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"The Killer Inside Me": Life is hot in noirtown.

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Michael Winterbottom's "The Killer Inside Me" is a pedal-to-the-floor, broken-bottle-to-the-throat adaptation of a novel of the same name by Jim Thompson, the darkest and pulpiest dark pulp writer of them all. The opening sequence (after gloriously retro opening credits): West Texas hometown boy turned deputy sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) gets sent to a house in the outskirts of town to run off a prostitute. She turns out to be Jessica...

"Homewrecker," the crazy chick and the convict meet cute.

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. "Homewrecker," the winning entrant in Sundance's inaugural low-budget NEXT program, won me over with an early scene at an upscale Chelsea bistro. Mike (Anslem Richardson), a locksmith who's out on work release, has essentially had his day hijacked by Margo (Ana Reeder), your archetypal crazy chick. She thinks her boyfriend Charles (Stephen Rannazzisi) is cheating on her, and insists Mike follow Charles into a restaurant to strike up a...

"Blue Valentine": Love must have a eulogy.

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Sundance is best known as the home of the American indie narrative, the primordial festival ooze from which first emerged the likes of "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" and "Clerks" and "The Blair Witch Project." And while the film landscape has changed, that's still the reason most attendees make the slog to an expensive snow-covered Utah ski town every year to sit in synagogues and racquet clubs and high school auditoriums...

No sympathy for Ruffalo's "Delicious."

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. The Lord may work in mysterious ways; "Sympathy For Delicious" does not. The only thing that's mysterious about this unsubtle film about the nature of healing and faith is the thought process behind the raft of bad decisions made by director/star Mark Ruffalo, a great actor making a disappointing directorial debut working from a script by his friend and co-star Christopher Thornton. Despite an intriguing premise taken to some unexpected places...

3D brings out the glory of "Cane Toads," warts and all.

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. "Welcome to Avatoad," "Cane Toads: The Conquest" director Mark Lewis told the audience at Park City's Eccles Theater on Tuesday night, not only providing weary copy editors the world over with a readymade headline, but neatly summarizing the mild absurdity of the film's existence. A sequel to his delightful "Cane Toads: An Unnatural History," "Conquest" picks up the story 20 years later, chronicling the toads'...

"Exit Through The Gift Shop": It's a madhouse, this modern life.

At the end of "Exit Through The Gift Shop," a few of us Googled the name of its subject to make sure he actually exists. I'm sure we weren't alone -- "the world's first street art disaster movie" is also the first movie from pseudonymed British art star Banksy, who's never had a problem being playful with the truth before. A web search makes it clear that Thierry Guetta (aka "Mr. Brainwash"), a Frenchman living in L.A. who finds his way into the street...

"Twelve," i.e. "Poor Little Rich Kids, Waanh-Waaaaanh"

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Joel Schumacher ("Batman and Robin," "The Lost Boys"), "Twelve" is unquestionably the funniest film at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival; if only it had been made with that intention. "Twelve"'s ham-handed ineptitude is part of the joke -- on Schumacher, on audiences and on any distributor brave or foolish enough to pick it up in an attempt to turn this sow's ear into a camp classic. Based on the...

"Jack Goes Boating" goes nowhere in particular.

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Philip Seymour Hoffman loves theater. He got his start in it as an undergrad in NYU, he's an instrumental member of the LAB, he's appeared in Broadway revivals of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and "True West." So it's not unexpected that he chose a play (by Bob Glaudini, who also wrote the screenplay) to adapt for his directorial debut. But I wish he hadn't. "Jack Goes Boating" is packed with all of the...

Taking a monogamy time out in "The Freebie."

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It's impossible not to measure "The Freebie," actress Katie Aselton's directorial debut, against last year's Sundance success "Humpday." The two films share a marriage -- Aselton, who also stars as Annie, is the wife of filmmaker and "Humpday" lead Mark Duplass, who serves as executive producer. They also share a cast member, an editor, a cinematographer, an improvised, rough-around-the-edges feel, and a goofy...

Blitz hits the jackpot with "Lucky."

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Jeffrey Blitz walks a deceptively fine line in "Lucky," a film that looks at the effects of winning the lottery on a variety of individuals and families. It would be easy - too easy -- to screw this up. The lottery, with its false hope and promise of randomly granted affluence, makes an ideal bête noire for any filmmaker or artist extolling the value of hard work and the evils of capitalism; the temptation is probably too great to just show us...

"Mother and Child" is "Crash"-tastic.

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Friggin' Paul Haggis. Love or hate Haggis' 2004 Best Picture winner "Crash," we can all agree on one thing: in the wake of its success, we all endured far too many knockoff humanist ensemble issue films. Just when it seemed like the end of that trend was finally in sight, here comes Sundance 2010 selection "Mother and Child," yet another movie about a bunch of people with interconnected lives and a really important topic on...

Fanning, Stewart grow up fast in "The Runaways," if not unpredictably.

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Coming-of-age movies are Sundance's stock in trade, but few announce themselves as boldly, and broadly, as "The Runaways," whose first shot is a splotch of menstrual blood hitting the pavement. Said splotch emanates from Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), a suburban California teenager with a burgeoning David Bowie obsession and a surly sensuality just beginning to bloom. Teenage sexuality has always been the wellspring of rock and roll, but...

"Smash His Camera," but this picture will last a lifetime.

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. "He does for the living what Weegee did for the dead" is how one talking head in Leon Gast's "Smash His Camera" explains Ron Galella, the notorious ur-paparazzo famous both for his striking candids of celebrities across the decades and his relentless pursuit of his glamorous quarries. It's an apt description; much as Weegee's photographs turned the gritty streets and crime scenes of the Naked City into something resembling...

"Four Lions," the year's greatest terrorist kinda comedy.

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. "Four Lions," the slippery first feature from British comedian/provocateur/fearless satirist Chris Morris, is going to win the above title by default. Few films indeed are willing to combine terrorism and comedy -- I've always entertained a soft spot for the train wreck that is Paul Weitz's "American Dreamz" just for trying. So, infinite points to "Four Lions" for the sheer audacity of its premise, which is made to...

"Hesher," the magical metaphorical metalhead.

Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is magical. Sort of. He doesn't do anything completely out of the realms of believable human behavior, but he does seem pretty impervious to damage, bouncing back easily from falls and kicks to the groin. He's able to appear out of and vanish into nowhere at just the right moment. And he apparently forces another character to have a minor car accident using the might of his air drumming. Also, he looms outside T.J...
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