Category: 3.5 stars


Dir. Alex Gibney
(2010, R, 117 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

The challenge of Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, is that it’s really several stories in one: (1) the story of the unchecked corruption of the financial industry and how Eliot Spitzer, as New York attorney general and then governor, tried to rein it in, (2) the story of a hot-tempered New York attorney general and governor foolish enough to hire prostitutes while building a reputation as a strict law-and-order politician, and (3) the story of massive moral hypocrisy, led by a pack of crooks smugly shaking their heads in disdain of Spitzer’s dirty deeds while scarcely hiding their own. Some of those guys are so shameless and arrogant that they participated in this film to gloat … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.org.

Dir. Gareth Edwards
(2010, R, 93 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

Monsters is a science-fiction thriller that’s light on science-fiction thrills, but in this case that’s not a criticism. I wrote a couple of years ago regarding the BBC miniseries Torchwood: Children of Earth that sometimes special effects are the enemy of imagination. With a lot of Hollywood money at stake, oftentimes directors and digital artists are limited to explosions and pyrotechnics that will appeal to the broadest possible audience. But with fewer resources, you might have to actually think of something for your movie to be about, and then as a bonus have the freedom to make it.

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Dir. Will Gluck
(2010, PG-13, 92 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

I grew up on a pop-cultural diet of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Clueless, and Felicity, among others. Those were my touchstones when I was entering adolescence. Kids these days have different touchstones: Gossip Girl, Skins, Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant. On the ABC Family network, a very good show about college, Greek, floundered in the ratings while more scandalous young’uns whoop it up on Pretty Little Liars to quadruple the audience. Young viewers these days, when they’re not choosing between Team Broody-Sparkle and Team Shirtless-Bowflex, are less interested in seeing themselves on screen than they are in vicariously living out their Charlie Sheen meltdowns before they’re old enough to vote.

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Dir. Andrea Arnold
(2010, Not Rated, 122 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

Fish Tank succeeds on the strength of two fine performances by Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender and the writing and directing of Andrea Arnold. Jarvis plays Mia, a rebellious fifteen-year-old girl living in low-income housing with her mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing) and little sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths), and Fassbender plays Joanne’s new boyfriend, Connor, a charming Irishman who works as a security guard at a hardware store. When Connor first encounters Mia one morning, he’s naked to the waist, having clearly spent the night, and watches her while she dances to a hip-hop music video on TV. “You dance like a black,” he tells her. He means that as a compliment.

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Dir. Josh Fox
(2010, Not Rated, 107 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

Trying to think of something to say with regard to GasLand, that title was the first thing that came to mind. Sometimes it just needs to be said.

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Dir. Amir Bar-Lev
(2010, R, 95 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

What happened to Pat Tillman is not uncommon in the American media, which likes to reduce complex subjects to easy-to-digest hero narratives. Think Captain Sullenberger, the Chilean miners, and Iraq POW Jessica Lynch, who is also referenced in The Tillman Story to demonstrate how much America loves a good story, and more than that how much the media loves to sell a good story, whether it’s true or not, using overwrought, sentimental language that’s less about honoring the subject than it is about flaunting our capacity to be inspired by the subject. It’s not about honoring anyone; it’s hero-worship masturbation.

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Dir. Alex Gibney
(2010, R, 118 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Casino Jack and the United States of Money is a 118-minute journey through the labyrinthine halls of power in Washington, and about two-thirds of the way through I began to experience brain-melt; the machinations of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff would be impressive if for no other reason than that he managed to keep them all straight. The documentary by Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) is a lively account of his career and downfall, sobering in the ways it explores widespread corruption in American politics, but leavened by biting humor.

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Dir. Giorgos Lanthimos
(2010, Not Rated, 93 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

I streamed Dogtooth on Netflix. The website then gives you a choice of star ratings: one star means “hated it,” two means “didn’t like it,” three means “liked it,” four means “really liked it,” and five means “loved it.” I don’t think this film quite qualifies for a star rating (take mine with a grain of salt). I think it might be a very good film, but I didn’t like it. It doesn’t want to be liked. It wasn’t made to be liked. “Like” is probably not an appropriate response. It’s disturbing but at the same time absurdly funny. How could it be funny? I keep coming back to that great line from No Country for Old Men, when Tommy Lee Jones tells a grisly story, then says, “I laugh myself sometimes. Ain’t a whole lot else you can do.”

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Dir. Maren Ade
(2010, Not Rated, 118 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

Chris and Gitti (Lars Eidinger and Birgit Minichmayr) are deeply in love unless they give it a moment’s thought. Everyone Else is about those moments of thought. Chris is an architect, deeply insecure, who asks early on whether Gitti considers him masculine. She doesn’t seem to care; not long before she was playfully painting his face with cosmetics. But he cares very much. His career is stagnant, he’s indecisive; beginning to wonder whether he’s man enough, he treats Gitti more and more coldly. She comes to represent for him a force of emasculation.

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Dir. John Cameron Mitchell
(2010, PG-13, 91 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

Rabbit Hole is the kind of film that’s simply good without calling our attention to how it’s good. I was not focused on technique or style; I was absorbed by story and character. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and directed by John Cameron Mitchell with tenderness that avoids sliding into mawkishness, it tells the story of Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart), a suburban married couple whose four-year-old son is killed in a car accident. Parents reeling from tragedy have been the theme of excellent films in recent years. To name a few: Snow Angels, Rachel Getting Married, and the great Secret Sunshine, which is currently in limited release. This film is worthy of their company.

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