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Stories by Duncan Shepherd

The Brothers Grim

You know very well, if you have been paying attention, what you are going to get from the Dardenne brothers of Belgium, Jean-Pierre and Luc. You are going to get quality control as rigid and ...

Too Many Cooks

As per its own punchy subhead, Julie and Julia is “based on two true stories,” parallel stories of feminist self-determination, set half a century apart, then and now. One focuses on Julie Powell, a beleaguered ...

Art and Magic

Pick of the week, pick of the season to date, is the French Séraphine, a speculative, segmentary biography — twenty years in scope — of an obscure figure from 20th-century art history, Séraphine Louis, dite ...

Gay Abandon

Reteaming the star and director of Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles respectively, Brüno peddles the same or a similar shtick in a different persona: a different funny accent, different funny wardrobe, different funny ...

Hazardous Duty

Fictitious countdown of the final six weeks in the twelve-month tour of an army bomb squad in Baghdad five years back, The Hurt Locker seems on a limited sampling to have excited other commentators more ...

Discrepancies Aside

The news, or at any rate the publicity, that Woody Allen had originally written Whatever Works for Zero Mostel (d. 1977) and had only lately pulled the script out of a drawer and plugged in ...

Nice to Meet

The art-house patron can only take what he gets. Last time out I noted that the Japanese director of Departures, Yojiro Takita, though he has literally dozens of films in his résumé, was a new ...

A Bundle

The surprise winner (as we are all obliged to call it) of this year’s Oscar for foreign film, the Japanese Departures, is somewhat less surprising when you see it. That’s not to say it’s a ...

Interminable

With two blockbusters in a single week — Terminator Salvation, alias T4, and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian — the summer sequels would appear to have leaped over the prequels. (Siding with, ...

The Little and the Big

While the mainstream has wound down to its summer speed of one blockbuster per week, the alternative cinema has been spewing out counterprogramming aplenty, some of it by big fish. The Limits of Control is ...

Onward and Backward

And so begins the summer of ’09: prequel, prequel. The first of these, opening Friday last, is X-Men Origins: Wolverine, entrusted to director Gavin Hood of little Tsotsi from South Africa. (How much say does ...

Tool of the Trade

Report from the front: pressure mounting, resistance weakening, defenses leaking. Try as I might to hold the line, more and more movies in recent months and years, mainly movies of the “alternative” as distinct from ...

Limited Play

At last a bone to gnaw on. Not a very meaty bone, only a very scrappy bone, but a bone nonetheless. State of Play, the Americanization of a BBC miniseries, qualifies as a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller, ...

Last Gasp

For some years now, whenever Rialto Pictures (it usually was) had selected a foreign film for theatrical reissue, I was given to wonder when they’d get around to Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Deuxième Souffle, known in ...

Invaded

To feel affection for the grade-Z science-fiction films of the Fifties, especially as their descendants get ever more deluxe, is perfectly natural and no cause for shame. (A Not-Guilty Pleasure.) To set out in the ...

Better Than the Rest

From where I sat, the San Diego Latino Film Festival peaked early. (Probably the whole year did.) The first film I saw, on opening night, was my most anticipated film, Carlos Saura’s Fados. It turns ...

Watch Out

How high can the escalation go? Watchmen is just another step on the stairs, one or two above The Dark Knight, nothing to get worked up about one way or the other. Adapted from “the ...

Shopping List

It all began with the death in mid-December of Van Johnson. As is my wont, I found something in the Los Angeles Times obituary to grumble about at the breakfast table: no mention of The ...

Viva la Restitution

Steven Soderbergh’s atonement for the Ocean’s capers: a four-and-a-half-hour worship service in honor of Che Guevara, conducted in Spanish with English subtitles. Or rather, if Full Frontal and Solaris were atonement for ...Eleven, and Bubble ...

Do Tell

Fresh from the Jewish Film Festival, Avi Nesher’s The Secrets starts a theatrical engagement this Friday at the Reading Gaslamp. (Not to be confused with the singular A Secret, also Jewish-themed, that played there in ...

Human Enough

As an explanation of romantic incompatibility, the catchphrase title, He’s Just Not That into You, is stunningly unilluminating, no matter which of its six words is stressed. (On screen, the third one stands out in ...

Light Load

Although movies had been set in Minnesota before Fargo (notwithstanding its misleading North Dakota title), movies as disparate as The Farmer’s Daughter, The Heartbreak Kid, Purple Rain, Grumpy Old Men, it was the Coen brothers ...

Wild and Woolly

The dim month after the year-end Oscar drive — Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Bride Wars, The Unborn, Notorious, My Bloody Valentine, Inkheart, Outlander, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, et al. — looked to be brightened ...

Unfree Wheelers

Another few stragglers from the year gone by.... Revolutionary Road comes confusingly too soon after Reservation Road, a mere year apart, although in fairness the novels on which they were based (by Richard Yates and ...

The Comeback Clint

This is the interval when the Year That Was in the centers of civilization drags on into the Year That Is in the boondocks. The interval of overlap. Clint Eastwood, for the occasion, has repeated ...

Favorite Few

Short of the outlying fields of basketball playoffs (the Jayhawks, the Celtics) and Presidential campaigns (Obamanos!), strictly confined instead to my assigned field, the year just past felt pretty dismal. On the personal front, Manny ...

Finish Line

Don’t open before Christmas: The Reader is the trite and true story of a once fat and sassy alternative free weekly, now struggling for survival amidst a plummeting economy, skyrocketing paper costs, shrinking page size, ...

Stretch Drive

Counting down the final movies till Christmas.... Doubt, from the prize-winning stage play by John Patrick Shanley, is an ambiguous drama of possible priestly pedophilia at a Catholic school in the Bronx. The playwright, perhaps ...

Nook and Cranny

The natural suspicion surrounding any and all of the “alternative” programs at the Reading Gaslamp (né Pacific Gaslamp) is that these must be films that the Landmark chain turned up its nose at. Rejects. Undesirables. ...

Struggle and Strife

Got Milk. An affirmation, that, not a question. Gus Van Sant’s biopic on Harvey Milk, the gay-rights activist and San Francisco City Supervisor martyred by assassination in 1978, should afford sustenance and fortification for all ...

Irredeemable Bond

It sounds more like a sensitive literary little indie, maybe something to do with a Physics teacher passed over for tenure and consoled in the arms of a fatherless grad student, but Quantum of Solace ...

Change for the Worse

Clint Eastwood was due for a dud. Changeling stacks up as his flattest film, his stumpiest film, since Blood Work, bookending his hot streak of Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and the Second World War ...

Up Pops Poppy

This is the new world order. Any movie that wants to be seen as Serious, however delusional it may be, wants to enter the Oscar race, and therefore wants to make its entrance in the ...

Deeper Mystery

The preponderance of Claude Chabrol’s fifty-some films fit under the umbrella of “thriller,” and no matter how tepid the temperature of his more recent ones — The Bridesmaid, Flower of Evil, and presumably the one ...

Saddle Up

Like any aficionado of the Western, or of any other genre for that matter, I’m picky. The nonaficionado, if he ventured to attend at all, might have been quicker to accept last year’s remake of ...

Blinded by the Light

Here’s another bucketful. Blindness. Serious-minded science fiction, allegorical as you like, about an epidemic of “the white sickness,” a new form of sightlessness that plunges the sufferer into blinding light instead of traditional darkness. We ...

In Bulk

We can easily tell when summer’s over. In lieu of the lazy pace of one mainstream blockbuster and an also-ran, plus perhaps one or two “alternatives,” we get seven, eight, nine new movies per week, ...

Got Smart

Perception that the Coen brothers are running a little low on inspiration, albeit still nowhere near empty, will not now need to be radically revised. Remake: The Ladykillers. Book adaptation: No Country for Old Men. ...

Seasons Go

Have passions cooled? Can we discuss calmly? Without dispute The Dark Knight was the big story of the cinematic summer, which is the same as saying the big money of the summer, $500 million domestic ...

An End

He was ninety-one-and-a-half. It had been a long and gradual decline. Yet how quickly I could switch over from “I can’t believe he’s still here” to “I can’t believe he’s gone.” The passing of Manny ...

A Jungle Out There

Human pretension is generally good for a laugh. Two new comedies to do with the Creative Process, unequal in size, equally uneven in quality, equally unsteady in mood, deliver the laugh over and around constant ...

Woodwork

You can’t claim that Woody Allen’s rapid rate of production doesn’t show. Even the title of his latest handiwork sounds more like brainstorming for a title than like a final decision, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Three ...

Reason to Believe

It may be an advantage not to be an X-File-o-phile. If, like me, you have seen no more than a handful of episodes from the nine-season TV series, and you have only the vaguest recollection ...

Blackout

When the smoke clears, The Dark Knight should emerge as just another comic-book movie, the fourth of the summer (Hancock wasn’t based on a comic book too, was it?), avowedly “darker” than the others, certainly ...

Cultural Contamination

If Tell No One does not give us what we expect and want from a French thriller, part of the reason must lie in its source, an American mystery novel by Harlan Coben. I read ...

Look! Up in the Sky!

Two ideas has Hancock. The first may be summed up in the term “anti-superhero,” or if you prefer it, “super-antihero.” The hero, that is to say, possesses the full complement of comic-book superpowers. Even though ...

World Gone Mad

The advent of a Dario Argento film is an undoubted occasion, whether or not one to celebrate. Not since 1991, by my records, has one of his films circulated in American theaters, and only then ...

Woman on a Mission

The Gaslamp 15 still bears keeping an eye on. Hopefully this won’t turn into a deathwatch, though I note that the hours of operation have been scaled back on weekdays to a late-afternoon start, a ...

Bite-Sized

The men behind You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, who would include director Dennis Dugan and producer-writer-star Adam Sandler, must be holding their collective breath in hopes that, before or during its opening weekend, no ...

To Have and Have More

The question fomented by the new Indiana Jones film was whether or not, nineteen years after the last one, Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg still “have it.” Which of course begs the question of whether ...

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