Jeffrey Levy-hinte

Jeffrey Levy-hinte

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The Kids Are All Right Review

Five of this year's best screen characters appear in this comedy-drama about a relatively ordinary family facing some unusual challenges. And while the premise seems extremely offbeat, it's actually beside the point.

Nic and Jules (Bening and Moore) have been a couple for more than 20 years, and life is pretty matter-of-fact for them and their two kids, 18-year-old Joni (Wasikowska) and 15-year-old Laser (Hutcherson). Since Joni is now of age, Laser talks her into contacting their mothers' sperm bank so they can meet their biological father. He turns out to be restaurant owner Paul (Ruffalo), a cool guy who shakes their life up in ways none of them could expect. The big question is whether they can ever be the same again.

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Soul Power Review

Shot at the same time as the award-winning doc When We Were Kings, this companion film is even better. In linking the legendary 1974 Rumble in the Jungle with the music festival that ran alongside it, we get a remarkable glimpse of the day's racial and political issues.

President Mobuto himself provided the venue for the three-day music festival, although Don King concentrated on the Ali-Foreman main event. A Liberian investment group funded both the festival and the documentary, which goes some way in explaining why it took 35 years to edit together footage that covers everything from the Zaire-bound plane flights to the amazing performances. The best moments are when the participants land in Africa, seeing the home of their ancestors for the first time and interacting with the community around them.

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Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired Review

Among the many fascinating things about the HBO documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired is its withering scorn for the jackal-like press packs that surrounded Polanski throughout the legal ordeal he went through in Los Angeles in 1977-1978. What's fascinating is how positively quaint and charming it all seems compared to the world we live in today. What would happen if an A-list movie director drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13-year-old girl in Jack Nicholson's Jacuzzi in today's media environment? It would be all TMZ, Perez Hilton, and cable punditry all the time.

Of course, the press wasn't Polanski's biggest problem at the time. The documentary indicts the legal system itself, and especially the presiding judge, Laurence Rittenband, whose reputation is dragged through the mud here. It would be fascinating to hear his response were he still alive. In his place, we get detailed recollections from police investigators, attorneys from both sides, and the victim herself. (Polanski, however, did not participate.)

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The Last Winter Review

"This is the last winter. Total collapse. Hope dies." So writes an environmental researcher in a previously untouched part of Alaskan wilderness now being opened up for oil exploration in Larry Fessenden's The Last Winter. Using the doomsaying of climate change prognosticators as an effectively menacing backdrop, more so even than the bleak chill of the Alaskan tundra, Fessenden's film drops a knot of oil workers into an isolated research station and watches what happens as everyone realizes that something inexplicable is happening all around them. It's a horror film that sneaks up on you with an effectively unsettling and brooding atmosphere before unleashing an apocalyptic fury.

Clearly drawing heavily on films like John Carpenter's The Thing as inspiration, Fessenden builds his characters from the ground up before hurling them to the wolves. He's helped by a cast that's sharp as a tack, particularly the roaring and bear-like Ron Perlman as Ed Pollack, an oil company operative gung-ho on getting machinery up to their station as quick as possible, by any means necessary, and screw the environment. Facing him are a couple of "green flags" -- one of whom is the gloomy notebook scribbler, scientist James Hoffman, played close to the vest by the always reliable James LeGros -- environmental do-gooders hired by the company as sort of eco-fig leaves whom they want to pressure to sign off on impact statements so the drilling can begin. In between are Abby Sellers (Connie Britton), a tough-as-nails type caught in a love triangle, the dazed and confused mechanic Motor (Kevin Corrigan, nailing it), and their Native American cook Dawn Russell (singer Joanne Shenandoah).

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Laurel Canyon Review

What a shock: There's licentious sex going on up here in the Hollywood Hills. I say "up here" because Laurel Canyon, Sunset Blvd., etc. is my 'hood. So, to those who might take the events of this movie as a generalized portrayal of the area, let me assure you that it's strictly on a lot by lot basis. These hills are crawling with people from the movie and music industries, some of whom might actually resemble the characters of Laurel Canyon. Double shock.

This intimate drama (by director Lisa Cholodenko) deals with the effect a liberal living standard might have on a young, impressionable, Harvard graduate with a conservative nature and great looks. She's Alex (Kate Beckinsale), the fiancé of Sam Bentley (Christian Bale), who needs to come to Los Angeles to complete his residency at the renowned Hausman Neuropsychiatric Institute. The move to a quiet hillside home will enable Alex to complete her dissertation on Drosophila Genomics, the world of chromosomes and centimorgans applied to the reproductive aspects of the fruit fly. No dummy, this lady.

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Mysterious Skin Review

The summer I was eight years old, five hours disappeared from my life. Five hours, lost, gone without a trace...

Those are the first words spoken in Mysterious Skin, and they come from Brian Lackey (Brady Corbet), a distressed 18 year-old, born and raised in a small Kansas community. The last thing he remembers about that night is rainfall interrupting his softball game, and then waking up at home with a nosebleed, five hours later. Plagued by unexplainable nightmares, blackouts, and more nosebleeds, Brain is convinced aliens abducted him during those mysterious five hours of his youth...

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