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Charles Taylor

Peering into Munoz’s Hitchcockian Thriller, “What You See In The Dark.” (photo)

Peering into Munoz’s Hitchcockian Thriller, “What You See In The Dark.”

The title of Manuel Munoz’s first novel, “What You See in the Dark,” refers, among other things, to that act of unashamed voyeurism called moviegoing. At the heart of Munoz’s novel, set in Bakersfield, California, in 1959, are the preparations for the making of “Psycho,” which would come out the next year. Munoz understands Hitchcock’s […]

Deconstructing Angelina Jolie (photo)

Deconstructing Angelina Jolie

Is there a movie star that the public is more wary of than Angelina Jolie? Tom Cruise has become the punchline to an overextended joke. But bring up Jolie in conversation and you’re apt to hear something like fear. Beneath the complaints about how weird she is, or the desperate claims she’s not that beautiful […]

The Blind Spot (photo)

The Blind Spot

“God save us from the good intentions of well-meaning white liberals.” That was Morgan Freeman years ago at the press junket for “Driving Miss Daisy” explaining to some concerned Caucasian that, no, it wasn’t retrograde to depict an elderly black character in the American South of the ’50s and ’60s not acting like Huey Newton. […]

Hollywood’s Femme Fatality Rate (photo)

Hollywood’s Femme Fatality Rate

In the mid-’70s, when women (among them Claudia Weill, Joan Micklin Silver, Joan Darling) were getting the chance to direct mainstream movies, Pauline Kael cautioned against expecting great things right away. Filmmakers needed a chance to learn and develop, she said, and there was always a chance they might not, or might simply become proficient […]

The Naughts: The Romantic Pair of the ’00s (photo)

The Naughts: The Romantic Pair of the ’00s

    I knew what she looked like by heart this time.     That scrap of newspaper she was on should     have been worn ragged by now, the number of     times I’d pulled it out and looked at it when I     was alone in the place.         — Cornell Woolrich, “The Black Angel” It’s the fear as much as […]

Bad Boys Grow Up (photo)

Bad Boys Grow Up

Let’s start with a few images: A psycho jive artist dancing around as he cuts a man’s ear off. A retired bullfighter slumped in front of a television set, masturbating furiously to slasher movies. Scenes like those, from Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” and Pedro Almodóvar’s “Matador,” pretty much secured the bad-boy reputations of their creators. […]

Knocked Down, Then Dragged Out (photo)

Knocked Down, Then Dragged Out

Despite all the terrible publicity Mike Tyson has gotten over the years, I’ve never forgotten seeing him nearly two decades ago on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” walking out to surprise Muhammad Ali. When Hall asked who’d win if they got into the ring, Ali pointed to Tyson. Tyson, shaking his head said, “I know I’m […]

State of Decline (photo)

State of Decline

It’s a measure of the smarts at work in “State of Play” that while none of the characters’ motives are clean, the movie never lapses into cynicism. This tense, cleanly made thriller, directed by Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”), plays off the faux scandals of the Clinton years (the Lewinsky affair) and the […]

Maul Cop (photo)

Maul Cop

Even if the early buzz around Jody Hill’s “Observe and Report” weren’t grouping it with “The Cable Guy,” the comparison would be obvious. Like that film, “Observe and Report” is said to be a “dark” comedy. In this case that means that calculated outrageousness, brutalism presented for laughs and easy cynicism passes for daring. When […]

The Land of Opportunity (photo)

The Land of Opportunity

To college students graduating into the nightmare of the current job market, the floating, companionable uncertainty of “Adventureland” must look very agreeable. Greg Mottola’s gentle comedy is set mostly in a Pittsburgh amusement park during the summer of 1987. The hero, James (Jesse Eisenberg), was expecting to spend the season traveling around Europe. But money […]