And of Clay Are We Created

$9.99 (2009)

Regent Releasing

Some of the best animated films are the ones in which the story could not be told any other way. Perhaps you need a flying house held aloft by balloons as in "Up," or you are attempting to re-create spotty memories of a traumatic past as in "Waltz with Bashir." Either way, for whatever reason, live action just won't do. An Israeli-Australian stop-motion film directed by Tatia Rosenthal, "$9.99" joins the ranks of well-written and beautifully-rendered modern animated films, but it ultimately lacks that essential relationship between form and function achieved by the best.

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Application of Artistic License

Sophie Giraud/Sony Pictures Classics

The Museum of the Moving Image hosted the New York premiere of "Adoration" on April 27, which included a Q&A with the director, Atom Egoyan, and two of the lead actors, Scott Speedman and Devon Bostick. David Schwartz, chief curator at the Museum of the Moving Image, moderated the discussion.

"Adoration," like many of Mr. Egoyan's films, is one that deftly plays with timelines and chronology in storytelling. Mr. Egoyan discussed this style as simply how he thinks and develops narratives, and spoke about cinematography as a tool to help break down the various moments in time. Certain scenes are rosy, softly-focused, and others slightly more surreal, giving the audience hints of un-reality and imagination. While there are scenes that veer into the sentimental, Mr. Egoyan responded to an audience question by saying that he doesn't consider his films to be melodramatic in the least. He talked about his attempt to shine a light on the complexity and nuances of relationships, while melodrama aims to simplify and polarize. He did concede, laughingly, that he had recently won the Douglas Sirk Award, so perhaps there was some truth to the suggestion of melodrama in his work.

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Squandering Resistance for a Pocketful of Mumbles

Fighting (2009)

Phillip V. Caruso/Rogue Pictures

"Fighting," a frenetic and exuberant new film by Dito Montiel ("A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints") follows a young Alabama native trying to survive the streets of New York City. He earns his money by going to the outer boroughs, meeting the local people of color and beating them to a bloody pulp. While most of the film gets by on genuine emotions and humor, on the heels of movies like "Observe and Report" it's beginning to feel like the Year of the Angry White Male.

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Peeking Into the Presidential Suite

An American Affair (2009)

Screen Media Films

In "An American Affair," director William Olssen has chosen a story that seems ripe for cinema: the Cuban missile crisis, a young boy coming of age, a stranger next door and all that great imagery of America during the Cold War. The film starts out strongly enough, with photographs and footage of President John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro as the opening credits roll. With these two charismatic leaders pitted against each other, the stage is set for action. But the writing, acting and directing all suffer from major weaknesses that threaten the foundation of the story.

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Checking Into the Dragon Inn

Serbis (2008)

Regent Releasing

"Serbis," the latest film from director Brillante Mendoza carves out a day in the life of a sprawling, dysfunctional family living in the city of Angeles in the Philipines. The film barely steps into the streets, however; the action takes place solely within the movie theater where the Flor clan lives and works. Once a family destination, the theater now shows adult films and caters to locals who use it as a place to buy the "services" of young male hustlers.

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War Crimes of the Heart

The Reader (2008)

Melinda Sue Gordon/The Weinstein Company

Adapting any old book into a film isn't too difficult. Adapting a good book into a good film seems near impossible. Stephen Daldry's latest film, "The Reader," is no exception. Originally a sparse, straightforward and quietly brilliant book at 218 pages, the movie version of "The Reader" is over two hours long and advertises with the bombastic tagline: "Behind the mystery lies a truth that will make you question everything you know." It's a tall order; and while they certainly give it a shot, the film can't quite deliver.

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Kid-Gloving the Holocaust

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

David Lukacs/Miramax Films

The new British film "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" comes from a long line of films about the Holocaust, a subject that can often be used as a shorthand for gravitas and importance. As a result, there seems to be the actual Holocaust (the murder of six million Jews) and the Holocaust of the cinematic imagination. These are images we have come to be familiar with: the red flags adorned with the swastikas, the cold, cruel countenance of the archetypal blond Nazi officer, and actors with shaved heads and fake tattoos on their forearms. "Striped Pajamas" is a film in this tradition. It tugs at our heartstrings while attempting to deal with horrors beyond our comprehension. While the movie does end up confronting these issues in a surprisingly complex way, it arrives at its point almost too late in the game to be effective.

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Mother, Interrupted

Changeling (2008)

Tony Rivetti, Jr./Universal Studios

Clint Eastwood's latest film, "Changeling" – starring Angelina Jolie – dramatically explores the true story of a woman, her son, and an unusual abduction. The plot centers around a single mother, Christine Collins (Ms. Jolie), whose son Walter disappears one day in 1928. Desperate with grief and concern, she puts her faith in the Los Angeles Police Department, which is suffering from major public-relation problems due to excessive force and corrupt dealings. Months later, she receives news that her boy has been found. But when she meets him at the train station, she is less than joyful. The boy is clearly not her son, and she makes her feelings known to the people who brought him to her. The LAPD is unable to own up to the mistake, insisting that he is her boy but – due to his abduction and time away from home – perhaps he has "changed."

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Peeping Oedipus Comes of Age

Mister Foe (2007)

Magnolia Pictures

Ever since Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window," Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom," Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow-Up" – and the list goes on, the portrayal of voyeurism in film has become somewhat well-worn territory. Although there are always creative directors coming up with new and inventive ways of exploring these ideas, David Mackenzie is not one of them. His newest film, "Mister Foe," is a jumble of a movie, switching gears left and right between themes of voyeurism, coming-of-age, adolescent fantasy, love and loss - underscored by an equally confused, yet hip, soundtrack.

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