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The idle thought of why it has been so long since I’ve seen a film by Gillian Armstrong (Charlotte Gray, Oscar and Lucinda, going back in time) sent me to IMDb.com, where was revealed to me the existence of a 2007 period piece called Death Defying Acts, featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones as a phony Scottish psychic and Guy Pearce as Harry Houdini, evidently left out in the cold in the wake of The Illusionist and The Prestige the year before. This sent me in turn to the video store, a futile quest at Kensington Video but a fruitful one at Blockbuster, promoting it as a “Blockbuster Exclusive.” Though it yields nothing to its two immediate predecessors in screen magic, I make no claims for the film beyond a firm hand on the tiller, a sumptuous production, and a charming performance by Saoirse Ronan, the young girl from Atonement. Gillian Armstrong getting the bum’s rush is in any event a little troubling, a little more so even than the conspiratorial notion of Blockbuster exclusivity.

A week from Friday the San Diego Latino Film Festival rouses itself from its slumber to resume its monthly Cinema en Tu Idioma series at the UltraStar Mission Valley 7, beginning with the Mexican musical comedy, Casi Divas, and continuing for three more months, three more movies.

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coolinout1 Aug. 14, 2009 @ 2:28 p.m.

"Death Defying Acts" was released in theaters last year on July 11th, 2008 in only TWO theaters. The Weinstein Co held onto it for a few years and then dumped it (like most of their forgotten movies) probably due to a contract with either the director or Catherine Zeta-Jones to have it premiere in theaters.

I didn't realize it was directed by Gillian Armstrong, but I guess I'll check it out since you reminded me of this film.

Thanks! You should add this kinda piece to your column where you showcase a forgotten/obscure film.

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Josh Board Aug. 21, 2009 @ 1:35 a.m.

I agree with most of what was written about Lorna's Silence, but then I saw it got two stars. This movie, with the tough ratings Duncan usually gives, deserves a black dot, for starting off strong with an interesting story, to going on too long and leaving us wondering about a few plot points. It's a movie that, at the end of the day, you should avoid wasting money on.

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