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Carlos

Director: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Alexander Scheer, Nora von Waldstätten, Christoph Bach, Ahmad Kaabour, Fadi Abi Samra, Rodney El-Haddad

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Carlos


Olivier Assayas’ near-epic Carlos boasts the tagline, “The man who hijacked the world.” That man was the Venezuelan Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, who in an act of revolutionary bravado rechristened himself “Carlos”—a single name meant to echo and intimidate. In the early 1970s, Carlos become virtually a household name, the Cher or Madonna of international terrorism. As Carlos, Edgar Ramirez here commands the screen, but the film equally evokes a world of insurrectionist zeal, a particular time in history when a man like Carlos could imagine himself not just a revolutionary, but a worldwide celebrity. From the opening, Carlos turns into a rush of international plotting, revolutionary speechifying, and guerrilla war-making. Geography blurs, from sun-bleached Yemen to sun-bleached Morocco. Insurrectionist groups flower and pass. Relishing his position at the center of it all is Carlos. Soon adopting a Che Guevara look, he is all sex and violence; his potency is purely destructive. In an early scene he admires himself wet and naked in the mirror as the television news recounts his latest bombing. Later, while using a grenade to seduce a fellow revolutionary, Carlos says, “Weapons are an extension of my body.” He pursues satisfaction for both his weapons and his body. Jesse Hicks


 

 



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Alice in Wonderland

Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Michael Sheen, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry
Review [10.Mar.2010]
Review [5.Mar.2010]

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Alice in Wonderland


Tim Burton’s vaunted re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s classic tales of fantastic dream-logic features a nubile young-adult Alice (Mia Wasikowska) enmeshed in a heroic quest narrative in a strife-torn Wonderland. That the resulting film is considerably more than a mere capitulation to Hollywood demographic schemes and recycled Joseph Campbell archetypes can be put down to the glorious visual flourishes and ingeniously idiosyncratic designs of Burton and his team, as well as the wonderfully performers camping it up in this technicolor realm. Helena-Bonham Carter’s Red Queen, with her CGI-inflated head and petulant selfishness, is a joy in every one of her scenes, and Johnny Depp adds the Mad Hatter to his gallery of sensitive, eccentrically-mannered leftfield rogues. As beautifully-constructed eye candy cinema goes, the multiplex crowd could do far worse than Alice in Wonderland. Ross Langager


 

 



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Casino Jack and the United State of Money

Director: Alex Gibney
Cast: Jack Abramoff, William Branner Tom DeLay, Donn Dunlop, Kevin Henderson, Hal Kreitman, Kelly Brian Kuhn, Paolo Mugnaini, Bob Nay, Ralph Reed, Michael Scanlon, Neil Volz
Review [7.May.2010]

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Casino Jack and the United State of Money


Jack Abramoff is famous for making money. He made lots of it, he made it for a long time, and he made it illegally. He didn’t make it alone, though. And the way he made it was not his own invention. This is the argument made by Casino Jack and the United State of Money: the erstwhile super-lobbyist Abramoff is surely audacious and noisy and “a man of many hats,” but he is also a little mundane, not so singular or deviant as he’s been made out to be. The reasons for calling him extraordinary are obvious enough: if Abramoff’s schemes to buy and sell members of Congress were his own alone, and he’s now imprisoned for his crimes, the problem appears to be resolved. But even the most naïve observer knows this can’t be true, and now it seems that everyone, from Tea Partiers to Coffee Partiers, is wary of Congress as a matter of course. So, when, just a couple of minutes in, Casino Jack asks its first and most pressing question—“Is this the story of individual corruption or the story of what our democracy has become?”—you already have an idea of the answer. Still, coming to the answer is a fascinating process. Like Alex Gibney’s other documentaries, it begins with a violent crime, in this case, the 2005 gangster-style murder of SunCruz founder Gus Boulis. The plot thickens, as it were, as the film digs into the background of this purchase, specifically, how Abramoff came to be rich enough to make it. Significantly, Abramoff does not take part in telling his story, at least on screen. And in the face of this problem, the film finds a series of ingenious solutions—elegant, funny, and preposterous ways to sort out the man’s thinking and contexts. Cynthia Fuchs


 

 



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The Ghost Writer

Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, James Belushi, Eli Wallach
Review [26.Feb.2010]

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The Ghost Writer


In Britain it’s just called The Ghost, which better expresses the multiple meanings present in Roman Polanski’s political thriller about an unnamed writer (Ewan McGregor) offered too much money to prepare the memoirs of a British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan) whose similarities to Tony Blair are impossible to miss. The ghost of the previous writer, who came to an unfortunate end, hovers over the story, the writing takes place in an isolated beach house, the sky always seems to be overcast… and I’d hate to spoil the fun by saying more. Based a Robert Harris novel, The Ghost Writer is also a pointed political satire and the end result is a film which works on multiple levels at once. Sarah Boslaugh


 

 



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Shutter Island

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Max Von Sydow
Review [19.Feb.2010]

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Shutter Island


For anyone who wondered if Martin Scorsese had lost his flair for old fashioned filmmaking, this evocative noir-esque thriller was proof of his continuing gifts. Sure, the performances were electrifying and the narrative a twisted knot of red herrings and last act surprises, but the real star here was the American auteur. He took his love for all things Hitchcock, married them to a post-modern idea of dread, and turned it all into a sinister stew pot of visual finesse and narrative terror. Even in today’s contemptuous, couldn’t care less world, Scorsese got audiences curious, and questioning, wondering if what they saw was reality or the unhinged images of a deranged mind. By the end, it was impossible to tell, which is why this movie remains one of the year’s most compelling. Bill Gibron


 
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