Deborah Unger

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Leo Review

With Shakespeare in Love now six years behind us, Joseph Fiennes may never star in a tolerable movie again.

The blandly-titled Leo is the story of the titular boy (Davis Sweat), the illegitimate son of a sudden widow (Elisabeth Shue), who corresponds with a felon (Fiennes) via mail. Felon gets out, and these two men slowly converge upon one another, though something odd about the movie compels us to wonder if there isn't a deeper connection. Some big names parade through the film, almost at random, including a mopey Sam Shepard and a ridiculously over-the-top Dennis Hopper, who strikes the film's most curious note when he cracks an egg and smears it on Deborah Unger's thighs.

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Signs & Wonders Review

Jonathan Nossiter made his fictional writing and directing debut in 1997 with the critically acclaimed Sunday, a story of two lonely strangers who find comfort in each other for a single day.

With Sunday, the camera watches the characters with a sympathetic eye to the influence of their environment. The characters seem shot without the effects of makeup, and the camera gets so close up that one can almost imagine having a conversation with them instead of merely watching a screen. Lies are acceptable because the person receiving them doesn't mind. The two protagonists are happier for having shared that day and this evokes an infectious warmth.

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Between Strangers Review

Between Strangers? Hmmm, sounds like a softcore porn movie. Turns out it's a weepy melodrama starring a generation-bounding collection of movie stars.

Ever since Short Cuts won accolades, we get a yearly version of this movie, a sometimes thoughtful collection of stories, none large enough to stand alone as a feature film, some to slight to merit any attention at all. Between Strangers mitigates this problem by focusing on the stories of three women, all wrestling with past mistakes or old regrets.

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The Salton Sea Review

The imagery of The Salton Sea surpasses standard noir. It's a tale of a desolate man lost in an abyss of emotional turmoil, desperately seeking redemption and revenge against unknown assailants. The film's opening shot of Val Kilmer, sitting on a barren floor surrounded by flames as he pours Miles Davis through his trumpet, delivers both the physical heat of the flames and the fiery, emotional pain of loss locked within his eyes. It's a haunting and eerily tragic moment of humanity displayed at its weakest point of existence.

The story of The Salton Sea is constructed as an updated version of a 1940s noir film. Expertly written by Tony Gayton, the film opens up with a brief history of speed, a crash course complete with 1950s housewives and Japanese kamikaze pilots. Then, the camera quickly navigates through a crazed house party and lands next to a heavily tattooed Kilmer, sitting amongst speed freaks on a four-day binge. Or maybe it's been three days. With a strong voiceover delivered by Kilmer, we learn about the double life he leads. One life is an addict and police informant known as Danny Parker, complete with numerous tats, leather pants, and skull rings on every finger. And another one, locked in his closet, is a trumpeter named Tom Van Allen, whose wife ended up dead years ago at the hands of masked men during a rest stop robbery while vacationing at the Salton Sea.

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Crash (1997) Review

Kinky sex? Intentional car wrecks? Extreme underground perversion? A year and a half of fuss and controversy for this? You betcha!

Crash is one of the more disturbing movies I've seen in my lifetime, and although I enjoyed it on an aesthetic level, I find it difficult to recommend to the masses, and I think you'll see why in a minute.

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Ten Tiny Love Stories Review

A curious movie experiment, you see films like Ten Tiny Love Stories from time to time, with varying degrees of success. At its core, this is a fictional, ensemble version of The Vagina Monologues, with -- as the title suggests -- ten women speaking five-minute to 15-minute monologues directly to the camera. However, very few involve love of any kind. Instead they're almost all about sex.

The stories are all over the map. Alicia Witt tells a short piece about her first time. Kimberly Williams tells a long piece about a tryst with a Greek waiter. Most of the stories involve being spurned by the man -- whether it's a one-night stand or a long-time relationship. While they're all fictional (and I'm assuming Rodrigo García is a man), they come off as extremely real, with a good half of the actresses appearing on the verge of tears during their monologues.

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A Love Song For Bobby Long Review

In a year-end blitz of small films about dysfunctional, broken families (e.g., Around the Bend) comes this variation on the theme set in a tacky section of New Orleans. While a confident cast ultimately makes something of the drama, a certain awkwardness in the storytelling sets up discordant side tracks as it attempts to live up to its title.

Purslane "Pursy" Hominy Will (Scarlett Johansson) has lived most of her 18-year life without the mother from whom she's estranged but whose memory she cherishes. As a teenage independent she's become hardened and jaded beyond her years. When her live-in boyfriend tells her that he received word of Lorraine's death several days after the fact, she rages at the dumbshit for neglecting to let her know right away. She storms out of the house with all her possessions and buses her way from Florida back to the town she grew up in and to her childhood home, a day too late to make the funeral.

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Highlander: The Final Dimension Review

The trouble with these immortals is that, ya know, they never die.

The third in a line of increasingly perplexing Highlander movies, Highlander: The Final Dimension (which, incidentally, appears to be the third dimension) steals wholesale the plot from the original, just throwing in some fresh faces. It's all here: Connor McLeod (Lambert, of course) on the run from the cops in New York, the girl investigator (Deborah Unger, in a role she's gotta regret), the sadistic bad guy with one name (Mario Van Peebles), the dutiful instructor (Mako), lots of swordplay, flashbacks... everything! If it wasn't set eight years later, no one would never know the difference (and of course, never mind the ultra-cheesy, low-budget special effects!).

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Hollywood North Review

Here's an idea for a Canadian movie: Canadians make a movie!

Any cinephile knows that Canada's government will gladly fund the production of just about anything a Canadian wants to produce, no matter how bad the script. All it takes is a Canadian cast, crew, and shooting in the country.

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Deborah Unger

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