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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

You talkin’ to me?

Scorsese turns the camera on his own past

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM

These two short documentaries by Martin Scorsese are mainly interesting as footnotes to the director’s career, as a back story to some of his signature subject matter. Italianamerican was made in 1974 and delves into Scorcese’s family, via an interview with his parents. American Boy is a series of hard luck stories told by actor Steven Prince, best known for his small role as the gun dealer in Taxi Driver. Both films are recommended for serious Scorsese fans, as intriguing asides from America’s greatest living director.

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Guess Who

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Bernie Mac brings a much-needed jolt of energy to this spin on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the 1968 classic about interracial romance. It’s a surprisingly warm, fitfully hilarious culture-clash comedy that wrings considerable mileage out of a seemingly done-to-death premise. Despite a few missteps, director Kevin Rodney Sullivan and the sharp supporting cast keep the proceedings loose, natural and wholly believable.

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Walk on Water

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM

This story of an Israeli professional assassin (Lior Ashkenazi) who slowly cracks under the pressures of his job isn’t nearly as dramatic as it may seem. Leisurely paced, it ends up as a character study with not quite enough depth of character. Although worth seeing for Ashkenazi’s performance — the guy has charisma to burn — the film drags, and despite good intentions, still doesn’t quite convince.

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Beauty Shop

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM

While somewhat funnier than Barbershop 2, Beauty Shop is a lot like the original Barbershop with an up-do. The movie closely mirrors the formula established by its hairy predecessors, but with more heart than soul. Queen Latifah stars as Gina, who has moved from Chicago to Atlanta to start her own shop and give her daughter a better life. Moderate laughs come by way of palatable racial humor, tame battles of the sexes and modest displays of female sassiness. While Queen Latifah plays it safe, Alfre Woodard and Kevin Bacon stand out with their supporting roles.

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The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM

This certainly isn’t a worthy sequel to the pioneering 1978 “rockumentary” The Rutles: All You Need is Cash. Instead it’s a hastily cobbled together Rutles TV infomercial that was supposed to air on TV like Tragical History Tour, except no one was interested in seeing negligible outtakes and repeats...

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Notes from the underground

Young Japanese novelist's message lost in translation

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Hitomi Kanehara’s Hebi ni Piasu, translated as Snakes and Earrings, has won the 2004 Akutagawa Prize, the top Japanese literary award for new writers. Kanehara, a 21-year-old female, shares the award, historically taken by men, with another young woman, Risa Wataya. Much (perhaps too much) has been made of...

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Cartoon heaven

A rich collection of animated expression comes to town

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM

If you’re looking for a collection of animated fart jokes, severed penises and flights of sadistic violence à la Spike and Mike, The 2005 Animation Show may not be your cup of tea. It’s not that Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt’s collection of twelve animated shorts doesn’t cross the line into the profane; it’s just that it has more class and style. Its selections represent a terrific balance of artistry and entertainment. Given how few venues exist for these incredibly inventive films, fans of animation shouldn’t miss this festival.

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Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Director Robert Stone’s taut, riveting new documentary doesn’t treat the kidnapping of Patty Hearst as just another historical punch line, and makes it relevant for a whole new generation of politically divided, terror-obsessed Americans. Though the subject matter has been analyzed to the point of self-parody over the course of the past 30 years, Stone still manages to dissect the Hearst trauma in new and compelling ways.

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Gunner Palace

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Filmmakers Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker present a surprisingly intimate, if highly disjointed, account of the Army’s 2/3 Field Artillery Unit, a company of “gunners” who operate out of the former pleasure palace of Uday Hussein, patrolling the streets of Bagdad and routing out insurgents. Populated with wisecracking jokers, jaded hip-hop poets and midwestern farm boys, the troops come from rural backwaters and low-income suburbs. Unfiltered by politicians or pundits these young soldiers express equal doses of cynicism and pride. The film succeeds in revealing the daily costs of war in and on Iraq, a story the mass media has failed miserably to tell.

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The Upside of Anger

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Though this film from Birmingham native Mike Binder is problematic, its greatest virtue is in the heart of its leads, as they gingerly dance around each other’s emotional baggage, hoping to find a little comfort and grace. As a dysfunctional couple, Kevin Costner and Joan Allen have a genuine chemistry that avoids the clichés of modern romantic comedies. Finding a film that dares to feature adult characters doing adult things is rare indeed. Though far from perfect, it provides just enough insight and humanity to make it worth viewing.

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