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Dan DeMaggio

  • Finding life in death

    One man's struggle is also a powerful love story
      The story of a terminally ill man’s struggle with the Spanish courts to allow him to commit suicide may sound like a real downer, but The Sea Inside is poetic, devoutly humanistic and ultimately life-affirming film. We watch a man suffer through the indignities and loss of independence that’s inevitable with his condition, but we also watch him soar, literally and figuratively, with dreams and words and an unstoppable conviction and bravery.
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  • The Assassination of Richard Nixon

      Although it treads familiar ground, this film based on real life events is an original and disturbing achievement. Sean Penn plays a troubled, failed man who plots to strike back at the world by taking out Tricky Dick. An honest and painful presentation of a bizarre and bloody footnote to history that most people had never heard about until now, the film a depth not found in lesser fare.
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  • The not-so-dirty show

    Somewhat off-color and mildly inappropriate, *Sick & Twisted* doesn’t live up to its name
      There’s something going on with this year’s annual roundup of supposedly “sick and twisted” animation that may portend the demise of this once-satisfying and unique presentation of dirty shorts, über-violent critters and turn-your-head-away shockers. When hippie-in-a-blender jokes and a fly that does a shitty re-creation of Tony Montana’s last moments against the “cockroaches” in Scarface is your idea of sick and twisted, the words lose their meaning. Oh well, maybe next year.
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  • Mas dazzling Mexican cinema

    Inarritu delivers heavy beauty #2.
      Screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu title their raw and wrenching creation 21 Grams as a bit of ironic understatement, a reference to the supposed weight that every human loses upon their departure to the hereafter. Using an unusual and highly effective realist narrative style, 21 Grams can be hard to watch, but you’ll never look away.
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  • Spanglish

      There are a million inspiring, richly meaningful stories about those who follow the exodus out of Mexico and strike out for a life in the United States. Spanglish is not one of them. This overly schmaltzy entry from director James Brooks depicts the saintly Flor, an immigrant housekeeper who teaches a shallow and dysfunctional California family about the true meaning of life. You’ll either glow with Hallmark card serenity or puke your popcorn in the aisle.
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  • Nicotina

      You’ve seen this movie way too many times. The caper- gone-terribly-wrong movie with lots of eye-popping cinematic gimmicks like freeze frame and fast zooms. The formula is now set in stone, thanks to guys like Tarantino and that dude that married Madonna. Mexican director Hugo Rodriguez does a decent homage in this passably entertaining trifle, with his take on the punishments meted out to stupid, greedy folks who bite off a little more than they can chew.
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  • Enduring Love

      Based on a novel by Ian McEwan, Enduring Love focuses on the repercussions of a freak hot-air balloon accident. College professor Joe (Daniel Craig) and his girlfriend Claire (Samantha Morton) witnessed the accident; so did a guy named Jed, a creepy Englishman that both Joe and Claire get to know far too well over the course of the film. Although blessed with a fantastic opening sequence and a host of complex characters, the film soon falls victim to a kind of pseudo-intellectual cat and mouse game.
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  • Return of the mack

    Jude Law again shows us what's it all about
      The world of the Casanova has changed a tad since the original Alfie, featuring Michael Caine in the title role, came out in 1966. Feminism and AIDS has definitely taken the luster off the image of free-wheeling, free-banging swingers whose only care in the world is the right lighting in their “bachelor pads.” But the charm and deceptively deep morality of director Charles Shyer’s remake is that guys like Alfie, this time played with a perfect balance of swagger and clumsiness by Jude Law, will always be around.
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  • Saw

      Waking up underwater in a filthy bathtub only to discover that you’re chained at the ankle to a rusty pipe in one of the creepiest shithouses this side of old Tiger Stadium — this is no way to start your day. Sounds pretty intense, eh? Don’t get your hopes up. For the next 90 minutes, director James Wan will waste this promising premise by serving up one ludicrous twist after another until you are so weary of the whole shebang that it will be impossible not to laugh. Not good tidings for a horror movie.
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  • The Grudge

      The Grudge is basically one scene played out with mathematical precision and predictability over and over and over again. By the time The Grudge wraps up its barely existent story arc, you’ll wish it were you they were going to kill. As scary as a cardboard jack-o-lantern pasted on a 7-11 beer cooler door, The Grudge is nothing more than an opportunity to sit down in a darkened room for a couple of hours and contemplate your life’s unfinished work.
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  • Sleazy rider

    Gallo’s universally panned flick is actually killer
      Director/writer/actor/camera operator/infamous weirdo Vincent Gallo has produced a quietly powerful film, a film that’s more often than not sentimental and old-fashioned in taking its time to tell a story. The Brown Bunny is refreshing in that it lacks extraneous, maudlin dialogue and easy explanations. It’s a film that Gallo can be proud of, stunning and powerful at moments, and equally fine to his self-made Buffalo 66.
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  • I [HEART] Huckabees

      If you heard or saw the tagline for this movie, “an existentialist comedy,” and were enthusiastic to see a film that tackles with deep understanding and wit a philosophical school of thought responsible for Kafka’s cockroaches, you’re going to be madly disappointed. I © Huckabees has an over-qualified group of actors, some pretty funny sight gags, and a biting commentary on the drifting, soulless society we’ve constructed. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
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  • Back to the future

    George Lucas' early sci-fi film is profound and prophetic
      George Lucas’ first film is a masterpiece, a horrifying depiction of conformity run amok, where everyone is a number. It is more visually stunning and politically potent than anything that has come down the pike since the film’s original release in 1971. This is the Lucas movie that no one would dare celebrate with fast-food tie-ins and lunch-box commemorations. It’s just too damn scary, smart and prophetic for that.
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  • Mean Creek

      The bully in this film will be terribly familiar to anyone who has endured the “golden years” of junior high. When a group of friends not-so-innocently invite the bully to accompany them on a river excursion, it becomes apparent how an impulsive yet entirely believable revenge plot can run dangerously out of hand. This may not be an original premise — 1986’s River’s Edge explored it first and best — but it’s an important and scary one that is meditated on with great effect in this offering.
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  • Wicker Park

      This remake of the 1996 French film L’Appartement aims for angst and mystery, but is partially sabotaged by squeaky clean Hollywood actors portraying characters so wildly successful and cute that it’s impossible to believe any kind of terrible desperation would befall them. But even though the four troubled main characters don’t seem dirty or confused enough, the core plot of the film is compelling and inventive enough to warrant a recommendation.
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  • The big pill

      When you peel away all the autumnal moodiness, lip-quivering, eye-darting close-ups, boozy confessions and emotional warfare of this film, you are left with four of the most grating, infantile, pseudo-intellectual characters since The Big Chill. A soap opera all gussied up as a “thoughtful” exploration of two couples whose infidelities and casual mendacity leads them to self-actualization and heartache.
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  • Sci-fi sex

    Smart new film probes genetically altered future
      A detective tale set in future where genetic engineering has led to a state of quiet totalitarianism, and where a paramount concern of the state is the prevention of accidental “couplings” of lab-bred people whose genetic profiles may be too similar. Tim Robbins is the private eye and Samantha Morton is the love interest in this smart, moody film.
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  • Intimate Strangers

      A woman seeking a psychiatrist’s office accidentally ends up sharing her tale of marital strife, emotional abuse and dreamed-of escapes with an accountant. With each visit, the accountant’s affection for her deepens. Eventually wise to his deception, she begins her own. Depending on your point of view, the inconclusive ending is either poetic or a rip-off. Directed by Patrice Leconte (Man on the Train, Monsieur Hire).
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  • A good week

    Finally some summer delights for hungry eyes
      Documentary of a five-day train ride/multi-concert swing through Canada featuring bands like the Grateful Dead, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buddy Guy and Janis Joplin, who died shortly after filming was completed. The music is showcased in a refreshingly unslick, unpretentious fashion.
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