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Poltergeist, 2015: This House is Meh

21 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Poltergeist 2015 is to Poltergeist '82 what today's shipped-frozen-to-the-store Pizza Hut dough is to the kneaded-on-site pies the chain's stoned cooks tossed in the Reagan era. It's the same kind of thing, with the same shape and some shared ingredients, but the texture's gone limp, and there's no sense of occasion about it, and there's some unpalatable goop stuffed in the crust. In a pinch, it beats pizzalessness — but just barely.

The corporate strategy is straight-up remake: In this new Poltergeist, a family moves into a suburban development, grooves to some supernatural oddities, loses a kid inside a TV, and then spends too many scenes hollering at lights in a closet. The story's been given a minor tech upgrade — you know</i »

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Cannes: In Praise of the The Assassin's Slow, Quiet Combat

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Cannes, France — The great thing about film festivals is that they constitute a plate full of choices. The bad thing is that it's all too easy to make the wrong one. One of the most hotly anticipated films at Cannes this year, LoveGaspar Noé's 3-D Parisian sex adventure, playing out of competition — was screened at midnight on Thursday. I should have gone, but, needing to make an 8:30 a.m. screening later that morning, I opted instead to catch the second Love screening, scheduled for 11. Forget it. The venue was filled before you could say "cumshot." I'll manage to catch it, but for now I'm still floating on the sumptuous gold-and-lacquer cloud of Hou Hsiao-hsien's The Assassin, the Taiwanese director's first foray into the »


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Cannes: The Lobster Forces Colin Farrell to Find Love

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Cannes, France — The days go by so quickly here, and are packed so tightly with movies, that by the time you start rounding the final stretch of the festival — the prizes are announced on Sunday, the 24th — you’ve almost forgotten what you saw in the early days. But I still haven’t forgotten Yorgos Lanthimos’s competition film The Lobster, an absurdist romantic tragicomedy in which Colin Farrell plays a man nearing middle age who suddenly finds himself single. That wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t live in a society where single people are shipped off to a country hotel, where they must find a suitable mate in 45 days — or else be turned into the animal of their choice and released into the Woods, never to return to the C »


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Israeli Drama The Farewell Party Looks Empathetically at a Very Hard Choice

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Following a few residents of a retirement community in Jerusalem, the Israeli film The Farewell Party makes drama out of right-to-die politics and asserts that just about everyone who makes it past a certain age will have to contend with the issue in one way or another. Begged by a friend who's painfully wasting away from a terminal illness, Yehezkel (Ze'ev Revach) designs a Dr. Kevorkian–like tool to offer easy passing; soon enough, desperate patients and family members come out of the woodwork to request his services. That somewhat grave outlook is reflected in writer-director team Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon's curious mix of sensitive writing and cumbrous scene staging, but its severity is thankfully tempered by an expressive, sympathetic cast. »


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(Dis)Honesty Reminds Us That Our Pants Are Still on Fire

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

We humans like to believe certain things about ourselves: that we are good and honest people, for one. Sure, we might innocently add a few inches to our...height on online dating sites, or fudge our taxes, but we are essentially virtuous. (Dis)Honesty, a documentary by Yael Melamede about why we lie, shows the extent to which we fib (almost everybody does, it turns out, across nations and gender and social class). Perhaps most interestingly, (Dis)Honesty shows us how we rationalize that mendacity. Guiding us through the many forms of deceit is Duke University psychologist (and founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight) Dan Ariely, a highly engaging and affable researcher whose lecture anchors us in the great web of fabrication that is humanity. »


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The Third Human Centipede Races to the Bottom With Abandon

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

A descent into a dank, rank hole of meta depravity (and doo-doo), The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) follows in its 2011 predecessor's footsteps by turning inward on itself. Inspired by the first two movies, an American prison warden and his trusty sidekick (Dieter Laser and Laurence R. Harvey, the respective stars of those earlier efforts) decide that the best way to cope with out-of-control operating costs is to fashion an enormous ass-to-mouth human centipede out of inmates. Before getting to that hideousness, however, the film first sees fit to subject its audience to Laser eating fried clitorises (imported from Africa!), castrating a prisoner and consuming his testicles, forcing his secretary (Bree Olson) to swallow after imposed oral sex, and spitting an »


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Powerful Doc Something Better to Come Tracks Life in a Moscow Dump

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Less than fifteen miles from Moscow's Red Square is the "Svalka," the largest garbage dump in Europe. It's run by the Russian military and officially restricted to visitors, yet still serves as a home of sorts to roughly a thousand people, one of whom is the subject of Hanna Polak's powerful documentary Something Better to Come. Yula's family were thrown out of their apartment after her father's death, a circumstance not uncommon to others who find themselves eking out an existence in the Svalka, only she has Polak chronicling her life from age ten to twenty-four. So it's sort of like Boyhood, only without the catchy soundtrack or hope for the future. There are some moments of respite, at least in the early years: a ride down snow-covered garbage o »


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Jennifer Connelly Gets Sad in Arctic Drama Aloft

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Claudia Llosa's first feature since the Oscar-nominated Milk of Sorrow, Aloft is as remote as its Arctic setting. Jennifer Connelly is in constant crisis mode as a single mother to two boys, one terminally ill and the other traumatized by the death of his falcon; after a shamanic prologue sets up the vagueness to come, Aloft jumps forward twenty years, by which time the avian aficionado has grown into an especially world-weary Cillian Murphy. The family's tough-to-follow saga is one of abandonment and reunion, with Llosa showing both to be equally taxing in their own ways. The freewheeling camera often stays close on the small cast, which also includes Mélanie Laurent and Oona Chaplin, roving around cramped quarters as it threatens to go out of focus »


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Don't Hate Tomorrowland for Asking Us to Be Better

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

In a junk-food summer, Brad Bird's Tomorrowland is a defiant carrot stick, a blockbuster adventure flick where the message is "Think smart." It's a deliberate phooey to the kiddie carnage of movies like Transformers and The Avengers, which frighten children about the apocalypse before they can even spell the word — a running joke in Tomorrowland's background is a fake movie poster flogging grim dreck called ToxiCosmos 3.

Bird and co-writer Damon Lindelof have nearly offed the planet a few times themselves in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (nuclear missiles), World War Z (zombie contagion), and TV's The Leftovers (biblical rapture). But, hey, doom sells. And Tomorrowland wants us to question w »


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In Love at First Fight, Adele Haenel Burns Through Our Screens

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Antagonism, aggression, and the apocalypse prove to be the most potent stimulants in Thomas Cailley's winning first feature, Love at First Fight. (The movie's original, straightforward French title, Les Combattants — "The Fighters" — avoids the dopey pun that saddles the U.S. renaming.) Rejuvenating the romantic comedy through its unusual premise — in which training for an elite army unit releases a flood of pheromones — Cailley's film is also buoyed by its enormously appealing leads, Kévin Azaïs and Adèle Haenel, the latter of whom is having a welcome moment of semi-ubiquity in New York movie theaters right now.

Set during summer in a coastal town in southwestern France, its landscapes and light beautifully capture »


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Base-Jumping Doc Sunshine Superman Plunges You From Cliffs and Skyscrapers

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

At the start of documentary character study Sunshine Superman, TV producer John Long describes a typical conversation with friend Carl Boenish, a skydiving and Base-jumping pioneer, as a flurry of "stream-of-conscious" associations. Long's characterization of Boenish's infectious energy and unfocused intelligence also effectively describes Sunshine Superman's unkempt, engrossing appeal.

If Sunshine Superman featured voiceover commentary, the film's narrator would probably adopt a high-functioning stoner's confident but easily distracted tone. In one stretch of the film, Carl's relationship with Jean Boenish, his wife, is explored through touching anecdotes and amazing home movies that Carl and Jean shot while cliff-diving. Then the film shifts focus »


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Sprightly Gueros Follows the Kids Too Bored to Change the World

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

There's no reverie Alonso Ruizpalacios's Güeros can't shatter, no presumed truth it can't complicate, no expectation of closure it won't dash. Set in Mexico City during 1999's 292-day student strike at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the film is about — if any one thing — proximity to decisiveness, about the young people who don't think they are the answer to the problems facing their world but are eager to sleep with the ones who do. Its three male leads — two college-aged men, Federico (Tenoch Huerta) and Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris), plus Federico's troublemaking adolescent brother Tomás (Sebastián Aguirre), sent to them for a lesson in maturity — spend most of the film without a mission, drivin »


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Studio Ghibli's Marnie Is a Joyous-Glum Outsider Drama

19 May 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

"I hate myself."

That's an unusual statement coming from the hero of an animated film, let alone in the first two minutes. But twelve-year-old orphan Anna (Sara Takatsuki), the protagonist of Hiromasa Yonebayashi's lovely anime When Marnie Was There, has no illusions about her place in the world: There's an invisible magic circle containing everyone else (i.e., all the seemingly normal, non-anhedonic people), and she's forever on the outside. And as far as she's concerned, she deserves it.

The young girl who's been orphaned or otherwise experienced parental trauma is an anime staple — in 2014 alone, there was the well-received A Letter to Momo and the underpraised Patema Inverted — and there's usually something about their turmoil th »


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