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Outbreak

The thriller occupies the same territory as countless science fiction movies about deadly invasions and high-tech conspiracies, but has been made with intelligence and an…

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It is perfectly cast and soundly constructed, and all else flows naturally. Steve Martin and John Candy don't play characters; they embody themselves.

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Opening Shots: Shotgun Stories

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Through an open doorway we see a man without a shirt sitting on an unmade bed. In his hand is a white piece of paper. On his back is a spattering of circular, scarred-over wounds, like craters of flesh. Both membranes have stories inscribed on them. We just don't know what they are yet. Maybe we'll find out. Maybe we won't. The man, Son Hayes (Academy Award-nominee Michael Shannon), reads the unfolded note, nods in acknowledgement, and looks up, as if to face himself in an off-screen mirror.

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There's nothing showy or spectacular about the first image of Jeff Nichols' "Shotgun Stories" (one of my ten "best favorite" movies of 2008), but it's a grabber nonetheless. The shot actually continues after an inter-title: The man tosses the note on the night table, stands, and moves to the dresser. He pulls a shirt out of a top drawer, then pauses and opens another one. Cut: Empty. He opens the next. Also empty. The one below it: Empty too. He turns his back to us and we see the welts on his back straight-on. Title: "Shotgun Stories." Quietly, effortlessly, we're caught up in the storytelling in a matter of seconds...

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