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Following the Plot, Jude Law Notwithstanding

Movies: ‘Side Effects’

Steven Soderbergh’s latest, and, possibly, last, movie (he’s announced his retirement to become a painter) is a pharmaceutical thriller. It dryly and matter-of-factly skewers our antidepressant hungry culture, asks who is at fault when a medicated patient goes haywire and allows the audience to indulge at length in the wonder that is Jude Law.

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Awesome, Terrifying And Tone Deaf

Movies: ‘The Impossible’

You may never, ever sit through a more harrowing 114 minutes than these.
Awkwardly titled, perhaps from translation problems of this mostly Spanish-made movie, “The Impossible” is the putative true story of a vacationing family in Thailand that gets caught in the 2004 tsunami.

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Immersed in British Suds? You’re Not Alone

Viewers of the hit PBS costume drama “Downton Abbey” received a rude shock last weekend when Sybil, youngest daughter of Lord and Lady Grantham, met an untimely demise to eclampsia after delivering a healthy baby girl.
There could not have been a dry eye among the legions of “Downton” fans. Sybil was the acknowledged “kindest and sweetest” of the three Crawley sisters; had ministered to the sick and wounded during WWI and identified with working-class struggles, rather too much for her traditionalist father when she married the household’s chauffeur.

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Between Duty and Desire

In “Barbara,” a dissident East German doctor must choose between escaping to the West or helping an abused girl.
Barbara Wolff (Nina Hoss) is banished to a pediatric hospital in provincial East Germany in 1980. The film opens with Barbara arriving early for her first day of work. Striking, elegant and remote, she gets off the bus, checks her watch and sits on a bench for a smoke.
Her new boss, Dr. Andre Reiser (Ronald Zehrfeld) and an East German secret policeman, Klaus Schutz (Rainer Bock) are watching from a window. “She won’t be even one second early,” the Stasi agent says.

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Delightful, Among The Year’s Best

In any other hands than David O. Russell’s, “Silver Linings Playbook,” the film adaptation of Matthew Quick’s quirky novel about mental illness — here bipolar disorder — would never have been made. In fact movie rights belonged to Sidney Pollock and his partner Anthony Minghella, both now dead, but they could find no way to script such a delicate subject.

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A Compelling, Difficult Tale

Movies: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Kathryn Bigelow’s film, “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, has generated a great deal of outrage over its treatment of torture: Bigelow has been likened more than once to Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker associated with Hitler, for justifying, whitewashing or apologizing for the Bush Administration’s use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation” strategies. I’ve even seen writers I respect criticizing it without actually seeing it, or urging others not to see it because, by spending our $10 on it, we’d be sending our approval of torture out to the world.

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Go, See It, Decide for Yourself

Movies: ‘Promised Land’

For a movie all about figuring out what a price point is, that being the place at which a person will sell out his or her values, “Promised Land” sells its own self short.
It happens at the end, which I will not give away, but figuratively speaking it feels like director Gus Van Sant (“Milk,” “Good Will Hunting”) has been bought off. No wonder the natural gas industry is up in arms.

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Longing For Cinema

At Denison University in the early 1980s, I signed up for a survey class, Cinema 101, thinking it would be the arts equivalent of the “rocks for jocks” geology class and therefore an easy A.
The joke was on me. The professor, Elliot Stout, was a highly entertaining man who wore Madras jackets, bow ties and looked like a cross between Zero Mostel and Moe from the Three Stooges.

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About ‘Psycho,’ Hollywood and Great Acting

Movies: ‘Hitchcock’
leong@lakevillejournal.com

An agreeable diversion, yes, but “Hitchcock” is not much of a movie. There is little plot; we already know how the major story line will play out; and the screen play might as well be a PowerPoint presentation of bulleted sentences. Yet two magnificent actors, Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins, show how to craft great performances out of featherweight material.

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Oh Dear, Another Fallen Hero

Movies: ‘Flight’

The damaged and compromised hero has dominated 21st-century cinema. It has spawned an entire decade of super-troubled-hero movies, led by “The Dark Knight” franchise, morally ambiguous Westerns, George Clooney and the latter-day Richard Gere.
“Flight,” the latest entry in the genre, could be a cautionary tale of the hazards of this brand of storytelling. An interesting, well-made and watchable movie, undeniably burnished by the star power of Denzel Washington, but it ends up like too many films I’ve seen lately, all dressed up with no place to go.

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