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" There’s no god in here. "
— Joaquin Phoenix, Return to Paradise

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.

The Hills Have Eyes

***2006, Alexandre Aja

A good subtext can make a horror movie good

I learned to appreciate horror films in college. I’m not a huge fan of the genre, but I was pleased to learn that some film scholars take horror movies very seriously, and that many of the best have a subtext that’s more interesting than many straight-ahead dramas. A good subtext isn’t a prerequisite for a good scare, but it’s one of the things that can make a horror movie really good.

Manufactured Landscapes

***1/22006, Jennifer Baichwal

Marvel at the sheer size of human industry (or is that human folly?)

Decreasing poverty is good for the human race. But increasing wealth and industrialization aren’t cost-free. Manufactured Landscapes presents a visual record of some those costs: mountains of garbage, denuded mountains, and dense populations of dehumanized factory workers.

Il Divo

***2008, Paolo Sorrentino

A smart political film, a fascinating villainous politician

Political power doesn’t have to be corrupt to enjoy the benefits of corruption. It just has to know how to wink.

The Big Short

***1/2

Takes a dry subject and makes it entertaining.

The Big Short takes a dry subject and makes it entertaining, while also making an aching acknowledgment of the real damage done.

The Peanut Butter Falcon

***1/22019, Tyler Nilson, and Michael Schwartz

It’s the movie’s heart which ultimately makes Peanut Butter Falcon take flight.

The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of those small, off-the-radar movies that deserves to be seen.

So Wrong They’re Right

***2005, Russ Forster, and Dan Sutherland

Focuses on oddball “trackers,” those who refuse to let go of the obsolete 8 Track tapes

Rivaling the Trekkies films for presenting oddball, geeky people in all their resplendent glory and bathing in their utter, unabashed nerdiness, So Wrong They’re Right focuses on “trackers,” those who refuse to let go of the obsolete 8 Track tape format.

Paperboys

***2001, Mike Mills

A portrait of adolescent American males at the turn of the century

Paperboys are surely becoming rare in this country as circulations decline and more newspapers prefer to have adults to deliver their product. Filmmaker Mike Mills provides a 40-minute glimpse into this dying breed when he looks at the lives of six paperboys in Stillwater, MN.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

***2014, Wes Anderson

Whrilwind storytelling leaves the emotional core behind

Director Wes Anderson has a style all his own. If you know it (from films like Moonrise Kingdom and The Darjeeling Limited), and if you like it, you will be happy to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. But for this former Wes Anderson skeptic, it’s not his strongest work.

Mafioso

***1962, Alberto Lattuada

Try to connect the movie’s two parts: the spry comedy and the deadly serious piece of Mafia business

Rialto Pictures has been finding and restoring lost “classics” for ten years. Some are better than others, and I hesitate to use the word “classic” for any but the best of the best of them. But it is thanks in part to Rialto that there are new old movies at the art houses and on DVD.

Half Brothers

***2020, Luke Greenfield

The movie manages to rather deftly maintain a tone-morphing trick from start to finish.

Half Brothers packs enough heart and food for thought to make the road trip comedy’s occasional potholes a little less jarring.

Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World

***1/22014, Belinda Sallin

The perfect fan-film

Dark Star is the perfect fan-film. It hits all the right notes, origins and highlights of the Swiss graphic artist H.R. Giger without getting entangled in any messy meanings of his dark airbrushed artwork or insight into the man himself. If you did not know who he was, this film would leave you wondering, “Who is this strange sad man?”

Project Greenlight/Stolen Summer

***1/22002, Pete Jones

Project Greenlight is a fascinating documentary of the process of making a movie

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon started a screenplay contest in which the prize would be a million dollar budget and studio support for making a movie. In return, Miramax gets an award-winning script, a cheap movie, lots of publicity, and a 12-part reality-TV show called Project Greenlight.

Stolen Summer, the film that came out of this project, only played in selected cities. And since not everyone has HBO, it was easy to miss both the movie and the TV program. Now Miramax is releasing both in a single, 4-disc set called Project Greenlight.

Oz the Great and Powerful

***2013, Sam Raimi

A great and powerful movie is buried in there, somewhere under the rainbow.

This Oz isn’t great and powerful – it’s more like grate and pictorial.