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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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Risky New Ways To Tell This Classic Tragedy

Movies: ‘Anna Karenina’

The director of “Anna Karenina,” Joe Wright, has taken a big risk. Rather than make a conscientious costume drama like his two previous films, “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement,” he’s heavily stylized the telling of the story, setting it in a theater, not as a play for an audience, but as a framing or distancing device. The actors stride from one set to another, from stage to backstage wings to a catwalk in the rafters, quickly establishing in compact and concise scenes, the enormous cast of characters and the Imperial Russian setting.

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Signs of Cultural Decay

‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2’
patricks@lakevillejournal.com

I am a cultural conservative. I found this out after watching Bill Condon’s legitimately awful “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part Two.”
Why am I a cultural conservative? Because I dislike — intensely — the cavalier way in which absolute artistic verities are discarded in order to create highly dubious movies.
What am I talking about? I am talking about hipster vampires who have no problem walking around in the day time. I am talking about werewolves who just twitch a little bit in order to turn — with no full moon or gypsy woman to point out the pentagram on the palm.

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A Triumph in Every Way

Movies: ‘Lincoln’

Not exactly biopic, nor hagiography, “Lincoln” is the story of a legislative battle that showcased Lincoln’s powerful moral leadership, but also his political and managerial skill, as he chose his moment, played on his popularity with the people, and forced the end to slavery, and the war, in close succession.

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Elegant, Playful and Entertaining

Movies: ‘Skyfall’
leong@lakevillejournal.com

This latest, “Skyfall,” one of the best installments in the 50-year-old James Bond film franchise, erupts on the screen in a 20-minute, pre-title action sequence. After Bond (the craggy but uber-sexy Daniel Craig) chases an assassin across Istanbul’s rooftops, they drop into a moving train. You know you are in serious Bond-the-cool territory when Craig calmly shoots his white shirt cuffs while calmly walking up the train’s aisle in pursuit.

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A Bloodless Blockbuster

Movies: ‘Cloud Atlas’

David Mitchell’s popular 2004 novel “Cloud Atlas” may or may not be a great yarn; I wouldn’t know, since I haven’t read it. As an epic, $100 million, three-hour jaunt across centuries, it is an unwieldy, if somewhat diverting, mess of a movie.

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