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Reviews for June 18th, 2010

8: The Mormon Proposition

Directed by Reed Cowan and Steven Greenstreet.

*Full review coming soon*

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Red Flag Releasing.
Opens at the Village East Cinema and Clearview Chelsea Cinemas.


Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass.

John (John C. Reilly), a recently divorced and lonely man meets Molly (Marisa Tomei) at a party and the two instantly hit it off. Little does he know that she has an obese, annoying 21-year-old son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill), who's still living with her. Cyrus may or may not have stolen John's shoes after he stayed over one night. He soon becomes a nuisance to John because he doesn't want to lose all the attention that his mother had given him all his life--it sounds like Cyrus might have an Oedipux Complex, among other issues that require massive therapy. Catherine Keener plays John's ex-wife, Jamie, who's nice enough to listen to his problems and offer him advice---could he use some more cheese with that whine? Co-writers/directors Jay and Mark Duplass do a decent job of juggling comedy, drama and romance without going over-the-top or resorting to unnecessary subplots. They shoot the film with a handheld camera that gives adds a dash of realism. It's refreshing to see Jonah Hill in a comedy that doesn't resort to toilet humor and, instead, has humor that's more gentle, although not particularly intelligent, though. The way that the Duplass brothers find a solution to John, Cyrus and Molly's problems feels facile and rushed, but what helps to ground the film to keep you marginally immersed in it are John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei's heartfelt and well-nuanced performances.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Opens limited.

I am Love

Directed by Luca Guadagnino.

In Italian, Russian and English with subtitles.
*Full review coming soon*

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Magnolia Pictures.
Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Jonah Hex

Directed by Jimmy Hayward.

Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin), a bounty hunter who can talk to the dead, goes on a mission for the U.S. military to stop a pernicious terrorist, Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich), from destroying America with powerful cannonballs. Turnbull also happens to be the same man who’s responsible for brutally murdered Jonah Hex’s family and branding him the in face with an iron, scarring him permanently, so it’s no surprise that he is desperately seeking revenge against Turnbull. Jonah Hex soon befriends Lilah (Megan Fox), a prostitute, and she joins him along the way during his mission. Director Jimmy Hayward, who previously directed Horton Hears a Who!, should probably stick to director family films because his current foray into the genre of sci-fi/western shows his inability to thrill audience even on a purely visceral, superficial level. You can easily tell that the movie’s rating changed from R to PG-13 because many of the killings occur off-screen while the editing during the action sequences is very choppy which makes them hard to follow. Some scenes have such awkward dialogue that you can’t help but find yourself laughing. Lilah has no real point to exist, it seems, except as eye candy. Even John Malkovich, who’s usually reliable and fun to watch when he plays zany madman, fails to keep you engaged here. The same can be said for Josh Brolin as the titular character because the dull screenplay co-writers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor doesn’t make it fun or exciting to root for Jonah Hex. Whenever Hex talks to the dead for the umpteenth time, you’ll either be tempted to laugh or to roll your eyes from the relentless silliness and insult to your intelligent onscreen. If it were actually imaginative, campier and funnier, it might have been able to find a cult following like the notoriously terrible “Best Worst Movie,” Troll 2. At a running time of only 1 hour and 23 minutes, Jonah Hex is as inane, sloppily edited, painfully awkward and unintentionally funny as an Uwe Boll film.
Number of times I checked my watch: 8
Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

The Killer Inside Me

Directed by Michael Winterbottom.

*Full review coming soon*

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by IFC Films.
Opens at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Let it Rain

Directed by Agnès Jaoui.

In French with subtitles.
*Full review coming soon*

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by IFC Films.
Opens at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

The Nature of Existence

Directed by Roger Nygard.

This provocative documentary searches for answers to many existential and theological questions. Each question, starting out with the purpose of mankind’s existence on Earth, leads to a wide variety of intriguing answers from people all around the world including everyday people, gurus, scientists and religious experts. An attempt to ask the Pope why we exist fails when he learns that anyone who wants to spend merely 10 or 20 minutes with him is required to donate $20,000 for the orphans. How do we find happiness? Is there a God? How about why God cares about what our sex life? Why does the human race exist to begin with? Now's your chance to explore these and other loaded, eye-opening questions that should hopefully spark debate among you, your friend, family, strangers and perhaps even with yourself. When it comes to the question of mankind’s existence one interviewee says it’s all about sex, another says about masturbation while others respond that it’s to be caretakers of Mother Earth, to feel emotions, to serve God, for evolution, to figure out why one exists, to love, to have fun and, in a rather amusing answer, non-existence has nothing to recommend it to, or, perhaps God creates us because we were lonely. Each of those is a reasonable answer worth listening to, as long as you keep an open mind. Director Roger Nygard wisely structures the film with different chapter heading and blends in some humor along the way throughout his journeys so as not to make the subject matters seem so dry, heavy and, most importantly, so you can breathe a little while being inundated with all the answers. One such breath of fresh air is Brother Jed Smock who preaches his confrontational Evangelist beliefs on the University of Florida campus. Nygard’s friend, stand-up comedian Stevie Ray Fromstein, at one point, confronts Smock with a great question: “If God created Adam and Eve, then where did the races come from?” Later, Steve hits the nail on the head when he says that difference of beliefs matters because that’s what wars and hatred are based on. Regarding happiness, A neurologist, Dr. Andrew Newberg, whom you might recognize from one of the interviews in Religulous, states that happiness depends on several different neurotransmitters, i.e. dopamine and serotonin your body. Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar believes that happiness is realizing your true nature. Others respond that marijuana makes them happy and closeness with other people while another says that one can have moments of happiness because life is very difficult—unless you’re a total idiot. At a running time of 1 hour and 33 minutes, The Nature of Existence is ultimately an enlightening, provocative and captivating spiritual journey well worth taking.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Walking Shadows.
Opens at the Quad Cinema.


Directed by Mani Ratnam.

In Hindi with subtitles.
Beera (Abhishek Bachchan), bent on revenge against Dev (Vikram), a cop, for the murder of his sister, kidnaps the cop’s wife, Ragini (Aishwarya Rai), a dance teacher, and runs off with her deep into the jungle. Dev desperately tries to hunt down and kill Beera so that he could reunite with his wife once again. Meanwhile, Beera start to fall in love with Ragini along the way. In a beautiful scene, he comes to her rescue after she tries jumps off a cliff in a suicide attempts and lands on a tree branch. Writer/director Mani Ratnam loosely follows the classic story of The Ramayana as Beera represents Raavan, Dev represents Ram, and Ragini represents Sita. Ratman provides an explanation of Beera’s motivation for kidnapping Ragini later on when Ragini confronts Beera’s brothers who tell her about the murder of their sister whom Dev had killed. The screenplay combines action, romance and drama along with well-choreographed musical numbers and brief comic relief every now and then. Admittedly, some of the dialogue does feel a bit contrived and awkward rather than organic, but that doesn’t make the film less exciting to watch. The palpable thrills derive from brilliantly paces action sequences that take place in breathtaking, atmospheric settings, and from the tension that builds up as Beera runs away with Ragini as Dev and his men draw closer and closer to them. On top of that, there’s the terrific cinematography together with the editing that don’t allow for any dull moments to be found and, instead, make many key scenes come across as epic. At a running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes, which is relatively short for a Bollywood film, Raavan manages to be an exhilarating and thrilling adventure brimming with lush, breathtaking visuals, lively musical numbers and a captivating love triangle.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Reliance Big Pictures.
Opens at AMC Loews Village 7 and Big Cinemas Manhattan.

Toy Story 3

Directed by Lee Unkrich.

Before heading to college, Andy (voice of John Morris) put his beloved toys in a trash bag that he intends to put up in the attic. He decides to bring one of his favorite toys, Woody (voice of Tom Hanks), along with him to college. A series of errors and mix-ups lead all of the toys to end up at the Sunnyside Day Care Center where they meet a whole new set of toys. Little do they know that the daycare center serves a prison for toys until it’s too late. The prison’s guard, Lotso (Ned Betty), does everything in his power to stop them from escaping, such as using by a surveillance system where a monkey watches over the monitors. Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen) finds himself kidnapped and his configurations reprogrammed to turn against his toy friends. Meanwhile, in cheesy but comical subplot, Barbie (voice of Jodie Benson) finds love at first sight when she meets Ken (voice of Michael Keaton). Mrs. Potato Head (voice of Estelle Warren) loses an eye in Andy’s room and, in an amusing twist, she’s still able to see with that lost eye. Once Woody learns of Lotso’s sinister plans to keep the toys trapped, it’s not up to him to devise a plan to escape from the prison before Andy officially leaves for college. The screenplay by Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, begins with a hilarious, action-packed dream sequence before diving right into the first act. When Woody and his friends arrive at the daycare center, the plot’s pacing slows down a bit and even drags at times until the moment when the toys plan their escape mission. At that point, Toy Story 3 becomes exhilarating and funny once again with hilarious one-liners and plenty of clever sight gags that will probably require repeated viewings in order to take notice of all of them. None of those jokes or visual gags will be spoiled here, though. A truly great animated film out to have an engaging, imaginative story together with dazzling animation. Toy Story 3 has both. It’s impossible to deny that its story comes with a fair share of heartfelt moments, especially toward the end, just like the previous two films in the trilogy, but please keep in mind that this one is slightly darker in tone and includes a few sequences that might frighten little kids. Toy Story 3 briefly loses its footing during the first hour, but still manages to be an imaginative, witty, poignant and hilarious adventure that will captivate everyone. Bring on Toy Story 4! Please be sure to stay for bloopers as the end credits roll.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Walt Disney Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Wah Do Dem

Directed by Sam Fleischner and Ben Chace.

Max (Sean Bones), a young musician from Brooklyn, chills with his girlfriend, Willow (Nora Jones), by the river where she ends their relationship two days before she was supposed to join him on a cruise to Jamaica that they had won last summer. He must go on it alone now because none of his friends are able to make it last-minute. During the cruise, he tries to loosen up a bit by getting drunk and opening up emotionally to a stranger, but still seems sad and lonely from the recent break-up. The ship docks in Jamaica, and he immediately goes outside of the tourist zone where he meets a friendly Jamaican who graciously drives him to a secluded beach before picking up his girlfriend. Thus far, the plot sounds like it could veer into horror much like Touristas, and, in a way, it does because, all of a sudden, the Jamaican stranger steals all of his belongings that he left on the beach while he goes for a swim. The cruise ship has already left by the time he arrives at the dock, so he has to travel all the way to Kingston to get a new passport and head back home to Brooklyn. Will he make it to Kingston safely? Luckily, he meets strangers who help him along the way including tourists who give him $10 and a t-shirt. The screenplay co-writers/directors Sam Fleischner and Ben Chace begins somewhat intriguingly as you’re wondering what kind of adventures Max will have in Jamaica, but once he’s left stranded on the island, the plot loses a lot of steam and often meanders. Max comes across as lonely, naïve and has somewhat of a dull personality, so it makes sense why his girlfriend dumped him. The picturesque setting of Jamaica becomes a more of interesting character in itself than any of the characters onscreen. Fleischner and Chace never allow you to get inside Max’s head or to provide enough background information about him so that you'd care about him as a human being to begin with. His journey to Kingston is not exciting, believable or surprising enough to hold your interest, and, on top of that, the ending arrives so abruptly that it leaves you with a bad aftertaste. At a running time of only 1 hour and 16 minutes, Wah Do Dem has breathtaking scenery, but it's a lazy, meandering and unimaginative adventure with a poorly developed, frustratingly naïve and dull protagonist.
Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Wah Do Dem LLC.
Opens at the Cinema Village.

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