Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lars von Trier can't seem to find much critical traction lately, especially in the U.S., where many are sensitive about his broadsides at American culture (he's never set foot here), if not simply put off by his severe, minimalist aesthetic. The pile-on that greeted Manderlay (IFC)—after Dogville, the second in an aborted trilogy about America—was unduly harsh, even though the film does suffer from diminishing stylistic returns. Von Trier's story about a Deep South town where slavery is practiced long after Emancipation may seem outrageous, but keep in mind, this movie was made before Hurricane Katrina…

Like Primer a couple of years ago, Rian Johnson's shoestring debut feature Brick (Focus) makes the most of limited resources and scores where it matters—in the dialogue, which is rich in old-school detective-speak; in the characters, whose high-school experience has the treachery of noir; and in the filmmaking, which is full of invention and geeky allusions to the past. Johnson's confident work places a lot of faith in the audience's ability to sort out the dense plotting, so it should work even better on DVD…

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In a performance of quiet, expressive power, Emmanuelle Devos stars in Gilles' Wife (Koch Lorber) as the put-upon working-class mother of two little girls in a small French mining town in the '30s. She stands by helplessly as her two-timing husband carries out a not-so-discreet affair with her more conventionally beautiful younger sister. Frédéric Fonteyne's superb follow-up to An Affair Of Love turns on a decision that registers subtly on Devos' face and packs devastating consequences…

Some might cast off Inside Man (Universal) as Spike Lee working as a director-for-hire, but he accomplishes so much more than just delivering on a clever heist premise. It seems like every great Lee movie, no matter its ostensible purpose, takes the pulse of his native New York City; the casually funny, observant dialogue in this film would be enough to carry it without all the thriller plotting. The well-executed heist plot is just icing on the cake…

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The theatrical release of Larry The Cable Guy's walking punchline of a debut vehicle demanded the question "How many people are willing to live with the shame and humiliation of publicly uttering the words 'I'd like a ticket for Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector, please'?" Not too many, judging from the film's paltry box-office returns, but Paramount is sure to turn a tidy profit on the DVD release, since home-viewing standards are lower and home audiences are more forgiving.

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