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The Paranoids

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

Argentinean filmmaker Gabriel Medina's offbeat first feature The Paranoids (Los paranoicos) moves a bit slow, but it's still inventive and occasionally enchanting enough to make one curious about what the filmmaker may do next. Essentially a character study, the film follows Luciano (Whisky's talented Daniel Hendler, looking a bit like a Uruguayan Paul Schneider), a quirkily neurotic, procrastinating screenwriter who earns a living entertaining at kids' parties (garbed in a Smoochy-like suit as his character "Cachito"). He spends a lot of time brooding in his apartment because he's, well, paranoid and sociophobic. He's such the perfectionist that he's spent years struggling over one script, and unsurprisingly, all his anxieties make it hard for him to have a girlfriend. (In the midst of a fling, he's terrified of contracting an STD because the condom breaks.)

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Blow Out (Criterion)

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

I often have a hard time defending my admiration for Brian De Palma. In this country he's often been considered a rip-off artist who pillages from Hitchcock, Kubrick, Antonioni and Michael Powell, as well as a misogynist and a violent creep. It gets especially difficult when discussing such admittedly obvious turkeys as The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) and last year's Mission to Mars. But in France he's considered an auteur, a visual stylist of the first degree (the influential magazine Cahiers du Cinema voted his film Carlito's Way the best film of the 1990s).

If one can get past the shaky plots of some of his films (Snake Eyes, for example), he proves he's a man wrestling with some serious demons on film, even more so than Hitchcock ever did. He's obsessed with voyeurism, sneaking peaks at stuff we're not supposed to see, and with the movies themselves a voyeuristic medium, he's a natural born filmmaker.

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New and Coming Releases: May 3, 2011.

A very quiet releasing week, but even then there are a few very interesting titles to check out. Revisit our Guy and Madeline podcast now, too.

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Rabbit Hole

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): ***½

It takes a lot to ask an audience to sit through a "dead child" movie, but Rabbit Hole avoids showing the buildup and actual death of the child; it begins more rationally about eight months after the car accident. Now, heartbroken parents Becca (an Oscar-nominated Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) try as hard as they can, every day, to exist. The normally more subversive director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus) delivers this grim material with a certain amount of grace, and the best I can say for it is that he makes the film often quite compelling.

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New and Coming Releases: April 12, 2011.

This week sees mostly international releases, quite a few of 'em are intriguing, plus a couple of docs, and later in the week some Harry Potter. All this and some of the titles coming soon, to be found within.

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HANNA giveaway

hannaposter Award-winning director Joe Wright creates a boldly original suspense thriller with Hanna, starring Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Atonement) in the title role. Raised by her father (Eric Bana), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland, Hanna's upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. Sent on a mission by her father, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett). As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity. The film opens in select theaters Friday, April 8. And now you have a chance to win a cool Hanna prize package thanks to a giveaway sponsored by GreenCine and Focus Features.

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Ken Bowser on Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune

 By Kathy Harr

Camus said, "Yes, there is beauty and there are the humiliated. Whatever the difficulties the enterprise may present, I would like never to be unfaithful either to one or the other."

That describes the folksinger-songwriter Phil Ochs as seen in Kenneth Bowser's new documentary, Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune. Bowser, who is married to actress Amy Irving and has also made a films about Saturday Night Live, Preston Sturges andFrank Capra, is probably best known for making the film based on Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. His next project may be one based on another Biskind best-seller, Down & Dirty Pictures.

There But for Fortune, which is slowly releasing nationally, including San Francisco'sBalboa Theater this weekend, was called a “A complex portrait of an ultimately unknowable man,” by Peter Rainer http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Movies/2011/0107/Phil-Ochs-There-But-for-Fortune-movie-review. “At once an unsentimental portrait of the ambitious singer who thought himself bound for glory, and an affecting elegy for a time when song was a form of revolution,” wrote Lisa Schwarzbaum. Bowser was kind enough to chat with me about art and truth, yesterday's failures and today's wars, and what was left on the cutting-room floor.

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New and Coming Releases: March 22, 2011.

     

It's certainly an odd mix of DVDs today but something for every taste, from romcom and satire to Japanese silents, a classic doc on the real Harvey Milk, and more. All this and more titles coming soon, are within...

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Around a Small Mountain

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): ***½

One of the legendary members of the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette was always a bit more experimental than his colleagues. One of the ways in which he played around was with lengthy running times. His monumental Out 1 (1971) runs nearly 13 hours (here's hoping a DVD box set comes sometime soon). His masterpiece Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974, not on DVD in the US) runs just past three hours. Another masterpiece, La Belle Noiseuse (1991), runs four hours.

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Fellini's The Clowns

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): Movie ***½ DVD: ****

The arc of Federico Fellini's career is endlessly fascinating. He started as something of a neo-realist, and then his films grew in style and scope until they became bizarre, swirl-colored, phantasmagoric spectacles. Then still later, he stepped back again and began making more intimate, personal projects in the last section of his career. Made for television, The Clowns seems to have been a crucial turning point; it came immediately after the overblown Satyricon, and it shows an interesting mix of that film, and the film that would come just a few years later, the wonderful Amarcord. It fits perfectly.

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