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The Boy Next Door

The Boy Next Door has its share of so-bad-they’re-good moments – and details, and chunks of dialogue – but not nearly enough. Mostly, they’re just…

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Son of a Gun

Avery’s more than capable behind the camera, he just needs to be met halfway by his screenwriting, which dwells in overly familiar territory.

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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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Gary Winick: A valediction forbidding mourning

May Contain Spoilers

He had these smiling eyes. And a self-deprecating manner which seemed to belie his very good looks ("He's so cute," my 19-year-old assistant exclaimed), about which he was fairly oblivious. Most of all, he was simply a very good guy.

Gary Winick, a many-hats-wearing filmmaker and digital pioneer, died of complications following a 2 year battle with brain cancer on February 27th, the day of the Academy Awards --- an especially sad irony for a vital man, weeks shy of 50, whose passion for film and storytelling had filled the decades of his adult life.

The private memorial service was held at the Time-Warner Center in Winick's beloved New York. Overlooking Central Park as the sun set, an invited group of 400 (some going back to childhood, some famous, many with whom he'd worked, even some he'd made sure got a decent meal when they were struggling) assembled to watch film clips, to hear and tell stories - to cry, yes, but also to laugh at so many experiences they certainly cherish now.

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The boy who played chess with life

May Contain Spoilers

In the middle of Boaz Yakin's "Fresh" (1994), there is the crucial scene that gives us the insight into its hero's plan. While playing chess with his father, he learns a lesson. And then he applies its logic to the real world for his own purpose. However, in the world case, the game is not a simple matter of win or lose. A small false move can result in not a mere checkmate but a dour outcome for him. And (this is one of the most interesting aspects of the film) he is only a 12-year-old kid. He can do it, and we know that, but can he endure to the end?

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The rose that grew from concrete

If we are to believe some of his many fans, then Tupac Shakur was never murdered. Rather, he is today living a quiet life, perhaps playing chess under quiet New Zealand clouds with Jim Morrison and Elvis Presley. And while Lauren Lazin bookends her documentary, "Tupac: Resurrection," with his murder, the movie takes us through the turbulent world that formed and informed his biography. The movie convinces us that we have entered not only his mind, but his heart.

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Michael Clayton: The law firm's janitor

May Contain Spoilers

There's something fascinating about films with characters who have mastered a unique way of living their lives or professions, no matter how unusual or obscure, and the two best recent examples I can think of both star George Clooney. One of them is his Frequent-Flyer-Mileage-loving-liquidator in "Up in the Air" and the other is the title character of "Michael Clayton", the subject of this review.

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The webs we weave

May Contain Spoilers

Philip Noyce's "The Quiet American" is a tale of lies. It introduces itself as a noir murder mystery, but seamlessly veers into a story of man in love with a dancer, looking for redemption in his twilight.

From there it flows into a love triangle pitting an old frightened Brit (Michael Caine) against a young fearless American (Brendan Fraser). In moments of crisis, the American saves the Brit's life. In a moment of anger, the Brit seems to allow the American's death.

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Lars von Trier and the Antichrist

May Contain Spoilers

So, Cannes 2011: Malick was booed, Lars von Trier was banned and "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" was presented as hors-concours. If those are any indication, I predict "Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo 3" will win the Palm d'Or in 2012.

But in all seriousness, Cannes: banning von Trier? Really? Persona non grata for making some jokes (yes, in very poor taste, but jokes still) in the same year you had Mel Gibson over? The same Mel Gibson who made anti-semitic remarks, defended his father for denying the Holocaust and was recorded in a racist rant over the telephone?

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The China / Fukushima Syndrome

May Contain Spoilers

While I heard the alarming reports coming from the Fukushima I nuclear power plant, an unforgettably intense sequence from "The China Syndrome" (1979) immediately came to my mind. An earthquake occurs without warning. The power plant is automatically shut down. They get a problem with the level of the coolant. The plant is on the verge of nuclear meltdown. The catastrophe of epic proportions may happen as a consequence.

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Wunza movies are good wunz in a while

May Contain Spoilers

Can any subject matter end up making a great movie?. That's the question that Siskel & Ebert's old review of "North" left me with many years ago. While Roger blasted the film's overall, twisted theme (if you don't like your parents, dump them and go get new ones), Gene dismissed this as the main problem by saying: "any subject can be done well".

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Varieties of Leaves of Grass

May Contain Spoilers

As far as I know, "a mixed bag" is a negative expression, but I think that is an appropriately positive one in case of "Leaves of Grass" (2009) for its seemingly disjointed combination of crime story and philosophy. The movie throws such discrepant stuff into its plot that it could actually make a good shopping list: Latin, marijuana, Socrates, crossbows, poetry, bongs, Heidegger, family, catfish, Whitman, parallel lines, menorahs, swastikas, murder, and so on.

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Why the Coens tortured poor Larry Gopnik

May Contain Spoilers

No wonder so many people thought Jesus was a heretic! All this talk of a kind and forgiving God? I mean, did he skip the bit where God asks Abraham to kill his favourite son? Wasn't flooding the entire world a little rash? Can ordering that hit on Amalekites be classified as reasonable behaviour? Let's face it, Old-Testament God could use a little anger management.

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