" Alvin, a native has wandered into my frame "
— John Malkovich, Shadow of the Vampire

MRQE Top Critic

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Pic of the Week

Each week we pick a recommended "Pic" from our archives. Below are our most recent picks.

9

***2009, Shane Acker

Nifty production design, a cinematic sensibility, but not quite a classic

9 is a visually impressive look at a post-apocalyptic world, but it doesn’t have quite enough punch to make it a classic.

Capote

****2005, Bennett Miller

Philip Seymour Hoffman channels Truman Capote as he writes his masterwork

The publication in 1966 of In Cold Blood, the first “nonfiction novel,” a suspenseful and unsparing description of the brutal murders of a picture-perfect rural Kansas farming family, established a new genre of journalism and made author Truman Capote more famous than he had ever been, but also may have destroyed his ability to write another book.

Violet & Daisy

***1/2Geoffrey Fletcher

Violet & Daisy is a fanciful spin on the macho movie.

Another title could be Violent & Daffy, but it’s also volant and dazzling.

The Same River Twice

***2003, Robb Moss

An honest and touching examination of the process of aging

In 1978 Robb Moss made a short 16mm film called Riverdogs. It chronicled a month-long trip he spent with friends rafting naked through the Grand Canyon and camping out at embankments along the way. Despite the rush of whitewater and the carefree lifestyle captured among majestic outdoor settings, Moss, who had solar battery chargers built for the project and a raft customized for his film gear, admits to having a miserable time documenting the whole thing.

Flash forward to 1996 when Moss, who says he doesn’t shed friendships, decides to revisit and tape on mini-DV, five of the 17 rafters from Riverdogs because he “wondered if that movement — from gaudy youth to the enactment of our various adulthoods — could be the subject of a film.”

That film, The Same River Twice, had its world premiere in the documentary competition at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.

Taxi to the Dark Side

***1/22007, Alex Gibney

You and me and our military and our government — we killed an innocent man

We — the United States of America — paid an Afghan informant to turn over 4 Afghan men. The informant told us that men were involved in a rocket attack, and we believed it. One of the men was a peasant, a taxi driver named Dilawar.

The Departed

***2006, Martin Scorsese

Another very good gangster movie from Martin Scorsese, and a faithful remake

Avid Movie Habit readers will remember a recommendation from a year ago for Infernal Affairs. It’s a Hong Kong cops-and-robbers movie with a simple but effective gimmick. The film has two heroes: an undercover cop working for a gangster, and an undercover gangster working as a cop.

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten

****2007, Julien Temple

The coolest thing is watching Joe’s bandmates and friends interviewed around the campfire

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is a fantastic tribute to a rock icon who was taken off the stage far too early. In the grander scheme of things, it’s also one of rock ‘n’ roll’s best documentaries.

Serendipity

***2001, Peter Chelsom

Cusack returns to the Date Movie in style

John Cusack is the man.

In the eighties, he defined the date movie as the uber-boyfriend in the classics Say Anything and Better Off Dead. He played the sharp-witted con whiz kid along side Angelica Huston in The Grifters. He took cues from Clint Eastwood and kept up with Kevin Spacey in the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Most recently, in High Fidelity, Cusack brought Nick Hornby, Jack Black, and the Beta Band to the masses (not to mention bringing about the return of ultra-saucy supersexy Lisa Bonet).

So after taking a few mammoth steps towards Oscarville what does Cusack do (well, okay, besides America’s Sweethearts – forget about that, you were having a strange dream)?

Narc

***2002, Joe Carnahan

Its aggressive, unrelenting energy makes up for all the cop movie cliches

Narc is a high-stress, high-octane cop drama. It is full of clichés, but its aggressive, unrelenting energy more than makes up for them.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

***1986

Spend the day with Ferris

Ferris Bueller is still a pretty “righteous dude,” but this release is not a righteous Blu.

Spider-Man 2

***1/22004, Sam Raimi

The screenplay emphasizes character development over mindless action

Picking up where the first installment left off, Spider-Man 2 avoids the sophomore slump and offers up a delightful change of pace from standard comic book movie fare.

Undertow

***2004, David Gordon Green

A portrait of the rural South that engages all five senses

Mainstream audiences probably don’t know the work of David Gordon Green, and they may never know it. Nevertheless he is quietly making a name for himself with portraits of the rural South of such texture and flavor that you’d swear the movie engages all five senses.

The Cove

***Louis Psihoyos

A-team adventure needs a fifth column

Advocacy documentaries are on the rise. This year saw the release of Captialism, Food, Inc.and The Cove, just to mention a few. How much you’ll enjoy these movies ends up depending on how sympathetic you already are to the message, although the better the documentary, the less that matters.

Alias: Season Two

***1/22003, J.J. Abrams

Aside from a couple false moves, Season Two keeps the suspenseful plots twisting and turning

Alias: The Complete Second Season manages to build on the appeal of the first season by adding a few new intriguing characters and keeping the plots twisting and turning from episode to episode. Even so, the series still encounters the virtually inevitable wrong turns.

Ernest & Celestine

***1/22014

Out-charms both Frozen and The Wind Rises

Ernest and Celestine is a charming animated film. It’s kid-friendly, but not too sweet, and not too saccharine.