Tag Archives: NY

Obvious Child

Obvious Child Movie Review

R, 84 m., 2014

Jenny Slate (Donna Stern), Jake Lacy (Max), Gaby Hoffmann (Nellie), Gabe Liedman (Joey), David Cross (Sam), Richard Kind (Jacob Stern), Polly Draper (Nancy Stern), Paul Briganti (Ryan), Cindy Cheung (Dr. Bernard), Stephen Singer (Gene). Directed by Gillian Robespierre and produced by Elisabeth Holm. Screenplay by Robespierre.

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Hellion

Hellion Movie Review

R, 94 m., 2014

Aaron Paul (Hollis Wilson), Josh Wiggins (Jacob Wilson), Deke Garner (Wes Wilson), Juliette Lewis (Pam Noonan). Directed by Kat Candler and produced by Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams. Screenplay by Candler.

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Night Moves

Night Moves Movie Review

R, 112 m., 2013

Jesse Eisenberg (Josh), Dakota Fanning (Dena), Peter Sarsgaard (Harmon), Alia Shawkat (Surprise), Logan Miller (Dylan), Katherine Waterston (Anne), James Le Gros (Feed Factory Clerk). Directed by Kelly Reichardt and produced by Saemi Kim, Neil Kopp, Chris Maybach, Anish Savjani, Rodrigo Teixeira. Screenplay by Jonathan Raymond (as Jon Raymond) & Reichardt.

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Belle

Belle Movie Review

PG, 104 m., 2013

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Dido Elizabeth Belle), Tom Wilkinson (Lord Mansfield), Miranda Richardson (Lady Ashford), Sarah Gadon (Elizabeth Murray), Sam Reid (John Davinier), Matthew Goode (Captain Sir John Lindsay), Emily Watson (Lady Mansfield), Tom Felton (James Ashford), Penelope Wilton (Lady Mary Murray). Directed by Amma Asante and produced by Damian Jones. Screenplay by Misan Sagay.

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Under the Skin

Under the Skin Movie Review

R, 108 m., 2013

With: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Robert J. Goodwin (Tearoom Customer (uncredited)), Krystof Hádek (as Krystof Hadek), Michael Moreland, Scott Dymond, Jeremy McWilliams. Directed by by Jonathan Glazer and produced by Nick Wechsler and James Wilson. Screenplay by Walter Campbell and Glazer.

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Jodorowsky’s Dune

Jodorowsky's Dune Movie Review

PG_13, 90 m., 2013

Featuring: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Brontis Jodorowsky, Nicolas Winding Refn, Richard Stanley, Devin Faraci, Drew McWeeny, Gary Kurtz. A documentary directed by Frank Pavich. In English, French, German and Spanish, with subtitles.

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Enemy

Enemy Movie Review

R, 90 m., 2013

Jake Gyllenhaal (Adam + Anthony), Mélanie Laurent (Mary), Sarah Gadon (Helen), Isabella Rossellini (Mother), Joshua Peace (Teacher at School), Tim Post (Anthony’s Concierge), Kedar Brown (Security Guard), Darryl Dinn (Video Store Clerk), Misha Highstead (Lady in the Dark Room), Megan Mann (Lady in the Dark Room), Alexis Uiga (Lady in the Dark Room). Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay by Javier Gullón, based on the novel by José Saramago.

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The Bag Man

The Bag Man Movie Review

R, 108 m., 2014

Robert De Niro (Dragna), Dominic Purcell (Larson), John Cusack (Jack), Crispin Glover (Ned), Celesta Hodge (Janet), Martin Klebba (Guano), Sticky Fingaz (Lizard (as Kirk ‘Sticky Fingaz’ Jones)), Theodus Crane (Goose), Rebecca Da Costa (Rivka). Directed by David Grovic. Screenplay by Grovic and Paul Conway, based on the original screenplay Motel by James Russo.

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The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises Movie Review

PG_13, 126 m., 2013

With the voices of: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Jirô Horikoshi), John Krasinski (Honjô), Emily Blunt (Nahoko Satomi), Martin Short (Kurokawa), Stanley Tucci (Caproni), Mandy Patinkin (Hattori), Mae Whitman (Kayo Horikoshi / Kinu), Werner Herzog (Castorp), Jennifer Grey (Mrs. Kurokawa), William H. Macy (Satomi), Zach Callison (Young Jirô), Madeleine Rose Yen (Young Nahoko), Eva Bella (Young Kayo), Edie Mirman (Jirô’s Mother), Darren Criss (Katayama). An animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Toshio Suzuki. Screenplay by Miyazaki, based on a comic by Miyazaki.

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Jimmy P.

Jimmy P. Movie Review

UNRATED, 117 m., 2013

Benicio Del Toro (Jimmy Picard), Mathieu Amalric (Georges Devereux), Gina McKee (Madeleine), Larry Pine (Dr. Karl Menninger), Joseph Cross (Dr. Holt), Gary Farmer (Jack), Michelle Thrush (Gayle Picard), Misty Upham (Jane), Jennifer Podemski (Doll), Michael Greyeyes (Allan), A Martinez (Bear Willie Claw), Jesse Arehart-Jacobs (Puppeteer 1), Elya Baskin (Dr. Jokl), Loren Bass (Neurologist), Anton Bassey (Sam). Directed by Arnaud Desplechin and produced by Pascal Caucheteux and Jennifer Roth. Screenplay by Desplechin, Kent Jones, and Julie Peyr.

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August: Osage County

August: Osage County Movie Review

R, 121 m., 2013

Meryl Streep (Violet Weston), Julia Roberts (Barbara Weston), Chris Cooper (Charlie Aiken), Ewan McGregor (Bill Fordham), Margo Martindale (Mattie Fae Aiken), Sam Shepard (Beverly Weston), Dermot Mulroney (Steve Huberbrecht), Julianne Nicholson (Ivy Weston), Juliette Lewis (Karen Weston), Abigail Breslin (Jean Fordham), Benedict Cumberbatch (Little Charles Aiken), Misty Upham (Johnna Monevata), Will Coffey (Sheriff Deon Gilbeau), Newell Alexander (Dr. Burke), Jerry Stahl (Liquor Store Owner). Directed by John Wells and produced by George Clooney, Jean Doumanian, Grant Heslov, and Steve Traxler. Screenplay by Tracy Letts, based on his play.

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The Punk Singer

The Punk Singer Movie Review

UNRATED, 81 m., 2013

Featuring:  Joan Jett, Tavi Gevinson, Carrie Brownstein, Adam Horovitz, Kathleen Hanna, Kim Gordon, Corin Tucker, Jocelyn Samson (as JD Samson), Lynn Breedlove, Jennifer Baumgardner, Kathryn Wilcox, Johanna Fateman. A documentary directed by Sini Anderson and produced by Anderson, Gwen Bialic, Tamra Davis, Rachel Dengiz, Erin Owens, Alan Oxman.

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Twenty Feet from Stardom

20 Feet from Stardom Movie Review

PG_13, 91 m., 2013

Featuring: Lou Adler, Stephanie ‘Stevvi’ Alexander (as Stevvi Alexander), Patti Austin, Chris Botti, David Bowie (archive footage), Todd Boyd (as Dr. Todd Boyd), Ray Charles (archive footage), Carole Childs, Amy Christian, Greg Clark, Kyliyah Clayton, Merry Clayton, Susan Collins, Charlotte Crossley, and Sheryl Crow. A documentary directed by Morgan Neville and produced by Gil Friesen, Neville, and Caitrin Rogers. Screenplay by Neville.

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The Impossible

The Impossible Movie Review

PG_13, 114 m., 2012

Naomi Watts (Maria), Ewan McGregor (Henry), Tom Holland (Lucas), Samuel Joslin (Thomas), Oaklee Pendergast (Simon), Marta Etura (Simone), Sönke Möhring (Karl), Geraldine Chaplin (Old Woman), Ploy Jindachote (Caregiver), Jomjaoi Sae-Limh (Red Cross Nurse), Johan Sundberg (Daniel), Jan Roland Sundberg (Daniel’s Father), La-Orng Thongruang (Old Thai Man), Tor Klathaley (Young Thai Man), Douglas Johansson (Mr. Benstrom). Directed by J.A. Bayona and produced by Belén Atienza, Álvaro Augustín, Ghislain Barrois, Enrique López Lavigne (as Enrique López-Lavigne). Screenplay by Sergio G. Sánchez, based on a story by María Belón.

In 2004, a tsunami hit Thailand. J.A. Bayona’s The Impossible takes that painful reality and depicts it in as visceral and involving a way as possible. Based on a true story, Bayona’s film shows the remarkable human ingenuity it took to survive in the wake of such a stunning disaster. Continue reading

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56 Up

56 Up Movie Review

UNRATED, 144 m., 2012

Featuring: Bruce Balden (as Bruce), Jacqueline Bassett (as Jackie), Symon Basterfield (as Symon), Andrew Brackfield (as Andrew), John Brisby (as John), Peter Davies (as Peter), Suzanne Dewey (as Suzy), Charles Furneaux (archive footage), Nicholas Hitchon (as Nick), Neil Hughes (as Neil), Lynn Johnson (as Lynn), Paul Kligerman (as Paul), Susan Sullivan (as Sue), Tony Walker (as Tony). A documentary directed by Michael Apted, based on 7 Up directed by Paul Almond and produced by Apted and Claire Lewis.

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BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

Benh Zeitlin’s directorial debut is a powerfully-moving, imaginative and hand-crafted modern fairy tale from the perspective of the bravest New Orleans denizen ever captured on film. Six-year-old newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis stars (!) as Hushpuppy, an androgynous young girl in post-Katrina Louisiana who resides in a shack with her alcoholic, violently frustrated father (fellow newcomer Dwight Henry) perched in a rural area dubbed “the Bathtub.” When young Hushpuppy finds that her father is dying, realizing she has no mother to raise her, she must learn to survive on her own. This crushing reality is intermixed beautifully with stunning imagination on the part of Zeitlin, whose young heroine believes that when Global Warming destroys the ice caps once and for all, her world and everything inside will be ravaged by giant prehistoric buffalo. The results are a powerful concoction of American neo-realism and magical fantasy – one film I won’t soon forget.

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DETACHMENT

Tony Kaye might be a name you don’t recognize, but it wouldn’t be for lack of trying. After having his career all but buried by the post-production fiasco that was 1998′s American History X (still young star Edward Norton locked Kaye out of editing and recut the film and the studio released it as he saw fit, only for Kaye to take out an ad ripping the star and the film a new one in Hollywood trade papers), Kaye all but disappeared. Now, he’s back with one of the very best films of the year…which nobody saw. Released in February on Video on Demand and in extremely limited runs in New York and LA, Kaye’s latest stars Adrien Brody, in what might be his best performance to date (yes, better even than The Pianist or Summer of Sam) as a depressed substitute teacher who is determined to avoid getting attached to the students in his charge, the faculty around him, or anyone else as he takes on an assignment at a Long Island high school. However, he soon finds out how hard that is. Further, the faculty (including Marcia Gay Harden, Tim Blake Nelson, Lucy Liu, William Petersen, James Caan, Blythe Danner, Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks of Mad Men) all have their own issues, as do the students (including the director’s daughter, debuting actress Betty Kaye as a depressed artistic soul) and hangers-on (including Sami Gayle as a young prostitute he takes off the street) he encounters. The subject matter could scarcely be more fraught or more timely, but the treatment shakes you to your very core. Seek this out.

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DOGTOOTH

Giorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth is a very peculiar and disturbing piece of art from the isle of Greece. In a well-to-do household in the middle of nowhere, fenced off from the outside world, there exists a “family.” In this family, there is a Father (Christos Stergioglou), a Mother (Michele Valley), and three children: Older Daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia), Younger Daughter (Mary Tsoni) and Son (Hristos Passalis). Father and Mother run a tight ship, forcing the children to listen to homemade tapes in which various words form the “outside world” are ascribed new meanings (yellow flowers become “zombies,” vagina becomes “keyboard,” etc.). The children are forbidden to leave the well-manicured lawns of the backyard. “Cat” (simply, a local housecat) is the kind of fearsome creature they must destroy if it intrudes upon their oasis. The only outsider who is allowed into this den of insanity is Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou), a security uniform-wearing employee of Father who, apparently, comes from the factory he manages. She will serve at first as a sex slave of some sort to be used by Son, only to then turn the tables a bit on this power struggle and enlist Older Daughter into a lesbian encounter or two. Lanthimos, who wrote and directed, utilizes Haneke-esque framing and editing to give the film an insular, sterilized look of whites and light, creamy browns, and a flat, deadpan tone utterly lacking in affect. It’s hypnotic most of the time. What this film appears to boil down to is an over-the-top yet sedated commentary on the modern family unit, and how controlling parents can be. What I believe this film can be taken as is not so much a commentary, but simply an observation of extreme cult indoctrination. You decide.

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127 HOURS

Danny Boyle makes a return to the epically-intimate rough-and-tumble style that marked his pre-Slumdog Millionaire (and, thus, pre-Oscar) days with 127 Hours, a markedly different award-worthy take on the astonishing true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco, in a heroically entertaining performance), an aspiring guide and amateur rock-climber who went to the middle of nowhere in Utah one day and fell deep into a cavern only to get his arm caught between – literally – a rock and a hard place. Going days without rescue, Ralston used cleverness, resourcefulness and, in a triumph of the human will to survive, cut through his own arm to free himself! Against all odds, Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) have crafted an often beautiful, surprisingly funny (albeit, gallows-humored) tale, aided and abetted by glorious A.R. Rahman music (as well as the great use of “Never Hear Surf Music Again” by Free Blood over the opening credits; you heard it most likely during the memorable teaser trailer) and wondrous cinematography by the hyperkinetic Enrique Chediak and frequent Boyle lensman Anthony Dod Mantle (put the camera INSIDE a waterbottle as it’s being sipped? Sure, why not!?!). All of this combines for one of the most purely entertaining tales of human perseverance in recent memory.

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Broken Embraces

Broken Embraces Movie Review

R, 127 min, 2009

Penélope Cruz (Lena), Lluís Homar (Mateo Blanco / Harry Caine), Blanca Portillo (Judit García), José Luis Gómez (Ernesto Martel), Rubén Ochandiano (Ray X), Tamar Novas (Diego), Ángela Molina (Madre de Lena), Chus Lampreave (Portera), Kiti Mánver (Madame Mylene), Lola Dueñas (Lectora de labios), Mariola Fuentes (Edurne), Carmen Machi (Chon), Kira Miró (Modelo), Rossy de Palma (Julieta), Alejo Sauras (Álex). Directed by Pedro Almodóvar and produced by Agustín Almodóvar and Esther García. Screenplay by Pedro Almodóvar.

Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces brings his Hitchcockian influence full-circle. From the lush, melodramatic score to the stylish cinematography and the complex plot of adultery, blackmail, voyeurism and crimes of passion. It combines all of these elements that Almodovar favors with perhaps his favorite element: Penelope Cruz. Continue reading

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Nothing But the Truth

Nothing But the Truth Movie Review

R, 108 min, 2008

Kate Beckinsale (Rachel Armstrong), Matt Dillon (Patton Dubois), Angela Bassett (Bonnie Benjamin), Alan Alda (Albert Burnside), Vera Farmiga (Erica Van Doren), David Schwimmer (Ray Armstrong), Courtney B. Vance (Agent O’Hara), Noah Wyle (Avril Aaronson), Floyd Abrams (Judge Hall), Preston Bailey (Timmy Armstrong), Kristen Bough (Allison Van Doren), Julie Ann Emery (Agent Boyd), Robert Harvey (Warden), Michael O’Neill (CIA Director), Kristen Shaw (Angel). Directed by Rod Lurie and produced by Marc Frydman, Lurie, and Bob Yari. Screenplay by Lurie.

Rod Lurie’s Nothing But the Truth is a fascinating, riveting, absorbing ripped-from-the-headlines political thriller about moral integrity, journalistic freedom and, yes, national security and what happens when all those virtues collide.

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THE READER

The Reader Movie Review

R, 124 min, 2008

Director: Stephen Daldry
Writers: David Hare (screenplay), Bernhard Schlink (book Der Vorleser)
Stars: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, Bruno Ganz

Stephen Daldry’s The Reader is an intimate epic of sexual awakening, embarassing secrets, shameful lies, grief and guilt. This is a sensual, historically-influenced tale which touches greatness, but never quite lives up to it. Continue reading

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BALLAST

The world of independent cinema is a funny place. Every once in a while, a film comes along seemingly out of nowhere, for reasons passing understanding, and blows you away. Lance Hammer’s Ballast is such a film. A quiet, simple slice-of-life about healing the wounds of the past and moving on with one’s life, it sneaks up and floors you.

Lawrence (Michael J. Smith Sr.) is a small convenience store/gas station owner deep in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. His twin brother has just committed suicide, leaving him in a quietly devastated heap. His twin brother has an adolescent son, James (JimMyron Ross), who lives with his mother Marlee (Tarra Riggs) nearby. James is out of school, having been expelled for getting into fights and using drugs. Marlee is a good woman, a single mother, doing her best.

That’s all that is really necessary to tell you about the premise of this film. The rest I will leave for you to discover.

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MAN ON WIRE

Man on Wire Movie Review

PG_13, 94 min, 2008

Director: James Marsh
Writer: Philippe Petit (book)
Stars: Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau

James Marsh’s Man on Wire is a riveting, inspired and inspiring documentary which tells the remarkable true story of a man who may be completely insane, but who knows what he wants and goes after it with such reckless abandon you can’t help but root for him all the way. Continue reading

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ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED

Roman Polanski is the brilliant filmmaker of such classics as CHINATOWN and REPULSION and ROSEMARY’S BABY, among others, and now he’s the subject of this chillingly fascinating documentary from HBO about the scandal over his sex with a 13 year old girl in Jack Nicholson’s bachelor pad in the 70s Hollywood Hills. The trial that followed, his flight from America (he didn’t even come back for his Oscar in 2003 for THE PIANIST!), and his subsequent issues in this country have made for a brilliant piece of retrospective journalism.

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TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE

Taxi to the Dark Side Movie Review

R, 106 m., 2007

Director: Alex Gibney
Writer: Alex Gibney
Stars: Alex Gibney, Brian Keith Allen, Moazzam Begg

Alex Gibney’s Taxi to the Dark Side is a horrifying, unblinking and appalling documentary, confirming your worst fears about the terrible, no-good, very bad things that your government is up to in the name of protecting “freedom.” Continue reading

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DEATH PROOF

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s very good second half of the 190 minute exploitation double bill “Grindhouse” was released separately on DVD, and is longer and just as uneven as it was before. The film consists itself, of two halves: First, a group of cocky and pot-seeking young ‘thangs in Austin, Texas are targeted at a bar by a mystery man in a black car adorned by a lightning bolt print on the hood and a creepy silver duck ornament. The mystery man is Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell, in typical Tarantino career reinvention mode), a murderous sociopath with a real hate on for all women, seemingly. The first group of girls is highlighted by the gorgeous and intriguingly Brooklyn(?)-accented Vanessa Ferlito and the monotone and fairly bland Sydney Tamiia Poitier (yes, Sidney’s daughter!). This stretch is dialogue heavy, culminating in a BRILLIANT car crash sequence set to a little known 70s/80s punk song (there’s even a monologue about its origins). Tarantino loves him some talking, so if an initial feeling of deja vu comes over you during the second half, don’t fret: Stuntman Mike decides to target a new set of girls – Rosario Dawson, stuntwoman Zoe Bell (as herself; she was Uma Thurman’s stand-in for KILL BILL), and Tracie Thoms (of RENT). These girls are tougher, seeking danger even before the “Death Proof” car reaches their tailpipe, and the violent, high-octane revenge-filled climax is exhilirating and satisfying. Stay for the ending credits – just for the great April March song and cutaway inserts!

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THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS

Isabel Coixet’s sweet, funny, sad, odd little romantic drama is about a Yugoslavian factory worker (Sarah Polley) who volunteers to nurse a temporarily blind oil rig worker (Tim Robbins) back to health after a blindness-causing accident. The two leads are terrific, giving performances which pulse with tragedy and frailty, and Coixet (“Things I Never Told You,” “My Life Without Me”) crafts a wonderful improbable connection between them.

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FLANNEL PAJAMAS

Writer-director Jeff Lipsky?s sophomore effort (after 1997?s Childhood?s End) was a delightful, heart-warming, ultimately bittersweet romantic dramedy that literally traced the relationship Stuart (Justin Kirk) and Nicole (Julianne Nicholson) had over the course of a few years, starting with their mutual friends? set-up of the couple on a blind date, moving through marriage and marital troubles, attempted pregnancy, and an ending that is perhaps inevitable, but no less heartbreakingly real for it. A real sleeper!

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SHORTBUS

Writer-director John Cameron Mitchell?s Shortbus is the director?s brilliant follow-up to his edgy musical comedy, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001). This time, Mitchell has cast largely amateur and unknown actors as a group of lonely, sad people post-9/11 who are searching for sex and, ultimately, love. They all converge upon a nightly salon (hence the title), where games, orgies, conversations and art emerge from the miasma to form a sort of sexual underground that deserves to be above ground. Among the standouts in this terrific unknown cast are Sook-Yin Lee as Sofie, a sex therapist who has never had an orgasm, Lindsay Beamish as Severin, the melancholy dominatrix who takes polaroids and labels them in her spare time as an aspiring artist, and Justin Bond as?himself(?), the host and emcee of Shortbus. It?s a remarkably moving, funny and beautiful film to behold! Look for Mitchell in the orgy scene.

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THE PROPOSITION

John Hillcoat?s Australian western starred Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, Memento) as one third of a troublesome fraternal gang in the 1800?s Outback, Ray Winstone as the police captain who has sworn to ?civilize this land? and Danny Huston (in a mesmerizingly frightening turn) as Arthur Burns, the brains of the clan who has escaped justice and whom Winstone orders Pearce to turn in in order to save his youngest brother from execution before Christmas Day. Emily Watson also shows up as the distressed wife of Winstone?s law enforcement official. This is a brutal, bloody, occasionally sardonically humorous but ultimately pitiless masterwork of period criminology. A morality play, a character study, a mood piece and a beautifully filmed action epic on a small scale, Nick Cave?s first screenplay (he was lead singer of The Bad Seeds; he also wrote the music) is no less than ingenious!

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THE SQUID AND THE WHALE

Noah Baumbach’s bitter, dry, sardonically witty dramedy is a remarkably observant portrait of a family on the brink of self-implosion. In Brooklyn in 1986, Bernard Berkman (Jeff Daniels), once a somewhat successful published author now teaching literary classes to college students, is becoming attracted to his racy protege (Anna Paquin). Meanwhile, his wife Joan (Laura Linney), who has had multiple sexual affairs (“nothing serious”), is carrying on with the family tennis pro (William Baldwin) and attempting to become a published author herself. These two pseudo-intellectuals’ marriage is on a collision course with an apocalypse of their own creation; so where does that leave their two children? They respond in different ways. The youngest is Frank (Owen Kline, son of Kevin) who is unprepared for the revelation that his parents’ marriage has fallen apart and that he will be going back and forth between them “for a while;” he tends to favor his mother, and soon is swearing up a storm, drinking beer, and masturbating and spreading his semen all over school. Meanwhile, the oldest son, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg of “Roger Dodger”), is a high school student and would-be intellectual monster in the making, skewing toward his father’s side of things: he asks his opinion about class-assigned books to decide whether or not to “waste his time” on them (turns out “A Tale of Two Cities” is “minor Dickens”); he tries to impress his sweet potential first girlfriend Sophie (Halley Feiffer) by regurgitating his dad’s opinions on Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” and when it turns out she’s actually read it, he responds: “It’s very Kafkaesque,” to which she quickly fires back, “Well…it’s by Franz Kafka. It has to be;” he lets his father dictate that he, Walt and Sophie should skip “Short Circuit” and see something else (“I hear ‘Blue Velvet’ is supposed to be quite interesting”); and even claims he wrote “Hey You” by Pink Floyd – only to be caught after winning the school talent competition. The film was written and directed by Noah Baumbach, the maker of “Kicking & Screaming” (1995; not the Will Farrell kids soccer one), a tale of literary college graduates who become slackers, and the co-writer of Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004). In the locations, art direction, cinematography, right down to the choice of music, Baumbach shows a sure hand at evoking a specific time, place and style of people while also paying astonishingly minute attention to the details of what divorce does to children and their parents; as a child of divorce, I could completely empathize and understand. The story, it may not shock you to discover then, is heavily autobiographical; Baumbach came from writing stock – his father was novelist Jonathan Baumbach and his mother was film critic Georgia Brown. The performances too are dead-on in their portrayal of the anger, sadness and confusion that must go on when a child is almost forced to favor one parent over another, yet must be ferried back and forth between them. This is a tough, honest, bitter and bruisingly funny look at a powder keg of a situation, and its explosion is often funny, insightful and memorable. One of the year’s best films.

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<br/>NOTE: At the Toronto Film Festival, the film premiered with an 88 minute running time, but was seemingly cut for theatrical and DVD release. The film was (deservedly) a 2005 Oscar nominee for Best Original Screenplay. Baumbach, meanwhile, has since gone on to write and direct “Margot at the Wedding” (2007) with Nicole Kidman as a similarly cold would-be intellectual writer.

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SHORT CUTS

R, 187 min, 1993

Director: Robert Altman
Writers: Raymond Carver (writings), Robert Altman (screenplay) & Frank Barhydt (screenplay)
Stars: Andie MacDowell, Julianne Moore, Tim Robbins

Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, like his early masterpiece Nashville (1975), is yet another epic-length mosaic of dozens of seemingly disparate lives weaving, warping and, yes, occasionally intersecting over a cross-section of a specific time and place (in this case, early 90s Los Angeles). The film, far from the Raymond Carver Country of the short stories (and one poem) on which it is based, trades in the rainy, dour Pacific Northwest for the almost fluorescent aqua blue swimming pools, white stucco houses and picturesque green lawns of suburban Southern California, but its characters embody Carver’s spirit of emotional and psychological nudity and fragility – something Altman has delved into before. Continue reading

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AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE

R, 158 min, 1990

Director: Jane Campion
Writers: Janet Frame (autobiographies To the Is-Land, An Angel at My Table and The Envoy from Mirror City), Laura Jones
Stars: Kerry Fox, Alexia Keogh, Karen Fergusson

Jane Campion’s An Angel at My Table is a magical, epic masterpiece. This is an absorbing, sweeping, moving, ultimately inspiring experience to behold, the tale of an ordinary person who lived through an astonishing series of circumstances, and overcame them. Continue reading

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POISON

Writer-director Todd Haynes’ insightful debut feature is a thought-provoking blend of a 50s-style sci-fi/horror film, a ripped-from-the-headlines docudrama, and a gay prison story. A scientist (Larry Maxwell) thinks he’s managed to bottle human sexuality, accidently drinks it, and turns into a “leper sex murderer,” garnering the affection of his new assistant (Susan Gayle Norman) in the process. A 7-year-old Long Island boy killed his father in defense of his mother (Edith Meeks) and reportedly flew away, and a documentary crew explores what led up to this event. A Louisiana prison inmate (Scott Renderer) is drawn to someone (producer/co-editor James Lyons) he knew at a juvenile institute years before. Haynes (“Far from Heaven”, “I’m Not There.”), inspired by and often quoting the works of Jean Geret, has taken three deliberately distinct styles and melded them together to explore love and violence and the effects they have on ordinary lives. The black-and-white cinematography by Barry Ellsworth in the sci-fi story (which is also the most intriguing) is particularly great to look at and completely credible. NOTE: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival. Look fast for a pseudonymous young John Leguizamo in the prison story. An edited, R-rated version is also available, but pointless.

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MATADOR

NC_17, 110 min, 1986

Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Writers: Pedro Almodóvar (story), Jesús Ferrero (screenplay) & Pedro Almodóvar (screenplay)
Stars: Assumpta Serna, Antonio Banderas, Nacho Martínez

Pedro Almodovar’s Matador is a noir-tinged, perversely and vibrantly sexual, twisted, pitch-black comedy, a tale of serial killers, psychosexual fetishes and bull-fighting which takes a late, bizarre turn toward the Lynchian. Continue reading

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Filed under 1988

LAW OF DESIRE

NC_17, 102 min, 1987

Director: Pedro Almodóvar (as Pedro Almodovar)
Writer: Pedro Almodóvar (screenplay), Pedro Almodóvar (story)
Stars: Eusebio Poncela, Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas

Metafiction is nothing new to the Almodoverse and so, naturally, self-referential in-jokes and thinly veiled autobiography have become an integral part of some of his work. Unfortunately, all of these levels within levels, like a Russian Matryoshka (nesting cup) doll, work to keep we, the audience, at an emotional distance – or, perhaps, to mask the fact that under all the façade, there’s really not much there. Metafiction in film often involves multiple levels within levels of storytelling. Similarly, Almodovar’s Law of Desire begins multiple levels into its story. Continue reading

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DIVA

Jean-Jacques Beneix came roaring out of the starting gate with this lurid, bizarre, hyperkinetic thriller from France about an opera-obsessed postal service delivery man on a motorcycle, an opera diva who won’t do recordings, gangsters who deal in drugs and women, and a short but sexy Asian femme fatale. It all adds up to one of the oddest thrillers in many a moon, and one of the more fascinating.

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QUINTET

Robert Altman’s frustrating and maddening attempt at science fiction is more of a curiosity than a necessity. Paul Newman stars as a nomad who travels to a colony of survivors during a futuristic ice age (filmed in Montreal), and there discovers a deadly game called “quintet” in which the only way to win is to kill the other players. Bizarre, off-putting and perplexing as all-get-out.

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OBSESSION

The music strikes an ominous chord and, so doing, literally sets the tone. From the opening refrain of Bernard Herrmann, and the relatively mundane yet oddly foreboding low angles of a Venetian church intercut with slides of a seemingly happy vacation there as the opening credits play. This sets the stage for an overwrought melodrama of such epic proportions that anything less than a psychological bloodbath by the end would be a letdown.

Sure enough, Brian De Palma’s Obsession (1976) delivers. Taking sultry New Orleans as its setting, and entwining its characters in a sinewy plot, De Palma manages to spring a few startling surprises on a jaded, burnt-out audience. The plot concerns, at its “heart,” a land grab on the part of a cynical businessman named Robert LaSalle (John Lithgow in a delicious early villain role), who has long worked with his friend and partner Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson). Michael, you see, is married to Elizabeth (Genevieve Bujold), and has a daughter, Sandra. Both Elizabeth and Sandra are kidnapped one night and, due to some terrible police advice, Michael fails to pay the ransom money and instead tracks the kidnappers to a hideout, resulting in an explosion which appears to kill both wife and daughter. Yes, I’ve described things a bit backwards because this film makes the most “sense” in retrospect.

Flash forward 18 years and he’s built a monument in a cemetery. Further, Michael’s business is tanking, which LaSalle takes umbrage with. This leads to his meeting and courting of a woman in Venice (Bujold) who looks – wait for it – JUST like his wife! They intend to get married, but LaSalle appears to be opposed and has more than a few tricks up his sleeve (and did all along!) – and for good reason. The last shock isn’t exactly a shock, it doesn’t cheat, and yet it is in such poor taste that you can hardly believe your eyes upon first viewing (and it doesn’t get any easier over time and repeated viewings).

This is the kind of material made for an audience that either accepts melodrama (I grew up with soap operas, so it worked for me), or dismisses it as laughable excess. What I feel most audiences miss out on these days is: that’s ALL part of the fun. Any reaction is valid, from acceptance to laughing (which is, in a way, its own form of acceptance of this material). An audience that takes this with a somber resignation, as opposed to engaging with it and having as much fun as the filmmakers clearly are, is missing out on the “entertainment value.”

As Hitchcockian homage/pastiche goes, De Palma tosses in some Vertigo (1958) here, with Courtland trying to remake his wife from the remarkable visage of his new bride (it’s remarkable for a reason, hint, hint). There’s also a quarter tablespoon of Rebecca (1940, widely viewed as a David O. Selznick picture, not a Hitchcock film; ironically it won Best Picture, one other Oscar, and 9 other nominations!) in that De Palma has the young bride investigate the home of Michael Courtland and look at the master bedroom, the dead wife’s clothes, etc. Perhaps a Mrs. Danvers redux would’ve been too much, but then again “too much” is where this film lives and breathes.

I find it interesting to note that Paul Schrader wanted to make a 3-hour film of his screenplay, with more reversals and double-crosses and repeated sequences sending Cliff Robertson further into insanity. I can’t say if it’d be watchable, but if you’re a fan of overwrought melodrama you’d probably be full as a tick after, no?

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SOYLENT GREEN

Richard Fleischer’s sci-fi cult classic is a disturbing premise given the (unintentional) camp treatment that is, ultimately, rather a letdown. Charlton Heston is Thorn, a detective in 2022 New York City, where the population is 40,000 and there is a massive food crisis. The Soylent Corporation has taken over everything, handing out rations of synthetic food like “Soylent Yellow” and “Soylent Green” (“made from 100% natural soy products!”). Thorn is conducting a murder investigation and it, inevitably, coincides with the revelation of what Soylent Green really is. The film, directed by Richard Fleischer (“Doctor Doolittle”, “Tora! Tora! Tora!”), is based on the novel by Harry Harrison and transplants an intriguing premise (a nefarious corporation attempting to control overcrowding in a heatwave-induced urban wasteland) onto a fairly boring and sub-standard police procedural. When the ending comes, it is abrupt, silly, and leaves you sitting there thinking of words to that old song: “Is that all there is?”

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BANANAS

Woody Allen’s second feature film is as all-over-the-place, gag-a-second, and often hilarious as its predecessor. As the film opens, we have an assassination of a dictator on the small Latin American country of San Marcos – covered by ABC’s Wide World of Sports (featuring a must-see bit role for Howard Cossell!). Then things shift to Manhattan, where Fielding Mellish (he looks like his name sounds), played by Allen, works as a product tester. He gets a visit to his apartment one day from a pretty young thing named Nancy (Louise Lasser), recruiting people to sign a petition for intervention in the situations down there, and he’s immediately smitten. Soon they’re dating, attending demonstrations together, and seem very happy. Then she breaks his heart and he decides to prove he cares about her work by travelling to San Marcos, where a rebellion seeks to overthrow the fascist government. Hijinks ensue. Like his debut feature “Take the Money and Run” (1969), this plot is essentially a clothesline for Allen’s patented jokes; nothing is taboo. This is no-holds-barred comedy at its best. The results are mixed, and frequently hilarious. NOTE: Allen took a while to get serious, edging in that direction with Oscar-winner “Annie Hall” (1977) and going full-blown with “Interiors” (1978). He shifted to more polished, thoughtful dramedies such as “Manhattan” (1979), “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985), “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986), “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989), “Husbands and Wives” (1992), “Deconstructing Harry” (1997), “Melinda & Melinda” (2004) and “Match Point” (2005).

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BED & BOARD

Francois Truffaut’s fourth entry in his series about the adventures of immature young Antoine Doinel is perhaps the best in the series since it began (“The 400 Blows” in 1959). Jean-Pierre Leaud returns as Antoine, now married to sweetheart Christine (Claude Jade, again) and seeking employment while living a fairly bourgeois lifestyle; this is probably not what the youngster in the first film would’ve seen himself doing in the future. Antoine dyes flowers for a living while Christine teaches private violin lessons. When Christine becomes pregnant, Antoine gets a job (again, with help from family – and some blind luck). Whilst on the job, Antoine meets the intriguing Japanese business associate Kyoko (Mademoiselle Hiroko), and they begin an affair based more, I think, on Antoine’s interest in another culture than in another woman. Christine and Antoine separate, but Antoine still loves her. Will all end well? With this late effort, Truffaut is really finding a rhythm for his character and their films; the film is funny, bittersweet at times, dramatic at others, and occasionally whimsical. Leaud continues to prove that he can be a good actor in the right hands, and Jade is (despite his choices sometimes) Antoine’s soul mate. A delightful work.

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SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS

Sergei Pradjanov’s epic period romance is essentially a medieval Ukrainian version of “Romeo & Juliet,” with a visual flair you’d never expect. Ivan (Ivan Mikolajchuk), a villager in the Carpathian Mountains, is a child when he meets the beautiful Marichka (Larisa Kadochnikova). They are instant friends and infatuated with each other into young adulthood, only to discover that their families have a feud going over the fact that Ivan’s father was murdered by Marichka’s. Will this grudge keep them apart, or will tragedy expedite the process? An involving story mixes Soviet mysticism and good old-fashioned romance with a gloriously hyperkinetic camera; it tracks and zooms through the woods and village, and early on there’s even a shot from the point-of-view of a tree as it falls on Ivan’s father, and later we get a murder from the point of view of the victim with blood soaking the lens. Paradjanov directs with astonishing confidence, making a fairly routine story that much more involving. An overlooked gem. NOTE: This film won many awards on the film festival circuit before Paradjanov became a political prisoner for calling for the end of socialist realism and for more personal Soviet films.

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FAHRENHEIT 451

Francois Truffaut’s film is that rare thing: an unusual, creepy, well-made, bizarre, overacted but effective thriller based on a classic book that touches all the bases and still leaves you wanting more. The French master’s first (and only) film entirely in English stars Oskar Werner as Montag, a “fireman” in a futuristic version of England, whose job it is to go around searching for books and, upon discovering them, burn them with a flamethrower. His immediate superior is a crusty and cold old man (Cyril Cusack). Soon, Montag meets an intriguing young woman (Julie Christie, voluptuous here) who begins debating him on the merits of reading and of preserving literature in this newly censored world. Montag begins to question society, and that really gets the ball rolling. Truffaut’s film is based on the classic novel by Ray Bradbury, and it depicts with breathtaking and surprising detail the paranoia and fear-mongering in a world where censorship is the government-sanctioned norm (even in the future!). The color cinematography by future director Nicholas Roeg (“Walkabout,” “Don’t Look Now”) is astonishing in its beauty, its bright and gorgeous palette, and in the elegance of its somewhat labyrinthine tracking shots. Ultimately, Truffaut’s film might not be one of his best works, but it is a faithful and rewarding experience well worth seeking out! Note: Similarities between “1984” (book and film) and this are stunning.

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Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia Movie Review

PG, 216 m., 1962

Peter O’Toole (T.E. Lawrence), Alec Guinness (Prince Feisal), Anthony Quinn (Auda Abu Tayi), Jack Hawkins (General Allenby), Omar Sharif (Sherif Ali), José Ferrer (Turkish Bey (as Jose Ferrer)), Anthony Quayle (Colonel Brighton), Claude Rains (Mr. Dryden), Arthur Kennedy (Jackson Bentley), Donald Wolfit (General Murray), I.S. Johar (Gasim), Gamil Ratib (Majid), Michel Ray (Farraj), John Dimech (Daud), Zia Mohyeddin (Tafas). Directed by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel. Screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson (originally uncredited: credit restored in 1978 by WGA), based on writings by T.E. Lawrence.

In an age of films billed as “Cinematic Spectacle,” here is a true cinematic Giant which humbles many films and cuts all the average weekend releases down to size. David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia is a true epic, with images that awe and characters larger than life. At the age of 50 and a runtime of 216 minutes long, the film is none-too-fleeting but somehow manages to feel both fresh and relatively quick-paced.

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Filed under 1962

City Lights

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Filed under 1931

The Adventures of Prince Achmed

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Dracula

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Little Caesar

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Man with a Movie Camera

Man With a Movie Camera Movie Review

UNRATED, 68 m., 1929

Featuring: Mikhail Kaufman (The cameraman). A documentary written and directed by Dziga Vertov.

Man With a Movie Camera Movie Poster

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The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Passion of Joan of Arc Movie Review

UNRATED, 114 m., 1928

Maria Falconetti (Jeanne d’Arc (as Melle Falconetti)), Eugene Silvain (Évêque Pierre Cauchon (Bishop Pierre Cauchon) (as Eugène Silvain)), André Berley (Jean d’Estivet), Maurice Schutz (Nicolas Loyseleur), Antonin Artaud (Jean Massieu), Michel Simon (Jean Lemaître), Jean d’Yd (Guillaume Evrard), Louis Ravet (Jean Beaupère (as Ravet)), Armand Lurville (Juge (Judge) (as André Lurville)), Jacques Arnna (Juge (Judge)), Alexandre Mihalesco (Juge (Judge)), Léon Larive (Juge (Judge)). Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer (as Carl Th. Dreyer). Screenplay by Joseph Delteil and Dreyer (in French with subtitles).

The Passion of Joan of Arc Movie Poster

 

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The Lodger

UNRATED, 68 m., 1927

Marie Ault (The Landlady (Mrs Bunting)), Arthur Chesney (Her Husband (Mr Bunting)), June (Daisy Bunting – Their Daughter), Malcolm Keen (Joe – a Police Detective), Ivor Novello (The Lodger). Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Michael Balcon (uncredited) and Carlyle Blackwell (uncredited). Screenplay by Eliot Stannard, from the novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes (as Mrs. Belloc Lowndes).

File:The Lodger 1927 Poster.jpg

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The Crowd

crowd1.jpg

UNRATED, 98 m., 1928

Eleanor Boardman (Mary), James Murray (John), Bert Roach (Bert), Estelle Clark (Jane), Daniel G. Tomlinson (Jim), Dell Henderson (Dick), Lucy Beaumont (Mother), Freddie Burke Frederick (Junior), Alice Mildred Puter (Daughter). Directed by King Vidor and produced by Irving Thalberg (uncredited). Screenplay by Vidor & John V.A. Weaver, titles by Joseph Farnham (as Joe Farnham).

File:Crowd-1928-Poster.jpg

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Metropolis

Metropolis Movie Review

UNRATED, 153 m., 1927

Alfred Abel (Joh Fredersen), Gustav Fröhlich (Freder – Joh Fredersen’s Son), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (C.A. Rotwang – the Inventor), Fritz Rasp (The Thin Man), Theodor Loos (Josaphat), Erwin Biswanger (11811 – Georgy), Heinrich George (Grot – the Guardian of the Heart Machine), Brigitte Helm (The Creative Man / The Machine Man / Death / The Seven Deadly Sins / Maria). Directed by Fritz Lang and produced by Erich Pommer. Screenplay by Thea von Harbou, based on her novel.

Metropolis Movie Poster

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The General

The General Movie Review

UNRATED, 107 m., 1926

Buster Keaton (Johnnie Gray), Marion Mack (Annabelle Lee), Glen Cavender (Captain Anderson), Jim Farley (General Thatcher), Frederick Vroom (A Southern General), Charles Henry Smith (Annabelle’s Father (as Charles Smith)), Frank Barnes (Annabelle’s Brother), Joe Keaton (Union General), Mike Donlin (Union General), Tom Nawn (Union General). Directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton and produced by David Shepard (2003 alternate version), Keaton (uncredited), Joseph M. Schenck (uncredited). Screenplay by Keaton and Bruckman, adapted by Al Boasberg and Charles Henry Smith (as Charles Smith).

The General Movie Poster

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Faust

Faust Movie Review

UNRATED, 85 m., 1926

Gösta Ekman (Faust (as Gösta Ekmann)), Emil Jannings (Mephisto), Camilla Horn (Gretchen / Marguerite), Frida Richard (Gretchens Mutter / Marguerite’s mother (as Frieda Richard)), William Dieterle (Valentin: Gretchens Bruder / Marguerite’s brother (as Wilhelm Dieterle)), Yvette Guilbert (Marthe Schwerdtlein: Gretchens Tante / Marguerite’s aunt), Eric Barclay (Herzog von Parma / Duke of Parma (as Eric Barcley)), Hanna Ralph (Herzogin von Parma / Duchess of Parma), Werner Fuetterer (Erzengel / Archangel). Directed by F.W. Murnau and produced by Erich Pommer. Screenplay by Gerhart Hauptmann and Hans Kyser, based on the play Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe.

Faust Movie Poster

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Battleship Potemkin

The Battleship Potemkin Movie Review

UNRATED, 66 m., 1925

Aleksandr Antonov (Grigory Vakulinchuk – Bolshevik Sailor), Vladimir Barsky (Commander Golikov), Grigori Aleksandrov (Chief Officer Giliarovsky), Ivan Bobrov (Young Sailor Flogged While Sleeping (as I. Bobrov)), Mikhail Gomorov (Militant Sailor), Aleksandr Levshin (Petty Officer), N. Poltavtseva (Woman With Pince-nez), Konstantin Feldman (Student Agitator), Prokopenko (Mother Carrying Wounded Boy), A. Glauberman (Wounded Boy), Beatrice Vitoldi (Woman With Baby Carriage), Brodsky (Student), Julia Eisenstein (Woman with Food for Sailors), Sergei M. Eisenstein (Odessa Citizen), Andrey Fayt (Recruit (as A. Fait)). Directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein (as S.M. Eisenstein). Screenplay by Nina Agadzhanova (as N.F. Agadzhanova-Shutko).

The Battleship Potemkin Movie Poster

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