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  • Red Sparrow

    Red Sparrow

    ★★½

    The filmmakers may keep Dominika at arm’s length from the audience, but Jennifer Lawrence makes hay of having to play a walking enigma. The way that Dominika is at once completely transparent and at the same time impossible to read is Red Sparrow‘s most intriguing through line, not least of which for the way that Lawrence makes you grasp the canny mental gymnastics that her character has to do in order for everything that she says to be at once…

  • The Road Movie

    The Road Movie

    ★★½

    The Road Movie is a doodle, but in its offhanded way, it effectively attests to the resolute nature of the Russian character: men and men who are rarely shocked, imaginative in their vulgarity, stoic even at their most empathetic, and prone to immediately taking up arms at the slightest infraction.

    Read the rest of my Slant review here.

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  • Whiplash

    Whiplash

    ★½

    "Exhilarating," "astounding," and "electrifying" reads the quotes on the film's poster, from agents of our culture of mean. Okay, I'll give it "electrifying." Miles Teller is a mean drummer, or maybe it's the jazzy cutting that tricks one into thinking so, but the implausible scenario is pretty low-down in how it tries to milk suspense from an unbridled spectacle of human cruelty. Not even sure Damien Chazelle believes his paltry justification for J.K. Simmons's worse-than-Gordon-Ramsay shtick. Maybe someone needs to throw a director's chair at his head so we can see if he's capable of drumming up a "Casablanca."

  • Timbuktu

    Timbuktu

    ★★★★

    Do not miss this great film when it comes to a theater at a major metropolis near you at the end of the month. It has its imperfections, but they pale in significance to its elegiac sense of will. After what happened yesterday in Paris, and especially for those confused about the ties between Islam and terrorism or operating under the mistaken belief that Charlie Hebdo's provocations weren't necessary, the film's searing, lucid depiction of innocents rightfully, righteously fighting fundamentalism from within will grip you in horrified empathy.