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KINSEY (2004). Professor Alfred C. Kinsey's controversial research on human sexuality formed the foundation for his 1948 bestseller Sexual Behavior In the Human Male, and the ramifications of his groundbreaking work are still being felt - and refuted - today. Kinsey, then, is an exploration of the life and times of this complex individual, a man whose outrageous career choices were often at odds with the rather square nature by which he presented himself. The facts and rumors surrounding Kinsey made him a constant target of the religious right, who - as we're presently being reminded on a daily basis - are only satisfied when all Americans are ideologically marching lockstep to their own narrow-minded principles. Kinsey therefore emerges not only as a movie about another time but as a movie about our time, a reminder that progress can only be made when someone's willing to step up to the plate and challenge conformity and complacency. The picture makes no apologies for its subject's often infuriating behavior - for that, credit both writer-director Bill Condon and Liam Neeson, whose marvelous performance in the central role was one of last year's finest. Condon's Gods and Monsters presented Frankenstein director James Whale as tragically flawed yet allowed us a look at those personal demons that all too often defined his very being; likewise, Kinsey pulls back the covers with similar aplomb, exposing its subject even as it hopes to reveal some naked truths about ourselves. Incidentally, Laura Linney earned a Best Supporting Oscar nomination as Kinsey's wife, not a Best Actress nod as erroneously cited on the DVD back cover. Extras include audio commentary by Condon and the theatrical trailer for Kingdom of Heaven.
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THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004). Writer-director Wes Anderson's last two movies, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, were little more than computer programs downloaded in "Quirk" Express, heady rushes of whimsy that never felt entirely sincere in their efforts to humanize the strained shenanigans. This one's basically more of the same, yet for all its apparent insincerity, Anderson's movie keeps us watching. And it does so not because we especially care about the fates of the characters, but because we sense the story will invariably play out in trippy, unconventional ways that will surprise and maybe even delight us. Anderson's films are like the output of Charlie Kaufman with less emphasis on the existential angst, cinematic snow globes that operate within their own plastic shells without disturbing the world outside. Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou, a Jacques Cousteau-style oceanographer who sets off to track down the Jaguar Shark that devoured his partner. The interaction between the characters - usually the strength of a movie that's packed to the gills with colorful personalities played by well-known actors - suffers from Anderson's aloof style, but what I did enjoy were the peripherals: the sour expressions on the face of Steve's overly protective German engineer (a funny Willem Dafoe); the cut-away shot that allows us access to Steve's entire ship, an inspired visual that brings to mind a Richard Scarry children's book or a Barbie doll mansion; the psychedelic sea creatures encountered by Team Zissou; and Zissou's disdain for the outfit's pet dolphins. It may be impossible to love The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, but it's remarkably easy to drown oneself in its sea of eccentricity. Extras in the two-disc DVD set include audio commentary by Anderson and co-scripter Noah Baumbach, deleted scenes, a 50-minute documentary on the making of the film, an interview with composer (and ex-Devo member) Mark Mothersbaugh, and short pieces on the film's sets, costumes and visual effects.
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- Matt Brunson

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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