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Blue Ruin

Jeremy Saulnier makes a striking debut that brings to mind Blood Simple and Pulp Fiction.

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The Other Woman

While "The Other Woman" raises some thoughtful questions about independence, identity and the importance of sisterhood, ultimately it would rather poop on them and then…

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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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The 'Da Vinci' woes

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Q. Why did you refer to the novel The Da Vinci Code as a "preposterous" work of fiction, yet fail to label the Bible as such? Do you honestly believe the Bible is a work of non-fiction? Aren't parts of the Bible "preposterous"? If your devotion to institutionalized religion colors your ability to write logically, perhaps you should recuse yourself from reviewing films that require an unbiased view.

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The Conspiracy Code Conspiracy

Sir Ian McKellen Explains It All For You in "The Da Vinci Code."

As a species, we humans are designed to connect the dots. But so many of our problems and mistakes arise from: 1) not knowing (due to misunderstanding or lack of information) where, exactly, the dots are; 2) not knowing what they signify; and 3) misattributing conscious intention to some hidden force behind the nature and placement of those dots.

I'm alternately amused and bothered by responses I've seen to "United 93" and "The Da Vinci Code" that claim to know, one way or another, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the events of 9/11, the history of the bible, the historical validity of Christianity and the existence of a monotheistic deity. (I have to pause here, just to laugh at that last sentence.)

The biggest conspiracy theory yet invented by mankind is "Intelligent Design," the idea that everything that currently exists was destined to "turn out" the way it is right now because a supernatural intelligence (conspiring, apparently, with itself) made it happen deliberately. No room for chance or coincidence or (shudder) evolution in that fixed, closed-world view. But the only reason a concept as preposterous as Intelligent Design can continue to exist is because there are still so many things we don't know about the development of life on this planet (or any other). That's why Intelligent Design is also known as "God in the Gaps." Anything that's unclear or can't yet be explained? Just plug "God" into the equation and voila! -- it's complete! Conspiracies about 9/11 or Christianity are, in principle, exactly the same: Just fill in the gaps in what is known with a top-secret cabal guiding everything behind the scenes, and suddenly it all makes sense. I guess that's why they say a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

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'Da Vinci Code': O, the theology!

Is this scene from "The Da Vinci Code" historically accurate?

OK, this is what I was talking about: Dr. Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission and founder of Movieguide.org, has a piece in USA Today (and a slightly different version on Movieguide itself) in which he says: It would be wonderful to believe Christians can argue the facts to Dan Brown's hate-filled, fictitious attack on Jesus Christ, Christianity, the Bible, Christians and history. The truth is, however, that many people have not read a Bible or understood their faith sufficiently to counter the story's intricacies.As they say in church: Bingo!

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Cannes #1: Not a Louvre Story

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CANNES, France - On second thought, maybe it was not such a great idea to hold the world premiere of "The Da Vinci Code" at the Cannes Film Festival. The critical reception here was negative, but what would you expect? As someone who enjoyed the film (good, not great, better than the book) I am possibly typical of many of the people who will pay to see it. But when you open at Cannes, those are not the people in your audience.

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'The Da Vinci Code': Faith in fiction?

A scene from "The Da Vinci Code" -- or, possibly, one of the "Hellraiser" movies, it's kinda hard to tell.

My favorite headline of the week (so far) comes from Reuters: "Reading 'Da Vinci Code' does alter beliefs: survey." According to a poll of Britons, Dan Brown's phenomenally popular novel has effectively re-written the bible for many Christians and non-Christians alike -- so much so that some Catholics are saying the book and the movie should carry "a health warning": LONDON (Reuters) - "The Da Vinci Code" has undermined faith in the Roman Catholic Church and badly damaged its credibility, a survey of British readers of Dan Brown's bestseller showed on Tuesday.

People are now twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children after reading the Dan Brown blockbuster and four times as likely to think the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is a murderous sect.

"An alarming number of people take its spurious claims very seriously indeed," said Austin Ivereigh, press secretary to Britain's top Catholic prelate Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. "Our poll shows that for many, many people the Da Vinci Code is not just entertainment," Ivereigh added....

ORB interviewed more than 1,000 adults last weekend, finding that 60 percent believed Jesus had children by Mary Magdalene -- a possibility raised by the book -- compared with just 30 percent of those who had not read the book... Hold on a minute: They're saying a whopping percentage of (at least technically literate) Brits now believe the pseudo-biblical "revelations" in "The Da Vinci Code" are true? I suppose it's no wonder millions of people in the modern world claim they believe in the bible, "Intelligent Design" and astrology -- even when they admit they know virtually nothing about them. In so many ways, we still live in the Dark Ages. Just let me say that if you are so credulous that a novel (fiction!) or Hollywood movie can upend your comprehension of one of the most dominant religious traditions in the world, then you are possessed of all the faith (and reason) you deserve.

A "prominent group of English Roman Catholic monks, theologians, nuns and members of Opus Dei" commissioned their poll from Opinion Research Business (ORB) and, according to the Reuters article, has "sought to promote Catholic beliefs at a time when the film's release has provoked a storm of controversy." (If they hire a publicist, I do not recommend Tom Cruise's sister for the job.)

Ron Howard's ultra-super-secret movie of "The Da Vinci Code" kicks off the Cannes Film Festival Wednesday. And the Catholic establishment is... madder than heck:

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Keeping it semi-real for Oscars

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Q. The Motion Picture Academy has named the 12 finalists for the best documentary category. Two of the titles jumped off the list for me: "The Story of the Weeping Camel" and "Touching the Void." Since both of these films were fictionalized versions of their stories and employed actors to play many of the roles, how do they qualify as documentaries? Greg Nelson, Chicago

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