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Director: Nathan Greno
Cast: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman

Disney says it’s not ‘doing’ princesses anymore. Seems the seminal animation studio believes that boys won’t cotton to cutesy tales of little girls coming of cartoon age. In essence, more Lion King and less Little Mermaid. Well, perhaps the powers that be need to look at the response to this recent bout with feminine royalty. Universally praised as one of the House of Mouse’s contemporary best, it proves that the new direction taken under Head of Animation John Lasseter (himself of partner powerhouse Pixar) is working—and working well. Everything about this reconfiguration of Rapunzel works, from the voice acting to (surprisingly) the 3D. In a banner year for the artform, this stands as one of the best—boys or no boys. Bill Gibron



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Tano da Morire

Director: Roberta Torre
Cast: Ciccio Guarino, Enzo Paglino, Mimma De Rosalia , Maria Aliotta, Annamaria Confalone
Tano de Morire

Tano da Morire (To Die for Tano) is unlike any mafia movie you¹ve ever seen. Surreal and often very funny, this mobster musical is indebted to early Almodòvar and John Waters. But far from being just a spoof, Tano is a serious film that satirizes, mainly through outrageous musical numbers, the Sicilian mafia’s value system, particularly its perverse sex and gender codes. La Cosa Nostra is known to be violently homophobic. But it is an all-male society, so director Torre sends up mafia machismo by setting the title character’s mafia initiation in a ‘70s-style gay club. Big-haired gangsters in bell-bottoms and stacked heels perform a homoerotic disco song, “Simm’a Mafia” (We are the Mafia), twirling, blowing kisses, and fondling Tano, the compliant initiate. The film’s penultimate sequence is a brilliantly nutty rap music video set in Palermo’s Vucciria marketplace, with dancing and rapping palermitani brandishing octopi and using long cucuzza squashes as microphones. Made in 1997, Tano da Morire was a critical and box office hit in Italy but it wasn’t released in the U.S. until 2010. George De Stefano



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Tiny Furniture

Director: Lena Dunham
Cast: Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham, Jemima Kirke, Alex Karpovsky
Tiny Furniture

Tiny Furniture is a study of lost—and at times willingly sacrificed—momentum. It tells the story of Aura (played by director Lena Dunham), a recent college graduate who returns to the spacious chi-chi New York loft to live with her photographer mom, Siri (artist Laurie Simmons), and younger sister, Nadine (Grace Dunham). As her name suggests, Aura’s self-identity is not yet firm, and her future is in need of direction. As she meanders, so does Tiny Furniture... but it also vividly captures the emotional landscape of an increasingly familiar adult regression: the nostalgia for the comforts of the past, the sickening sweetness that comes with giving in to your longing, and the self-loathing and inertia that quickly follow. It is all quite funny. Marisa Carroll



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A Town Called Panic

Director: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar
Cast: Jeanne Balibar, Nicolas Buysse, Véronique Dumont
A Town Called Panic

The only time while watching A Town Called Panic that I found myself saying, “WTF?” occurs when the three protagonists, Cowboy, Indian and Horse, accidentally find themselves in the belly of a giant, mechanical penguin. When they realize that the penguin is being controlled by three mad scientists who have built it to collect snow in order to shape into perfectly symmetrical snowballs to launch at their [the scientists’] mortal enemies, our heroes look at each other and say, “Weird.” That was the only point in the movie when I seriously thought I was going crazy because I could not even fathom how the creators of this wonderful stop-motion feature had even come up with storyline. Acid? A Town Called Panic is one of those delightfully, self-deprecating films along the lines of The Triplets of Belleville – satires of satires - which seek to poke fun at French culture as well as the gross stereotypes found in the minds of most people outside Europe. This film evokes a feeling of comfort, especially for fans of The Muppet Show, who got used to humans and animals interacting and working with each other without any regard of their being major differences between them. In this, there are some important lessons for younger viewers, who will appreciate the friendships and never-ending chaos and intense energy of the characters – particularly the bumbling nitwits, Cowboy and Indian – as well as for adults who will “get” the more serious tinges of adult humor sprinkled throughout the film. In a world dominated by Pixar, it’s nice to see an independent release like this one finally get its due exposure.. Shyam Sriram



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The Town

Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper
The Town

Ben Affleck’s second time behind the camera is as compelling, complex, and crackling with excitement and suspense, as his first. It is every bit as good as his brilliant Gone Baby Gone. Using the 2005 novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan as a jumping off point and letting his narrative play out over a languid but legitimately intense two hour plus pace, The Town initially surprises the viewer. The crime element is handled with power and perfected no nonsense fierceness, our band of gun-toting antiheroes constantly able to one up the powers that be. Once the animalistic violence arrives, Affleck lets his confrontational approach answer for any plot holes. In fact, it’s hard to notice the minor missteps along the way when the film keeps us grounded in the lives of these working class scrubs.The results just resonate off the screen. Bill Gibron

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