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Friday, February 27, 2009

A hurdle she can’t jump: The IOC

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 5:14 PM

Unable to see beyond the tips of her skis because of a blizzard, Michigan native Lindsey Van still flew to a world title last week in the first-ever women's world championships for ski jumping held in the Czech Republic. She joins two other Michigan-affiliated young women who have reached the...

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gomorrah

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Matteo Garrone’s riveting Gomorrah is a bleak pseudo-journalistic study of organized crime in Naples. Opening with an unexplained massacre at a tanning salon, Garrone’s film casually unspools five sordid stories of scams, thefts and killings perpetrated by the Camorra “System” in neo-reportage fashion. There’s Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo), a master tailor struggling to escape the mob’s sweatshop infiltration of haute couture, teen thugs Sweet Pea and Pitbull (Salvatore Ruocco and Vincenzo Fabricino), who have delusions of becoming local versions of Al Pacino’s Scarface, grocery delivery-boy Toto, who desperately wants to become a gangster, and Gaetano (Vincenzo Altamura), an aged bagman who’s decided to double-cross his mob bosses. Garrone takes a distanced widescreen approach, offering a glamourless view of thugs, con men and shady businessmen. His anger and outrage are subtext to the restrained perversions he depicts, inducing both revulsion and panic. But while Garrone’s impersonal take on the Camorra’s lurid workaday brutality is laudable for its defiance of liberal-humanist depictions of the criminal underclass, he fails to actually look at his subjects with any psychological or sociological depth.

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Fired Up!

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Sporting unruly blond curls (Willie Ames style!) is Eric Christian Olsen (as Nick), a smarmy twit whose high-powered camera mugging soon makes one long for the subtle understatement of Sean William Scott. In the Scott Baio role, Nicholas D’Agosto (Shawn) is a habitual snark factory, but comes off marginally better as he’s allowed to reveal something resembling human emotions. They plan to blow off high school football camp for two wonderful weeks of scamming all sorts of silly new strange by pulling from the larger talent pool at the statewide cheerleading camp, and then split before boredom or herpes set in. It’s a bummer then that Shawn fouls it up by actually falling for super-hottie Carly (Sarah Roemer).

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War in waltz time

And a moral dilemma where horror and beauty collide

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Ari Folman is a vet of the Israel Army’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, an event he can only seem to recall in dreamlike glimpses. He has one especially potent vision of emerging from the bay as the silent city is lit by the phosphorescent glow of flares, but he can’t slip it into context. So he sets out to find former IDF colleagues, along with a psychologist and a journalist, to begin piecing together moments, images and stories to try to understand what really happened. The result is this lush, animated film chronicling his search.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Free Money for Artists!

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 1:49 PM

With the Big Three tanking and the economy in a shambles, metro Detroit artists find themselves in an increasingly tight spot. If they have day jobs, they’re wary of layoffs; if they make a living selling their work, they’re a little jittery about their patrons’ purse strings in these lean...

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The International

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

You gotta hand it to Hollywood, they sure know how to capitalize on the public’s anxiety. Serial killers and scarf-wearing terrorists are now officially passé. It’s time to focus on the truly evil villains of our time: bankers. In the tradition of ’70s paranoid thrillers like The Parallex View and Three Days of the Condor Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume) brings us the well-crafted but relentlessly grim tale of a clenched-jawed INTERPOL agent (Clive Owen) who permanently sports a two-day beard and a serious hard-on to bring down BCCI, a Luxembourg bank involved in all sorts of nefarious shenanigans. You see banking is a lot more than just overdraft fees and free iPod shuffles. Controlling the destabilization of countries can send profit shares soaring — arms can be sold, money can be laundered, and debt can be manipulated. You think John Thain of Merrill Lynch was evil? At least he didn’t arrange for the assassination of a political leader.

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Class war

A ’60s football rivalry plays out as a generational metaphor — or does it?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

You’d think a film giving away the outcome of its conflict in the title couldn’t build suspense. But that’s exactly what Kevin Rafferty’s entertaining, no-frills documentary does. A generational anecdote that celebrates Ivy League folklore, Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 reels you into its 1968 football faceoff while spooning on a pile of cultural and political milestones between game reminiscences and archival footage. It’s a simple and engaging sports memoir, and Rafferty’s approach is appropriately minimalist, eschewing the postproduction gimmicks of modern documentaries for talking-head interviews set against the game’s fixed-camera television broadcast. The play-by-play commentary of players (now in their 60s) from both teams reveals a fascinating backstory and surprising on-field dramatics. Rafferty also cleverly inserts period details like the advent of the birth-control pill, campus activism and the Vietnam War. It’s intriguing to see how this crew of footballers sat at the intersection of popular and political culture, drawing Al Gore, Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones (who was a Harvard point guard), George W. Bush and cartoonist Trudeau into their story. And yet, there’s something about their Ivy League-boomer entitlement that’s galling. Yes, the game was memorably exciting with dramatic twists and colorful recollections, but there’s no getting around the fact these are mostly privileged white guys trying to find profundity in an upper-crust college rivalry. Jones, in particular, comes off as pompous and self-important, quoting Dickens to describe the times. Rafferty tries to ground his story by including a 24-year-old Vietnam vet and a couple of working-class Harvard students, but, truth is, there are no significant cultural differences between the men. You are essentially looking at America’s ruling class.

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Friday the 13th

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The nearly indestructible and hockey mask- wearing killer, Jason Voorhees, is back to his tricks, plodding about the woods, sharpening knives, ready to make teen tartar of any nit unfortunate enough to stumble into his path. The updated freak’s a bit smarter than before, setting traps and devising schemes in his underground lair, though the kids are the same sort of stupid bimbos and himbos he has diced up since ’80s. The genre’s real dirty secret is the ubiquitous cast of Pretty Young Things so thoroughly worthless and annoying that we begin rooting for Jason. A new crop of sexed-up drunken dipshits rides in, ready for a debauched weekend at a posh lakefront cabin. They’re led by alpha-male Trent (Travis Van Winkle), a sneering blond who could be Fred from Scooby Doo. The rest of the gang consists of nubile chicks itching to lose their tops and a trio of cartoonish stoners, including the standard-issue, comedy-relief Asian nerd. What passes for heroics are provided by the earnest hunk Clay (Jared Padalecki), a graduate of the Josh Duhamel School of handsome blandness. Nispel dishes all the depravity and gore you’d expect from the series; including, death by arrow, bear trap, a hot poker through the eye and — the show stopper — a topless chick hiding beneath a boat dock getting stabbed through the skull with a machete. The franchise is still total rubbish, but stupidly alluring.

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The Leisure Seeker

Road tripping seniors in a tale worth reading

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The Leisure Seeker follows the odyssey of the elderly Detroit (technically, Madison Heights) couple on a last fling in their RV, an ultimate road trip from Detroit to Disneyland along Route 66. Ella's body is cancer-stricken, but her mind remains sharp (save for when she's hopped up on "the dope,"...

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Morons at the movies.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 11:29 AM

The president has been pushing for more civility lately, but it can't come soon enough to the multiplex. Last night I attended an advance screening for a hard R rated slasher movie, one held at a later time of night than usual. Exactly the sort of event where you wouldn't...

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