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Rene Rodriguez, McClatchy Newspapers, Published September 12 2010

Hot picks

Here are some of the hottest movie picks coming to a movie theater near you:

“The Tillman Story”

The life and death of Cpl. Pat Tillman – who walked away from a lucrative professional football career to enlist in the Army after Sept. 11 and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan – has been thoroughly documented in the news media. But director Amir Bar-Lev’s eye-opening “The Tillman Story” will make your blood boil anyway.

Using interviews with Tillman’s fellow soldiers – including a specialist who was standing only a few feet away – the movie lays out in clear, precise detail exactly what went wrong on April 22, 2004, when the former Arizona Cardinals defensive back was blown to bits while trying to alert his attackers that they were on the same side.

The documentary also uses extensive interviews with family members to give us a sense of Tillman’s free-spirited, adventurous nature and magnetic personality. “The Tillman Story” commemorates a man whose death was appropriated by the U.S. government as a propaganda tool to rally public support for a war.

But as angry as the film makes you, it also moves you deeply – a tribute to a true patriot and the loved ones who fought to make sure his legacy was not turned into a false myth. (Opened Friday, but not in Fargo-Moorhead.)

“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”

“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” asks the question, “Is greed still good?” When the crooked corporate raider Gordon Gekko first made that claim in 1987’s “Wall Street,” the economy was much healthier. Business was a-boomin’. But at the end of that film (which earned Michael Douglas a Best Actor Oscar), Gekko was busted for insider trading and sent to prison.

In 2008, Gekko is free and, apparently, reformed. He is steering clear of his old white-collar stomping grounds. He has taken to the lecture circuit and written a best-selling book that explains “Why Wall Street Has Gone Too Far.”

Meanwhile, financial institutions are starting to fold, the market is plummeting, and a hotshot stock trader (Shia LaBeouf), who happens to be dating Gekko’s estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan), cozies up to the treacherous lizard for career advice.

There is considerable pleasure in watching Douglas reprise one of his signature roles, and director Oliver Stone jazzes up the dialogue-heavy script with lively filmmaking and sleek cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto (this is a beautiful-looking film).

But “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” is stolen outright by LaBeouf, a young actor who continues to display the magnetic talent and screen presence of a natural movie star. (Opens Sept. 24.)

“Buried”

Remember that agonizing five-minute sequence in “Kill Bill Vol. 2” in which Uma Thurman woke up inside a coffin buried in a graveyard?

Now try to imagine an entire movie in the exact same setting. “Buried” takes place inside a wooden box deep under ground in which a man (Ryan Reynolds) awakens with nothing but a Zippo lighter in his hand and no memory of how he got there. You think you know claustrophobia? You know nothing about claustrophobia.

Director Rodrigo Cortes pulls off the mother of all contained-space thrillers, finding 101 angles from which to film Reynolds as he tries to figure a way out of his predicament. The camera pyrotechnics keep the movie from becoming visually dull, and the screenplay by Chris Sparling injects this seemingly limited premise with a genuine plot and supporting characters.

No more details will be spilled here: This is the sort of film that loses much of its impact if you know too much beforehand.

Cortes even pulls off a corker of an action sequence inside the coffin – I swear I’m not making this up – that made me gasp out loud. Beware negative reviews that will do their best to spill the story’s many surprises.

“Buried” is more than a clever stunt: It’s an ingenious, endlessly creative movie, with a surprising performance by Reynolds, who must hold the screen for 85 minutes, often in close-up, and reveals some serious acting chops he has never shown before.

“Buried” isn’t for everyone, but if the film hooks you, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it for days. (Opens Oct. 8.)