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Arts

Arts and culture

A man, a plan, a canal — Panama! The classic palindrome also doubles as tidy descriptor for Hands of Stone, a shoddy biopic about Roberto Durán, a legendary Panamanian boxer whose identity, according to the film, is tied closely to the fate of the Panama Canal.

If you could slough off the life you'd built every few years and reinvent yourself as a whole new person, would that be a great escape or evidence of severe psychic damage? It's a great premise to lift off from, and I only wish that the overwrought but undercooked new drama, Complete Unknown, stepped up with a sharper idea of what it wanted to talk to us about. Especially with the suitably inward Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon on hand to deepen the enigma and then open it up.

Italian writer-director Nanni Moretti's Mia Madre (My Mother) is about an everyday drama in which nearly everyone eventually participates: the death of a parent. It begins not in a hospital but in the streets, where striking factory workers clash with police. It looks real enough, until the director yells, "cut!"

The ability to interlace reality and fantasy is one of cinema's strengths, and at times Mia Madre is as bewitchingly surreal as 8 1/2, Fellini's stream-of-consciousness classic. But Moretti's movie is less swaggering and more tender.

Two attractive young idealists named Barack and Michelle tour a Chicago full of hope together in Southside With You, a date movie about the First First Date. It's summer 1989, and neither of the future Obamas has any inkling what's in store for them (even though the script they're inhabiting does).

America's most famous drag queen, RuPaul, is finally mainstream, with two Emmy nominations for his reality show, RuPaul's Drag Race.

We visited set of Drag Race here in Los Angeles, where RuPaul and the gang are taping the show's ninth season. The show is a competition — contestants go through challenges to prove their drag skills: lip synching, runway walks and photo shoots. Then RuPaul and a panel of judges choose a winner.

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