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impostorThe Imposter (2012) – If this were a work of fiction no one would buy it for a second.  It’s simply too convoluted and ridiculous to consider plausible.  But this is a documentary, ergo, it’s all true.  In a small Texas town in 1994, 13 year old Nicholas Barclay goes missing as he walks home.  He never turns up.  Roughly 4 years later, the family gets a call from the FBI saying that Nicholas has turned up in Spain.  This is of course not Nicholas.  We know that from the get go because the imposter of the title is telling us this story.  He is Frédéric Bourdin and at the time he was a 23 year old French drifter with a knack for stealing and fabricating identities of younger boys so as to wind up in youth protection homes instead of prison.  On a desperate night he passes himself off as a frightened American to authorities.  Then left alone in an office he starts calling police departments in America trying to find a doppelganger for himself.  He latches onto Nicholas’ case and before he knows it the FBI is declaring him alive, Nicholas’ sister is on a flight to Spain to bring him home, and to really complicate matters, he looks absolutely nothing like Nicholas.  From there, events become even more outlandish and absolutely, positively true.  Worth watching for the WTF factor.

softlyKilling Them Softly (2012) – Grim, cynical and kind of nasty.  Brad Pitt and director Andrew Dominik seem destined to make offbeat genre movies that rankle audiences by refusing to court favor.  You couldn’t drag people to the duos hypnotic anti-western The Assassination of Jesse James and people were similarly repelled by this one.  Softly is essentially an underworld analogy to the 2008 economic meltdown.  A couple of idiots rob a gangland poker game and the carnage, both economic and human, ensues.  Pitt is a hitman sent to determine where guilt lies and mop up the mess.  Everyone involved in the heist, regardless of intent or degree of guilt, will pay a price.  As a whole the endeavor feels slightly minor and half formed to an extent.  At best it works an homage of sorts to Coen Brothers movies.  They could have killed this thing if they were at peak performance.  It’s just involving enough as a crime movie with scummy characters and amoral types populating its borders.  As slight as it may be the film ends with Pitt giving a bonafide speech which, in just a few short sentences, sums up the nature of America in all its repellent glory.  It’s brilliant.  Going through the rest of the movie to get to it, shortcomings and all, is worth it.

wonderTo the Wonder (2013) -Terence Malick directed The Thin Red Line, The New World and The Tree of Life.  All ambitious and wonderful films but they are all instances of critical love and audience scorn.  If a Malick movie starts with 20 people in the audience at least 6 are going to get up and leave, 4 are going to be mad they stayed, 5 will love it and 5 others will pretend to love it so the person next to them that did love it doesn’t look down on them for not getting it or liking it.  When his movies play in theaters they put up signs telling people they can forget about asking for refunds.  This isn’t The Avengers, deal with it.  Wonder doesn’t live up to Malick’s mostly transcendent body of work, but should none the less illicit the same kind of responses from an audiences at least.  It lacks the grand ambitions that have held up his past efforts and it can’t get past the sensation of being a movie in search of something it can’t quite find.  It’s essentially a relationship drama which floats along, following two people (Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko) as they fall in and out of love.  There are virtually no scenes of dialogue, just the observations of the filmmaker and the thoughts of the characters narrating the pretty cinematography and a sensation of repetitiveness is its biggest crime.  Also, a subplot with Javier Bardem as a spiritually lost priest never much connects with the rest of the film.  Of all of Malick’s movies it’s easily the hardest to defend from its detractors, but I still liked it.  The guy makes pretty movies which delve into a spiritual realm that no one else emulates and few appreciate.  Having Bach on the soundtrack doesn’t hurt either.


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