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BRICK Finally, here’s a film for everyone who wishes Raymond Chandler wrote a novel set in high school! “Brick” has absolutely nothing going for it besides a gimmick-film noir played by teenagers. CC Village East Cinemas. (Steve Erickson)

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The Mostly Unfabulous Life of Ethan Green Over the last couple of decades, Hollywood has been pillaging comics for content—“Superman,” “Batman,” “X-men.” Heck, they even made “Dick Tracy,” “Popeye,” and “Dennis the Menace.” So it’s about time they tapped the world’s most prolific gay comic strip, “The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green.” The saucy, syndicated strip, which has run in countless alternative publications for nearly 15 years and has spawned a spate of books, is hardly standard popcorn fare. It features an anti-hero, often stripped to his briefs, who’s not only incapable of saving the planet—he has a tough time saving himself. From what, you might ask? Loser hookups, irksome exes, gym bunnies, crystal tweaks, and really dark backrooms, for starters. While looking for love in all the wrong places, Ethan isn’t afraid to get down and dirty, going where no superhero has gone before. Quad Cinema. (David Kennerley)

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A Prairie Home Companion This film is one of the sweetest, most cheerful films Robert Altman has ever made. Paradoxically, it’s also obsessed with death, both figuratively—in the form of a radio show’s last broadcast—and literally. It represents a clash of sensibilities, with screenwriter/star Garrison Keillor—who’s not exactly known for edginess—meeting Altman, whose work has always contained at least a tinge of misanthropy. “A Prairie Home Companion” only dips into his reservoir of mean-spiritedness once, when it suggests that killing off a corporate radio executive would be a good idea. Even so, this is an anti-climactic afterthought that doesn’t change the narrative. As a whole, the film is both old-fashioned and thoroughly modern. (Steve Erickson)

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THE PROPOSITION The fly wranglers who worked on “The Proposition” must have been very busy. This Australian Western is almost all scuzzy atmosphere. Filmed in extreme heat, it captures the desert so vividly that you might start sweating in sympathy. Its male characters’ faces never seem to have felt the touch of a razor blade or washcloth. Hillcoast de-romanticizes the 19th century, cutting off nostalgia at the pass. His film isn’t free of the past’s bonds, though—it owes a major debt to Clint Eastwood and Sam Peckinpah’s revisionist Westerns but seems content to reprise their innovations. Angelika, Brooklyn Heights Cinemas. (Steve Erickson)

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Russian Dolls Xavier, the protagonist of “Russian Dolls,” works on a script for a made-for-TV romance in Paris. His producers tell him to embrace clichés, a request he obliges. “Russian Dolls” mocks the result, staging scenes from the teleplay in overwrought soap opera style. Unfortunately, “Russian Dolls,” directed by Cédric Klapisch, isn’t much superior to its object of ridicule. Its own ideas about love and Generation X are pretty trite. IFC Center, Lincoln Plaza. (Steve Erickson)

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TWO DRIFTERS “Two Drifters,” Portuguese writer/director João Pedro Rodrigues’ follow up to his feature debut “O Fantasma,” continues to address the filmmaker’s obsessions regarding love and sex—as well as loneliness and fantasy—with the same hypnotic quality of the previous film. If this drama is not as fiercely erotic as “O Fantasma,” it is because the filmmaker has more on his mind than the sexual gratification of the characters—even though that is integral to the story. While some viewers may feel “Two Drifters” strains credibility—the main characters’ behavior is often inexplicable, making it difficult at times to care about them or become fully involved in the action—anyone willing to make the leap of faith the filmmaker asks will find this film quite powerful. Rodrigues may have issues with character and narrative, but he films “Two Drifters” beautifully, with terrific use of color and lighting, and he coaxes a compelling performance from the sexy Nuno Gil, who makes his character’s despair palpable. Quad. (Gary Kramer)

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WASSUP ROCKERS “Wassup Rockers” may be highly flawed, but it’s a major step forward for Larry Clark. For once, he effectively conveys the ecstasy that skateboarding represents for his characters. The punk soundtrack is well used. Clark’s examination of inter-minority tensions may be blunt—and some may be offended by his depiction of almost all African-Americans as gun-waving gangstas, although rich whites take the brunt of his ridicule—but it’s far superior to the facile ironies and Screenwriting 101 gimmicks of Paul Haggis’ “Crash.” As it progresses, “Wassup Rockers” grows increasingly cartoonish, but the thrill of its final homecoming is very real. Without abandoning his tendency to objectify teenage bodies, Clark has foregone sensationalism in favor of wit—far more successfully than his previous attempts, when he seemed to be laughing at his characters—and a palpable respect for his protagonists and the actors who play them. He still has a long way to go, but “Wassup Rockers” leads me to believe that his films might one day match the quality of his photos. Angelika. (Steve Erickson)

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Who Killed the Electric Car? As its title suggests, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” is a whodunit. Delving into the electric car’s short life as a commodity, it raises a host of other issues, particularly regarding the effectiveness of marketing and the ease of manipulating America’s “free market.” It’s also extremely optimistic. Lurking beneath its eco-outrage is a vision of car culture free from pollution and dependence on foreign oil. “Who Killed the Electric Car?” celebrates the battery-powered vehicles’ speed and sleek design, imagining how they could have finally delivered on the mythic promise always implicit in cars with much fewer negative consequences. Angelika. (Steve Erickson)

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WORDPLAY “Wordplay,” which centers on the American Crossword Puzzle tournament in Stamford, CT, presents us with a plethora of interesting characters, all who seem to get a sheer joy out of crossword-puzzling. There is an ambitious frat-boy, a dedicated dad, an openly gay man living happily with his partner, and a baton-twirling editor from New York City. If somehow you are so cold-hearted as to shun even all of those characters as they work their way to try to finish the tournament, the film also has interviews with even more charismatic crossword enthusiasts such as Bill Clinton, Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina, and a particularly enthusiastic Jon Stewart who keeps on exhorting Will Shortz to “bring it on.” IFC Center, Lincoln Plaza, BAM Rose Cinemas, AMC Empire 25, Clearview’s Beekman One & Two. (Nick Feitel)

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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