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Dear Wendy Review


Terrible
For the most part, 2005 was a great year for movies about something. I won't go through all the titles, but it was obvious that for once in a very long time, directors were good and angry. So, it comes as a large disappointment that Thomas Vinterberg's Dear Wendy fails to get away from its own self-masturbatory America-is-stupid letterhead of war as a means of peace. Gee, I wonder if Vinterberg and screenwriter Lars Von Trier are talking about Bush's "war for peace" and America's botched pacifism.

Set in the unidentifiable town known as Estherslope in some unknown time (confusing since there is a huge Axe deodorant spray advertisement in one scene), Dick (Jamie Bell) lives with his miner father and Clarabelle (Novella Nelson), the family maid. He takes a job at a supermarket and generally acts lonely constantly, especially when his father dies in the mines. At the supermarket, he meets Steven (Mark Webber), a young man exactly like him. Things light up between them when Steven sees Dick with a small gun that Dick thinks is a toy; it isn't. They begin to meet, and slowly form the Dandies, a gang of people who love guns but never use them. All is well in their lives until the sheriff (Bill Pullman) puts Dick in charge of checking in on Clarabelle's grandson, Sebastian (Danso Gordon), a small-time murderer. Sebastian takes liberties with Dick's gun (the titular Wendy) and, well, things don't end well.

Continue reading: Dear Wendy Review

Judy Berlin Review


Good
Judy Berlin has the unmistakable characteristics of a Woody Allen film (though it's not one). Its cerebral humor, rash characters, and ensemble cast are gelled with a very Allenesque theme: that life has simply passed by the small, predominantly Jewish community of Babylon, Long Island. First time director Eric Mendelsohn, who reportedly worked with Allen on several films, shoots in black and white, and effectively paints a dreary reality for the people of the small suburb.

As the story goes, it is the second day of school and the fall is in full swing. David Gold (Aaron Harnick) has returned to his parent's home after spending time working in the film business in California. He runs into old high school classmate Judy Berlin (Edie Falco - from HBO's Oz and The Sopranos), an outspoken yet dimwitted aspiring actress on her way to Hollywood that very evening. The story follows their respective families as Judy and David spend the day reminiscing while a solar eclipse darkens the town.

Continue reading: Judy Berlin Review

Dear Wendy Review


OK

A fatalistic allegory about the American adoration of guns and black-and-white morality, "Dear Wendy" centers on a band of teenage outcasts in a faded, one-street mining town who form a cult around their almost literal love affairs with vintage firearms.

Pacifists by temperament and timidity, the Dandies, as they call themselves, soon discover confidence and self-possession in carrying their concealed weapons, which they pledge never to brandish in daylight lest they "wake up and pursue their true nature." But as the club members spend their days on a make-shift shooting range (dubbed "The Temple") deep in the bowels of an abandoned mine building, practicing trick shots, obsessively studying famous killers, and watching graphic film of bullet wounds, they slip into fetish and fantasy, naming their guns, and assigning them personalities, emotions, and even imaginary votes in group decisions.

Written by Danish auteur Lars von Trier, with less supercilious socio-political ignorance than his 2003 American-culture morality play "Dogville," the story is overly dependent on the silly narrative contrivance of the Dandies' insecure leader (Jamie Bell from "Billy Elliot") writing love letters to his antique pistol. A few other absurdities rear their heads as well, like the notion of poor mine workers keeping African-American maids -- an impractical byproduct of the writer's never-ending desire to flog the American culture of denial (about race relations, violence, foreign policy or whatever bee is in his bonnet while banging out a particular screenplay).

Continue reading: Dear Wendy Review

Birth Review


Good

"Birth" opens with a scene of surprising emotional magnitude that is driven entirely by its score. Instantly and viscerally evocative, the elaborate orchestration -- which plays over a long tracking shot following an anonymous jogger through Central Park during a beautifully moody snowfall -- is a curious, captivating combination of flute, triangle, French horn and (quite startlingly) tympani that has an uplift and an ominousness at the same time.

This gripping music, by the brilliant Alexandre Desplat ("Girl With a Pearl Earring"), does all the work in this scene until the man -- seemingly young and healthy from behind, which is all we see of him -- pauses suddenly, then collapses under a bridge.

The next scene takes place 10 years later. The jogger's widow, Anna (played by a serious, sophisticated, melancholy, unabashedly pushing-40 yet intriguingly elfin Nicole Kidman) is about to get married again, to Joseph (subtle, pensive Danny Huston), a man who is really more a hopelessly devoted dear friend than he is a lover. Soon after their engagement party, a somber 10-year-old boy (Cameron Bright) sneaks into their grand Park Avenue apartment and refuses to leave. "You're my wife," he tells Kidman. "It's me -- Sean."

Continue reading: Birth Review

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Dear Wendy Movie Review

Dear Wendy Movie Review

A fatalistic allegory about the American adoration of guns and black-and-white morality, "Dear Wendy" centers...

Birth Movie Review

Birth Movie Review

"Birth" opens with a scene of surprising emotional magnitude that is driven entirely by its...

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