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Friday, March 20, 2009

The $100 house on 20/20 tonight

Posted on Fri, Mar 20, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert's "Power House" (Photo: Mitch Cope) After Toby Barlow's recent piece in The New York Times about a couple that moved to Detroit to buy a $100 home, it was only a matter of time before the story got more play. So we weren't surprised...

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Last House on the Left

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

This remake is little more than a glossed-up, pointless exercise in graphic violence, materially different from the original only in higher production values and the sad fact this stuff shocked back in ’72. The well-heeled Collingwood family checks in at their remote lakeside summer home, and teen daughter Mari promptly takes the car into town and hangs with her saucy pal Paige (Superbad cutie Martha MacIsaac). Soon enough a cadre of cookie-cutter movie maniacs, with jailbreaks and cop-killings in their wake, capture the girls and hole up in a dingy hotel room. For 40 minutes, we’re forced to watch them, in deplorable detail, screech and writhe in the dirt, abused, beaten and defiled by these psychos. When the thugs take refuge from a storm in the Collingwoods’ home, the tables turn — the vengeful parents get all medieval on their asses.

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Race to Witch Mountain

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

This snappy spit-shine of the ’70s movies cranks up the effects, action and excitement, despite being disposable and formulaic. Dwayne Johnson (no more “Rock” please) has had spotty success as a major action star, but when it comes to family fare, dude is money. He’s perfectly suited to the role of cynical ex-mob man Jack Bruno — who warms up as the kids’ protector — and we can thank our lucky stars that it wasn’t Vin Diesel, as the five people who saw Babylon A.D. will surely attest. Johnson is nicely re-teamed with his Game Plan director Andy Fickman — who, by the way, won’t be confused with Steven Spielberg but knows enough to hit the throttle early and not let off.

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Young virtuoso

Early Truffaut noirfest bounces between homage and satire

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

Though an adaptation of David Goodis’ livre noir, "Down There," Truffaut hardly takes his straight-faced source material seriously, opting instead for narrative asides, flippant genre-hopping and a kid-in-jeopardy melodrama. Charlie (Charles Aznavour) is a once-famous pianist who suffered a Greek tragedy of marital infidelity and retreated from the world. Now a honky-tonk piano player in a run-down Paris bar, he falls in love with a comely waitress but is paralyzed by his reticence. Worse, his ne’er-do-well brother embroils him in a gangland feud that results in the kidnapping of his youngest sibling.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Heroes & villains

A brilliant, brutal, visceral and exhausting night out at the flicks

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The landmark 1986 comic book series by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons has now been made into a film by Zach Snyder, who has translated the “unfilmable” novel into a stunning, brutal, often brilliant and ultimately exhausting night out at the movies. Clocking in at nearly three hours, Snyder’s ambitious, brave, visually thrilling but airless take on a modern classic omits very little from the sacred original text, and may be one of the most faithful literary adaptations of all time, which is something of a mixed blessing.

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Timecrimes

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Hector (Karra Elejalde) and his wife (Candela Fernández) have recently moved to the Spanish countryside. Alone for the afternoon, Hector spies a naked beauty in the woods with his binoculars. Intrigued, he investigates, and is soon stabbed in the arm by a strange man wrapped in pink bandages. Fleeing to the nearest shelter, he stumbles upon a research laboratory where a young technician convinces him to hide inside an immense machine. When he emerges, it’s an hour earlier, and Hector sees himself in the distance, sending his wife out for errands while he scans the woods with his binoculars. Time has doubled back on itself and he quickly learns that his every action has an inescapable reaction. Vigalondo sucks you into a sinister game of temporal dominos, as Hector struggles to alter his fate. But no matter what the poor shlub does, his life is twisted into one complication after another.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ALL HAIL JACKIE EARLE HALEY

Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 9:17 AM

I was a pup when I first saw Bad News Bears; developed a heady childhood crush on Tatum O’ Neal, as a matter of fact. Be that as it may, what really got me was the anti-heroics of 14-year-old Jackie Earle Haley — as Kelly Leak— the smirk-y, cigarette-pack-in-sleeve badass...

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Class war

A French Oscar contender gives up a teacher’s struggle with unruly students

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The Class doesn’t deviate from director Laurent Cantet’s progressive social messaging, but its pseudo-documentary trappings represent a departure in style. Based on a memoir by François Bégaudeau (who plays a fictionalized version of himself in the movie), Cantet generated his script by intensively workshopping the piece with young non-actors who spent nine months improvising with Bégaudeau as three digital cameras recorded their every interaction. The result is a kinetic, you-are-there classroom experience that captures the unsteady give-and-take of a flawed but earnest teacher and his too-rowdy students. The teens aren’t playing themselves (though they share the same first names as the ‘characters’) but are rather replicating moments from Bégaudeau’s teaching experience, stepping on each other’s conversations and challenging his authority so naturally that it’s hard to believe you’re not watching a straight-up documentary. The effect is unsentimental, acutely observed and messily spontaneous, offering an energetic slice-of-life examination of a young Parisian teacher struggling to reach his class of racially mixed junior high school students. Although imperfect, at least the film helps demythologize much of the drivel Hollywood’s “inspirational teacher” movies trade in. Instead of students ridiculously rapping to Shakespeare or infallibly inspirational teachers enlightening every member of their class, Cantet acknowledges that teachers have feet of clay, bureaucracies undermine their goals, cultural conflict is inevitable, and some kids are simply beyond reach.

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Fanboys

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 12:00 AM

This film is little more than a typical dude-raunchy road farce stuck in a nerdy candy shell, but with a saccharine aftertaste. The "plot" follows a crew of Ohio megageeks circa 1998, on a mission to drive cross-country and break in to George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch compound, in order to steal an advance print of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Why can't they simply pitch a tent and wait out the six months till opening with the rest of the gorks? Because one of them is terminally ill, a comedy-stopping subplot that caused the studio infighting and so much Internet horseshit. What a shame all that pre-release buzz didn't lead to something actually funny and less cloying, a flick that kicks Boba Fett jokes because it wants to, not 'cause it must to justify its existence.

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