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Keanu

Keanu is fun, and even sometimes outright hilarious, but it doesn’t live up to the skills of its central performers.

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Ratchet & Clank

At some point, the movie has to rely on the things at which it previously poked fun.

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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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Stick to my knitting

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The notion for this blog has been rattling about on my to-write list for months. It many ways it should not need to be written. All the same, again today another of Those Comments came in: "Just stick to movie reviews. you have no idea of what you're talking about. You love socialism? Move to Europe."

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Who do you believe--Mitt, or your lyin' memory?

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A depression has descended upon me. I look at the blank screen, and those are the words that come into my mind. I do not believe for a second that Mitt Romney will win the election. I do believe that at this moment he is tied, 50-50, in various national polls. Many of my fellow Americans have at least temporarily disappointed me.

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Did you choose your religion?

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This entry was originally titled, "Would you kill Baby Hitler?" Unfortunately, as several readers pointed out, most of the comments centered on the title, suggesting few had made it to the end. The entry is not about Hitler so much as about fate, chance, and luck. I'm giving it a second chance under another title.

The original entry began: Of course, you would have needed to know on April 20, 1889 that the little boy would grow up to become Adolf Hitler, and would commit all of the crimes we now know he committed. The only way you could know that, apart from precognition, would be to have traveled backward in time from a point when Hitler had committed all his crimes and you knew about them.

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Tell me about acupuncture

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I don't have any answers in this entry, which will calm those who think I never do. I have questions, and the answers will appear in the comments. I want you to share your experience with acupuncture.

I saw an extraordinary documentary a few days ago titled "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare." It argued that when we speak of "American health care," we should in fact be calling it "American sickness care." There's more money to be made in making healing sick people than in keeping them well in the first place.

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We'll have to get used to this idea

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The first time I met vegetarians I assumed they were risking their lives in some cockamamie cult. The first vegetarian I got to know well was Anna Thomas, author of the classic cookbook The Vegetarian Epicure. Her husband Greg Nava had been out collecting wild mushrooms for our dinner.

"Wild mushrooms! We'll all die! You eat yours first!"

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A statement and a "film"

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Set aside for a moment all of the controversy. Do me the favor of reading the actual words of the statement released by our Egyptian Embassy six hours before it was attacked by radicals, and before a similar attack in Libya that took four innocent lives. Here it is:

"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

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Toronto #5: Loopers and the looped

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Time travel, as we all know, is (1) impossible in any real-life, non-quantum sense, and (2) irresistible to filmmakers. Rian Johnson's Toronto entry "Looper" asks us to accept it as a premise, and you know what? It's handled more realistically here than anything in the plots of the average superhero movie. One of the strengths of time travel is its demonstration that if we could travel through time and meet our parents or even ourselves at an earlier age, it could be an unbearably emotional experience.

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Toronto #4: And the winner is...

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The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture will be Ben Affleck's tense new thriller "Argo." How do I know this? Because it is the audience favorite coming out of the top-loaded opening weekend of the Toronto Film Festival. Success at Toronto has an uncanny way of predicting Academy winners; I point you to the Best Pictures of the last five years in a row: "No Country for Old Men," "Slumdog Millionaire," "The Hurt Locker," "The King's Speech" and "The Artist."

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Toronto #3: "Cloud Atlas" and a new silent film

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I know I've seen something atonishing, and I know I'm not ready to review it. "Cloud Atlas," by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, is a film of limitless imagination, breathtaking visuals and fearless scope. I have no idea what it's about. It interweaves six principal stories spanning centuries--three for sure, maybe four. It uses the same actors in most of those stories. Assigning multiple roles to actors is described as an inspiration by the filmmakers to help us follow threads through the different stories. But the makeup is so painstaking and effective that much of the time we may not realize we're seeing the same actors. Nor did I sense the threads.

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Toronto #2: Victory at any price?

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Ramin Bahrani, the best new American director of recent years, has until now focused on outsiders in this country: A pushcart operator from Pakistan, a Hispanic street orphan in New York, a cab driver from Senegal working in Winston-Salem. NC. His much-awaited new film, "At Any Price," is set in the Iowa heartland and is about two American icons: A family farmer and a race car driver. It plays Sunday and Monday in the Toronto Film Festival.

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