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Mugabe and the White African

Reviewer: Erin Donovan
Rating (out of 5): ***½

Governmental property seizure is a tough cinematic sell. If the rules of society have broken down to the point where thugs, corrupt political officials and/or armed militias are forcibly removing people from their homes there are usually even more viscerally terrifying crimes happening in the foreground that are likely to capture public attention. But when the peace treaties have been signed, the news cameras have left and the garbage is getting picked up each week there are still deep wounds that can leave generations of disenfranchised and embittered people whose ancestors have been stripped of their homes, livelihoods and cultural legacies.

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New and Coming Releases: January 11, 2011.

     

Not a ton out today as early January is traditionally slow for DVD releases, but a lot of good stuff is coming. And 2 of our best of '10 releases are out today, as well.

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The Ricky Gervais Show

Reviewer: Craig Phillips
Rating (out of 5): ***½

HBO's Ricky Gervais Show is basically an animated version of British comedian-actor-writer Gervais' hugely popular podcast--previously a radio show--and while calling it the funniest cartoon series ever based on a radio show/podcast may sound like damning with very faint praise, what's important is that it is indeed funny. Sometimes screamingly so.

(Sometimes screechingly so, if you count their running "Monkey News" segment.)

The premise of the show is simple: Gervais sits in a radio studio with his frequent cohort, Stephen Merchant (a frequent creative partner in crime, including co-writer and co-director of the UK Office and the series Extras, in which Merchant also appeared). They are joined by their producer Karl Pilkington, who Gervais dubs the "round-headed buffoon," and they chat and muse on various odd news, thoughts, history and so on.

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8 of the Freakiest, Influential Animated Films

 By Simon Paul Augustine

Shorts:

8. Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969).

Long before South Park broke out of DIY cartoon obscurity to become a cultural force, and You Tube allowed every aspiring animator to crawl out of the woodwork, independent animation was represented by things like this two minute national treasure. It was a burst of irreverence and innovation way back in the days when to see this sort of piece you had to set up a Super 8 or 16mm projector in the den to entertain folks for a special occasion - yes, handle actual celluloid (other short films like Hardware Wars, a satire of Star Wars featuring toasters battling other kitchen appliances, fell roughly in this same category).   

Read on for the rest!

 

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Twelve

Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5):

A little over three years ago critic Nathan Lee used an NY Times Op-Ed article to excuse his spoiling movies for his readers. In it, he is on record as saying that, while he wouldn't dare unmask the secrets in David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, he wouldn't think of extending this same courtesy to Joel Schumacher for his The Number 23. At the time I was prepared to give Lee that year's "Pompousness" award for his ludicrous opinion. I am not a particular fan of A History of Violence and even less of The Number 23. But I always have felt just because you don't care for the work of a certain director does not give you the right to ruin the film for those who have not seen it.

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New and Coming Releases: January 4, 2011.

    

A good mix of stuff out on this first DVD day of the year, comedy, horror, beat poets, machete-wielding revenge-seekers, and schmucks. And who didn't spend their New Year's Eve with all that? Read on for more. 

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Craig's 10 Great Films of '10

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By Craig Phillips

An interesting year for film, to be sure -- even if there were few out and out indisputable classics, there were a great number of remarkably interesting films, both American independent and documentary, and from abroad. And even Hollywood gave us a few groundbreaking, if flawed, blockbusters. All in all a hard year to pin down, but cinema was full of life. As always, I'm attracted to the films that were consistent in presenting their vision from start to finish, and whether or not the general concept was unique, gave us a work that stayed with you long after the lights went back up. These films all did that for me.

 

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Catfish

Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****½

I'm going to go even farther than my usual don't-spoil-the-movie commandment by saying damn little about the "plot" of Catfish, the one-of-a-kind documentary from first-time/full-length moviemakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost and starring Shulman's immensely photogenic and charismatic photographer brother Yaniv (also known as Nev).

I knew nothing about this movie when I attended a press preview, along with a full-house audience, a few weeks prior to the theatrical debut of the film. I suspected it might be a documentary, though I also wondered whether it might not be faux or mock. After a few minutes of watching, it certainly seemed real enough. And yet, in our prankish internet age, including this year's I'm Still Here, who knows? So I was prepared to go with it either way -- doc or narrative. But so quickly did I get wrapped up in this tale of a filmmaker and his friend who begin to follow the love life of the filmmaker's brother as it blossoms and evolves over the Internet that I soon did not care a whit whether the movie was real or fake. Either way, it was excellent -- and in my book that's what matters.

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Steve Dollar's 10 for '10

by Steve Dollar

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If you added up all the allegedly great movies I didn't happen to see this year, there would be enough for three or four Top 10 lists. More if you include the yet-to-be distributed gems and oddities that flourish on the film festival circuit. But don't worry, I'm not going to open up a can of Uncle Boonmee on your ass. There's no need to come off as some savvy super-insider. I'm still coasting on my breakthrough cameo as a backgrounder in Greenberg. With a couple of exceptions in the postscript, these are all movies that had at least a one-week theatrical run in New York.

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Alamar

Reviewer: Steve Dollar
Rating (out of 5): ****

Sometimes there's nothing quite as welcome as a movie that provides a headspace so roomy and tranquil you can hear yourself think - not in an intellectual or analytical way, but in a Zen way, establishing a kind of spiritual rapport with a story that goes much deeper than the surface. One of the past year's more unique and heartfelt sleepers, Alamar is so focused and elemental in what it wants to do that, for its slight but meaningful 73 minutes, a viewer can be totally enveloped in its perfect little world.

 

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