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10 out of 10: CORNER OF HEAVEN

CORNER OF HEAVEN revolves around a young boy leaving behind his younger sister and their grandfather in search of their mother, who left days earlier. The camera follows the young boy along his seemingly destinationless journey, wandering through the broken villages along the Yellow River; a meditative excursion through a dreamlike ethereality of beauty and brutality, CORNER OF HEAVEN is a coming-of-age film like no other.

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Once again we have ourselves a film tackling the subject matter of human connections and relationships along with technology's role - both beneficial and detrimental - in the matter. These films portray millennials reliant upon a smattering of websites and smartphone apps that give them the ability to instantly connect with one another physically and/or pseudo-socially, yet ultimately failing when connecting face-to-face emotionally. The difference with Zachary Wigon's debut, compared to the others, is that his film, The Heart Machine, is an intimate exploration bereft of judgement or ridicule.

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10 out of 10: SINK OR SWIM

An unquestionable triumph of autobiographical cinema, Su Friedrich's SINK OR SWIM is a mournful retrospection upon the relationship of a father and his daughter told through 26 short story segments accompanied by a litany of voyeuristic black and white imagery. An assemblage of sorts, gathered and organized, lined-up and counting back from the letter Z the memories of a childhood that shaped the woman into who she is, or who she was in 1990.

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To say Peter Glanz's The Longest Week wears its influences on its sleeve would be a gross understatement as the film promptly thrusts those influences, full-on, in the face of the viewer within the opening sequence of tableau shots consisting of typewriters and alarm clocks while Chet Baker saunters through the air, every frame whispers...Wes Anderson. And, just in case you didn't catch that Wes Anderson influence flag flapping in your face, the typography displaying Larry Pine as narrator turns that whisper into a solemn utterance.

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The title of the film refers to the premature transfer of a criminal from juvenile detention to adult prison which is where Starred Up begins its story - the fresh arrival of Eric Love (Jack O'Connell), an aggressive teenager willing to survive by any means necessary. Those means consist, almost exclusively, of violence and obscenity-laden verbal attacks meant to intimidate until a ray of hope presents itself through a therapy group led by Oliver (Rupert Friend). The film is based on first-time screenwriter Jonathan Asser's twelve years of experience as a prison therapist, twelve years brilliantly condensed into one taut, brutal prison drama.

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Fantasia Fest 2014: THE DESERT Review

Holed up in their elaborately fortified residence, Ana (Victoria Almeida), Axel (Lautaro Delgado) and Jonathan (William Prociuk) have everything they need to survive the zombie apocalypse occurring outside their doorstep. The house is equipped with a security system of sorts, a sequence of microphones strung alongside the exterior piping outside audio into the interior through strategically placed megaphones, signaling potential dangers as they arise. They have firearms, ammunition, food, a steady water supply, board games, video games and, even, tattooing equipment; they only thing these three have to deal with essentially is themselves, which proves to be rather difficult.

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Fantasia Fest 2014: HWAYI: A MONSTER BOY Review

It's been a decade since South Korean writer/director Jang Joon-hwan's debut feature, Save the Green Planet!, an amalgamation of almost every genre swirling around a mentally unstable central character affected by his traumatized past; while, Hwayi: A Monster Boy plays out like a typical action film, the central character's storyline possesses a number of similarities with that of Save the Green Planet! as Hwayi (Yeo Jin-gu) struggles to cope with his own trauma-filled past while slowly uncovering the sinister secrets behind his upbringing.

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For the amount of creative surrealism contained within Gondry's film adaptation of Boris Vian's novel, Froth on the DaydreamMood Indigo happens to be a touching tale of the life cycle of love at its core, bursting with inventive flights of fancy as Gondry's seemingly inexhaustible imagination runs roughshod throughout the streets of Paris. At any and all opportunity Gondry, in true Vian fashion, marries one object to another creating an endless array of Seussian contraptions tailor-made to showcase the director's highly-imaginative visual skill set such as the pianocktail, crawling doorbells, musical strings of sunshine and much more.

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Robbie (David Dahlbom), the main character in Nathan Silver's latest effort, Uncertain Terms, finds himself at a marital crossroad at the age of 30, retreating to the New York countryside to think things over while occupying his time with odd jobs in and around his Aunt's estate which happens to be a group home of sorts for pregnant teens. Perhaps, not the best place for a brooding, strong-silent type like himself to be pondering the next step in his strained marriage.

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Wyler's 1946 re-acclimation epic, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, skirts on the threshold of indelible American classic, unable to fully break through into the realm of cinematic masterpiece; so often, when talking about the quintessential gems of 1940s Hollywood, Wyler's post-war drama tends to get lost in the sea of discussion usually reserved for films like CASABLANCA, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, CITIZEN KANE, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and more. Seemingly lost in the mix is the fact that THE BEST YEARS... garnered eight Oscar nominations (winning seven) and happened to be the highest-grossing film since GONE WITH THE WIND and the only film in history to have an actor win two separate Oscars for the same role - non-actor Harold Russell.

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Rarely does a director exhibit such a proficient understanding and application of nearly every cinematic aspect within their debut feature as Katrin Gebbe undoubtedly showcases with Nothing Bad Can Happen, inspired by true events revolving around staunch religious beliefs and various maltreatments in one young man's quest for pure altruism. Heavy subject matter for a new director to attempt to tackle with their first film, for sure, but Gebbe brilliantly balances the triumphs and the trouncings, offsetting moments of unflinching brutality with moments of graceful tenderness.

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Unsubstantiated speculation inevitably leads to a downfall, or at least that's the viewpoint that Michôd presents with his latest effort The Rover (co-written with Joel Edgerton), a seemingly straightforward quest film set in the post-apocalyptic Australian outback, ten years after an economic collapse. The straightforward aspect of the film resides on the surface of what looks to be a simple story of one man's unrelenting attempt to receive his recently stolen vehicle, but there's much more thought-provoking weight buried underneath this slow-burn, occasionally dialogue-absent, road trip.

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Filmmaking duo Lord and Miller make no pretenses when it comes to this sequel for a surprise box office success, a reboot no one necessarily cared about based on a late-eighties television series that's mainly remembered for having Johnny Depp in the cast. And, for as ridiculous as all that sounds, Lord and Miller successfully, and surprisingly, capitalized on the first iteration of the new Jump Street and they seem to have done it again, all because of one fairly simple design, they know that all of this is ridiculous. They don't hide it, they flat-out tell you again and again throughout the film with the addition of unnecessary-sequel tropes that are quickly subverted to great comical effect.

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Borgman, the latest from Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam, is finally coming to theaters stateside after a lengthy festival run, accumulating numerous awards and just as many confounding reactions with its eccentric emulsion of various religious mythologies housed inside a meticulously clean and crisp visual presentation. It must be said that the optimal way to experience Borgman, is to go into the film blind; it's best that the viewer knows little to nothing about this film in order to fully get lost in its peculiar proceedings.

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Try as one might, but it is seemingly impossible not to start a review for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s newest film, The Dance of Reality, without mentioning the fact that the Chilean visionary has not directed a film in a little over two decades. Not only is he back, he is back with his particular brand of psychedelic abstraction, frames upon frames brimming with vibrant, kaleidoscopic set-pieces that only Jodorowsky’s imagination can conjure.

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Melodramatic manipulation is onstage in a rundown section of 1920s Manhattan where young female immigrants persevere burlesque and prostitution in their unwavering pursuits of the elusive American Dream. A life filled at first with a solidarity in sorority among the bathhouses and living quarters, sporadically giving way to self-preservation through an instinctual survival skill set, James Gray's melodramatic, yet realistically bleak, depiction of one Polish woman's quest for the American Dream, not only for herself but also for her sister, currently quarantined at Ellis Island with tuberculosis.