Short Takes 

NOTORIOUS

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There's never been a finer film that deals so frankly with sexual betrayal — and the cruelty that can only be inflicted by someone you love — than Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 masterpiece. As a spy and his romantically compromised weapon of choice, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman make a combustible combination — but factor in erotic contempt, Nazis holed up in Brazil, staggering tracking shots, atomic weaponry, and what may be the finest kiss ever put on film, and you have something enduring, haunting and unmissable. Playing an alcoholic party girl turned patriot, Bergman has never been as alluring or noble: she may always Casablanca's Ilsa, but Ilsa never got to live, and hurt, the way Bergman does here. Countless movies have asked how far one would go for love; Notorious goes farther than most, as Grant's shockingly cruel espionage handler looks down on a woman who accedes to his bizarre sexual wishes out of love — a strange progenitor to Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves, even if it's all done for the good of the country. The result: Hitchcock's best film, and one of the most emotionally unsettling of all film classics. (May 1-2 at The Belcourt) JASON SHAWHAN

THE LOSERS

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Comics are now such fertile ground for filmmakers, even second-string titles are finding their way on screen. Case in point: Sylvain White's amusing cheeseball action saga, based on an updated version of a series that initially featured an elite World War II fighting team. The comic's 2004 second coming catapulted them into the 21st century and added a revenge scenario — which White uses as pretext for a preemptive cinematic strike on the upcoming movie version of The A-Team. But it has an above-average acting pedigree, led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan as team leader Clay, Idris Elba as his skeptical stalwart Roque, and a hilariously self-amused Jason Patric as the mysterious mastermind Max. Zoe Saldana's also around to fire rocket launchers and dazzle every team member (of whom Columbus Short and Chris Evans are the standouts). Truth be told, the movie's happily juvenile sense of humor (likely supplied by co-screenwriter Peter Berg) is its strongest suit, giving the outrageous cliffhangers and death-defying escapades the feel of a backyard action-figure party. This 93-minute live-action cartoon is strictly for big kids who like unbelievable action scenarios and enjoy watching a beautiful woman blow up a jeep. If that doesn't spell "franchise," I don't know what does. (Now playing) RON WYNN

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