"Lebanon, written and directed by Samuel Maoz, is not just the year's most impressive first feature but also the strongest new movie of any kind I've seen in 2010," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "It's evident that the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Israel's fifth and least defensible war, has had a remarkable re-emergence in the nation's film industry. Like Ari Folman's groundbreaking animation Waltz With Bashir before it, Lebanon is a film by a traumatized veteran. But where Waltz With Bashir is mainly concerned with the recollection of that trauma, Lebanon is predicated on restaging the traumatic event. Set, over the course of a 24-hour period, entirely inside an Israeli tank heading north on the war's first day, Maoz's cine memoir is at once political allegory and existential combat movie — Sartre's No Exit as directed by Sam Fuller."
The L Magazine's Mark Asch notes that this same unlikely juxtaposition has come to the mind of the New Yorker's David Denby: "It's Jean-Paul Sartre meets Sam Fuller." Asch: "No Exit, and its trapped scenario as microcosm of human existential despair, was surely an inevitable comparison; so too Fuller, for a movie compressing into 24 hours as much horrors-of-war iconography and archetypal-bordering-on-corny war-movie character types moral dilemmas as possible. Or possibly all film critics just hang out in the lobby after screenings and plot the consensus in murmuring voices punctuated by sinister chuckles."
At any rate, more on Lebanon, which opens today in New York before rolling out across the country, from Chris Barsanti (Film Journal International), Richard Corliss (Time), James Hansen, Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York), AO Scott (New York Times), Henry Stewart (L) and Scott Tobias (AV Club). Interviews with Moaz: Steve Erlanger (NYT) and Yama Rahimi (Ioncinema).
"You might say that there is, in the literal, plot-summary sense, a romantic triangle at the heart of Ruba Nadda's Cairo Time," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "An American woman waiting to meet her husband in the Egyptian capital is drawn toward a dalliance with a former colleague of his, a local resident who drives her from the airport to her hotel and graciously offers his services as tour guide and companion. But what gives this delicate, decorous movie its distinctive throb of melancholy sensuality is less the humdrum possibility of adultery than the intimation of a three-way entanglement involving the man, the woman and Cairo. The city is also clearly the principal object of Ms Nadda's ardor."
"Cairo Time is the kind of quietly romantic chamber piece one wants to speak up for, in part to support the small but growing band of Arab women making their mark on national cinemas both East and West," writes Ella Taylor for NPR. "Writer-director Ruba Nadda, a Canadian of Syrian origin, means to take a scalpel to Western stereotypes of Arabs while opening up a conversation on gender — in a part of the world where it's hard to be an independent woman, let alone a woman of ambition. As a brief encounter with buried desire, though, Cairo Time errs on the side of sluggish."
At Reverse Shot, Kristi Mitsuda finds that "it wanders in not uninteresting if ultimately facile and unfulfilling ways." More from Karina Longworth (Voice), Mark Peikert (New York Press), Keith Phipps (AV Club), Lisa Rosman (TONY), Andrew Schenker (Slant), James van Maanen and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline). At indieWIRE, Ruba Nadda discusses a clip. Interviews with Patricia Clarkson: Matt Mazur (PopMatters), Michelle Orange (NYT) and David Schwartz (Moving Image Source, with clips).
"Adam McKay is a co-founder of the star-making improv group Upright Citizens Brigade, the co-creator of the inescapable video site Funny or Die, and the guy who hired Tina Fey for Saturday Night Live," begins Jessica Winter in Slate. "Thus his credentials as a prime mover of mainstream American comedy — including a strong 90s run as head writer at SNL and the immortal Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) — will survive The Other Guys, a buddy-cop misfire starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as poorly matched desk jockeys." What she's primarily concerned with, though, is "his love for the films of surrealist provocateur Luis Buñuel, particularly The Phantom of Liberty (1974), an episodic tweaking of middle-class convention that's like La Ronde meets Monty Python meets LSD.... Likewise, McKay's stated enthusiasm for the films of John Cassavetes — Husbands in particular — adds intriguing texture to the preponderance of grasping, delusional male specimens in his film and TV efforts.... In short, McKay can do anything he pleases... Why not direct his own recession-era Husbands? (Reilly! Ferrell! Paul Rudd! This must happen.)"
The Other Guys has its defenders, among them, Salon's Andrew O'Hehir: "Odder, crazier and more quietly subversive than McKay's earlier efforts — which were already pretty funny — this is a startling late-summer surprise that's hysterically funny when it's not falling on its face."
In Slant, Nick Schager notes that it "randomly tacks onto its buddy-cop formula a graceless, out-of-place critique of institutionalized financial corruption that culminates, in a stunning bit of activist didacticism, with a credit sequence of banking-corruption facts set to the lyrical stylings of overbearing wannabe social-justice poster boy Zach de la Rocha. Given that this is a film from Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, a partnership that's so far produced three exemplary Dadaist comedies-of-insanity, one's prone to take such earnest hot-button concerns as another of their many out-of-leftfield pranks. Yet the ways in which McKay's latest addresses its larger Wall St-centric interests are so clumsy, ill-fitting, and, most disastrous of all, unfunny that the material's topical undercurrents ultimately prove a grave misstep into soapbox preaching. And it's a shift relative to his prior work that's all the more stunning for taking place in a story that otherwise often exhibits his and Ferrell's trademark arbitrary absurdity."
More from Chris Barsanti (PopMatters), Marjorie Baumgarten (Austin Chronicle), Josef Braun, Ed Champion, Richard Corliss (Time), David Edelstein (New York), David Fear (TONY), Todd Gilchrist (Cinematical), Robert Horton (Herald), Josh Levin (Slate), Paul Matwychuk, Wesley Morris (Boston Globe), Michael O'Sullivan (Washington Post), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), James Rocchi (MSN Movies), AO Scott (NYT), Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times), Matt Singer (IFC), Scott Tobias (AV Club), Martin Tsai (Critic's Notebook), Michael Wilmington (Movie City News) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline).
Frank Lidz has a backgrounder in the NYT. Sam Adams talks with Adam McKay for the AV Club, Ferrell and McKay are guests on Fresh Air and Drew McWeeney talks with Eva Mendes for Hitfix.
"As thrilling cinematic tension goes, this UK import bypasses the metaphorical piano-wire garrote and blasts off into the razor-ribbon-around-an-infant's-neck stratosphere," writes Marc Savlov in the Austin Chronicle. "No joke: You'll want to book an appointment with your manicurist beforehand, because your nails are going to be gnawed to the bloody quick by the time the final, perfect frame of The Disappearance of Alice Creed sears itself onto your retinas.... See it with someone you'd love to cuff."
"Alice Creed is a clever little contraption, even though it runs into the problem that a lot of twist-heavy suspense movies have," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "Once it's spooned out all its surprises about two-thirds of the way through, it loses a lot of its entertainment value. Still, as long as the ride lasts, it's a wild one. With strong performances and the careful rendering of efficient modern kidnapping techniques, [director J] Blakeson finds ways to make good use of his assets: three talented actors [Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston], a few evocative locations, and a script that springs like a mousetrap."
More from Mike Hale (NYT), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Stephen Saito (IFC), Andrew Schenker (Slant) and Kevin Thomas (LAT). At indieWIRE, Blakeson discusses a clip. Interviews with Arterton: Simon Abrams (Cinematical), Josef Braun and Michael Ordoña (LAT). John Anderson profiles Marsan for the NYT.
Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York on Step Up 3D: "This is jump-'n'-jive cinema done right, populated by actual, likable dancers instead of Hollywood celebrities trying too hard…and with cinematography to match. It's possible that the use of 3D cameras forced director Jon Chu to compose his frames more rigorously: Head-to-toe coverage is favored over piecemeal body shots, and the added dimension gives the numerous New York locations the enveloping feel of old-time stereoscopic prints — a nice complement to the pop-modern folks inhabiting them. Technology aside, the film has an aura about it, an optimistic yet still complicated belief in people and in life that is in truly short supply. It's a contemporary movie musical that makes you feel genuinely sky-high."
"The dancers really sock it over," agrees Andrew Pulver in the Guardian, "it's just the bits in between that let it down." More from Simon Abrams (Slant), Ty Burr (Boston Globe), Cath Clarke (Time Out London), William Goss (Cinematical), Mike Hale (NYT), Robert Horton (Herald), Kimberley Jones (Austin Chronicle), Ylan Q Mui (Washington Post), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Nathan Rabin (AV Club), Tim Robey (Telegraph), Kevin Thomas (LAT), Julia Turner (Slate) and Armond White (NYP). Interviews with Chu: Kyle Buchanan (Movieline) and Stephen Saito (IFC).
"The press notes for the film Middle Men tell us press people that its co-writer and director, George Gallo, had his world and his academic aspirations rocked by a certain legendary film of the 70s by a soon-to-be-legendary director," begins Glenn Kenny at MSN Movies. "'Originally intending college as a fine arts major, Gallo was inspired after seeing Martin Scorsese's 1973 film Mean Streets and became a film major instead.' Gallo went on to write films that mix the crime and comedy genres, some not-so-successful (the Brian De Palma-directed non-star vehicle for Joe Piscopo, Wise Guys), some phenomenal box-office earners of perhaps dubious artistic merit (the debate still rages over whether Bad Boys is a great Martin Lawrence film or a lousy Will Smith film), and one pretty much undeniable latter-day classic (Midnight Run). While none of these films could necessarily be called 'Scorsese-esque,' they all take place in a cinematic world that perhaps couldn't have existed without that director's work. The same goes for Middle Men, only more so. This sprawling, apparently real world-inspired, often outrageous tale of the dirty business of Internet porn and how it got that way — that is, so huge and so easy — is pretty clearly Gallo's homage to Scorsese's Casino, a sprawling, real world-inspired, et cetera, tale of dirty money in Vegas."
"Voice-over narration, tracking shots through teeming nightclubs and an occasional Rolling Stones song on the soundtrack do not make you Martin Scorsese," notes the NYT's AO Scott. "And, though Middle Men sometimes insists otherwise, sex, money and violence do not sell themselves."
Luke Wilson is "handsome, in a hangdog way," offers Charles Mudede in the Stranger. "He's funny, in a sleepy way. In any slightly melancholy supporting role, he couldn't be more of a dear. But as a leading man, driving the action, making shit happen — his role in Middle Men — Wilson is kind of a... how do I put this?... gloomy, monotone, gaping suck hole? Yeah, you know. That."
More from Robert Horton (Herald), Adam Keleman (Slant), Jonathan Kiefer (Faster Times), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Nathan Rabin (AV Club), Marc Savlov (Austin Chronicle), Keith Uhlich (TONY), Zach Wigon (L) and Robert Wilonsky (Voice). Matt Zoller Seitz talks with Wilson for Salon and Amos Barshad interviews Giovanni Ribisi for Vulture.
"25 years ago, Demi Moore huddled in an empty room with billowing curtains for Joel Schumacher's St Elmo's Fire and an iconic if cheeseball visual cue for spoiled-youth loneliness was born," writes Robert Abele in the Los Angeles Times. "In Twelve, the director's latest dive into the indiscretions of adolescent brats, the possibilities are endless: a drug-addled teenage girl's hallucination that her stuffed bears are talking to her, a broodingly handsome drug dealer's mopey timeout in a street-construction hole or maybe that hair-trigger rich kid in the police interrogation room breaking down on a phone call from absent Daddy. So much to choose from."
"Schumacher films every lurid incident with a self-satisfied, moralizing relish," writes Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York. "This is half-baked Larry Clark treated as if it were Picasso's Guernica, which makes the few bright lights stand out all the more. Chief among these is Rory Culkin as an introverted pushover whose teary, traumatized reaction to his older brother going bullet-blasting psycho is one of the film's few genuine moments. And Ellen Barkin has a enlivening cameo as a pearl-bedecked absentee mother — the only time when Schumacher's wagging finger can't contain the camp."
More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Marjorie Baumgarten (Austin Chronicle), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Stephen Holden (NYT), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Andrew Schenker (Slant), Matt Singer (IFC) and James van Maanen. Interviews with Schumacker: Durga Chew-Bose (Interview) and Melena Ryzik (NYT).
"That Flipped works at all is no small wonder, and if that sounds like a backhanded compliment, you're right on the money." Kimberley Jones in the Austin Chronicle: "So is this: It's [Rob] Reiner's best film in a decade... but just look at the competition — The Bucket List, Rumor Has It..., Alex & Emma."
"Flipped is the story of Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) and Julie (Madeline Carroll), who meet in second grade when Bryce's picture-perfect Eisenhower-era nuclear family moves in across the way from Julie's slightly messier home." James Rocchi for MSN Movies: "They're in second grade, but Bryce is convinced immediately that Julie's a pest who can't see that her affections are unrequited; Julie is convinced that Bryce is walking around with her first kiss despite his mysteriously not seeming to know it. And so we witness both sides of their interactions and reactions, jumping from 1977 to 1963, with each of them narrating their side of the story." All in all, it's "cute, if perhaps cloying — Reiner wrung box-office and critical raves out of his similarly set Stand by Me, and one can hardly fault him for going with what he knows works."
"You may not believe it's possible to bore people to death with a film about risking your life, but The Wildest Dream comes shockingly close," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT. "Positing that George Mallory, the renowned British climber who vanished on Mount Everest in 1924, might have actually reached the summit, this stodgy documentary from National Geographic Entertainment feels as antiquated as Mallory's hobnailed boots." More from Eric Hynes (TONY), Brian Miller (Voice), Tasha Robinson (AV Club) and Kenneth Turan (LAT).
"A comedy with you-know-who's name in the title may not be a natural sell in America," writes Rachel Saltz in the NYT, "but it's hard to imagine the likable, gently satiric Bollywood film Tere Bin Laden (Without Bin Laden) ruffling too many feathers."
IN OTHER NEWS
"Venice Days will host the World Premiere of Jafar Panahi's latest work, The Accordion, produced by ART for the World as part of the new film project THEN AND NOW, Beyond Borders and Differences based on article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 'Everybody has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.'"
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