Dennis Harvey

Banal life, beautiful film

Winslet is perfection in Revolutionary Road
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REVIEW Outwardly perfect, glamorous Frank (Leonardo Di Caprio) and April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) are the envy of fellow post-World War II nesters in an Eisenhower era suburban cul-de-sac. They've done everything right — including attracting each other as alpha-species mates. But they're dissatisfied. Shouldn't life have amounted to more than meaningless Madison Avenue employment, housewifery, Connecticut commuterdom, the little trap of two young children and a mortgage? Read more »

Tiger tales

This just might be the worst drinking-game DVD ever
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SRSLY, WTF? "Throughout history, the greatest saviors have come in the darkest hours." No, that's not Oprah on Obama, but a subsidiary character in Masters of the Impossible appraising the ultimate cartoon superheroes: Siegfried and Roy.

Just reissued by children's DVD label NCircle, Siegfried and Roy: Masters of the Impossible was produced in 1996 for precise reasons unknown. Read more »

Valkyrie

Captain Eyepatch to the rescue!
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REVIEW In a world gone mad ... only one man can save Nazi Germany from itself: Captain Eyepatch! Jaw perpetually clenched and speech sotto voce to underline he's being, y'know, intense, Tom Cruise plays Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, who returned home after being wounded by Allied fire in Tunisia to a Germany he felt had already lost the war. He and high-ranking others disillusioned by Nazism and Hitler's losing strategies hatched a plan to assassinate Der Führer in 1944, hoping to end World War II early and spare the country complete devastation. Read more »

Gonna fly now?

A battered Mickey Rourke bids for late-round greatness in The Wrestler
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Sometimes a role seems so closely tailored to a public persona and private notoriety it becomes inseparable from that combined mythos — less a demonstration of acting than an extension of what we already suspected about the actor. Errol Flynn both distinguished and humiliated himself with late-career portrayals of sodden louts. Marlon Brando appeared to be playing his own supremely weird-ass id in Last Tango in Paris (1972). Read more »

Brainy scifi

Timecrimes is an Escher painting of a narrative
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REVIEW Middle-aged Hector (Karra Elejalde) is lounging outside his country home when he spies through binoculars a young woman naked in the woods. Investigating, he's attacked by a man with a face covered by bloody bandage, and flees to a nearby property where a laboratory worker (Nacho Vigalondo) tells him to hide from his pursuer in a mechanical device. When Hector

reemerges from the as-yet-untested time machine, it's several hours earlier — and his binoculars now spy himself, or "Hector 2," at home going through the same pre-attack motions. Read more »

Dick in a box

An ex-prez and a journalist make TV history in Frost/Nixon
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If the assassination of JFK was a defining, traumatic blow to American hopefulness, the Watergate scandal a decade later arguably created something worse: a deep collective cynicism that our politics could never escape corruption, or that the guilty would be truly punished even when caught red-handed. How much worse have we shrugged off since?

As the most secretive White House in modern memory pulls up stakes, there's a fear that particular history may repeat itself. Read more »

Cinematic repression

The Reader translates an interior-voice tome into cinema
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REVIEW Falling ill from scarlet fever on a mid-1950s Berlin street, strapping 15-year-old schoolboy Michael Berg (David Kross) experiences kindness from passerby Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) that he seeks to repay when he recovers some months later. The brusque, moody woman more than twice his age brushes him off, initially. But then they commence an affair in which she proves a very astute erotic tutor, though she resists the emotional connection he feels. A decade later, as a law student, he discovers Hanna's secret while spectating a Nazi war crimes trial. Read more »

Nubostubalgubiuba!

Kiddie nostalgia with ZOOM: Back to the 70s
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FREE TO BE TV If you were a kid in the late 1960s and early '70s, you were an integral part of the counterculture's trickling-down influence. Hitherto square as a toddler's puzzle peg, children's TV programming radicalized not long after various sexual and social revolutions liberated their parents from larger strangulations.

Displacing innocuous slapstick pacifiers, shows were redesigned to educate and empower. Or simply be groovy, like the Sid and Marty Krofft Brit-popping Bugaloos or then-teen idol Rick Springfield's Mission: Magic! Kid Power stressed multiculturalism. Read more »

Czech it out

Beauty in Trouble is classically warm and ironic
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REVIEW An attractive 30-something woman with a face hardened by rough times — most recently the 2002 Prague flood pretty much ruining her Prague home — Marcela (Anna Geislerova) is raising two children under precarious circumstances. Marriage to Jarda (Roman Luknar) is discordant, despite their volcanic sex, in large part because she objects to his paying the bills by running a chop shop. Read more »

Sleaze, if you please

"Holiday Heat" celebrates pre-Turkey Day with porn
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Thanksgiving is a time for wholesome family togetherness. All the more reason, then, to get your sex on "Holiday Heat," a pre-Turkey Day celebration of retro sleaze. First up is freshly deceased Gerard Damiano's 1972 Devil in Miss Jones, which followed his prior year's Deep Throat as the second biggest porn movie ever. (Or at least before celebutantes like Paris Hilton and John Wayne Bobbitt crashed the market.) Throat is historic but amateur; Devil is actually kinda good. Read more »