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V.23 No.19 | 5/8/2014
“Is that another penis?”

Film Review

Neighbors

Raunchy frat film milks comedy from boners and bad behavior

Seth Rogen milks comedy from boners and bad behavior in raunchy frat film Neighbors.

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V.23 No.18 | 5/1/2014
Yeah, OxiClean isn’t even gonna get that stain out.

Film Review

Blue Ruin

Indie revenge drama delivers cold comfort

Revenge is a dish best served cold in indie revenge drama Blue Ruin.

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Film

Nymphomaniac Vol. II: Pitch-dark existentialist fairy tale zigs feminist zag

"Fighting fire with fire ..."
All photos courtesy of Zentropa
"Fighting fire with fire ..."
Embattled Dutch auteur Lars von Trier's “Depression Trilogy”Antichrist, Melancholia and now Nymphomaniacculminates in a revelatory and arguably feminist existentialist fairy tale. Admittedly, it's more Grimms' than Aesop.

Antichrist is a magical realist horror show, and Melancholia is a Wagnerian sci-fi epic. Triptych finale Nymphomaniac is an existentialist torture “porn” double-feature. Released in two parts, Vol. I left the audience at terror-struck anticlimax as protagonist Joe fails to achieve orgasm. The psychodrama of Vol. II dances widdershins on a dark, twisty path paved by the sexploitation genre. Where Antichrist examined medieval witchcraft and the history of gynocide and Melancholia expertly manipulated ownership of knowledge and the imagination of disaster, Nymphomaniac explores patriarchy and stigmatized female desire.

With minimal introductory pomp, a soft-focus lens captures young Joe (Stacy Martin) mourning carnal summit. Again the viewer is voyeur to asexual nerd Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) and present-day Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and their sex-and-fly-fishing tête-à-tête. Joe recalls the inception of her lustit involves levitation, spontaneous orgasm and the Whore of Babylon. Seligman's weakest digression ever, toward Jesus' transfiguration on the mount, Zeno's paradox of Achilles, and the divergence of essential doctrine of Eastern and Western Church doctrine inspires Chapter One's title.

K (Jamie Bell)
K (Jamie Bell)

“The Eastern Church and The Western Church (The Silent Duck)” explores the incongruity of monogamy with Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf)and attendant pregnancy, domesticity and complex maternal emotionswith Joe's longing to be overfull. Contentment is transmuted, and Jerôme's reluctant consent to an open marriage sets the stage for unfamiliar and increasingly masochistic sex. Highlights include Joe's matchless revamp of fuck-me clothes, an entirely nonverbal encounter with two African fellows, and engaging the services of professional dom K (Jamie Bell). In escalating sessions with sadistic K, Joe's submissive alter ego “Fido” prizes dogged pursuit of the little death above all else. A campy demo of “the silent duck” segues into a hurled teacup, betraying sentimental anger, and the next passage is named for spectacular reflection.

“The Mirror” observes Joe compulsively, injuriously masturbating in an office bathroom and communicating (mostly with herself) in employer-mandated sex addict meetings. She earnestly tries to gain some control over her addiction and consequent self-mutilation. Working the steps means reducing exposure and removing incentive. After witnessing Joe's version of sex-proofing an apartment, you'll never see your bathroom sink or mirrors in quite the same way again. Joe's kilometer-wide stubborn streak rears up just shy of a month of sobriety. She rebels against the twelve-steppers, proclaiming her refusal to erase her own obscenity so the bourgeoisie can feel safe. A tea stain and irreverent references to the literature of Ian Fleming provide the cut-up lead-in to resolution in “The Gun.”

L (Willem Dafoe) and Joe
L (Willem Dafoe) and Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg)

The workaday world isn't for her, and she meets L (Willem Dafoe), who initiates her into the unscrupulous world of “debt collection.” Her general facility with and knowledge of men and their desires and fears proves useful in the world of heavy handed persuasion to pay. L pragmatically inspires Joe to mentor an at-risk 15-year-old P (Mia Goth). In the world of extortion, parenting happens on a whole 'nother level. A mentee acts as a right hand, and as amoral L half-sneers, some might even do time for their surrogate advocate. Joe attends P's basketball games for three years and eventually wins her loyalty at the age of maturity.

"... And explode into space."
"... And explode into space."

Gainsbourg illuminates the role of outsider, a wholly sexual woman whose very existence stands in opposition to the patriarchy of both the Church and secular culture. Seligman delivers a fervent feminist polemic on how Joe's behavior would be perceived entirely differently were she a man: Vol. I's train games with BFF B (Sophie Kennedy Clark) and home invasion by a bitterly jealous spouse (Uma Thurman) would have fallen flat if Joe's chromosomal makeup offered so-called “reason” for aggression and infidelity.

Unabashedly demanding her sexual rights as a woman, Joe serves as a lightning rod for wounded souls in a largely puritanical world. Given his self-professed asexual nature and thus “unique” insight into Joe's story, Seligman declares his superior fitness to judge her goodness. But this is von Trier land. Yet another chance encounter with Jerome tells of the violent prelude to Seligman discovering her in the alley. The resounding, pitch-black ending renders a film marketed as a (black-and-) blue movie into a horse of a different color; and in doing so, it unmasks all its characters' true natures and the commonplace tedium of evil.

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V.23 No.17 | 4/24/2014
Spaceships! Yay!

Film Review

Jodorowsky’s Dune

Surrealist filmmaker’s long-lost masterpiece comes to life in imaginative, inspirational documentary

Cult filmmaker explores sci-fi classic in Jodorowsky’s Dune.

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V.23 No.16 | 4/17/2014
Well, she’s no E.T.

Film Review

Under the Skin

Experimental sci-fi film wonders what it’s like to be human ... and then harvest the internal organs of other humans for mysterious alien purposes

Experimental sci-fi film Under the Skin introduces audiences to sex and violence, alien-style.

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V.23 No.15 | 4/10/2014
“Did you say something, dear—you bothersome and insufferable twit?”

Film Review

Le Week-End

Love and marriage go through the ringer during a bittersweet anniversary trip to Paris

Middle-class British couple Meg and Nick have been married for 30 years. In an attempt to rekindle the ol’ flame, they decide to spend their wedding anniversary in Paris. From the start it doesn’t look like this expedition is going to bear fruit.

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V.23 No.14 | 4/3/2014
“Welcome to the Grand Budapest Hotel. May we make you uncomfortable?”

Film Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s screwball caper finds the art in artifice

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a whimsical chocolate box painting of a comedy, could be Wes Anderson’s most Wes Andersony film to date.

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V.23 No.13 | 3/27/2014
Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) talk sex and fly-fishing.
Zentropa

Film Review

Nymphomaniac: Volume I

Lars von Trier’s fetish is the specialization of knowledge

The first volume of the final installment in Lars von Trier's "Depression Trilogy," Nymphomaniac finds a battered sex addict talking sex, polyphony and fly-fishing with a bookish fisherman.

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V.23 No.12 | 3/20/2014
Tina Fey: Tigress of Siberia

Film Review

Muppets Most Wanted

The Muppets are back and they never “felt” so good

All is right with the world ... so long as there’s a Muppets movie in theaters. Here’s another pitch-perfect outing of epic silliness.

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V.23 No.11 | 3/13/2014
“I feel the need ... the need for a movie career.”

Film Review

Need For Speed

Aaron Paul is in the driver’s seat for zippy car chase film that ends up “braking bad”

Need for Speed is based on the popular EA series of the same name. In the original games, players race exotic sports cars and ... Nope, that’s pretty much all there is to it.

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V.23 No.10 | 3/6/2014
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Film Review

Gloria

Honest Chilean drama admits love isn’t any easier the second time around

Gloria doesn’t spend a lot of time introducing us to its main character. This isn’t a first-date situation. Lelio’s sensitive romantic drama simply drops us into her life and lets us discover who she is over the course of time.

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V.23 No.8 | 2/20/2014
This is already looking like a bad idea.

Film Review

In Secret

Americans (with English accents, pretending to be French) contemplate sex and death in gloomy love story

We’re so accustomed to scandal that it’s hard to imagine a 150-year-old novel that could shock modern audiences.

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V.23 No.7 | 2/13/2014
Why so unhappy, attractive French people?

Film Review

The Past

Emotional French drama explores the secrets and lies of one very troubled family

The Past is an incredibly subtle movie. Everything is played in low-key, soft voice. Very little is explicit. Mostly because none of these people wants to talk about anything that’s happening. Or has happened.

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V.23 No.5 | 1/30/2014

Film Review

How I Live Now

Grim survivalist drama proves teen love will survive the apocalypse

Initially,15-year-old Daisy isn’t the most sympathetic of characters, spitting every line of dialogue out with snotty disdain. That changes, though, when she clamps eyes on her cousin Eddie.

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V.23 No.4 | 1/23/2014
Gabriella Montez: The Dark Years

Film Review

Gimme Shelter

Sincerely contrived teen drama finds Vanessa Hudgens in a family way

Pity the poor teenaged Disney star. Sure, they get three or four good years headlining a sitcom on the Disney Channel and a couple of pop hits out of it. But they spend the next 10 years trying desperately to shed their goody two-shoes image.

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    High Mountain Hideout
    High Mountain Hideout8.29.2014