“Kumbh Mela #1, Haridwar, India,” 2010, by Edward Burtynsky. Millions of Indians bathe in a river for the Maha Kumbh Mela religious pilgrimage.

Review: 'Watermark' is an immersive experience in global water use

If "Watermark" does nothing else, it will make you question society's contradictory view of water use. The clear liquid is as essential to human life as it is threatened, yet we don't seem to be able to do what it takes to make sure it stays available enough to keep us alive.

As co-directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky, "Watermark" is a kind of companion piece to the pair's earlier "Manufactured Landscapes," which looked at how new industrial structures are transforming the face of the planet.

Joined this time by expert cinematographer Nicholas de Pencier (who notes in the press material that none of his cameras fell in the water, though he himself did a few times), "Watermark" is most memorable for its elegant, eye-widening 5K ultra-high-definition video visuals that astonish by showing us the world in a particularly immersive way.

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Given co-director Burtynsky's career as an accomplished photographer, this visual focus is no...

Woody Allen, left, and John Turturro star in  "Fading Gigolo."

Review: 'Fading Gigolo' is funny, touching

Perhaps at some point it will again be possible to write the name Woody Allen and go from there. But after a year marked by artistic highs and controversial lows for the filmmaker, it seems impossible. To address the elephant in the room, all you'll find on the docket today is a look at "Fading Gigolo," an amusing indie film that includes some of Allen's finest work as an actor in years.

Written and directed not by Allen but John Turturro, "Fading Gigolo" is something of a tart meditation on romance and morality through the prism of the oldest profession. Artful, insightful and at times very, very funny, much of its wry humor is due to Allen, who co-stars opposite Turturro.

"Gigolo" deals with the Orthodox life, in a literal sense, and the unorthodox, in a more conceptual way, exploring the dynamics between love, sex and emotional need in both. It plays out in a modest Hasidic house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and a tony Park Avenue high-rise, and would not have happened if Murray's...

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies: Author inspired many films, to mixed results

The late author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died Thursday at age 87, was best known as a Nobel Prize-winning novelist and pioneer of the genre known as magical realism. But the prolific Colombian writer also had ties to the movies.

Marquez's work inspired numerous film adaptations, and he wrote a handful of screenplays as well. The onetime journalist even penned movie reviews.

Somewhat ironically for an author known for his vivid, visual prose, Marquez's work often proved difficult to translate to the big screen, with resulting films rarely living up to their source material.

In a 1981 interview in the Paris Review, Marquez was asked if he thought any books could be successfully translated to the screen. "I can't think of any one film that improved on a good novel, but I can think of many good films that came from very bad novels," he replied.

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Adding that he once wanted to be a movie director, Marquez said, "I felt that...

A scene from "Short Peace," an anthology of four animated shorts by four different Japanese filmmakers.

Review: Japanese animation in 'Short Peace' communicates vividly

Katsuhiro Otomo's uneven but often dazzling anthology feature "Short Peace" reminds viewers of the untapped visual potential of animation.

Although Otomo is best known as the creator of the dystopian feature "Akira," he oversaw two previous collection films: "Robot Carnival" (1987) and "Memories" (1995). For "Short Peace," he and three other directors each created a short film in a personal visual style that suited its story. Although three of the sections draw on Japanese history and folklore, the only element tying the segments together is their individuality.

"Short Peace" opens with Shuhei Morita's "Possessions," which was nominated for the Oscar for animated short this year. An itinerant tinker takes refuge from a storm in a remote shrine only to be attacked by tsukomogamiumbrellas, bowls and other household objects that have acquired souls after 100 years of use. These humble objects resent being thrown away after decades of loyal service: "Use and dispose," chants a frog-like...


Review: 'Transcendence' rises above the sci-fi genre

Though its plot and premise are pure science fiction, "Transcendence" goes pleasingly against the genre grain.

A story of the possible perils and pleasures of artificial intelligence that stars Johnny Depp, "Transcendence's" ideas are at least as involving as its images, if not more so. And as written by Jack Paglen and directed by Wally Pfister, this film is intent on not limiting itself to simplistic questions of pure good and evil.

As "Transcendence's" narrative of the battle between pro and anti-technology forces unfolds, justice is done to the complicated factors at play here. Determining with certainty whom the heroes and villains of this narrative are is not so easily done.

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Though Pfister is well-known as Christopher Nolan's longtime cinematographer (nominated for four Oscars, a winner for "Inception"), both he and screenwriter Paglen are first-timers in their respective chairs, and there are times when that shows....

Kristin Wiig  and Guy Pearce star in "Hateship Loveship."

Review: 'Hateship Loveship' founders on weak emotional center

For Helen Hunt it was "As Good as It Gets." For Jennifer Aniston it was "The Good Girl." For Bill Murray, "Lost in Translation." The films that settled whether actors adept at comedy could be as affecting in drama.

You can sense that question hanging over "Hateship Loveship" and Kristen Wiig's wistful performance as the quintessential caregiver, Johanna Parry. While there are suggestions that the actress might be able to find her way to a darker emotional center, the film leaves only hints of an answer.

There is not the sure-footedness of co-stars Nick Nolte, Hailee Steinfeld and particularly Guy Pearce. Nor the ease you see in her comedy through the many characters she developed during her long run on "Saturday Night Live" or the nuance, surprising and unexpected, she brought to "Bridesmaids."

It's not that Wiig doesn't measure up, but the way the movie implodes around her.

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Drawn from the first short story...

Stephen Rea in the movie "Tasting Menu."

Review: 'Tasting Menu' leaves audience hungry for meatier night out

Given that "Tasting Menu" is set at a foodie mecca on Spain's Costa Brava, it would be reasonable to expect healthy portions of food porn along with the romantic comedy. But director Roger Gual presents little in the way of tantalizing culinary visuals, and that leaves the paper-thin characters as the main course.

Even with such fine actors as Fionnula Flanagan and Stephen Rea in the ensemble, the Spanish-Irish co-production is a flavorless affair that has all the bite of a dining room-bound episode of "The Love Boat."

The screenplay by Gual and Javier Calvo moves among an international assortment of high rollers and connoisseurs on the closing night of a cutting-edge eatery. It's nice to see a female chef (Vicenta N'Dongo) at the helm, but she turns out to be peripheral to the soap opera of missed messages and mistaken identities.

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It revolves around a married couple (Jan Cornet and Claudia Bassols), together again after months of...

A scene from the movie "Poseidon Rex."

Review: 'Poseidon Rex' falls short of 'Sharknado' ambitions

The natural-disaster B-movie "Poseidon Rex" would fit perfectly in the SyFy programming lineup had it boasted the likes of Tara Reid and John Heard of "Sharknado." With a cast of unknowns, the most logical distribution avenue for it would be — theatrical?

The title says it all: The centerpiece of "Poseidon Rex" is an amphibian variety of Tyrannosaurus rex that terrorizes people off the coast of Belize. But can it swim? Has it developed an appetite for neoprene wet suits? Does anyone care?

In spite of what their wooden expressions and monotonous voices may suggest, the characters know it all. Unfazed by the revival of an extinct prehistoric species as if it were routine, they even manage to squeeze in some sexy time in the face of imminent danger.

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Screenwriter Rafael Jordan and director Mark Lester unnecessarily embrangle the film with irrelevant subplots involving local thugs, treasure hunters and lost Mayan gold. The gangsters barge in on what...

Christopher Meloni (Al Klein), Devon Bostick (Freddy Klein) and Dean Norris (Ash Martini) in "Small Time."

Review: In 'Small Time,' the salesmen make a pitch for your heart

Don't let the title of this indie gem fool you, "Small Time" has humor and heart big time.

The first feature film from veteran TV writer Joel Surnow, co-creator of the Fox drama series "24," which will "Live Another Day" starting in May, takes us back to the '70s and the summer after high school graduation that Surnow spent with his dad, a small-time salesman.

With that as a loose starting point, Surnow has gone completely fictional in wonderfully warm ways. Most of the movie unfolds on the one used-car lot in California that I promise you will come to love. It's run by two middle-aged rascals, Al Klein (Christopher Meloni) and Ash Martini (Dean Norris), who could, as the modified saying goes, sell ice to Alaskans.

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It is fitting that "Small Time" opens by giving us a taste of Al and Ash's selling style, although shtick is probably more on point.

Here's the scene: Late night on the deserted lot. Rich kid tries to boost a cool...

Baroness von Wagner with her two lovers: Robert Philippson, left, and Rudolf Lorenz.

Review: 'The Galapagos Affair' unveils a wild time on the islands

Start with a sex-mad baroness and her frisky ménage à trois. Add in a stern German philosopher who fancied himself the next Friedrich Nietzsche, his mistress and a married couple who wanted a wholesome Swiss Family Robinson experience for their son. Throw them all together on one of the remotest spots on Earth and simmer until things come to a steamy boil. You couldn't make this stuff up, and, as a lively new documentary reports, you don't have to.

"The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden" tells a humdinger of a story about wild doings on those celebrated islands off the coast of Ecuador. As directed by Danya Goldfine and Dan Geller, this captivating tale is pure pulp fiction that has the advantage of actually having happened.

It was 1998 when Goldfine and Geller, whose documentaries include the excellent "Ballets Russes," stumbled on this 1930s story, a tale much told back in the day, with men's magazines running stories with headlines like "The Insatiable Baroness Who Created a...

The poster image for "Kid Cannabis."

Review: 'Kid Cannabis' shows high and low life of a pot dealer

Another get-rich-quick scheme goes awry in the energetic and involving "Kid Cannabis," based on the true story of young Nate Norman, who briefly was a kind of Jordan Belfort of weed.

The film, which begins in 2005, finds high school dropout and pizza-delivering pothead Norman (Jonathan Daniel Brown) living with his working-class single mom (Amanda Tapping) and kid brother (Mark Hills) in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. But one day, he realizes a way out of his family's economic dead end: smuggling pot across the nearby Canadian border and selling it in his scenic hometown of haves and have-nots.

With the help of best bud Topher (Kenny Wormald), a specialty pot grower (John C. McGinley), a mysterious Israeli drug dealer (Ron Perlman, excellent) and a ragtag crew of townies, the enterprising Norman shrewdly — sometimes luckily — eludes lawmen and other obstacles to build an efficient, massively profitable weed-running business. The pudgy, bespectacled Norman is soon swept up in a...



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