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17 articles


WWII Drama Walking with the Enemy Crams a Lot of Big Ideas Into a Small Movie

17 hours ago

In the World War II drama Walking with the Enemy, everything unrelated to the actual war feels like a nostalgic grandpa's rose-tinted recollections of the old country. Times are tough, of course, but the family dinners and young love in the air prove idyllic. Everything else in Mark Schmidt's based-on-a-true-story thriller feels like a lot of big ideas crammed into a small movie. As with many other WWII films, it takes genuinely stirring source material -- a young Hungarian man poses as a Nazi to find his dislocated family -- and reduces it to its most shopworn components. (It's the opposite of Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be, which maximized the potential of the dressing-as-Nazis genre three years before the war even ended.) Schmidt stops ju »


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Orson Welles's Tattered, Glorious Othello Returns

17 hours ago

The Venn diagram overlap of Shakespeare with the elaborate scrap-fabric quilts pieced together by early American settlers is Orson Welles's Othello, a film pulled together from everything and nothing. This Othello took nearly four years to make: Welles began planning it in the summer of 1948, and it debuted at Cannes in 1952. It was filmed in fits and starts, in at least four locales in two countries, as Welles's finances were alternately drained dry and replenished. Several Desdemonas came and went. Because so much of the movie had been shot on the fly, at different times in different places by different cameramen, Welles assembled it largely in the editing room, cleverly stitching one sequence to the next to impart the illusion of continuity. Othello came togethe »


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Locke Locks You and Tom Hardy in a Car

17 hours ago

How much can you take away and still have a movie? Steven Knight's Locke is an experiment in reducing contemporary scree storytelling to its irreducible essentials, which isn't quite the same thing as being an "experimental" film, despite the ravishing early reviews from England. It shows us just one actor, on one set, and he never so much as stands up. A sheen of CGI glosses most moments, often dazzlingly so. And it remains, stubbornly, about the only thing that most movies tend to be about anymore: a man in motion, doing stuff, maybe redeeming himself, with everyone else in his life — especially the women — problems to be dealt with rather than people for us to get to know. His wife? His kid? The woman he got pregnant nine months before? All just voices nattering a »


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Thriller Blue Ruin Will Work You Raw

17 hours ago

Everything in the opening scenes of Jeremy Saulnier's nerve-wracking revenge drama Blue Ruin is the color of a bruise, from the ocean to the bullet-hole-pocked 1996 Pontiac Bonneville that homeless near-mute Dwight (Macon Blair) calls home. It's fitting. Dwight has never overcome the pain of his parents' murder when he was a boy. He traces his daily struggles — breaking into homes to bathe, digging through trash at the amusement park for old hamburgers, sleeping under a battered blue tarp — back to their death. (His sister is a happy suburban mom, so we suspect his brain must have already been on the brink.) On the day a local cop informs him that the murderer, Wade Cleland (Sandy Barnett), will be released from prison, Dwight reconnects the car's battery and drives »


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Who is Dayani Cristal? Reveals Hot, Cold and Deadly Immigration Journeys

17 hours ago

The Sonora Desert in Arizona is freezing at night, brutally hot in the day. The documentary Who is Dayani Cristal? reveals that the infrastructure dealing with illegal immigration into the United States from points south is likewise hot, cold, and unnecessarily deadly.

We meet Americans dedicated to identifying, even humanizing, the bodies found there. But the system is by design a trap. Director Marc Silver covers one immigrant's journey, starting with his death.

He shows the workaday investigation by American officials and foreign consulates, and finds the people who knew the man, while Mexican actor Gael García Bernal retraces his migration, jumping on trains and bivouacking in shelters. (Most documentary acting is a drag, but Bernal is part in charact »


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The Girl and Death Is About as Fresh as Miss Havisham's Yellowed Nightie

17 hours ago

Two of film's mustiest tropes are stitched together in Jos Stelling's period melodrama The Girl and Death: A man falls in love with a prostitute while she wastes away of tuberculosis. As Baz Luhrmann proved with Moulin Rouge!, such an unoriginal premise need not doom a project to redundancy.

But this staid, insipid Dutch production (in German, French, and Russian) is about as fresh and enticing as Miss Havisham's yellowed nightie.

Medical student Nicolai (Leonid Bichevin) arrives in Paris from Moscow intending to improve his French and learn all he can about the human body. His one-night stop at a hotel with a cathouse petite upstairs turns into an indefinite stay after befriending scarred sex worker Nina (Renata Litvinova), then beholding her abus »


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Young & Beautiful Explores the World of a Young French Prostitute

17 hours ago

Despite his superficial unpredictability from film to film, François Ozon's work often examines sexual states of flux, especially among teens and young women.

His latest, Young & Beautiful, explores the world of Isabelle (Marine Vacth), a 17-year-old who loses her virginity and starts turning tricks a few months later. The film is organized in four sections, each tied to a season and ending with a Françoise Hardy song. In summer, Isabelle hangs out on the beach and has a casual fling with a German boy.

In autumn, she's suddenly become a prostitute, a leap made in so jarringly elliptical a manner it would make Maurice Pialat proud. In winter, she quits hooking after a tragic incident. On the surface, Ozon makes no judgments about his heroine, but th »


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Disney's Bears Is Sincere and Unexpectedly Good

17 hours ago

Bears is ridiculously old-fashioned in a good way, a throwback to the Disney nature films of the 1950s, with scenic vistas, animals fighting and frolicking, and deep-zoom shots of cute bears snuffling around for clams in shoreline mud flats, carrying cubs on their backs, and snatching salmon in mid-leap.

Like those corny older films, Bears knits a year's worth of footage into a story with avuncular voiceover narration, this time from John C. Reilly. The film follows a bear called Sky and her two cubs, Scout and Amber, as they awaken from hibernation and make their way across the land of sky blue waters to the local riparian zone for the annual salmon run.

They encounter seasonal avalanches, hungry cannibal bears, a wolf, and a raven that the filmmakers an »


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Bright Days Ahead Is a Breezy Depiction of Life After 60

17 hours ago

When the twentysomething receptionist at the retirement club sighs with disappointment that she "saw [her] life differently," the irony is clear — although the setup might make you brace for a gut-punch about old age and hindsight. (Wait until time renders your bones brittle, then you can mourn your failed dreams!)

Fortunately, it never comes. Instead, Bright Days Ahead, from writer-director Marion Vernoux, surprises with a lighthearted depiction of life after 60.

Caroline, played by the luminous Fanny Ardant, is a reluctant retiree whose daughters push her into taking classes at the local seniors' club. Frustrated with the infantilizing treatment from her children and instructors, she indulges in a different distraction: an affair with Julien (Laurent Laf »


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Grand Slammed Is Long on Melodrama and Short on Acting

17 hours ago

Since its plot centers around an aspiring pro baller, and there's an allusion to big-league glory right there in the title, it's kind of amazing that what John Nizzari's comic drama most noticeably lacks is baseball.

What it's got plenty of, however, is sputtering, fist-shaking, arm-flailing melodrama, none of which concerns umpires or bad calls. Twenty-five-year-old Mikey (Alexander Emmet) is wringing the last Gatorade-tinged drops of potential from his athletic career, hoping it'll be the ticket out of his blue-collar Bronx neighborhood — which is portrayed soberly as a place full of tacky bars not yet decrepit enough to be hip, and women who prefer belly-bearing tops whether they're flattering or not.

As Mikey's story is mirrored by his Russian girlfriend Mimi »

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Ape Offers Intriguing Suggestions About the Relationship Between Laughter and Violence

17 hours ago

A man eating an apple is by far the most dramatic thing that happens in the poky first hour of writer-director Joel Potrykus's fascinating nervous-breakdown drama Ape.

Not yet realizing that his career is kaput, dreadful comedian Trevor (Joshua Burge) confesses to his tiny audience, "I don't want to tell jokes." The apple is his biggest professional coup so far — a guy in a devil costume gave him the fruit in exchange for a gag — so Trevor had been proudly carrying it with him for a few days.

He munches on the apple in real time, over about three minutes, exhausted but trying to pass off his snack as a meta-joke about stand-up routines. But Trevor isn't a sad clown; he's an angry one. (Is there any other kind?) Though his small apartment is covered i »


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Alex Karpovsky Doesn't Get to Show Much Range in Marvin Seth and Stanley

17 hours ago

After honing his sour, smarter-than-thou persona on HBO's Girls, Alex Karpovsky translates the mix of repression, condescension, and bluntness he's now associated with to a Midwestern male context.

Karpovsky doesn't get to show much range in writer-director Stephen Gurewitz's timid, overly sparse father-sons road trip movie, Marvin Seth and Stanley. But as firstborn Seth, he's certainly playing the film's only halfway-developed character. Irritable Seth and his needy younger brother, Stanley (Stephen Gurewitz), return home to suburban Minnesota to spend time with their elderly father, Marvin (first-time actor Marvin Gurewitz). After Seth foils a would-be surprise trip to Red Lobster — "it's a crappy corporate chain!" he petulantly protests in the car — »


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Train Thriller Last Passenger Aspires to be Hitchcokian

17 hours ago

Few vistas are as exhilarating as the passenger train window, the world advancing and receding with breathtaking speed, the viewer stationary yet hurtling through the landscape.

Few films articulate this sensation as stunningly as the opening of Omid Nooshin's Last Passenger, which features wide Pov shots of trains charging through exotic terrains. It's an indicator that, while Last Passenger is a campy B-movie, it possesses greater aesthetic aspirations, and the film's stylistic ambition is ultimately what makes it an entertaining ride.

Dougray Scott is Dr. Lewis Shaler, our hero aboard a train that mysteriously starts passing its scheduled stops. Lewis, along with a small cadre of passengers that feels positively Agatha Christie–esque in character »


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The German Doctor Is a Fictionalized Run-In with a Nazi Psychopath

17 hours ago

The promise of perfection leads to disaster for an Argentinean family in 1960 Patagonia in The German Doctor, a fictionalized account of one clan's run-in with notorious Auschwitz psychopath Dr. Josef Mengele.

Adapting her own novel, writer-director Lucía Puenzo keeps the evil physician's identity a secret for the first half of her story, in which Mengele (Àlex Brendemühl) meets and takes a liking to Lilith (Florencia Bado), a 12-year-old girl with a growth disorder, and consequently decides to stay at the hotel run by her father, Enzo (Diego Peretti), and pregnant-with-twins mother, Eva (Natalia Oreiro).

Soon, Mengele is experimenting on both Lilith and Eva, with Puenzo insinuating that Eva welcomes these hormone trials because her indoctrina »


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Ralph Steadman Doc For No Good Reason Keeps With the Spirit of Hunter S. Thompson

17 hours ago

Finding form in chaos, Ralph Steadman became famous illustrating the writing of Hunter S. Thompson and made a subsequent career out of speaking truth to power via activist-minded art.

For No Good Reason details the famed wild-man cartoonist's career with a stylistic daring that doesn't quite match its subject's, but is nonetheless in keeping with his unconventional spirit.

Using as its foundation interviews between Steadman and Johnny Depp — who played Thompson in Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and who here stops by to chat at Steadman's home office — and splicing together a wealth of photos, film footage, and shots of him at work, director Charlie Paul creates a kinetic sense of the man's lifelong desire to "change the world" »


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The Cruelty of Camel Racing Again Exposed in Desert Riders

17 hours ago

None of the reliably irritating qualities of the social issue documentary gall quite so acutely as the tendency to venerate mere awareness.

Audiences are invited to leave such films duly pleased for having cared enough to watch, congratulated by the filmmakers for recognizing, from the comfort of the theater or living room, the iniquities of a strife-ridden world.

The injustice addressed by Desert Riders is a particularly alarming one: Many thousands of young boys, we learn, have been trafficked over the years from their homes in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sudan to the United Arab Emirates, where, regularly starved and abused, they are commissioned to ride as jockeys in the country's popular camel races. Survivors of this system emerge bedraggled and pained, and, »


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The Machine Attempts to Reboot Sci-Fi A.I.

17 hours ago

The perils of creating artificial intelligence have long been a sci-fi preoccupation, and The Machine brings little new to the subject save for an ominously ambiguous conclusion about the consequences of making computers more advanced than their human masters.

In a future marked by a cold war between China and the West, "genius" scientist Vincent (Toby Stephens) searches for a way to cure his brain-damaged daughter via his government research injecting implants into injured soldiers. When his colleague Ava (Caity Lotz) is murdered, he resurrects her as an android whose dawning consciousness offers hope for Vincent's little girl but strikes villainous bigwig Thomson (Denis Lawson) as a pesky obstacle to turning robo-Ava into a servile killing machine.

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