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17 articles


In The November Man, Pierce Brosnan Gun-Parties Like It's 1989

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Here's what an R rating gets you these days: a few splattery headshots, some glimpses of cable TV-style background nudity, a couple kids and families popped by assassins, a brace of fucks, in dialogue, and one un-bracing fuck, in bed, mostly clothed. During its longueurs, this engagingly grim spy-versus-spymasters time-passer offers the chance to contemplate what an R-rated spy- thriller even means anymore: Why is the violence here, which looks miserably messy, less appropriate to children than that of The Expendables 3, which looks like a jolly good lark? Not that the grimness is always edifying. The antiheroic hit-man spy played by Pierece Brosnan grinds through his world like an Fps video-game badasss, dropping everyone his gun ever points at. Since the »


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Teen Angst Is in the Air During the Brooding Jamie Marks Is Dead

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Supernatural teen angst and romance are in the chilly air of fashion photographer-turned-filmmaker Carter Smith’s (The Ruins) brooding and mostly naturalistic psychodrama, ripped from the pages of Christopher Barzak’s young-adult novel One for Sorrow. The naked corpse of Jamie Marks (Noah Silver, looking like Harry Potter’s sinister doppelgänger) is found under a creek bridge in upstate New York, stumbled upon by rock-collecting loner Gracie (Homeland’s Morgan Saylor). Also profoundly affected: Adam (Shameless’s Cameron Monaghan), a stoic ginger and cross-country track star who witnessed his teammates bullying Jamie but never stepped up to befriend or defend him. Brought together by their mutual empathy and »


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Canopy Literally Drops a Soldier On an Island

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Shot down over Singaporean rainforest during WWII, an Australian fighter pilot (Khan Chittenden) wakes up in a tree, swinging from his parachute in writer-director Aaron Wilson’s ambitiously immersive, thinly plotted debut -- a minimalist survival nightmare that more closely resembles All Is Lost’s near-wordless procedural than Gravity’s running-commentary panic attack. Add a little Hell in the Pacific, too: The lost Aussie eventually runs into a Chinese resistance fighter (Mo Tzu-Yi), and the frightened, unarmed duo reluctantly team up and communicate through pantomime. Without historical context or character backstories, the film atmospherically but aimlessly tracks the duo as they skulk around the muddy mangroves, evading a Japanese swe »


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The Last of Robin Hood Wrestles with a Star's Underage Love

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

If older man/younger women matchups make many people uncomfortable, the older man/much younger women combo tends to make them apoplectic. It would be impossible for Nabokov to publish Lolita today, now that all of life, and all of art, must be arranged, categorized, and restricted as a way of protecting not just our children but also our own easily offended sensibilities. Lolita isn't a brief in favor of child abuse, but it's not a moral screed against it, either: It's a complicated, tragic love story in which the victimizer suffers at least as much anguish as the victim does, and probably more. That idea is supposed to make us feel uncomfortable, but Lolita is, at least, a work of fiction. What are we to make of a 48-year-old man who takes up w »

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Lincoln Center's James Brown Fest Showcases Peak Human Achievement

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Is it overselling it to claim that James Brown's 18-minute performance on 1964's The T.A.M.I. Show rivals the moon landing as the choicest footage of human achievement of the 1960s? Stanley Kubrick couldn't fake this: Hot-footing in a crisp, checkered vest and jacket, Brown connected the world of then to the world of now. (You can relish it at two rare screenings of the omnibus concert film at Lincoln Center Aug. 31.)

First, he glides through the mod "Out of Sight," often on just one foot. Then, stopping on an unexpected dime, he lays into the ballad "Prisoner of Love," but that archaic song can't hold him. Like the song form itself, or the teen-oriented pop of Jan and Dean and the rest of The T.A.M.I. Show, "Prisoner of Love" is an envelope, and Brown's a h »


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Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering Explores the Controversial Cancer Treatment

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Extracted from apricots, peaches, and almonds, Laetrile is one of the most controversial cancer treatments to approach the mainstream. The American Cancer Society's entry on it, which reads as ambivalent to suspicious, concludes, "Relying on this type of treatment alone, and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer, may have serious health consequences."

In Eric Merola's Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering, the question of the drug's efficacy takes a backseat to the story of whistle-blower Ralph Moss, a science writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who exposed the organization's attempt to squash promising research on the drug in the mid-1970s.

Like many docs with activist undertones, Second Opinion tells a potentially »


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Torture Fetishists Will Savor The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

A nipple is sliced off. A crotch is stabbed. Plastic, glove-clad hands creep beneath someone's skin and stretch, smother, rip. A man's stomach is slashed with shards of glass; later, he pulls the shards out. These are just a handful of the countless atrocities that occur and recur throughout Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's claustrophobic scarefest The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears.

Torture and S&M fetishists will savor its every knife-plunging, blood-splattering, leather-crinkling moment. Everyone else should stay far, far away. The scant plot concerns businessman Klaus Tange's fruitless search for his wife, who has seemingly been abducted by one of many horrifying inhabitants in the couple's Gothic apartment complex. What follows is an incoherent or »


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Brutal Prison Drama Starred Up Stirs Rare Empathy

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

The beginning of David Mackenzie’s U.K. prison drama, Starred Up, might make you wonder if you’ll survive to the end: We see a kid with a hard-eyed, shutdown face being matriculated at a new jail — apparently, he’s outgrown his old one, and so he’s been “starred up,” or prematurely transferred from a juvenile facility to an adult one. Nineteen-year-old Eric (Jack O’Connell) defies the guards from the first moment — his glower is almost a kind of shiv by itself. Within moments of being shoved into his new cell, he expertly fashions a weapon out of a toothbrush and a razor blade. His face, meanwhile, is a wall of nothing. How will we ever feel anything for this kid when it’s almost impossible to look at him? But a »


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Hungary's Brutal The Notebook Will Cause Delightful Confusion on Netflix

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

About as different from its 2004 Ryan GoslingRachel McAdams namesake as possible, The Notebook (A nagy füzet) recounts the harrowing saga of unnamed teenage twin boys (András and Lázló Gyémánt) who, in 1944 Hungary, are unceremoniously dumped by their mother (Gyöngyvér Bognár) at their grandmother's (Piroska Molnár) remote farm for protection from WWII horrors.

There, the old "witch" beats them and berates them as "bastards." In response, the siblings teach one another how to endure pain and hardship. Bleak circumstances lead to bleak moral codes in János Szász's sobering wartime drama, as the boys study the Ten Commandments but find that blackmail, cruelty, and murder are not »


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The Damned Is a Little Scary

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Is The Damned scary? Yes, a bit. But full enjoyment of this horror film might depend on the depth of your sympathy for characters who are teeth-gnashingly stupid, ignore grim warnings, wander off alone in a sprawling old inn after it becomes clear that something is creepily amiss — and who are almost uniformly some variation of jerk.

True, those are the structural beams of the genre, but The Damned's firm adherence to template and its built-in contrivances are a weakness. After a thoroughly avoidable car accident en route to Medellín, an extended-family group — an American father (Peter Facinelli;) his new British fiancée (Sophia Myles;) his teen daughter; her boyfriend; and her Colombian aunt, an ethically challenged TV reporter & »


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Kundo: Age of the Rampant Is Not Your Average Korean Robin Hood Western

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

It wasn't just Robin Hood who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Korea circa the early 1860s had its own band of thieves with a yen for redistributing wealth, and it's from the Chusul Clan's nickname that Kundo: Age of the Rampant takes its title.

Yoon Jong-bin makes it easy for us to root for them as this band reads off the greedy elite's lengthy list of crimes before summarily beheading them in front of a warmly receptive crowd. He introduces the Clan via stylized freeze-frame graphics that wouldn't be out of place in a Tarantino movie: One is known as the Vicious Monk, while the rest go by their given names.

With its harmonica-heavy score and rousing shots of these horse-riding antiheroes, Kundo's early and late scenes resemble a Western as much as the »

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Last Weekend Embroils Patricia Clarkson in a Battle of Politeness

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

The most striking moments in Last Weekend are not the expected ones. It's not the way first-time directors Tom Dolby and Tom Williams shoot the palatial Lake Tahoe cabin previously featured in A Place in the Sun with the well-framed languor of architecture porn.

Nor is it in the vaguely Chekhovian overtones of Dolby's script. Instead, it's in the way members of a wealthy family respond to the gratitude and politeness of their weekend houseguests with an offhand thoughtlessness that makes the recipients wince.

That stems from the scattered and demanding matriarch, Celia Green (Patricia Clarkson), whose profound unease with money means she'll create an extravagant dinner-table display and then announce that the salmon was on sale.

Her adult sons Th »


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Anime Fantasy Patema Inverted Pulls You In with Stunning Images

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Among astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson's well-publicized nitpicks about Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity was that a more appropriate title would have been Angular Momentum. If nothing else, it would have freed up the G-word for Yasuhiro Yoshiura's breathtaking anime Patema Inverted.

Fourteen-year-old Patema (Yukiyo Fujii) has lived her life in an underground society of tunnels and caverns. The ever-adventurous Patema flouts repeated warnings not to venture into a particularly spooky area of the underground called the Danger Zone, falls into a pit, and flies up into the surface world.

There she discovers that gravity works in reverse for her and her people. Without the aid of a non-inverted surface boy named Age (Nobuhiko Okamoto), himself a rebel against »


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The Conformist, Bertolucci's Boldest Film, Showing at Film Forum

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

In Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, fascism proves a galvanizing force — but only for psychopaths. Italy's budding sadists, Attila Mellanchini (Donald Sutherland) chief among them, gravitate to the power and impunity fascism's advent seems to promise, and soon enough, Attila and his rabble-roused associates are terrorizing the Italian countryside under a wafer-thin pretense of ideology.

Not so in The Conformist, Bertolucci's boldest and most expressive film: Here, protagonist Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) recedes into fascism not for the authority he expects it will confer but for the comforts.

As it stands, Clerici leads a fraught existence, his thoughts forever consumed by shame and remorse, and in a sense he blames his independence — »


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The Material in African-American Doc Through a Lens Darkly is Rich and Stunning

26 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

The material that Guggenheim-winning, race-history doc-maker Harris works with in Through a Lens Darkly is rich and stunning: the semi-secret history of African-American photo imagery, from the slavery days to the present.

The circumstantial subtext of the early photos is always fascinating — portraits of naked slaves, and black family album shots during the Restoration, and the defiant selfies printed and sold by Sojourner Truth as 19th-century totems of black power, all radiated practical, sociopolitical import in their day. Photography's force as a generator of signifiers and social ideas was, from its very beginning, particularly meaningful for, as Harris puts it, a people in "emergence."

Would that Harris had simply let the images and their historical »

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Holocaust Doc Shadows From My Past Could Use a Professional Touch

25 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Shadows From My Past is like a box stuffed with old letters and photographs: Things may be out of order, but, stay with it, and you’ll soon have voices in your head, a story even. This is what Carl and Gita Kaufman have essentially done in this documentary — collected letters and photos of Gita’s family, who lived in Vienna happily until Hitler’s “anschluss” with Austria. Kaufman, who was a small child then, dutifully reads from the letters. Her voice is deadpan and slow, as though she wants to let the words speak for themselves, but it can be monotonous. Kaufman also lands startling, if brief, interviews with luminaries like Kurt Waldheim and Simon Wiesenthal, plus journalists and academics who ruminate about Austria a »


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Action Thriller The Prince Lacks Finesse

25 August 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

The action thriller The Prince is so bad that the most noteworthy thing about it is that the opening credits list 19 executive producers. Nineteen! Jason Patric stars as Paul, a hit man–turned–auto mechanic searching for his daughter, Beth (Gia Mantegna), who has disappeared from college. Paul turns to his daughter’s flirty classmate (Jessica Lowndes), who reports that the heroin-addicted Beth went to New Orleans with her drug-lord boyfriend (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), who in turn is under the thumb of a crime boss known as Omar (cameo slut Bruce Willis), who just happens to hate Paul for (accidentally) killing his wife and daughter back in the day. Despite a cast that includes John Cusack as Paul’s pal, and the charismatic Ko »


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