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Cinefiles

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The Other Woman

Incentive Filmed Entertainment/IFC Films

It is one of the all-time great cinematic curiosities that Natalie Portman arrived on movie screens as a preteen actress of startling naturalism and maturity in 1994's The Professional, yet has only grown more robotic and juvenile with each passing year. Aside from her impressive Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan, Portman has been hitting career lows in dreck like No Strings Attached, Your Highness and now Don Roos' mercifully shelved 2009 feature The Other Woman. Portman plays the grieving, much-younger second wife to a bland lawyer, and she unenthusiastically chews each line like a visiting space alien who had human emotions explained to her just seconds before the "Action!" call. The sloppy and indulgent script repeats all of the sins of Chris Columbus' disgusting tear-napper Stepmom, except without the fun of rooting for Susan Sarandon to die. — Daniel Barnes

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Mao's Last Dancer (PG)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Ever notice how there's no movies about people trying to defect to communist countries? There's a good reason for that, and Australian director Bruce Beresford's masterful biopic of Chinese ballet dancer Li Cunxin pounds this idea home with a movie that's as much a testimony to American freedom as it is the story of an artist desiring the freedom to dance his own way. Chosen as a child by the communist government to be trained as a dancer, Cunxin tires of performing political ballets, favoring instead the classical storytelling he sees on bootleg tapes of Baryshnikov. He eventually makes his way to Houston and becomes a star, marrying a local woman in an effort to stay in the United States and creating an international incident along the way. It's a powerful, emotional true story of the fight for individuality against all odds. — Louis Fowler

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I Saw the Devil (NR)

Magnolia Home Entertainment

From South Korean director Kim Jee-Woon comes the best thriller of the year, a staggeringly original take on the serial-killer movie. Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) roams the countryside, killing with no rhyme or reason. When he slaughters a pregnant woman, her fiancée, special agent Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-Hun), takes two weeks off to hunt and torture the monster, almost becoming a monster himself in the process. Soo-hyun toys with Kyung-chul, but the depth of the killer's depravity is seriously underestimated, with the tables turning and the story twisting at a lightning pace. I'd compare it to Se7en, but Kim doesn't flinch where David Fincher did. Devil is disturbingly realistic in its depictions of violence, filmed in a way that only the most ardent viewers of, say, The Faces of Death series could handle. But don't let that stop you. — Louis Fowler

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