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Reviews for March 19th, 2010

The Bounty Hunter

Directed by Andy Tennant.

Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler), a bounty hunter who used to be a police officer, goes on a job assignment to hunt down and apprehend Nicole Hurly (Jennifer Aniston), a reporter who happens to be his ex-wife. She’s in trouble for skipping bail for a mere traffic violation. He will get paid $5,000 if he brings her into the police station. Just as he tracks her down, she tells him about a murder mystery that she’s reporting on for her job, so she does everything in her ability to free herself from him so that she can get back to work. Will he help her solve the mystery? Will he bring her to the police station so that he can get his $5,000? Will Milo and Nicole kindle their romantic spark that they had when they were married? Unfortunately, screenwriter Sarah Thorp has no idea how to blend a variety of genres together because the comedy awkwardly gyrates back and forth between all the action, suspense, drama and romance which create more nausea than laughter or palpable tension. Milo and Nicole have virtually zero chemistry together onscreen and even their banter and bickering isn’t remotely sharp or fun to listen to. You’ll find yourself longing for films such as the classic Adam’s Rib which has far more intelligently written quips and rapports between a man and woman as well as lots charisma, chemistry and charm which The Bounty Hunter also lacks. Whenever Milo and Nicole talk to one another, you’ll end up feeling annoyed and rolling your eyes at some of the corniness. The visual gags, which range from dark comedy to sexy comedy and dark comedy, are cheap, forced and juvenile. On a positive note, the fleeting laughs come from some of members of the support cast, namely, Christine Baranski, Carol Kane and Jeff Garlin and the underrated Siobhan Fallon who briefly add a much needed oomph to an otherwise underwhelming film. At a lengthy running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes, The Bounty Hunter overstays its welcome and ends up as one of the most unfunny, vapid and nauseatingly convoluted romcoms in recent memory. The lively supporting cast at least helps to keep you briefly awake.
Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Columbia Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev.

In Swedish with subtitles. Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson. Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a financial jounralist convicted of libel, gets a new assignment when an elderly, wealthy tycoon, Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), invites him over to his home. Henrik tells him about his niece, Harriet, who had mysteriously vanished forty year ago and has not been found ever since. He wants Mikael to solve the case as efficiently as possible, but it’s easier said than done. In a parallel subplot, Lisbeth Sander (Noomi Rapace), a very skilled computer hacker suffering from a behavioral disorder, turns the tables on her probation officer who had raped her. Henrik eventually hires her to help Mikael with the mystery in ways that won’t be spoiled here. It’s very exciting, intriguing and suspenseful to watch the plot unfold because you’ll find many unexpected, clever twists and turns that transpire as Mikael and Lisbeth get deeper and deeper into the disappearance case. They, as well as you, desperately want to figure out whether or not Harriet is still alive, who may have wanted her to be “disappeared,” and, most importantly, why she “disappeared.” Co-screenwriters Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg do a great job of withholding information from the audience so that you follow Mikael and Lisbeth along for the edge-of-your seat ride that gets darker and darker. The intricacies of the mystery aren’t quite as brilliant as the ones found in Tell No One, but you’ll still find yourself struggling to point a finger at the culprit(s) while trying to single out the red herring(s). Director Niels Arden Oplev moves the pace along briskly and includes a well-chosen, pulsating musical score that adds to the suspense. The real pleasure here, though, is watching Noomi Rapace as she radiates the screen with her raw and captivating performance as Lisbeth, one of the most lively, memorable characters in recent memory because of her tough, rebellious, subversive attitude and very stylish, gothic look (not-to-mention her large dragon tattoo) as well as her sheer intelligence when it comes to technology. She’s a breath of fresh air and helps to invigorate the film. At a running time of 1 hour and 32 minutes, The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo manages to be an intriguing, intelligent and suspenseful thriller boasting a radiant, captivating performance by the scene-stealing Noomi Rapace.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Music Box Films.
Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, Clearview Chelsea, City Cinemas 1, 2 & 3, and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Neil Young Trunk Show

Directed by Jonathan Demme.

This sensationally entertaining concert film combines two Neil Young performances during his Chrome Dreams II tour at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania back in 2007. Joining him onstage for most of the songs are his wife, Pegi, as well as his musicians, Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Pegi Young (his wife), Anthony “Sweet Pea” Crawford and Ralph Molina, each of whom are good friends of his and have performed with him many times in the past. The songs performed include “Kansas,” “Mexico,” “Like a Hurricane,” “Spirit Road,” “Oh Lonesome Me” “Ambulance Blues,” “Cinnamon Girl,” among others. You’ll find yourself exhilarated for 20 minutes as he performs the lengthy song “No Hidden Path” solo which contrasts with his much more relaxed and calm song, “Sad Movies.” Director Jonathan Demme shoots the film with a digital camera that gives it somewhat of an intimate look and feel as if you were there watching the Neil Young’s show live from up close. As the camera moves to a close up of Young, you get to see him sweating, not surprisingly. Most importantly, though, Demme captures Young’s pure, unadulterated passion and love for music in a way that no words can truly do it any justice when it comes to describing them. Even the very brief backstage glances don’t help to show that because his passion is something that has to be felt and experienced by merely watching, listening and immersing yourself into his soulful music. It’s also worth mentioning the cinematography that, fortunately, doesn’t resort to shaky camera movements or overly stylish juxtapositions of camera angles. If the visuals were too stylish and pretentious, the film’s form would override and even diminish its content, so, fortunately, with content over form, the mere sights and sounds of Neil Young performing become the focus of the attention which should please his many avid fans.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Abramorama.
Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

Repo Men

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik.

Based on the novel The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia. In a futuristic world, Remy (Jude Law) works as a repo man for The Union, a corporation that creates artificial donor organs which help to extend the life of its clients. Remy, with the help of his coworker, Jake (Forest Whitaker), must track down clients who have failed to make their payments and must repossess their organs by force. Everything goes pretty smoothly until Remy finds himself in a hospital bed after an accident at work that nearly left him shocked to death. He learns that he has an artificial heart created by The Union, so now he’s one of their clients. His new heart changes the way that he feels about his job and he’s no longer able to ignore his conscience by extracting the organs from clients which his job description requires him to do. Remy’s boss, Frank (Live Schreiber), does everything in his power to stop Remy from going against The Union’s protocol. Not surprisingly, when Remy fails to make his organ payment, Frank assigns Jake the task to repossess his new heart. Remy, along with Beth (Alice Braga), another client of The Union with many organs that require repossession, go on a cat-and-mouse chase to avoid getting captured by Jake and to, hopefully, erase their names from the corporation’s database. Co-writers Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner take a very provocative premise and quickly seep out all of its cleverness and imagination, which makes it a squandered opportunity to turn it into at least a mindlessly entertaining sci-fi adventure. Nearly every plot twist and turn is not only telegraphed from a mile away but explained to the audience as if they were a bunch of Sarah Palins who don’t understand how to piece things together logically. The grisly scenes of repossession serve no purpose other than as mere shock value while the initial scenes where Remy compares his situation to the Schrödinger's cat paradox are overly simplistic and sophomoric. As the film kicks its action gears with all the fast-paced fighting sequences and chases, tedium eventually sets in and so does blandness which even Jude Law and Forest Whitaker can’t help to enliven with their dull, forgettable roles. Repo Men is slick and action-packed, but painfully insipid, needlessly gory, lackluster and, worst of all, fails to maintain its excitement, cleverness, imagination and thrills.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Universal Pictures.
Opens nationwide.


Directed by Minos Papas.

Alex Santiago (Nando Del Castillo) works as a fashion photographer and lives in New York City with his girlfriend, Barbara (Ariel Blue Sky), who complains that he neglects her because he’s too obsessed with himself and his work. He often feels tired and overworked much like many New Yorkers, but he seems to bottle his emotions innately because he’s not particularly expressive when it comes to his thoughts and feelings. Perhaps he’s simply introverted and needs some sort of catalyst to force him to open up, to grapple with reality and to come to some sort of understanding about the world around him. That catalyst might occur when he points his camera at a sunrise, looks into the sun and, afterwards, finds himself experiencing very strange visions. All sorts of spots appear and a mysterious woman (Stanislava Stoyanova) pops in and out of his vision. Is he merely suffering some sort of brain damage or high on drugs? Is there some sort of purpose or meaning to all of his bizarre experiences? Writer/director Minos Papas, in his feature directorial debut, has woven a very intricate, elliptical mystery that perplexes both Alex as well as audience members as they join Alex’s journey into the dark streets of New York City. Papas wisely doesn’t force-feed answers and explanations to you so that you’re able to use your intelligence to contemplate what’s going on and to try to connect the dots on your own, even if you’ll find yourself scratching your head a lot. The people whom Alex meets throughout his adventure propel him little-by-little toward finding some sort of closure, but the events and revelations that transpire remain unpredictable and thought-provoking. Even on a purely aesthetic level, Shutterbug impresses with its very stylish cinematography, editing, musical score and lighting, all of which evoke a very David Lychian tone that’s eerie and keeps your eyes and ears glued to the screen in fascination and wonder until the very last frame. At an ideal running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, Shutterbug manages to be an intriguing, elliptical and visually stylish journey into the unknown. It's a well-crafted, intelligent and unpredictable mystery that requires repeated viewings.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Cyprian Films.
Opens at the Cinema Village.


Directed by Marco Bellocchio.

In Italian and German with subtitles. Ira Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) meets Benito Mussolini (Filippo Timo) back in 1907, before his rise to power as Italy’s fascist dictator, and immediately falls in love with him. After working as an editor of the Socialist newspaper Avanti!, Mussolini starts his own newspaper, Il Popolo d’Italia, which helps to fuel the birth of the forthcoming Fascist Party. By then, Ira has become his wife and bears his child, Benito Albino. She loves his so dearly that she sold most of her possessions to finance Mussolini’s newspaper. However, he neglects her as his wife and goes off into the battle once World War I begins. Upon his return, he lays wounded in a military hospital bed and, when Ira visits him, she learns that he has a new wife, Rachele (Michela Cescon) and a five-year-old daughter. It’s at this point that the film veers into dramatic thriller territory as Ida is forced to be imprisoned in an asylum and to be separated from her son even though that she repeatedly asserts that she’s truly Mussolini’s wife. The marriage documents cannot be found and she remains incarcerated there for eleven years while desperately trying to prove that he’s her husband which. Giovanna Mezzogiorno delivers a brave, convincingly moving performance as Ida. She’s the heart and soul of the film and radiates so much warmth, charisma and tenderness that all help to make her character easy to care about as a sensitive, passionate, loyal, persistent, courageous yet fragile human being. The screenplay by director/co-writer Marco Bellocchio deftly combines drama, suspense and intrigue with great attention to detail that makes for a very illuminating and captivating experience, especially for attentive audience members. Bellocchio also includes very stylish cinematography that invigorates the film with plenty of flair. Vincere isn’t one of those pedestrian, bland period pieces with merely great costume/set designs---instead, it has both style and substance while remaining engaging from start to finish. At a running time of 2 hours and 8 minutes, Vincere is captivating, taut, absorbing and invigorating with exquisitely stylish cinematography and a mesmerizing, tour de force by Giovanna Mezzogiorno.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by IFC Films.
Opens at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

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