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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mitten Movie Night

Posted on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 2:47 PM

Every month for the last few years, the Mitten Movie Project has taken to the screen, showing some of the best short subject films from around the state and beyond. It happens the first Tuesday night of every month, half-screening, half-party, a way to showcase local talent and bring local...

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Outlander

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

In the history of cinema, Outlander is the best Viking warriors vs. giant glow-in-the-dark space iguana movie ever made. Star Jim Caviezel plays stoic alien astronaut Kainan who crashes his starship into a lake in Iron Age-era Norway and, as his handy 25th century translating computer explains, earth is a long-abandoned colony worthy of his race of militaristic space yuppies. Trouble is, he has brought with him a deadly flesh-eating critter called a Moorwen, which promptly chomps down an entire Norse village. Kainan has a helluva time getting the local King (the delightfully hammy John Hurt) to buy his story. But after some mead drinking, maiden wooing and bear slaying, Kainan bonds with hothead warrior Wulfric (Jack Huston), just as the nasty Moorwen appears and begins gobbling up villagers like lutefisk.

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Holocaust redux

Claude Miller themes the historical stain with some tact and family drama

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

While far from perfect, Claude Miller’s affecting and intimate family drama captures the complexities and challenges of being a Jew in France in the run-up to World War II. It’s the 1950s and teenager Francois (Quentin Dubuis) discovers that his perfect parent’s relationship — both attractive athletes — isn’t quite what he thought. Not only is his father disappointed in his son’s lack of physical prowess, which is rooted in a heartbreaking past, Francois’ fantasies of a phantom brother may be more than real. Wedged between his insecure and sickly adolescence and the impact of his discoveries as a 37-year-old man (Mathieu Amalric), most of A Secret’s running time is spent unfurling his parents’ (Cecile De France and Patrick Bruel) tragic history before and during the Nazi occupation of France. It’s a complex, compassionate and unfamiliar view of the war and the decisions ordinary people were forced to make. It’s also a meditation on the ironic impact of jealousy, lust and expectation, making clear that personal decisions can be as ruinous as the darkest world events.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Artists: Are you legit?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 3:27 PM

Above: A Gwen Joy painting Local artist, cigarette girl and gadabout Gwen Joy, whose whimsical work has developed a loyal following among Detroit-area collectors, (including our features editor), got a surprise last week while out and about: She got her credentials questioned. When introduced as an artist to a...

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar List: Robert Downey, Jr is In, Detroit Snubbed!

Posted on Thu, Jan 22, 2009 at 9:21 AM

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released its list of nominated films, this morning. On the list for the 81st Oscars are some obvious picks -- Sean Penn in "Milk", Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" and the numerous nods for "Benjamin Button". One shocker is how well...

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chandni Chowk to China

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Big-time action heartthrob Akshay Kumar — who could be the bastard child of Borat and Jerry Lewis — is Sidhu, a lowly vegetable-chopping street vendor working in the Delhi slum of Chandni Chowk. He’s constantly whining for a better life while praying to a potato that looks like the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. His big break comes when he’s swindled by a con man into playing the patsy in the fight to liberate a Chinese village from vicious thugs. The head crime lord Hojo — who sports a razor-edged hat like Odd Job from Goldfinger — is played with menace by Gordon Liu. The villagers think Sidhu’s their savior reincarnate, even though he’s an imbecile in way over his goofy head. Elsewhere there’s Roger Yuan as an amnesiac inspector and his beautiful, identity-swapping twin daughters, played by stone-cold knockout Deepika Padukone.

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Defiance

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM

This film tells the true-life story of the Bielski partisans, a quartet of Jewish brothers in Belarus who rescued more than a thousand of their people by hiding them in the country’s deep forests. Led by thoughtful Tuvia (Daniel Craig), macho Zus (the excellent Liev Schreiber) and naïve Asael (Jamie Bell), the self-exiled Jews evade Nazi-collaborating Polish police forces, conduct hit-and-run raids, and build an impromptu society that’s forced to wrestle with unique moral and ethical questions. At issue are how to share rations, when to hunt their own, whether infants should be allowed, and even how marriage is defined by a community that might have to drop everything and flee at a moment’s notice. It’s a fascinating footnote in history that could’ve made for some provocative cinema. Instead Zwick gives us Red Dawn by way of Schindler’s List. Instead of putting ideas of gritty survival and complex characters at heart of the story, Zwick and Clayton Frohman’s script punctuates its formulaic combat skirmishes with mawkish emoting and barely rousing speeches.

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Last Chance Harvey

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Harvey Shine (Hoffman) is a commercial jingle writer whose career is on the outs. Flying to London to attend his estranged daughter’s wedding he struggles awkwardly to connect with old friends and family but mostly ensures his status as the familial outsider. Not satisfied to let Hoffman convey his character’s unease, writer-director Joel Hopkins punctuates these scenes with poorly conceived shtick involving hotel curtains, clothing security tags and a bed of stones at the rehearsal dinner restaurant. Enter Kate (Thompson), a single, middle-aged airline employee whose mum calls her 50 times a day and who believes her Polish next door neighbor’s a serial killer. Though the film has been cutting away to poor Kate’s loveless life, it’s 30 minutes before she runs into Harvey at an airport bar (he ditched his daughter’s reception). The two strike up an acid-tinged conversation that suggests Hopkin’s film might have some middle-aged bite yet. Unfortunately, it quickly devolves into a sentimental merging of minds (and hearts).

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM

As Paul Blart, TV star Kevin James plays a dumpy, mustachioed and overweight single dad and state trooper academy reject turned overzealous rent-a-cop, he’s such a needy and feckless sadsack that he’s almost more depressing than funny. Paul’s a “fun facts” windbag who’s ridiculously strict in all matters of Mall Security. He’s also a big open sore of insecurity whose hypoglycemia is a crutch to suck down more pie. His vulnerability borders on creepiness too; watch his awkward courting of a pretty kiosk worker Amy (Jamya Mays), who, by the way, looks like a generic knockoff of the other nerd crush, Anna Ferris.

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Che split in two

Chronicling the legendary leader's military veneration and the long, hard slog toward his crucifixion

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Steven Soderbergh’s epic biopic Che, now split into two separate films, is a film that’s easy to respect but very hard to enjoy. Che: Part 1 begins in 1955 with Guevara (Benicio Del Toro) deciding to join Castro’s plan to overthrow Batista, then quickly ping-pongs between his three-year slog (1956-59) through the Cuban jungles and his 1964 appearance at the United Nations. Soderbergh’s wide-frame approach to Che’s guerrilla campaigns are lush and crisp, deftly juxtaposed against grainy, black-and-white New York interludes, where he’s interviewed by a TV reporter, mixes with international elites (never without trademark army fatigues) and addresses the world assembly. It’s an interesting attempt to provide some ideological context to the fighting, and connects Che the soldier to his celebrity status, but, ultimately, is determined to keep us at arm’s length. Soderbergh has crafted an impersonal film that looks at its protagonist from a distance, decentralizing his role in the narrative. Conventional notions of drama are driven to the margins as skirmish after skirmish is rendered without thrill or emotion. It’s a remarkably unglamorous view of warfare that turns combat into an arduous trudge, and all but the most dedicated cineastes will feel like they’ve plodded through every inch of Cuba’s jungles in search of a plot. Che, Part 2, set over the last year of Guevara’s life, unfolds in what seems like real time; which is both compliment and complaint. It’s an endurance test as Soderbergh uses a documentarian’s restraint to capture Che’s ill-fated day-after-day attempt to foment revolution and bring communism to Bolivia. Shot at a tighter, more claustrophobic ratio and with a harsh, hand-held sensibility, the director does something quite unique: creates an immediate feel to someone who seems a thousand miles away.

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