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The Maze Runner

What’s intriguing about “The Maze Runner”–for a long time, at least–is the way it tells us a story we think we’ve heard countless times before…

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20,000 Days on Earth

In his music, he routinely celebrates/deconstructs his public persona: brutalizer, coward, agnostic, and wannabe deity. "20,000 Days on Earth" is accordingly not a biography, but…

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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 birds of prey are circling

ebert1.gifWhy do we thirst for movie stars to fail? Why are so many showbiz journalists like hyenas circling a crippled prey? Why do so many gossip columnists behave like jilted lovers or betrayed investors, livid with anger at what they once valued so highly? Why are a few stars singled out like the victims of school bullies? Why do the box office receipts of "Australia" appear in almost every news outlet, but an actual review of it appears in so few?

Here is a recent headline: "Australia" Another Nicole Kidman Letdown. We learn in the attached story from Reuters:

Twentieth Century Fox appears to have given up on director Baz Luhrmann's latest period epic in North America, and is hoping that foreign sales will rescue the costly picture. The movie has sold just $44.3 million worth of tickets at the U.S. and Canadian box office after five weekends, and is shaping up to be the latest in a line of disappointments for its star, Nicole Kidman.

Fancy that. A mere $44.3 million. An attached chart documents Kidman's previous movies and their grosses, to document her "line of disappointments." I have left out two titles where she only did voices. Here are the rest of the titles, going back to 2002:

...those who've gotten an early glimpse say not only is the film nowhere near as exciting as a thriller, but Cruise's performance elicits uncomfortable and inappropriate laughs. Among them: A scene where Cruise's character, Claus Von Stauffenberg, is forced to give the infamous "Heil Hitler" salute. "It's an unsettling scene but you almost start to laugh," the source says. "His character is resisting it but you never forget it's Tom Cruise saying 'Heil Hitler.' It's funny and shocking at the same time." Sources also described a scene where Cruise's character Claus Von Stauffenberg removes a false eye. "It was disgusting," said one person who saw the film. "It was like watching someone pluck their contacts out."

Tom Cruise's latest flick, "Valkyrie," is set in Nazi Germany, and it's not a comedy, so why does its new trailer (embedded below, or streaming in a higher-quality clip at Yahoo) leave me snickering? Is it the eye patch? Or the way the lightning crashes as Cruise declares "We have to kill Hitler" in his Serious Thespian Voice? Maybe it's that awful line, "When the S.S. catch you, they will pull you apart like warm bread." (Mission: Carbs!) Or maybe I can no longer separate the tabloid staple from the actor.

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