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" Hey, don’t eat that — it’s Pluto "
— Chad Christ (young vincent), Gattaca

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 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.

Spellbound

***1/22003, Jeffrey Blitz Jeffrey Blitz

The movie’s great achievement is that it captures a broad cross-section of America

The mother of one of the spellers in Jeffrey Blitz’s documentary joked that spelling bees are just another form of child abuse. As a former speller myself, I couldn’t agree more. When I won my junior high bee, the runner-up exploded at the indignity and unfairness of it all. She, like so many kids, placed too much importance on the competition.

A Mighty Heart

***1/22007, Michael Winterbottom

Jolie’s best performance, and movie, since Girl, Interrupted

In A Mighty Heart, Angelina Jolie finally proves her Oscar win wasn’t a fluke. This is her best performance — and best movie — since Girl, Interrupted.

Stalin’s Bride

***1/21991, Péter Bascó

How Parana the idiot becomes Stalin’s “fiancee” is humorous and tragic

Parana is an idiot. By “idiot” I don’t mean a fool or an affable, bumbling Forrest Gump. No, she’s a full-blown, filthy, barefoot, sack-wearing, eye-rolling, Village Idiot with a capital ‘VI.’ She’s of the classic Russian variety you have to go to a Dostoyevsky novel to see these days. And her teeth... don’t even get me started. How she comes to be Stalin’s “fiancee” is the humorous and tragic tale told in Stalin’s Bride, the 1990 Hungarian film by director Peter Basco.

Splash

***1/21984, Ron Howard

For a movie made 20 years ago, Splash has aged wonderfully

Before Splash, everyone thought of Ron Howard as “Opie Cunningham” from his television acting days on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days; Tom Hanks was just some guy who was on an obscure sitcom called Bosom Buddies; and Disney was a fading studio on life support. Splash could not have come at a better time for all three, as illustrated in Touchstone Video’s 20th anniversary edition of the movie.