It may benefit from being seen via DVD, with your "picture" setting dialed down from Vivid to Standard.

The term Assault on the Senses has become a cliché. It would be more accurate to describe the film simply as "painful." The volume is cranked way up, probably on studio instructions, and the sound track consists largely of steel crashing discordantly against steel. Occasionally a Bot voice will roar thunderingly out of the left-side speakers, (1) reminding us of Surround Sound, or (2) reminding the theater to have the guy take another look at those right-side speakers. Beneath that is boilerplate hard-pounding action music, alternating with deep bass voices intoning what sounds like Gregorian chant without the Latin, or maybe even without the words: Just apprehensive sounds, translating as Oh, no! No! These Decepticons® are going to steal the energy of the sun and destroy the Earth! The hard-pounding action music, on the other hand, is what Hollywood calls Mickey Mouse Music, so named because, like the music in a Mickey Mouse cartoon, it faithfully mirrors the movements on screen. In this case, it is impatient and urgent. I recommend listening to it on your iPod the next time you have difficulty at the doctor's office filling the little plastic cup.

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The Odds on Oscar

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Remember that guy Nate Silver from Chicago, who was all over the news during election season with the incredibly accurate predictions on his website FiveThirtyEight.com? He had computers crunching vast arrays of numbers. He also does well in baseball season. Now it's Oscar season, and he's baaaack.

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WALL-E scrunches Love Guru inVillage Voice/LA Weekly crix poll

Mike Myers' "The Love Guru" was chosen worst picture of the year in the Second Annual Ninth Annual Village Voice/LA Weekly Film Poll, in which I was but one of 81 balloteers. I may have been fortunate in that I didn't see it. Nor was I exposed to runner-up Alan Ball's "Towelhead," which was followed by a multiple tie for third-lousiest between "Burn After Reading," "Changeling," "Doubt," "Gran Torino," "Rachel Getting Married," "Step Brothers," and "Synecdoche, New York." The reason I mention this first is that most of these films (OK, not "Love Guru") were also chosen by some as among the best movies of the year, and they were directed by a few critical darlings: Joel and Ethan Coen, Clint Eastwood (twice), Jonathan Demme, Charlie Kaufman...

This year's poll favorites:

10) "Synechdoche, New York" (Charlie Kaufman, USA)

9) "Let the Right One In" (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden)

8) "Wendy and Lucy" (Kelly Reichardt, USA)

7) "Milk" (Gus Van Sant, USA)

6) "Waltz With Bashir" (Ari Folman, Israel)

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The scary parts (part 1)

When kids tell you about movies, they almost always take care to warn you about the scary parts. Everybody seems to go through at least one phase where the scary parts are just too much and the only solution is to flee the theater or switch to something else on the TV.

I understand. I'm going through one of those phases right now, and the movies that scare me the most are designed for kids. The first time I tried to watch "WALL-E" on Blu-ray (which was also the first time I'd seen the movie), I could barely handle it when the big rocketship nearly landed on WALL-E and he trembled in fear. He didn't know what was going on! Not long afterwards I had to turn it off when EVE shut down (in accordance with her "directive") because it was just too sad. I was feeling too much. For animated robots. Pathetic.

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Stark beauty, dark vision

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Q. In your review for "The Dark Knight," you say that the Joker is a product of his father's poor treatment, but that's just one story he uses to explain his scars. Another is that he did it for his wife, and Batman interrupts before he offers a -- most likely -- different story. I think the point was that he doesn't have a cause. Who's wrong here?

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Journey to the Center of the Dump:Wall-E, color & close-ups

Color can be used sparingly -- even in family-friendly animation.

I don't hear NPR's movie critic Bob Mondello all that often anymore ('cause I'm not in my car as much as I used to be), but I've never heard him more excited than when he reviewed "Journey to the Center of the Earth" last week. Not the new Brendan Fraser 3D one, but the 1959 version with James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl and Diane Baker.

Although Mondello's greatest enthusiasm by far is for the 1959 film, his best lines describe the 2008 production: "It's considerably more "real"-looking -- in a differently fakey way.... It'll just show you what Hollywood used to do, and do well, done well." Well put. As I was saying about movie blood, what we accept as "realistic" isn't necessarily realistic at all. It's as much a convention of the times we live in as anything else. Much of the groundbreaking CGI of today isn't much better than it was ten years ago, and a lot of the old CGI -- which seemed so convincing at the time -- now looks... well, better than the rubber octopus in "Ed Wood," but dated nevertheless. Even some of the great special effects movies like "Jurassic Park" (1993) don't look much more sophisticated than "King Kong" (1933) these days.

Meanwhile "Wall-E" (and "Finding Nemo") writer-director Andrew Stanton sounds like a really savvy filmmaker. He told Terry Gross on Fresh Air about a lot of the brainstorming that went into "Wall-E," and I had another one of those NPR "driveway moments" during this part of the interview:

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