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Thirst Street

The result is a slow-motion car crash that you intimately experience from both in and outside the car.

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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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Monsters University

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If you were worried that animation giant Pixar was dipping into the same old wells too often ("Toy Story 3," "Cars 2," et al), the announcement of a prequel to their 2001 hit "Monsters, Inc." might have given you pause. Luckily, the result is more than reassuring. "Monsters University", which pictures Billy Crystal's one-eyed goblin Mike and John Goodman's fuzzy blue scare-master Sully as students attending Scare U, is true to the spirit of the original film, "Monsters, Inc.," and matches its tone. But it never seems content to turn over old ground.

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Man of Steel

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The title "Man of Steel" tells you what you're in for when you buy a ticket to this immense summer blockbuster: a radical break from the past. The absence of the word "Superman" tips us off that this new picture is less a standard reboot than a top-to-bottom re-imagining. Whether you approve of the result will depend on what you think Superman is, or should be.

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Violet & Daisy

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James Gandolfini's quietly magnificent performance as a doomed thief is the only reason to see "Violet & Daisy," a film about two young female assassins (Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan) whose blank-faced sweetness is a cover for their iviolence.

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After Earth

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"After Earth" is a lovely surprise, a moral tale disguised as a sci-fi blockbuster. This movie from producer-costar Will Smith and director M. Night Shyamalan, about a father and son marooned on a hostile future earth, is no classic, but it’s a special film: spectacular and wise.

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Shadow Dancer

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"Shadow Dancer," about an IRA partisan recruited as an informant by MI5, creates a powerful mood of unease and sustains it for an hour and forty minutes. And yet for all its formal intelligence, the film is fundamentally unsatisfying. Why?

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Epic

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The latest from Blue Sky Studio ("Ice Age," "Rio") is different from whatever Pixar/Disney or any other big animation outfit happens to be offering this year, but not so different that you should kick yourself for skipping it.

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The Great Gatsby

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Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" isn't a disaster. Every frame is sincere. Its miscalculations come from a wish to avoid embalming a classic novel in "respectfulness" — a worthy goal, in theory. It boasts the third most imaginative use of 3D I've seen recently, after "U2 3D" and "Hugo." It's a technological and aesthetic lab that has four or five experiments cooking in each scene. Even when the movie's not working, its style fascinates. That "not working" part is a deal breaker, though — and it has little to do with Luhrmann's stylistic gambits, and everything to do with his inability to reconcile them with an urge to play things straight.

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