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Los Angeles Film Festival 2011 Preview 

Thursday, Jun 16 2011
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TYRANNOSAUR Written and directed by actor Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur traverses well-trod territory — a damaged old crank brought to redemption by an angelic female savior — without offering much in the way of invention. Peter Mullan plays Joseph, an elderly vandal who kicks his own dog to death. Hannah (Olivia Colman) is the religious shop owner who prays for his soul while fighting to escape her monstrous husband (Eddie Marsan). A color palette inspired by the low-hanging Leeds sky enhances a lingering sense of doom. Virtually hopeless and brutal for brutality's sake, the film does feature multifaceted performances by Mullan and Colman, and careful direction by Considine, all of whom won prizes at Sundance for their work. (S.L.)

GO  UNFINISHED SPACES In 1961, Fidel Castro asked three architects to design a complex of buildings to house Cuba's new National Art Schools. Inspired by the feeling of freedom in the air, the chosen designers set out to create structures that would embody the utopian ethics of the revolution. And then the ethics of the revolution changed, and construction was halted indefinitely. The unfinished buildings still stand, a reminder of the lost promise of the '60s, and of how the ideals that fueled that era soured once given practical application. Composed primarily of archival footage and candid interviews with the now-aged architects, Spaces gets flabby as it goes on, but it's still a fascinating example of a nation's evolution told through the life of a single art project. (K.L.)

UNRAVELED In 2009, attorney Marc Dreier admitted to forgeries that netted his law firm more than $750 million. Directed by former Dreier employee Marc Simon, Unraveled investigates the strange mix of hubris and low self-esteem that drives people with enormous amounts of money to do incredibly stupid things. Under house arrest in his Manhattan apartment, Dreier narrates his own rise and fall through interviews interspersed with graphic-novel-style re-enactments of his crimes, an odd directorial choice that verges on distracting. Simon's stated goal is for audiences to understand Dreier on his own terms, so Dreier, his son and his lawyers constitute the film's entire cast. The absence of input from others involved and a lack of compelling visual footage detract from this otherwise mesmerizing glimpse inside the mind of a white-collar thief. (S.L.)

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WISH ME AWAY This confessional documentary looks at the country music world from a new angle: the closet. Directors Bobbie Berleffi and Beverly Kopf relay Chely Wright's long, painful process of coming out as the first openly gay country singer, and subsequently going from mainstay of the Nashville-centric scene to pariah. Archival footage of Wright's public life is backed with intimate voice-over in which she recalls private agonies: the dissolution of relationships, acts of deflection and repression, and a near-suicide attempt with a loaded gun. Betraying a need to be liked that hasn't left her even as she's gained a renewed sense of self, the image Wright leaves is of a woman tiptoeing in and out of the spotlight, hoping to reconcile her star persona with her true self. (M.N.)

GO  WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM They come from lower-class families in rural northern Michigan, or so illustrates Heather Courtney's eye-opening and riveting, four-years-in-the-making doc portrait of childhood friends who decide to join the National Guard after high school to escape dead-end futures. The pragmatic belief is that college tuition and signing bonuses are worth deployment to Afghanistan, but Courtney avoids the maddening obviousness of that bitter socioeconomic truth through humanity and understatement. We candidly see how the battlefields wear down these wartime neophytes into apathetic, even misanthropic shells of their former selves; the relatable emotional shades from their nervous families also are colored in. Never heavy-handed, intrusively stylized or wagging its finger at foreign-policy hypocrisies we've all heard before, the film's greatest heartbreak is showing how the only way for some to survive on the home front is to continually risk permanent injury overseas. (A.H.)

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