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Reviews for April 1st, 2011






Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

Directed by Joe Cross


Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the Quad Cinema.
Released by Gravitas Ventures.



Circo

Directed by Aaron Schock




In Spanish with subtitles.

This poignant documentary follows ďCirco Mexico,Ē a small, family-run circus that travels around the rural towns of Mexico. Tino Ponce, the ringmaster, finds himself at a turning point in his life because his wife, Ivonne, wants him to spend more time with her and his family rather than more time away to run the circus. He reminds her that he needs the income to pay the bills, a task thatís easier said than done. Their children want to follow in their fatherís footsteps, at least for the time being, and they can be seen practicing a variety of circus acts. Tinoís son, Moises, travels so often that he has a girlfriend in more than one town, or so he claims. Neither of Tinoís children has enough education, but they seem happy focusing their lives and energy on the family circus.

      Director Aaron Schock deftly balances the heartbreaking footage of Tino and his family with footage of circus acts. Had he included too many of those acts, the film wouldíve dragged, but, fortunately, Schock knows that the documentaryís dramatic moments can be found whenever Ponce family members interact beyond the circus. He shows you much more than a glimpse of what their dynamic is truly like behind the stage, so-to-speak, which Circo feels like an honest, unflinching film instead of a sugar-coated advertisement for Circo Mexico. Tino struggles with financial troubles, especially given the rough economic times, and with his marriage to Ivonne which might end up in divorce. His family business means a lot to him because it has been around since the 19th Century, so itís no surprise that heís torn between his love of Circo Mexico and his love of his family. Why canít he experience both simultaneously? Youíll find that out for yourself as you listen to Tinoís candid words. He hopes that he can increase the number of its performers and bring it to cities one day, but before achieving that dream, he must find a way to save his family from crumbling apart. At a brief running time of just 1 hour and 15 minutes, Circo is captivating, unflinchingly honest and poignant.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens at the IFC Center.
Released by First Run Features.



Hop

Directed by Tim Hill


      E.B. (voice of Russell Brand) doesnít want to take over his fatherís position as Easter Bunny because he would rather pursue his passion for drumming. He decides to run away from Rapa Nui, a.k.a. Easter Island, and travels all the way in Hollywood in hopes of achieving stardom there. When Fred (James Marsden), a slacker, accidentally knocks him down with his car, E.B. feigns getting injured and, soon enough, Fred finds him inside his house. He has a job interview the next day at a gaming company thanks to his loving sister, Sam (Kaley Cuoco), so he must try to be in top form to even be considered for the job. Meanwhile, back on Easter Island, a chicken named Carlos (voice of Hank Azaria) stages a coup d'ťtat against the current Easter Bunny.

      Itís acceptable that the screenplay by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch heavily borrows from many other films, especiallyAlvin and the Chipmunks, but itís disappointing that it doesnít borrow the ideas well enough nor does it follow its genreís formula in a way thatís captivating for older and younger audiences. Little kids might be tickled by visual gags when Fredís sister arrives home and thinks that E.B. is just a cute stuffed animal. She soon inadvertently eats E.B.ís poop which happens to be jellybeans. Kids might also be entertained by many of the lively colors present in the CGI animation on screen which provide eye candy. However, everything else just seems dull and humorless. The third act feels so silly and contrived that it even throws the filmís internal logic right out the window. Alvin and the Chipmunks was at least fun because Alvin, Simon and Theodore were all funny and charismatic. Unfortunately, the same canít be said for E.B., though, or for Hop. At a running time of 1 hour and 34 minutes, Hop is uninspired, bland, charmless and increasingly asinine. Only little kids might be fleetingly amused by the eye candy and sight gags.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Opens nationwide.
Released by Universal Pictures.



In a Better World

Directed by Susanne Bier


Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.



Rubber

Directed by Quentin Dupieux


      A lonely, deranged, perverted rubber tire named Robert terrorizes people in and around a small desert town. Robert comes alive in the middle of the desert, and gradually learns how to use his mind to cause objects and organisms to explode. He starts off with bottles, insects, reptiles and birds before moving to a new prey: humans. Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella) tries to investigate the murders that take place. Little does he know that the serial killer happens to be a tire. Meanwhile, a group of onlookers comment on the events from a distance.

      From the very first scene, writer/director Quentin Dupieux effectively establishes Rubberís comedic tone that combines bizarre and tongue-in-cheek humor. Lieutenant Chad talks to you, the audience, and lists many films which have events that occur for no reason. He lets you know right off the bat that the film youíre about to see pays homage to the element of ďno reasonĒ in case you canít figure that out on your own. Why does Robert kill people? No reason. The same can be said for why Robert has a mind of his own in the first place. Youíre simply not supposed to question anything because that takes away the fun. Dupieux pokes oodles of fun at the genre of horror much like Shaun of the Dead did. Thereís some blood Ďn guts to be found, but itís so over-the-top that youíll find yourself laughing at the ludicrousness more often than not. Feel free to laugh at the film because itís all meant to be pure, mindless fun. Youíll also be able to relate to at least one of the spectators who represent the variegated viewpoints of the audience. At a running time of 1 hour and 25 minutes, Rubber is the most certifiably insane, gut-bustingly funny horror comedy since Shaun of the Dead. Itís best experienced late at night with a rowdy audience.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens at the Cinema Village.
Released by Magnet Releasing.



Source Code

Directed by Duncan Jones


Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens nationwide.
Released by Summit Entertainment.



Wrecked

Directed by Michael Greenspan


      An unnamed man (Adrien Brody) awakens in the passenger seat of a mangled car that had crashed in the woods off of a steep hill. He has no idea how he ended up there or, most importantly, who he is. His leg remains stuck under the dashboard, so heís trapped inside the vehicle. Someone he may or may not know lays dead in the backseat. Not surprisingly, heís hungry, thirsty, fatigued and bruised up all over. Someone tries to shoot at him, or is that merely a hallucination? Once he frees his leg, he wanders slowly through the wooded area and bonds with a starving stray dog that he feeds every now and then.

      To compare Wrecked to Buried or 127 Hours wouldnít be fair because Wrecked has a protagonist who doesnít know his own identity and has you questioning whether heís a good guy or a criminal. By providing new information to the audience whenever the unnamed man discovers it, screenwriter Christopher Dodd makes you feel as though youíre experiencing the ride along with the unnamed man right from the very first scene which skips a first act and jumps right into the man coming into consciousness. Adrien Brodyís raw performance will help you to feel at least mildly captivated throughout the manís ordeal. Whenever heís surprised , youíll feel a similar sensation. Tension and suspense can be found during the scenes when heís trapped in the car; when he frees himself, thatís when the plotís tedium begins to rise to the surface. Youíll find yourself wishing there were more details about the manís past, but, instead, you merely get glimpses of the events that transpired before he ended up in the vehicle. Also, there should have been more instances of comic relief as a form of levity---Buried and 127 Hours had that. The third act fails to pack an emotional wallop because itís difficult to care about the man. The flashback sequences work well, though, for the most part, and director Michael Greenspan includes expert cinematography that doesnít resort to nauseating shaky cam as a means of creating tension. At a running time of 1 hour and 31 minutes, Wrecked is initially intense and suspenseful before tedium arrives. Adrien Brody delivers a captivating performance.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens at the IFC Center.
Released by IFC Films.





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