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Cairo Time

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

How unusual to see a love story for adults, one that takes its sweet time (yes, the Cairo Time of the title) while it alternately surprises, soothes and shakes you up. But quietly. Though it seems aimed at older audiences, it was made by a youthful filmmaker: Ruba Nadda, a Canadian writer/director with Middle-Eastern roots who is still in her 30s. To reap the full benefits of the film, you must be willing to enter the soul of the protagonist, a happily-married, middle-aged woman (Patricia Clarkson) arriving in Egypt for a vacation with her husband (employed by the United Nations and posted in Cairo).

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Lennon Naked

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

A John Lennon mini-revival is underway, with Sam Taylor Wood's recent theatrical release Nowhere Boy focusing more on the enigmatic Beatle's adolescent struggles and this 2010 BBC TV production Lennon Naked, which whips forward through a few seminal moments in Lennon's life from 1964 to 1971, as both the world at large and Lennon's own world went through extreme changes. The BBC film explores how Lennon dealt with that rocky upbringing and ways it affected his relationships as an adult, with friends and family (including his sensitive son Julian). The sudden death of manager Brian Epstein, often called "the Fifth Beatle" for his importance to the band, is another event that, as depicted in the film, made Lennon resentful and empty. And Lennon's long-estranged father (played by British telly mainstay Christopher Fairbank) comes back into his life to attempt to make amends -- or to glom on to his wealth.

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The Extra Man

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

American eccentrics overflow the work of film-making duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, from what you might call the eccentric celebrity-dining pictured in their 1997 debut film Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's to their masterpiece -- one of the more original American films in recent memory -- American Splendor. Even their so-so, somewhat misfired adaptation of The Nanny Diaries was saved by the eccentricities of its lead character (and the fine performance by Laura Linney, an actress who finds the latent oddities in all her characters). Berman and Pulcini seem more than intrigued by and attracted to the oddballs among us; they actually champion them.

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Maniac (Blu-ray)

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

One of the grimiest slabs of blood-soaked sleaze to emerge from the grindhouse era, Maniac is the menacing brain-child of one William “Bill” Lustig, a childhood devotee of the 42nd Street theater circuit who nourished himself on a decade of exploitation fare before he became what he beheld. And it was good.

Good enough for everybody's favorite French auteur, Olivier Assayas (Carlos), to select the film - along with Zodiac - for reappraisal during this spring's BAMfest at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. And certainly good enough for Lustig to re-release in Blu-Ray, through his own Blue Underground DVD label, which has been steadily updating its 200+ film archive with the new format. The releases typically include bonus features, and Maniac offers not only two commentary tracks (both with Lustig alongside some key players) but a second disc of interviews, trailers and documentary featurettes.

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New and Coming Releases: November 23, 2010.

     

A veritable feast of tasty releases out this week, especially some treats from the 1970s via Criterion, plus action, docs and mockdocs, family films and indie fare, and more. Join us at the table, won't ya?

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The Complete Metropolis

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): *****

In 2002, the "restored" version of Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis was released on big screens. That version had been expanded using notes and research to add text cards that filled in the holes in the story. But even though the visuals remained very impressive, they seemed to serve nothing more than a simplistic, flat, overwrought story. Cut to 2008, when an almost complete 16mm copy of Metropolis was discovered in Argentina, containing some 25 minutes of footage that had been given up for lost. (It's still shy about five minutes.) If there was any fear that the extra footage could not possibly fix the movie's inherent flaw, the story, this new, "complete" Metropolis puts those fears to rest.

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Zombie Girl

 

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

Emily Hagins had been a cinephile since age 7 and at the age of 12 was determined to make the leap to feature-length director with Pathogen, an original zombie film she penned herself. Growing up in Austin, TX, a hotbed for DIY film-making, she has aww-inspiring parents who, with some mild amusement and exhaustive determination to help her succeed, support her creative endeavors.

 

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New and Coming Releases: November 16, 2010.

   

Films from all genres and eras -- including two silent classics seen as they've never been seen before -- are out on DVD today. Indie dramas, docs, family films, it's all here today. And see what's in store soon, too. 

Continue Reading New and Coming Releases: November 16, 2010.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): ***

In the mid-1980s, filmmaker Tamra Davis videotaped an interview with painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. When he died in 1988 at the age of 27, she put the footage away and kept it there until recently. That footage is the raison d'être for Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, a feature-length documentary about Basquiat and his turbulent life.

Born to a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat ran away from home as a teen and came to New York City. He began as a graffiti artist and quickly joined the circle of New York artists, musicians and filmmakers of the early 1980s. He eventually moved from walls to canvases, began to appear in galleries, and began to sell his art. He became very rich, very quickly. An association with his hero Andy Warhol turned the public against him and he began to fall just as quickly as he climbed. Eventually, drugs did him in.

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Oh, Mickey One, You're So Fine

By Steve Dollar

Time has not worn dull the oddball charms, nor solved the existential riddles of Mickey One. Arthur Penn's much-neglected 1965 film is long overdue for wide reappreciation, which will be a lot easier now that it's out on DVD, presented in a digitized version of a fabulous restored print, one that lends seductive depth and richness to its black-and-white palette. The visual scheme is slyly well-suited to the surreal tilts and spontaneous freak-outs that punctuate the story, paced by saxophonist Stan Getz's improvisations on an imaginative jazz score.

Mickey One The film remains as curious as ever. Its opening scene establishes a phantasmagorical tone that it rarely departs for long, as a nightclub comic (played by budding heartthrob Warren Beatty, fresh from Lilith and acting his 28-year-old ass off) lights up a cigar in a sauna, sitting fully clothed in foppish finery as a laughing chorus of fat, old guys cackles at him.

Must be the 1960s.

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