Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The flight and return of self

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Following a fall tour that took her from New York to San Francisco, Terry Blackhawk will bring her new award-winning book, Escape Artist, back to her hometown in the new year. The Detroit poet plans to read at local bookstores, including Book Beat in Oak Park and Borders in...

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House of Sand and Fog

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Behrani (Ben Kingsley) was a colonel back in his homeland on the Caspian Sea, but in America he’s reduced to selling cigarettes behind the counter of a gas station. He buys a bargain of a house, unaware that just days before, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) was wrongfully evicted from the it. Desperation causes fingers to point at obvious differences — like race — and the assumptions fly. Unfortunately, what starts out as a "powerful drama" degenerates into an "eye-rolling melodrama."

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Mona Lisa Smile

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Set in 1953, Julia Roberts is Katherine Watson, the new free-willed art teacher at Wellesley College who has her work cut out for her. But Roberts doesn’t come close to capturing the audience with her role as Robin Williams did in Dead Poets Society. The performances by the other actors are just above mediocre and characters almost unbelievable to start with develop too fast and too drastically. The only standout performances are from actors in the small supporting roles.

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Paycheck

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Jimmy Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart) is the sharply dressed, neatly coifed owner of Allcom, and boss of Michael Jennings (Ben Affleck), an engineer/inventor who must perfect the company’s see-the-future-and-take-over-the-world machine. All of director John Woo’s trademark moves are present and accounted for, including the "Mexican standoff," which makes a half-dozen appearances. What’s missing is the palpable tension and drama of Woo’s brilliant 1997 offering Face/Off or the over-the-top thrills of his 1989 masterpiece The Killer (1989).

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Cheaper by the Dozen

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2003 at 12:00 AM

A family with 12 kids comes off even wackier than it did in 1950, the first time this film was made. The Bakers are a loving, easy-going couple packing up their country herd and moving to the big city for dad’s dream job. What you get is a fast-food film that goes through the motions of a plot with milk-and-cupcake dialogue that leaves you dry and crusty. Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt and Ashton Kutcher star in this faceless and tasteless kid-geared film with an addiction to messy catastrophes.

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Autumn Spring

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2003 at 12:00 AM

In this modest Czech film, Fanda is an old codger who spends his days acting out harmless pranks. His wife Emilie is the exact opposite, a party-pooping scold. We get yet another film positing that a life of fantasy makes you happy while those who focus on reality become petty and uptight. What keeps all this from being cloying is a streak of pessimistic resignation running just beneath the droll surface. Despite a much-too-cuddly ending, this humorous story of perseverance has a continual tug of seriousness, which prevents the narrative from floating into whimsy.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation

Posted By on Wed, Dec 24, 2003 at 12:00 AM

For the past decade, Ferndale’s Magic Bag has hosted one of the most hungrily anticipated annual film festivals. The laid-back and liquor-stocked Bag is a perfect home for all the bloodletting, sexual depravity, and dead-on raunchiness of the more than 20 animation shorts, some brilliant, some clunkers, presented this year. Take part in this holiday tradition and you won’t be disappointed.

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Gloomy Sunday

Posted By on Wed, Dec 24, 2003 at 12:00 AM

When a brooding pianist creates a tune for his Budapest object-of-desire called "Gloomy Sunday," it becomes famous for its melancholic beauty and uncanny ability to induce suicide, and the stage is set for a ponderous yet powerful film. The film’s rich and fallible characters create a gripping tale amid the historic backdrop of impending Nazi horrors. In German with subtitles.

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The Barbarian Invasions

Posted By on Wed, Dec 24, 2003 at 12:00 AM

French-Canadian writer/director Deny Arcand's sequel to his The Decline of the American Empire (1986) centers on the slow death of one of the film’s coterie of cheerfully pedantic intellectuals. Although the film has its comic moments, the mood is generally autumnal. Maybe something's being lost in the translation, but the mix of overbearing erudition and forced humor seems unnatural. Still, the film is effectively moving. In French, with subtitles.

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A soap box for Christmas

Dickens need not move aside for this yarn.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 24, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Christmas stories are creepy. Think of Dickens’ ghosts or “that old silk hat” that sent Frosty wild in the streets. St. Nick is the most chilling figure of all — an old guy who keeps tabs on kids before some late-night B&E. In many ways, Robert Vaughan’s Christmas Past...

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