Movie Reviews

'Back to the Square': human faces of Egyptian repression

Toussaint l'Ouverture leads a successful slave revolt against Napoleon, and Haiti becomes the world's first black democracy. Russia gets rid of Tsar Nicholas, and a utopian workers' paradise is established. Saddam Hussein is deposed, and the Iraqi mission is accomplished.  Hosni Mubarak gets booted in the Arab Spring, and Egypt is free at last.

Not quite.

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`A.K.A. Doc Pomus': Save the last dance for the crippled Jewish boy

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`Gaamer': a virtual hero in his virtual life

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Gamer is epitomized by Alex Kosov, better known as Koss in the video game kingdom where he reigns. He's the 17-year-old Pinball Wizard of his time (today) and place (Ukraine).

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Kerouac's `On the Road' takes a faithful trip from page to screen

 

Ponder this pontifical pronouncement: In the history of cinema, only three of a thousand great-books-on-film can be called perfect -- "Gone With the Wind," "Slaughterhouse Five" and "The Godfather."

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Voyeuristic 'InContact' connects up until the non-ending

A dark love triangle develops a darker quadrangular twist in the spellbinding -- if ultimately maddening -- "InContact," Israeli-American director Ann Oren's entry, screened tonight only, in CMU's ongoing "Faces of Media" International Film Festival.

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`The We and the I': Less sunshine from the spotless mind of Gondry

The casual cruelty of the teenage pack has filled our headlines and courtrooms of late -- bullying and rape being perversely perennial crimes. Sad to say, there's nothing new about peer-and-sneer group pressure to do awful things collectively that you'd never do one-on-one. What's new is the generation's 21st-century obsessive/compulsive need to record and disseminate its antisocial behavior on so-called social media.

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Israel's Shin Bet spy chiefs recount fatal hits -- and tactics -- in 'The Gatekeepers'

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. It's "your F-16s versus our suicide bombers," a Palestinian tells an Israeli acquaintance. Innocent people -- delicately known as "collateral damage" -- die either way.  It's just a different choice of device.

 

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Tommy Lee Jones re-interprets MacArthur in 'Emperor'

Tommy Lee Jones re-interprets MacArthur in Emperor

Omitting "the" before "Emperor" is a clever ambiguity on director Peter Webber's part. Military historical films from "Lincoln" and "Argo" to "Zero Dark Thirty" are the rage these days, and Mr. Webber's movie -- on the first days after Japan's surrender in World War II -- is no slouch. The title seems an obvious reference to Hirohito.

But it could equally describe Gen. Douglas MacArthur -- the supreme commander of occupying forces and de facto ruler -- whose powers were every bit as imperial as the defeated Japanese monarch's.

First order of business for MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones, below) is rounding up the major war criminals and deciding whether Japan's emperor is one of them: Did Hirohito himself order, or at least approve, the attack on Pearl Harbor? What to do now with this weird dude dubbed a "deity" by his devastated people -- depose, pardon or hang him? Momentous long- and short-range implications included possibly igniting a revolt.

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'Amour,' a moving love story about life and death, deserves all of its Oscar attention

Jean-Louis Trintignant as Georges and Emmanuelle Riva as Anne in Amour.

It's not the death, it's the dying that's so hard -- and constitutes the ultimate test of love.

That is the somber subject of Austrian director Michael Haneke's profoundly moving "Amour," and the challenge faced by its octogenarian protagonists.

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are affluent, cultivated Parisian music teachers, married for half a century. At the outset, they're attending a concert, afterward discussing the "incredible semiquavers in the presto."

But next morning, something is wrong. Anne won't answer her husband at breakfast. "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a?" Georges asks. She is taken to the hospital, then returns home -- paralyzed on one side. Stricken in more ways than one, she begs him not to hospitalize her again. He promises and takes sole charge of her care thereafter.

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4.5

Stars have silly fun in 'Stand Up Guys'

Fisher Stevens, left, directs Al Pacino on the set of "Stand Up Guys"

The "Stand Up Guys" at hand consist of a trio, not a quartet. They and their film might better have been called "Grumpy Old Crooks."

Chief among them is Al Pacino as Val, just concluding a 28-year vacation in the penitentiary for taking a rap and refusing to rat on his criminal associates. Now, upon release, he is met and taken home by old pal Doc (Christopher Walken), his diametric opposite comrade-in-crooked-arms, a soft-spoken man who paints landscapes, watches cable TV and otherwise enjoys a calm, cool daily routine.

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