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Outsourced

When a company selling crappy Americana items moves its customer call center to India, the manager (Josh Hamilton) must relocate to get the operation up and running. John Jeffcoat’s 2006 feature is a sweet if predictable variation on the premise of the ugly American, redeemed by Hamiton’s dry performance, some nice comic turns by the […]

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Hellboy II: The Golden Army

In Guillermo del Toro’s sequel to his Hellboy (2004), the big red guy (Ron Perlman) tries to thwart a renegade elfin prince (Luke Goss) who plans to violate a long-standing truce with mankind by resurrecting a dormant army of gigantic metal warriors. Del Toro’s previous film, the complex, visually arresting Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), demonstrated his […]

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A Four Letter Word

Gay filmmakers are faced with the challenge of creating something with broad appeal that won’t turn away their core audience; with his second feature, writer-director Casper Andreas (Slutty Summer) acquits himself honorably. Jesse Archer stars as Luke, a sex-shop employee who revels in drunken one-night stands until he meets Stephen (Charlie David), an artist who […]

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Cocalero

From the outset of this 2007 documentary, first-time director Alejandro Landes has a difficult time keeping up with his subject, Evo Morales, during the final 60 days of his successful bid to become Bolivia’s first fully indigenous president. A socialist with strong anti-American leanings, Morales owed his political ascent to the grassroots movement of Bolivia’s […]

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Farewell Darkness

This grim, locally produced drama stars Keith Compton as an embittered marine just returned home to Chicago after four years of fighting in Iraq. Besides several improbable developments—including the main character picking up where he left off with his girlfriend after four years of silence—director Daniel J. Pico, who also cowrote the screenplay, fails to […]

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The Forbidden Kingdom

Pairing Jackie Chan and Jet Li would seem like a slam dunk, but this big-budget martial arts drama, which borrows liberally from The Wizard of Oz, is something of a disappointment. Michael Angarano costars as a young man who discovers an ancient Chinese staff while looking for vintage kung fu videos at a pawnshop. During […]

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My Mexican Shiva

After a free-spirited Jewish patriarch drops dead during a party, his friends and family come together to sit shivah over him but spend much of their time complaining about his roguish ways. This ribald Mexican comedy (2006) by writer-director Alejandro Springall uses the seven days of shivah to launch a series of hilariously escalating confrontations, […]

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Mr. President

Adapted from a classic novel by Miguel Angel Asturias, this brutal Venezuelan political drama (2007) examines how fear and corruption trickle down into all strata of society. In an unnamed Latin American country a malevolent president eradicates enemies both real and imagined while romance improbably blooms between his aide and the daughter of an exiled […]

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To Life

In this wistful 2007 debut feature by Shai Agosin, a Mexican photographer (the sultry Ana Serradilla) visits her native Chile to settle some long-standing grievances with her estranged, 80-year-old father. But the young woman’s restless, impulsive sexuality pulls her into an affair with the local rabbi (Francisco Melo), a married man who is also her […]

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The Favor

A mild-mannered pet photographer (Frank Wood) reconnects with his high school sweetheart (Paige Turco) after she moves back to their hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey, to care for her ailing father. When she’s killed in a freak accident, the photographer decides to become foster parent to her troubled 16-year-old son (Ryan Donowho), who immediately wreaks […]

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Manuela and Manuel

Humberto Busto plays the title drag queen, who finds solace from a recent breakup in the elaborate stage numbers he performs at a local nightclub. When his best friend gets pregnant, Manuel agrees to marry her, not realizing that one of his admirers at the club is her hidebound father. There’s an underlying sadness and […]

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The Earl

Based on a one-act by Brett Neveu, this violent farce takes place at night in an empty factory, where three brothers take turns bashing each other with a crowbar in a game whose convoluted rules are known only to them. Director Jim Sikora, who’s explored the gritty aspects of Chicago in indie dramas like Bullet […]

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Santouri: The Music Man

Veteran Iranian filmmaker Dariush Mehrjui, a central figure in that country’s film new wave, cowrote and directed this raw, agonizing study of a talented musician’s descent into heroin addiction and personal ruin, including the abandonment of his wife. It’s a credit to Mehrjui’s estimable talent that he renders a potentially hackneyed subject in a fresh […]