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  • Issue of
  • Jul 15-21, 2009
  • Vol. 29, No. 40

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • I Love You, Beth Cooper

    Charisma-free, thirtyish actor Paul Rust plays nerd Denis Cooverman, a career nebbish whose valedictory address calls out the popular clique and the bullies, and then declares his undying love for the golden-headed cheerleader Beth Cooper, played flatly by chipmunk-cheeked Hayden Panettiere. This of course puts a huge target on his back, but at least he has best-pal Rich (Jack T. Carpenter), a wisecracking flunky from the Jon Cryer school of wacky sidekicks, cursed with the annoying habit of constantly name-checking better movies and directors. Bemused by Cooverman’s affection, Cooper and her slut crew crash his lame party and a wild, wacked night of pranks, nudity, life lessons and property damage ensues. Joy.
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  • The Scene
  • Séraphine

    Dramatizing the agonies and ecstasies of artistic invention is never easy. Thankfully, Martin Provost proves far too humble and studious a filmmaker to rely on crass sentimentality or hysterically cinematic moments in Séraphine. Instead, he’s quietly empathetic in his depiction of avant-garde “primitive” painter Séraphine Louis (Yolande Moreau), the religiously devout housekeeper who, discovered by art collector Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), created brilliantly abstracted paintings of flowers, fruit and trees. It is the on-again, off-again relationship — part business, part friendship — of the gay German patron and psychologically fragile prodigy that guides this impressively tasteful and beautifully filmed story. But while Provost’s detached, almost academic, approach to artistic martyrdom may be aesthetically acute, it’s also psychologically and metaphorically inert.
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  • The Scene
  • Trouble with Harry

    Of all the Potter films so far, David Yates’ second stab at the series is clearly the most human, focusing on the flirtings and yearnings of Harry’s pals Ron and Hermione, while deepening the bond between Professor Dumbledore (the always terrific Michael Gambon) and the boy wizard (Daniel Radcliffe). The comic interludes are light and engaging, while a slowly unfolding mystery involving Hogwort’s new potions professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) is suitably intriguing (if a tad undramatic). The biggest problem with Half-Blood is that Kloves’ script mimics the novel’s highly episodic nature, delivering what feels like a two-and-a-half hour second act. Worse, he inexplicably abandons the book’s pyrotechnical finale, letting the story peter out with promises of more to come in the sequels. With little setup, few instances of real danger and an understated climax, newcomers will be hopelessly lost and even, at times, bored. Despite some incredible individual sequences, Half Blood is a gorgeously shot placeholder film that may satisfy stalwarts but struggles to define its dramatic relevancy in the series.
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