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Into the Abyss (PG-13)

Sundance Selects

For years, I've been pro-death penalty. But leave it to Werner Herzog to make a documentary that makes me not only rethink my position but challenges me to come up with a more humanitarian, alternative belief. While Herzog's main case-study is Texas death row inmate Michael Perry, that is merely a springboard for a thoughtful, near-spiritual discussion of the death sentence, and whether it makes us any better than the murderers. Herzog puts every side on the screen and, though it appears Perry is guilty, never makes the case that life in prison is a better alternative. He makes viewers come to these ideas by themselves. — Louis Fowler

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The Last Rites of Joe May (NR)

New Video Group

Writer-director Joe Maggio's low-key films tend to center on tough characters with soft underbellies, and the balance between idealism and raw survival. So it's a treat to have him joined by Dennis Farina, who embodies Maggio's ethosy. He's a Chicago hustler, an aging, one-last-job addict who emerges from a seven-week bout with pneumonia to find the world has moved on without him. Farina enhances Maggio's standard redemption formula with every breath. When May discovers his place has been rented out to a single mom and her precocious daughter, he forms a predictable bond, but is it too late to find happiness? You wouldn't think such a rote plot could still hold water, but Farina delivers. — Justin Strout

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The Divide (NR)

Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel ... depressed. In the latest film from Frontier(s)' Xavier Gens, he takes his sharp eye for capturing man's inhumanity to man and puts it smack-dab in the middle of a fallout shelter, with New York City having been destroyed by a dirty bomb. Led by a brilliant Michael Biehn, the survivors must find a way to deal with the intense boredom and seclusion, as well as the bizarre goings-on outside. If that weren't nightmarish enough, a faction within the group has started to take hold, leading to an astoundingly bleak Lord of the Flies scenario. There is no hope in The Divide; the moral of the story is that the lucky ones die in the blast. If that sounds like a great Friday night rental for you, pass the razors and the popcorn. — Louis Fowler

  • Into the Abyss, The Last Rites of Joe May, The Divide

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