“Five Easy Pieces”: A lost soul points the way for independent film


“We’d had a revelation. This is the direction American movies should take.”

That was the late Roger Ebert, tweeting about the rapturous audience reaction to Bob Rafelson’s “Five Easy Pieces.” And he was right — the 1970 film did point the way for a lot of American independent film to come.

The Criterion Collection first released the film on laserdisc 25 years ago, and again as part of a great 2010 boxed set of films by BBS, the independent company started by Rafelson and Bert Schneider that produced “Pieces,” “The Last Picture Show,” “Easy Rider” and more — all quintessentially, almost self-consciously American stories. Now it’s finally out on its own this week in a lovely Blu-ray edition.

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Instant Gratification: “A Most Wanted Man” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix


Pick of the week: “A Most Wanted Man — Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last lead role (he was in “Mockingjay Part 1” after this) was in this faithfully grim adaptation of John Le Carre’s thriller, playing a German counterintelligence officer hoping to snare a terrorist financier. Director Anton Corbijn (“The American”) tamps down his usually showy visual style to match the patient, slow-winding tension of the story, and Hoffman is perfect as a no-nonsense investigator who battles with his superiors and the local CIA officer (Robin Wright), who would prefer a quick, showy resolution.

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“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out A Window and Disappeared”: Life is like an exploding box of chocolates



“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:55, three stars out of four.

“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared” is like “Forrest Gump,” is Forrest were a centenarian Swede with a knack for explosives. Actually, that’s not really true. “Forrest Gump” was a high-minded entertainment about family, history and the passage of time. “100-Year-Old” man is a cheeky comedy full of eccentric turns and daffy violence.

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“Camp X-Ray”: Kristen Stewart looks inside life at Guantanamo Bay

***FILM STILL DO NOT PURGE***  Camp X-Ray 2014 Kristen Stewart

***FILM STILL DO NOT PURGE*** Camp X-Ray 2014 Kristen Stewart

“This is a war zone.”

At one point in Peter Sattler’s drama “Camp X-Ray,” a commanding officer (Lane Garrison) says that to a group of new recruits who have arrived at Guantanamo Bay to become guards for the “detainees” held indefinitely there. He intends it to remind the soldiers that, though their duties consist of cleaning floors, serving meals and watching prisoners day after mind-numbing day, they should consider themselves on a black-and-white battlefield, and the detainees their enemies.

But the statement comes true in another way, as Sattler shows how life in Guantanamo mirrors the uncertain gray of the War on Terror. “Camp X-Ray,” now out on DVD from IFC Films, could have been a political polemic, of course. But writer-director Sattler keeps the drama small and intimate, between two people, focusing on the minutiae of daily life inside the prison and letting us draw the moral implications.

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“Timbuktu”: Hanging onto scraps of humanity while living under jihad


Some have criticized Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako’s Oscar-nominated film “Timbuktu” for, amazingly, going too easy on jihadists.

The achingly beautiful film, out on DVD this week from Cohen Media, looks at life under jihadist rule in a small community in northern Mali. The Muslim extremists who rule the town with AK-47s and arbitrary rules are indeed presented as complex human beings, not cartoon villains.

But it’s those glimmers of humanity, of normalcy, that make the cruelty and brutality of life under jihad so piercing for the viewer. Sissako could have made a polemic, but instead the film feels like a window on how life is lived halfway around the world.

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“Inside Out”: Your emotions get the better of Pixar


“Inside Out” opens Friday at Point, Palace, Star Cinema and Sundance Cinemas. PG, 1:34, four stars out of four.

And that’s why Pixar’s Pixar.

While there hasn’t been a Pixar movie I haven’t liked in the past few years ( okay, “Cars 2”), the animation studio once responsible for “Ratatouille” and “WALL-E” hasn’t put out anything essential in a while, anything that another animation studio like Dreamworks couldn’t have done.

That changes with the wonderful and ambitious “Inside Out.” It does exactly what we’ve come to expect from a great Pixar movie, which is to show us things we’ve never even dreamed of before — a balloon-powered house, a monster-scaring factory, a rat chef — and connect them so deeply to the human experience that they feel familiar somehow. It’s one of their very best.

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“State of Siege”: What came after “Z” for Costa-Gavras


“Governments may change. But the police remain.”

That line seems chilling, a blood-curdlingly neat summation of the politics of repression and control in regimes everywhere. But what’s unsettling about how the line is delivered in Costa-Gavras’ “State of Siege” is that the speaker doesn’t mean to be sinister. A “consultant” for Latin American police departments working on behalf of the CIA, he’s merely describing his business, and how business is always good.

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Instant Gratification: “High Fidelity” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix Instant


Pick of the week: “High Fidelity — Lloyd Dobler will always be the iconic John Cusack role, but running a close second is a thirtysomething Chicago record store owner who finally learns he can achieve maturity and true love without giving up his massive record collection. Whitney Houston fans might not be so enamored, however, especially with Jack Black’s star-making role as a judgmental employee.

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“I’ll See You In My Dreams”: Life begins at 40 . . . and 50, and 60, and 70 . . .

I'll See You in My Dreams Blythe Danner and Sam Elliott

“I’ll See You In My Dreams” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. PG-13, 1:35, three stars out of four.

Like its main character, “I’ll See You In My Dreams” takes a little while to let us in. Carol (Blythe Danner) is a widow living a comfortable life alone in Los Angeles, her solitary life around her arranged just as she pleases. Her old friends (Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place, June Squibb) urge her to move into their retirement community — not because she needs to be looked after, but because it’s more fun than living alone.

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