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  • December 22, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    If your last-minute shopping takes you to Harvard Square and you're looking for some yuletide relief, head over to the Harvard Film Archive's Fourth Annual Vintage Christmas Show. It's a kid-friendly event featuring two hours of shorts including a George Kuchar video diary, some comedy classics, and a murder mystery.

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  • December 20, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    As we arrive at the Mayan deadline for the end of the world, one of our last regrets is that the Coolidge chose Michael Bay's Armageddon (1998) as its @fterMidnite send off. Or maybe not; the gleeful absurdity of the premise (bunch of space jockeys try to detonate deadly asteroid), the explosive special effects, and Ben Affleck's Animal Crackers scene, make this a dumb but entertaining way to spend the end.

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  • December 18, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    The face of foreign cinema, and the icon of suffering beauty and sublime longing, is celebrated at the MFA in "The Cinema of Juliette Binoche." It opens with Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy (2011; 5 pm) and Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors: Blue (1993; 7:15 pm). In the latter she gives what might be her best and most wrenching performance.

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  • December 18, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    After proving himself one of Hollywood's best comic performers in films like Meatballs and Ghostbusters, Bill Murray established himself as one of the screen's most appealing dramatic actors, refining his sardonically tragic persona in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation (2003; 7:15 pm) and Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers (2005; 5 + 9:30 pm).

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  • December 17, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    Cinema genius and convicted pedophile Roman Polanski bounced back from ignominy to film glory with The Pianist (2002), which may be the crowning achievement of his career. He won a Best Director Oscar, and Adrien Brody took Best Actor for his portrayal of real life Jewish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, who evaded capture by the Nazis in occupied Warsaw.

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  • December 16, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    Not a moment too soon comes Terry Zwigoff's sublimely black comic and cynical Bad Santa (2002) to cut through the obligatory holiday cheer and treacle. In it Billy Bob Thornton plays the title role of a department store St. Nick who sidelines as an asshole and a thief. Best movie Santa since Dan Aykroyd donned a beard and a salmon in Trading Places (1983).

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  • December 14, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    What happened to independent cinema? It's alive and well at Focus Features, which has kept the indie torch alive with films such as Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre (2011; noon and 5 pm), Joe Wright's Atonement (2007; 2:30 + 7:30 pm), and Rian Johnson's Brick (2006; 10 pm), all screening Saturday, December 22 at the Brattle as part of their Focus Features 10th Anniversary Retrospective.

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  • December 13, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    Two trademarks of Michelangelo Antonioni's career, obscure plots and visual beauty, reach their peak in his penultimate film, Identification of a Woman (1982). Oh, and beautiful naked women, too. It's got a lot of that.

    Harvard Film Archive, 24 Church St, Cambridge :: Friday, December 14 @ 7 pm :: $9; $7 students, seniors :: 617.

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  • December 12, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    The tony, uppercrust ambiance of Downton Abbey comes to the big screen, as does one of the show's stars, Elizabeth McGovern, in Donald Rice's Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (2012). Set in a British country manor in 1932, it's a drawing-room comedy in which McGovern plays the mother of a bride (Felicity Jones) who is having second thoughts.

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  • December 11, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    Take a look at the giant shoes that Elton John wears as the "Local Lad" singing "Pinball Wizard" in the movie version of Tommy (1975), and you get an idea of what a loss the death of director Ken Russell last year was to the movie world. His joyously kitschy and surreal excess nearly upstages the Who's groundbreaking 1969 rock opera.

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  • December 10, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    Has anyone been paying attention to the rapid approach of the end of the world on December 21, as per the Mayan calendar? The Brattle has, and they're celebrating the impending event with Cinemapocalypse, which screens what they claim to be three of the best doomsday movies ever. It starts with a film we're not sure qualifies, Roland Emmerich's 2012 (2009; 8:30 pm), followed the next day by one we definitely agree belongs on the list, Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995; 4:30, 7, 9:45 pm).

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  • December 09, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    Before his magic act of turning The Dark Knight Rises into cinema gold, Christopher Nolan made The Prestige (2006), the story of two rival magicians in Victorian London and their relationship with wizard Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), the eccentric genius who invented pretty much everything electrical.

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  • December 08, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    It's 1980 in pre-fall-of-the-Wall East Germany, and the eponymous character in Christian Petzold's Barbara (2012), a pediatric surgeon in a backwater hospital, makes plans with her West German beau to escape to freedom. But then there's Horst, the appealing head of her department - is he wooing her or spying on her, or both? Top-notch suspense and melodrama from one of Germany's best directors.

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  • December 07, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    Before his magic act of turning The Dark Knight Rises into cinema gold, Christopher Nolan made The Prestige (2006), the story of two rival magicians in Victorian London and their relationship with wizard Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), the eccentric genius who invented pretty much everything electrical.

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  • December 07, 2012
    By Peter Keough

    It's not as good as George Romero's 1978 original, but it does have Sarah Polley blowing away zombies with a shotgun and one of the last uses of found-footage horror that actually is scary. Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (2004) uses the same premise as Romero - a random group of strangers holed up in a shopping mall fending off hordes of zombies - except here the zombies are superfast and the cultural commentary minimal.

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