It's hard to know just yet how the Great Recession has shaped our cultural landscape, but we can certainly discern a few trends. In the past four years, audiences have largely sought mindless escapism at the movies (ahem, Transformers), while a brave few stoically faced reality with financial meltdown-themed pics like Margin Call, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, and Inside Job. Splitting the difference between these two poles is the spate of recent films and TV shows about down-and-out losers finding pluck and uplift in sex work. This trend includes Magic MikeThe Girlfriend Experience, HungThe Client List, and this week's For a Good Time, Call...

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Lawless, starring Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce and Shia LaBeouf, is a violent depiction of that wild moment when the Great Depression and the Prohibition era intersected. Set in a remote Virginia backwater that feels as far from Civilization and the rule of law as the moon, it's full of the hypocrisy that stems from illegalizing something everyone wants. It also nails the way people desperately needed heroes, particularly those who love sticking it to the Man (whoever the local Man happens to be).

That period from 1919 to the beginning of World War II was crazy. Nazis, Fascists, all that prewar scary stuff happened, of course, but closer to home, America spent nearly two decades turning people into criminals.

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With the Republican National Convention kicking off in Tampa, Florida this week, and the Democratic Convention to follow, plus surprise sleeper hit 2016: Obama's America, we're shifting gears to look back at the box office performances of political documentaries.

Catching many in the industry offguard, 2016: Obama's America successfully expanded into wide release this past weekend, pulling $6.5 million from 1,091 theaters across the nation. The weekend take bumped its total gross to $9.4 million and pushes it ahead of Rocky Mountain Pictures' previous political documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which grossed $7.7 million during its run back in 2008.

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With three thrillers in three months—The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush and Looper—Joseph Gordon-Levitt is determined to turn himself into an action star. And why not: he's taller than Sylvester Stallone. But these days, young action stars are rare—most on-screen grenade-throwers are closer to Stallone's age than Gordon-Levitt's. Who are today's new crop of he-men and he-woman, and who among them might pull off the physical transition? We rank the seven top contenders from least to most promising.

Taylor Kitsch
All three of his 2012 efforts—Savages, Battleship, and John Carter—were critical and/or financial disappointments, crushing Kitsch's momentum from TV's Friday Night Lights.

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Five-Minute Film Guide: Every Indie Film Opening August 24th

Add Comment on August 24, 2012 by Sara Maria Vizcarrondo

The OKC Thunder's Kevin Durant, the greatest player on the NBA's greatest team, stars in THUNDERSTRUCK, what's sure to be the greatest movie of all time


Some jokes are funny because they're true, others because they're absurd. But comedian Mike Birbiglia's favorite jokes about his sleepwalking habit are as absurd as they are true, so he made this film with the help of Ira Glass from NPR's This American Life. As much a documentary about a man facing ...

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The new film Sleepwalk With Me, written, co-directed, and starring Mike Birbiglia, is that rare breed of films about stand-up comedians: one that's actually funny. Birbiglia mines laughter from the very serious worries plaguing his autobiographical character—anxieties about his stagnant career, his stalled relationship, and his increasingly perilous somnambulism. While television allows comedians to be funny, usually in the guise of wisecracking everymen (and very occasionally everywomen), the movies tend to be drawn to the pathos and pathology behind the jokes. (It's telling that only about half of cinema's comedian characters are actually played by comedians—the other half are embodied by dramatic actors.

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Marjane Satrapi was already a successful graphic novelist when she made Persepolis, a stylistically sparse animated feature based on her own books. That autobiography of her adolescence during Iran's turbulent '80s used cultural signposts like punk rock to bring a vibrancy to her troubled childhood, and was striking enough to score a nomination for Best Animated Film at the Oscars. Satrapi's newest, Chicken with Plums is a period piece about yearning for a love and a homeland long lost, and is awash in high pedigree Francophilia. Mathieu Almeric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Quantum of Solace) plays a successful musician tied to a loving wife forced upon him by his mother, and children he considers strangers.

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