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20 articles


Skate Bros Face Murder Drama in Dawn Patrol

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

In a laughable scene in Dawn Patrol, John (Scott Eastwood) passes a joint to his brother (Chris Brochu) while riding a skateboard, and director Daniel Petrie Jr. stages the moment in drawn-out slow motion, as if he expected it to appear as a SportsCenter highlight. This kind of tacky, on-the-nose treatment is representative of Petrie’s choices throughout the movie — though, in his defense, the screenplay he’s working from (co-written by Rachel Long and Brian Pittman) is a mess in its own right.

Following a clumsy opening in which John, clad in Marine clothing, recounts his story to a woman (Julie Carmen) as she holds him at gunpoint, the movie flashes back to the summer of 2008. Petrie takes his time detailing the habits of John’s bea »


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Charlie's Country Pits the Cops Against a (Real) Down-on-His-Luck Aboriginal Actor

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

The special quality of Charlie’s Country is the profound camaraderie shared by its director, Rolf de Heer, and its star, David Gulpilil (Walkabout, The Last Wave). The two have worked together before (The Tracker, Ten Canoes), but the origins of Charlie’s Country are personal to an exceptional degree. In 2011, de Heer learned that Gulpilil had landed in jail; he got in touch with the washed-up performer, and the germ of a story — intrinsically inspired by Gulpilil’s drink-addled life experiences — blossomed.

Co-written by de Heer and Gulpilil, the movie has a bracing (if unsurprising) narrative of societal suppression: Northern Territory dweller Charlie (Gulpilil) finds his roaming Aboriginal lifesty »


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Indie Fantasy Patch Town Is Almost Fascinatingly Bad

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

It’s one thing for a fantasy film to make no sense, but Patch Town’s problem is that its premise isn’t just unintelligible — it’s downright dumb. Based on his short film, director Craig Goodwill’s feature concerns a magical factory (ostensibly located, in secret, on the outskirts of mainstream society?) where a wicked businessman (Julian Richings) has assembly-line workers remove babies from cabbages and then use a machine to turn those babies into children’s dolls, which he sells to little girls. When those toys are eventually abandoned by their all-grown-up owners, they return to this factory to work as reanimated people.

That situation doesn’t sit well with portly, mop-topped Jon (Rob Ramsay), who with hi »


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Urgent Doc Every Last Child Reveals Pakistanis Standing Up to the Taliban to Fight Polio

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Throughout Every Last Child, voices stay hushed until they are shouting — in pain, in worry, in command. Set largely in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, Tom Roberts's urgent, tender documentary has the pulse of a noir film as it follows families and healthcare workers scrambling to vaccinate their children against polio, though the Taliban has forbidden it.

Polio is a potentially fatal disease, and leaves even its survivors irrevocably altered, their limbs stiff or shriveled, immobile. Meanwhile, the Taliban will kill those they find disobeying the ban on vaccinations. The Taliban, whom we in the West tend to hear more about than the civilians whose lives are affected by their power, can seem mythic. That's part of what makes this film so powerful: its human »


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Ten Promising Movies for Summer 2015

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

In the decadent 21st century, the summer movie season now sprawls from March through December. (Star Wars: Episode VII is due to awaken the Force December 18; every prior Star Wars picture has come out Memorial Day weekend.) But I’ll stick to tradition and call Memorial Day the start of summer, when the movies are optimized to lure vacationing schoolkids and Chinese ticket-buyers back for repeat exposures and no block is safe from potential bustage. The Age of Ultron, it’s traditionally called.

Herewith, ten films arriving between now and Labor Day that we hope might offer something more than just reliable air conditioning.

Love & Mercy (June 5) — On the heels of last summer’s overlooked James Brown por »


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Five Reasons iZombie Is Summer's Most Underrated Show

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

iZombie is about as sunny and optimistic as the zombie genre gets, which of course isn't all that much. Even by supernatural standards, it's a bloodthirsty canon, demanding regular sacrifices of innocents and grisly feats of skull splitting and cerebellum cannibalizing. The CW's Seattle neo-noir boasts plenty of both to please zombie aficionados, but it also proves that creators — in this case the Veronica Mars team of Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright — needn't go "grimdark" to be urgently existential. It helps that the midseason replacement is dazzlingly, tirelessly witty. The series' fizzy, pop culture-savvy dialogue — along with its build up of the weekly murder »


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Romance Becomes Unsettling Terror in the Polanski-Inspired Hungry Hearts

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Saverio Costanzo unfolds Hungry Hearts as a series of vignettes that veer from romantic comedy to horror. Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) meet-cute while trapped in a Chinese restaurant's basement restroom. What initially seems like a delightful, throwaway opening is loaded with portents: the uptight engineer experiencing digestive issues in the uncomfortably tight space; the isolated Italian transplant battling a congested New York City that's constantly assaulting her senses. A pregnancy and marriage follow in quick succession, but when Jude and Mina settle into his top-floor apartment, the already angled walls close in on them. Mina, who barely ate during pregnancy, sees most food as "poison" and the "outside" as toxic, and dismisses medi »


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In World War I Drama Testament of Youth, Alicia Vikander Is Worthy of Lillian Gish

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

With Testament of Youth, our collective poppy-strewn dream imagery of a decimated generation of the gallant young men of Wwi — and their noble horses too — might undergo a sea change. Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), simultaneously poignant and powerful as Vera Brittain, the writer who fought her way into Oxford then chucked that to go to the front as a nurse, gives another indelible performance, her tragedies foretold by the forlorn-looking women at the train station sending off their jolly soldiers. Brittain's bestselling autobiographical novel was never part of the U.S. women's-studies canon; it's a surprise to see Brittain handily handling "our" issues of career, love, family. But add the war and a triumvirate of deaths: her great love, the das »


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Underground Railroad Drama Freedom Is More Interested in Jesus Than Slavery

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Using a slavery narrative to advance an unrelated agenda is pretty tasteless, bordering on offensive. The product of an "inspirational" production house, a white director, and an Asian-American screenwriter who once wrote a film that was actually called Fakin' Da Funk, Freedom expunges the real histories of millions of people by elevating the consolation of religion above the actual experience of enslavement. But more broadly, any kind of didacticism just kills art, like product placements on TV shows. A narrative of the Underground Railroad, the film is practically a musical — the characters frequently burst into hymns from a variety of early American religious traditions, in styles refined and rural. It seems unlikely that during secret smuggling jo »


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Doc Dukale's Dream Reveals Hugh Jackman's Real-Life Coffee-Related Heroism

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Actors are accustomed to studying a subject for a brief, intense period and then being treated like experts. Hugh Jackman's advocacy for fair-trade coffee began with that burst of enthusiasm, but settled into a business that distills complex global economics into a simple message: We are what we consume. Josh Victor Rothstein (3 Points) documents Jackman's journey in Dukale's Dream, which falls somewhere between an infomercial for World Vision Australia and an earnest exploration of celebrity philanthropy. The story begins in 2009 when the actor and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, travel to Ethiopia on a visit coordinated by Tim Costello, described as Australia's "moral signpost." The World Vision CEO shows these longtime supporters of the charity how econom »


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Robert Duvall Rides Again With Wild Horses, Which Actually Needs More of Him

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

The archetypal film cowboy is a man with rawhide skin, an unshakable moral code, and a firearm to enforce it. Wild Horses' Scott Briggs is no different; to him, gays are evil, his land is sacred, and if you trespass he will shoot your legs out from under you, right after he gets help climbing onto his horse. In his latest directorial vision, Robert Duvall takes up the saddle as the octogenarian Briggs to explore how his prejudicial value system has torn his diverse family apart. Coinciding with the estranged family's reunion is an investigation into the disappearance of Briggs's outed son's lover, led by Samantha, a Texas Ranger. These competing narratives are connected haphazardly by visual transitions that feel like someone sat on the DVD remote, plus jarring to »


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Buddy Comedy Doomsdays Makes Hanging Out With Home Invaders Too Much Fun

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Thoughtful buddy comedy Doomsdays makes spending time with manic man-children a lot more fun than it should be. You wouldn't want to hang with serial home invaders Dirty Fred (Mutual Appreciation's Justin Rice) and Bruho (Kids' Leo Fitzpatrick) in real life, a truth that writer-director Eddie Mullins underscores every time Fred tricks Bruho into fighting irate homeowners on his behalf or Bruho takes out his anger issues on whatever object is within arm's reach. But Fred and Bruho are charming within the context of Doomsdays' escapist scenario, and Mullins doesn't try to cure his protagonists of their characteristic dickishness. Their impish, unrepentantly destructive behavior actually proves endearing, even when Fred tries to seduce t »


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We Are Still Here Is the Rare Horror Film for Grown-Ups

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Instead of the nubile young things who normally populate horror movies, a grieving middle-aged couple is at the center of Ted Geoghegan's Seventies-evoking We Are Still Here. We meet Anne and Paul (Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig) after the death of their son; they're moving into a new house and unable to connect with each other. It's a mature problem that seems betrayed by the genre; imagine In the Bedroom with jump-scares. Anne feels the presence of malevolent spirits and mistakes them for their son. Paul shrugs it off, deepening their rift — and then the burning ghosts in the basement start murdering people. Early scenes overplay the shock of these phantasms, but just as you expect Geoghegan to crank up the effects, the film mixes in »


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Roy Andersson's Latest Out-of-Time Comedy is a Light in the Dark

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

World cinema may have no better builder of delightful scenes than Roy Andersson, the deadpan Swedish existentialist. Each shot in an Andersson film is part diorama, part theatrical performance, part moviemaking the way Thomas Edison did it: Build a set, plant a camera, and stage highly orchestrated comedy and tragedy.

In his last days Hitchcock said that Spielberg was the first director who doesn't see the proscenium arch — a compliment but also a dig at the young buck's lack of refinement. In an Andersson picture you might feel that the director hasn't seen Hitchcock or Spielberg, that he exists outside most cinematic traditions, that he's responding to some familiar touchstones — Beckett and Kafka and silent-film comedy — but also to parades and to ga »


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Love & Mercy Lets Us Hear Brian Wilson Turn Pain Into Sound

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

What does the world sound like when you're Brian Wilson? When you've made a record that sounds like cirrus clouds look — as Wilson did with the Beach Boys' small modern miracle of harmony, the 1966 Pet Sounds — all bets are off when it comes to the way ordinary aural signals are processed on their journey through ear canal to eardrum and beyond. The clatter of silverware on plates, the voices of people speaking in another room: When you're Brian Wilson, are they music, or are they unbearable?

The beauty, and the horror, of Bill Pohlad's exhilarating and inventive Love & Mercy — which traces the sine wave of Wilson's troubled adult life using two actors, Paul Dano and John Cusack — is the sense it gives us of the world passing throug »


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Unsettling Doc The Nightmare Reveals the Horror in Your Mind

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Twenty years back, at the height of the UFO boom, the truest believers in alien abduction scenarios would argue that their most compelling evidence was the commonalities between regular people's stories of nighttime visitations. Even under hypnosis, “abductees” testified to remarkably consistent waking-dream terrors: an alert immobility, shadowed and mostly featureless figures right out of Close Encounters, being lifted and flown elsewhere without anyone else — even someone sharing the same bed — being the wiser. Sure, there was never any physical proof, but the reports came from everywhere, so it must have have been true, right?

Every onetime UFOlogist should brave Rodney Ascher's illuminating, unsettling doc The Nightmare, a f »


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In Spy, Melissa McCarthy Triumphs for the Susans Everywhere

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

The Melissa McCarthy of Spy is different from the one who rose to prominence by shitting in a sink. Bridesmaids scored her an Oscar nomination, and for the ceremony McCarthy donned a glamorous rose gown with a diamond collar and belt. But in the years since, Hollywood continued to see her as a grotesque. Onscreen, McCarthy has played a parade of morons, lunatics, losers, and bullies. More punching bag than human being, she's been hit by car after car and forced to suck Zach Galifianakis's used lollipop.

But Paul Feig, the director who made McCarthy a star, has finally written his own script for his muse — Feig's first screenplay in twelve years. In Spy, McCarthy is soft, feminine, and smart. For a dinner with her CIA co-worker and crush Bradley »


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'Artists Get Put in a Box,' Says Love & Mercy Star John Cusack

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

When John Cusack was launching his career in the Eighties, Brian Wilson had gone from rock star to living lore — a brilliant Bigfoot. “People would have Brian Wilson encounters,” says Cusack, who plays Wilson in the new biopic Love & Mercy. “In L.A., people would say, 'Oh, I was driving around and I saw Brian Wilson in his bathrobe!' and there were strange grumblings of a psychiatrist, guru life coach guy.”

The doctor was Eugene Landy (played in the movie by Paul Giamatti), a therapist who wielded fearsome control over every aspect of Wilson's life: his diet, his medicine, his music, his money, even his family and friends. When Wilson met his future wife Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) at a car dealership in 1986, he hadn't seen h »


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The Entourage Movie May Be a Branded Romp But It's Easy Fun

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

The first line in Entourage is a good indication of what the next 104 minutes will bring. Peering through a pair of binoculars while a speedboat carries him toward a yacht in the dazzling waters of Ibiza, Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), the big brother of megastar Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), glimpses the bikini-clad babes who await him and informs us, “I may have to jerk it before I even get there!”

Hoo, boy. If you can walk out of Entourage without feeling like you've been glazed over with pre-cum, kudos to you. Still, the movie, like the HBO series that spawned it, is hardly a slog. It may be not much more than a heavily branded romp through a Hollywood fantasyland, but it’s got a pulse. It’s easy fun. No one ever died from reading »


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Dribbling Nonsense: FIFA Plays to Distract in the Risible United Passions

2 June 2015 9:00 PM, PDT

Update: On June 2, 2015, news broke that Sepp Blatter would resign as president of FIFA, as he became the target of a federal investigation. He said in a speech, "Although the members of FIFA have given me the new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football."

Frédéric Auburtin’s absurdly hagiographic drama United Passions purports to tell the history of FIFA — the world’s governing institution for soccer — from its 1904 founding up until its announcement of South Africa as the host country for the 2010 World Cup. Auburtin takes pains to paint FIFA in the most glowing possible light, eliding entirely controversies that have dogged it for decades, including numerous accusations of »


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