Reviews for March 6th, 2009
Directed by Veit Helmer.
In Russian with subtitles. In the village of Absurdistan, Temelko (Maximilian Mauff), a teenager, wants to deflower the love of his life, Aya (Kristyna Malerova), whom he has known since they were both infants. Aya’s grandmother (Gisela Fritsch), a fortune teller, predicts that their first sexual intercourse should be on July 11th, four year later, and that they should bathe together right before that happens. As that day approaches, Temelko learns that the village’s water pipes have ceased to function properly, causing a severe drought that has the villagers mandated to use water just for drinking purposes. The women, though, desperately want the water flowing again, so, in a hilarious turn of events, they refuse to have sex with the men until the pipe is fixed. Temelko knows that he won’t be able to have sex with Aya if the pipe doesn’t work properly because then they wouldn’t have enough water to bathe in. Because that the village doesn’t have connections to any government outside of it nor is it marked on a map, it’s up the men to find a way to solve their water problem—or, rather, their sex problem. Will Temelko somehow help to fulfill Aya's dream of wanting to fly? Will he be smart and brave enough to figure out a solution in time for his July 11th meeting with Aya? Regardless of whether or not you’ll find the answer to predictable, it’s nonetheless fun to watch how the village people, including Temelko, struggle with their problems and battle with the women as if they were little kids. There’s a general sense of childish glee and, of course, absurdity to the plot which makes it delightfully offbeat and oddly refreshing. Co-writer/director Veit Helmer, who also wrote and directed the visually stunning Tuvalu, includes an appropriately brisk pace for a comedy with plenty of hilarious visual gags which don't resort to toilet humor. For example, there's a montage of woman denying sex in different ways to their spouses, such as by take out a sharp knife to threaten them. In another hilarious scene, a man disguises himself as a fat, ugly woman while stuffing watermelons under his shirt to represent big breasts as he lays next to the women and fondles them. None of the other absurdly funny scenes will be spoiled here, though, but it’s worth mentioning that each of the actors and actresses seem to be having a lot of fun in their roles, which helps to keep you thoroughly engaged. At an ideal running time of 88 minutes, Absurdistan manages to be refreshingly offbeat, delightfully funny and irresistibly entertaining without a dull moment. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Released by First Run Features. Opens at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema in Boston.
Directed by Jan Troell.
In Swedish and Finnish with subtitles. During the early 1900’s, Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen) lives in Sweden her husband, Sigfrid (Mikael Persbrandt) and their seven children. Sigfrid works as a dockworker and often comes home drunk. He verbally and physically abuses her, yet she remains by his side because, after all, he’s the breadwinner of the family. As he continues to dominate her life and comes home during a dockworkers’ strike, she needs to get some sort of income for her family, so she tries to pawn a camera that she had won in a local lottery. The friendly camera store owner, Sebastian Pedersen (Jesper Christensen), convinces her to keep the camera to hone her skills at photography. Soon enough, she develops a passion for photography as well as a strong bond with Sebastian, who teaches her how to use the camera. Through his kindness and warmth, he represents the stability and tranquility that’s missing from her life. Her passion for photography allows her to briefly escape all her abusive husband. As you watch her going back home to him every time, you wonder how she’s able to gather the inner strength not to leave him. Maria Heiskanen delivers a profoundly moving performance that radiates with warmth, charisma and raw emotion as Maria, which helps you not only to care about her character, but to feel thoroughly immersed into the events that happen to her. The screenplay co-writer/director Jan Troel fleshes out the characters of Maria, Sebastian and Sigfrid in a way that brings them to life with all of their flaws and complexities without any contrived or awkward moments. Wisely, he doesn’t paint Sigfrid merely as a monster. There’s more time him than meets the eye and you can get a sense of why Maria might have fallen in love with him years ago. Have they fallen out of love now? Has Maria fallen in love with Sebastian? The answers to those questions aren’t quite as simple as they seem, which makes the film quite thought provoking. Moreover, Troel includes lush cinematography with muted colors that look beautiful in a very gentle, unpretentious way so as not to be distracting or to undermine the story itself. At a running time of 131 minutes, Everlasting Moments manages to be a profoundly moving, tender and engrossing drama filled with beautiful cinematography and stellar performances. Number of times I checked my watch: 1. Released by IFC Films. Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Directed by Mark Webber.
In the inner city of Philadelphia, Jacob (Lou Taylor Pucci) works as a drug dealer and falls in love with, Michelle (Frankie Shaw), his girlfriend who’s an artist and addicted to drugs. Kaleef (Tariq Trotter) works diligently to open a store that sells health products and lives with his girlfriend, Jill (Naomie Harri), a single mother. Her teenage son, Heslin (Ross K. Kim-McManus), is hooked on playing video games at home and works out rigorously to prepare for the World's Strongest Man competition. Meanwhile, Demitri (Martin Cepeda) pretends to be smart in order to impress a girl (Destini Edwards) from his school who rides the bus with him every day. Meanwhile, a young kid named Babo (Francisco Burgos) briefly befriends Rocco (Paul Dano), a young man currently working as a birthday party ninja, but who dreams of becoming an actor. Babo suffers from asthma and, in a particularly simple yet powerful scene, his mother (Rosario Dawson) takes him to a pharmacy where she discovers that she can’t afford to buy him an inhaler because it’s too expensive. The pharmacist looks at her with indifference and refuses to help her out. Perhaps if the mother had gone to Cuba, she could have paid an affordable price for the inhaler. Pharmaceutical companies in America often pretend to care about public health when, in reality, their bottom line is actually profit, profit and more profit. The mother never articulates that harsh truth, but it’s a gently implied message. Each of the characters’ lives eventually intersects as the plot progresses. As a whole, their lives represent the multifaceted issues and struggles of living in an inner city. First-time writer/director Mark Webber has written a very organic, thoughtful and sensitive screenplay that brings these characters to life without feeling overstuffed or resorting to pretentiousness, contrivance or preachiness. Every detail in the film becomes integral to the plot, from a painting that Michelle draws to flyer that someone hands out. Webber includes exquisitely smooth and crisp cinematography that doesn’t use jittery camera movements as a means to create tension. The dramatic tension, instead, comes rather gracefully from the character development itself without moments that seem over-the-top, awkward or gimmicky. Fortunately, Webber finds just the right balance of entertaining the audience and provoking them intelligently. At an ideal running time of 87 minutes, Explicit Ills is an impressive directorial debut that manages to be a throughly compelling, honest and socially conscious drama. Number of times I checked my watch: 1. Released by Peace Arch Entertainment. Opens at the Angelika Film Center.
Directed by Carlos Saura.
In Portuguese with subtitles. This lively and soulful documentary centers around fado, Portuguese folk music that had originated back in the 1820’s from poor immigrants who settled in the town Lisbon and struggled to survive every day. Throughout their struggles, they pined for many things that cherished, such as love and the country that they had come from. Director Carlos Saura, who also directed the documentaries Tango and Flamenco, minimizes the background information and history of fado to a brief explanatory text as the film opens and some archival footage of celebrations during a revolution in Portugal in 1975. Instead of having musicians or other professionals explain the music, he merely includes many musical numbers from a variety of fado performers, young and old, so that the music itself, in a sense, speaks for itself. The many performers include Mariza, Camane, Mariza, NBC /SP & Wilson, Carlos do Carmo, Lura, Chico Buarque, Miguel Poveda, Caetano Veloso, Lila Downs, Cuca, Argentina Santos, Ricardo Ribeiro and Carminho, among others. Each of them sings on a stage with colorful lighting and stylish backgrounds that help to invigorate the music. Some performers dance, such as one who wears stunning clothing as she dances the flamenco to fado music, while others play the guitar. The highlights include Mariza’s beautiful, graceful singing of Mi Fado Mio which will bring tears to your eyes as you listen to her passionate voice. Also, there’s an elderly female singer who sings with her eyes closed during the majority of the performance, but her emotions feel quite palpable as the camera fixates on her face that resonates plenty of warmth. The only weak spot that briefly distracts from the film’s overall momentum is the awkward inclusion of NBC /SP & Wilson as they rap to fado music, which lacks the raw emotional power found in the other musical segments. At an ideal running time of 92 minutes, Fados manages to be a soulful and enchanting celebration of fados that will delight fans both old and new. Number of times I checked my watch: 1. Released by New Yorker Films. Opens at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Frontier of the Dawn
Directed by Philippe Garrel.
In French with subtitles. François (Louis Garrel), a photographer, arrives at the apartment of Carole (Laura Smet), an introverted, sexy an famous actress, to take photographs of her. He requests that her party guests leave the place so that he could be able to concentrate while working. Soon enough, they sleep together and fall in love with one another. As simple as that sounds, it actually gets more complicated when he finds out that she has a husband (Eric Rulliat) who’s often working abroad in Hollywood. He surprises Carole one day by coming back home while she’s in bed with François and embraces him while François quietly escapes partially naked. As Carole isn’t sure of whether or not to leave her husband for François, their relationship deteriorates and she ends up in a psychiatric ward. The situation goes downhill there as François starts a romance with another woman, Eve (Clémentine Poidatz), who wants to have a baby with him. He’s now torn between Eve and Carole. Although the plot twist around the hour mark won’t be revealed here, it’s worth mentioning that, at that particular moment, the film becomes less engrossing and more pretentious. Before that moment, the interactions between François and Carole feel authentic. The screenplay by co-writers Marc Cholodenko and Arlette Langmann simply loses its dramatic and romantic momentum as the plot progresses. It awkwardly veers into supernatural territory later in the second act. Director Philippe Garrel drowns too many scenes with a repetitive musical score that gets irritating quickly. He includes beautiful cinematography, though, reminiscent of films from the French New Wave with black-and-white visuals shot by cinematographer William Lubtchansky, who, interestingly, happens to have once worked on shooting Godard’s films. Ultimately, Frontier of the Dawn has exquisite cinematography and an initially absorbing and compelling plot which, midway, loses steam and becomes pretentious and awkward while leaving you with a bad aftertaste. Number of times I checked my watch: 3. Released by IFC Films. Opens at BAMcinématek.
La Belle Personne
Directed by Christophe Honoré.
In French with subtitles. Inspired by the book La Princesse de Cleves by Madame de La Fayette. Mr.Nemour (Louis Garrel) teaches Italian at a high school in France and sleeps with one of his students, Catherine (Anaïs Demoustier).He has also been sleeping with Florence Perrin (Valerie Lang), a fellow teacher at the school. When Junie (Léa Seydoux), a new student, arrives in his class, Mr.Nemour falls in love with her, but she has been dating Otto (Leprince-Ringuet), a student who wants a more serious relationship with her, but doesn’t realize that her inappropriate romance with her Italian teacher has been holding her back. Another student, Martin (Martin Siméon), writes a love letter to Matthias (Esteban Carvajal-Alegria), a student who’s also the cousin of Junie. Marie (Agathe Bonitzer) finds the letter accidentally dropped on the seat where Mr.Nemour sat at a movie theater and claims that it had fallen from his pocket and, soon enough, Junie assumes that he wrote the letter to her. The dramatic rension slightly escalates when Otto discovers that Junie has been romantically involved with Mr.Nemour and when Matthias confesses that he’s actually gay and that Henri (Simon Truxillo) is love with him. The screenplay by director/co-writer Christophe Honoré suffers from similar problems found in his prior film, Love Songs because he fails to move the plot along without introducing poorly developed subplots and relationships that never really gel into palpable emotions. Moreover, none of the characters are particularly interesting enough to care about or come to life, with the exception of the very minor role of Nicole (Chantal Neuwirth), a warm and intelligent older woman who works at a local café. The entire members of the cast deliver decent performances, though, while Louis Garrel adds his usual charm as Mr.Nemour, which makes it easy to grasp what other woman, young and old, see in him to begin with. Had the screenplay focused more on his characters and expanded it, the audience would have at least been able to empathize with him and to get inside his head. On a positive note, Honoré proves once again that he knows how to blend smooth, cinematography along with a lively soundtrack that compliments some scenes, or, in other cases, provides a commentary about them through the lyrics. One particular scene, though, strikes a very odd chord when a character abruptly starts singing to the music. La Belle Personne has a superb soundtrack, beautiful cinematography and a lively and charming cast, but, ultimately, has an overstuffed, unfocused plot with poorly developed characters and fails to keep you thoroughly engrossed or captivated. Number of times I checked my watch: 3. Released by IFC Films. Opens at BAMcinématek.
New York City Serenade
Directed by Frank Whaley.
Owen (Freddie Prinze Jr.) lives in New York City where he works at a photo shop and aspires to become a filmmaker. He has recently finished making a short six-minute film and has been invited to attend the World Wide Film Festival in Los Angeles with his fiancée, Lynn (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), where he will showcase it. One night Owen crashes a college party with Ray (Chris Klein), his best friend, the lead actor of his film who’s a drummer in a band, who’s wilder than him and suffers from alcoholism. During that party, Owen flirts with a college girl, Rachel (Diana Gettinger), who seduces him into fooling around with him, although they don’t get to have sex because they’re interrupted when the host of the party attacks Ray. When Rachel learns about how Owen cheated on her, she breaks off the engagement and ends the relationship with him, so he brings Ray along with him as a guest to the film festival instead. That’s when the plot becomes silly, contrived and, worst of all, implausible. Ray continues his wild streak by lying to Owen that they’re both staying at a luxurious hotel near the festival rather than at a motel and that Wallace Shawn, whom they met on their way out of the airport, is actually interested in seeing his short film. He even manages to convince the concierge at the hotel that he’s Wallace Shawn’s son, who’s expected to arrive the next day, and orders lots of room service for a fake conference. Writer/director Frank Whaley fails to generate any believable drama or comedy for that matter given the weak, uneven and awkward dialogue. Neither Chris Klein nor Freddie Prince, Jr. are able to sink their teeth into their poorly written roles, so, in turn, the friendship between Owen and Ray simply lacks authenticity. When Owen and Ray argue and fight with one another in a motel room after getting kicked out of the hotel, they seem like a married couple rather than just friends. Is the audience supposed to shed a tear and hope that they kiss and make up somehow? Regardless of the true nature of their relationship, you won’t really care about what happens to either of them or whether or not they’ll reunite at some point. New York City Serenade suffers from mediocre performances and a contrived and silly screenplay that, ultimately, makes it falls flat as a drama, comedy and satire. Number of times I checked my watch: 5. Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment. Opens at the Cinema Village.
Phoebe in Wonderland
Directed by Daniel Barnz.
Nine-year-old Phoebe Lichten (Elle Fanning) suffers from a mental illness that affects her behavior at home as well as in school. Her parents, Hillary (Felicity Huffman) and Peter (Bill Pullman), watch her at home as she often experiences nightmares and repeats acts like hopping on the pavement outside while counting as if she were obsessive compulsive. She thinks that if she completes those activities accurately, she’ll get the role of Alice in the school play “Alice in Wonderland”. At school, though, she gets into trouble by spitting on the classmates that pick on her. Her genuinely kind drama teacher, Miss Dodger (Patricia Clarkson), assigns her the role of Alice while giving the role of Queen of Hearts to a boy named Jamie (Ian Colletti), who feels like an outsider in school just like Phoebe. Not surprisingly, he and Phoebe become good friends with one another. She finds relative tranquility and comfort whenever she’s rehearsing for the play at school and interacting with Miss Dodger, who, perhaps, sees something in Phoebe that reminds her of her own childhood. In awkward scenes, Phoebe imagines the characters from “Alice in Wonderland,” such as the Red Queen, appearing in her daily life. Her incompetent, unreliable shrink, Dr.Miles (Peter Gerety), shows up in a hallucination as Humpty Dumpty. There’s also a subplot involving Principal Davis (Campbell Scott), the school principal who threatens to take Phoebe out of the play as her behavior gets into more trouble at school and as she spends time bonding with Miss Dodger. Elle Fanning and Felicity Huffman both give convincingly moving performances while the underrated Patricia Clarkson shines in a well-nuanced performance. Writer/director Daniel Barnz blends the genres of drama, tragedy and fantasy with mixed results. The scenes when Phoebe and Miss Dodger interact with one another feel genuinely moving and it would have been nice to see more of those scenes in the film. It’s also interesting to watch the dynamics between Phoebe and her mother, who tries to reach out to her, but doesn’t quite succeed as much as Miss Dodger does at that. What mental illness might Phoebe have? How will she overcome it? What might have caused the illness? Barnz chooses to answer that first question very late in the film and he should have either just left it to the audience’s imagination or introduced it earlier on. As such, it merely seems gimmicky while the scenes when Phoebe hallucinates come across as over-the-top, too bizarre and distracting from the film’s overall momentum. Also, Barnz doesn’t go far enough with how Phoebe’s parents deal with the mental illness once it’s diagnosed. At a running time of 96 minutes, Phoebe in Wonderland has strong, well-nuanced performances and occasionally moving scenes, but often feels pretentious, uneven and slightly vapid. Number of times I checked my watch: 3. Released by THINKFilm. Opens at the Angelika Film Center and AMC Empire 25.
Directed by Alan Hruska.
On the behalf of the request of his wife who had died ten years earlier, Jake (Brett Cullen) reunites his college friends in New York City twenty years after they were members of the Yale secret society. The old friends include Saul (Josh Pais) and his wife, Beth (Jessica Hecht), Jake’s younger girlfriend, Averil (Zoe McClellan), Sadie (Amy Pietz), Barnaby (Jamey Sheridan) and his wife, Emily (Cynthia Stevenson), Lloyd (David Thornton) and his girlfriend, Minerva (Alice Evans) and Eamon (Christopher McDonald). Now that they’ve all reached their middle age, they’ve each come with a lot of emotional baggage, regrets and insecurities that they haven’t dealt with, yet. Essentially, they’re adults who simply haven’t grown up yet even though they’re somewhat financially successful. As their reunion unfolds, it becomes evident that there’s more to them than meets the eye. Unfortunately, writer/director Alan Hruska fails to explore the characters’ psyches and complex personalities profoundly enough. It’s alright that none of them are particularly likable, but they never truly come to life in a way that would make them stand out like in similar reunion dramas, such as The Big Chill. Because that most of the scenes take place in one location, a conference room, those scenes feel a bit theatrical with a strong emphasis on dialogue and character development to carry the film rather than the plot itself. Hruska leaves too much backstory for the audience’s imagination, which comes across as lazy writing. Moreover, the dialogue doesn’t flow organically and often sounds contrived while the attempts for comic relief fall flat. Listening to the friends continuously discuss their lives and critique one another becomes pretty tiring eventually. Once the various secrets of the characters’ lives surface along with the reason why Jane had decided to gather them in the first place, you won’t care enough about anyone to raise an eyebrow or shed a tear. Despite a terrific cast, Reunion, at a running time of 95 minutes, suffers from a lazy and dull screenplay that fails to generate any palpable drama or memorable characters. Number of times I checked my watch: 5. Released by Talking Pictures. Opens at the Quad Cinema and 62nd & Broadway Cinemas.
Directed by Craig Saavedra.
Sherman Black (Michael Shulman), an uptight Ivy League student who lacks spontaneity, escapes the grips of his smothering mother, Evelyn (Donna Murphy), and heads off from New York City to Napa Valley in California to surprise his girlfriend, Marcy (Marcy (Lacey Chabert). She’s the one who wants him to be more spontaneous, so he hopes he can impress her by merely showing up at home during the summer. He happens to arrive at her door at the same time that her secret lover arrives and, after briefly confronting her, gets the idea that he has been officially dumped. To prove, once again, that he’s got spontaneity, he hitches a ride from Palmer (James LeGros), an ex-Olympic skier, free-spirited and unemployed man who drives down the countryside with a red convertible that he had stolen. Didn’t Sherman’s mom teach him not to trust strangers so easily? Nonetheless, Sherman confesses to Palmer at a bar about his problems with women and, soon enough, agrees to stop by at the trailer home of Palmer’s friend, D.J. (Enrico Colantoni), who happens to have the skills to refurbish the convertible. Of course, neither Palmer nor D.J. seems to have a job that supports them financially, although D.J. had once studied to be a gourmet chef. The screenplay by Tom Nance has a rather formulaic feel to it for a road trip dramedy, which is acceptable, as long as it follows the formula in a compelling and believable fashion that generates authentic warmth and unforced comedy. Unfortunately, none of the characters truly come to life and many scenes feel hurried while the comedic attempts fall flat. In case you didn’t already predict it, Sherman meets a charming and friendly small-town girl, Addy (Brooke Nevin), agrees to go out with him and, eventually, loosens him up. On a positive note, director Craig Saavedra includes plenty of picturesque landscapes of Napa Valley which provides some soothing visuals. With a more organic screenplay and a less contrived, hurried plot, this could have been much more captivating and genuinely moving dramedy, much like Sideways, which also took place in Napa Valley. As such, Sherman’s Way remains breezy, harmless and mildly engaging, but ultimately insipid and forgettable. Number of times I checked my watch: 4. Released by International Film Circuit. Opens at the Village East Cinema.
Directed by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-Ho.
In Japanese and French with subtitles. Interior Design, adapted from the comic “Cecil and Jordan in New York”, happens to be the most lyrical, visually stylish and imaginative one among two other different segments. It features Ryo Kase as Akira, an aspiring filmmaker who arrives in Tokyo with his girlfriend, Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani), to search for an apartment and to pursue his career in filmmaking. Hiroko’s good friend, Akemi (Ayumi Ito), lets them crash at her apartment for the time being. While Akira focuses on his work, Hiroko can’t find a purpose to her life and gradually loses her mind and sense of self. Co-writer/director Michel Gondry combines offbeat humor, surreal and horror elements when he takes the plot into unpredictable territory as Hiroko disappears from Akira’s life and goes through a truly bizarre metamorphosis, which won’t be spoiled here. In the second segment, Merde, writted and directed by Leos Carax, a hideous, hairy creature named Merde (Denis Lavant) rises from the sewage beneath the streets of Tokyo where he frightens passersby and attacks them with grenades. Soon enough, he becomes a media sensation which paints him like purely evil monster that terrorizes the city. Once the authorities capture him, they bring him through their justice system and appoint a lawyer (Jean-Francois Balmer) for him who happens to be able to decipher his strange language that sounds a lot like gibberish. Unfortunately, many of the attempts for comedy and satire feel too over-the-top, pretentious and end up falling flat until the witty courtroom scenes that take place later on. In the final segment, Shaking Tokyo, written and directed by Bong Joon-ho, a hikikomori , a.k.a. an agoraphobic man who has chosen to remain inside his apartment for over a decade, communicates with civilization only with a telephone and refuses to have any other kind of contact. He frequently has pizza delivered to him and stacks the pizza boxes neatly in large piles. One day, a pizza delivery girl (Yu Aoi) arrives at his door and, suddenly, an earthquake hits Tokyo, during which she faints. At that point, he starts to develop an unexpected attraction to her and discovers that she also suffers from agoraphobia. When she doesn’t arrive the next time to deliver the pizza, he ventures outside to desperately try to reunite with her. While this segment does have its initial surprises and refreshingly bizarre moments, but they eventually wane as the thin plot progresses. Bong simply doesn’t remain dramatically intriguing or imaginative enough once the agoraphobic man steps outside his home. Ultimately, Tokyo! manages to be a mildly compelling trio of films deficient in imagination, intrigue and subtlety, with exception of the brilliantly bizarre opening film, Interior Design. Number of times I checked my watch: 4. Released by Liberation Entertainment. Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema.
Directed by Zack Snyder.
Based on the graphic novel illustrated by Dave Gibbons. During the third term of President Richard Nixon in an alternate version of 1985 when nuclear attacks from the Soviet Union appear to be imminent, someone has murdered Edward Blake, a.k.a. The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a former vigilante Watchmen. The rest of his former Watchmen team members come together after many years of being apart in order to solve his murder and to defend themselves as well as the world against destruction by evil forces. Those on the Watchmen team include Dan Dreiberg (Matthew Goode),, a.k.a. Night Owl (Patrick Wilson), Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), Sally, a.k.a. Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino), Adrian Veidt, a.k.a. Ozymandia (Matthew Goode), Laurie Jupiter, a.k.a. Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), and Walter Kovacs, a.k.a. Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley).Finally, there’s John Osterman, a.k.a. Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), a very muscular, tall superhero with blue skin who suffered from a government experiment on him. His powers include teleporting himself and others as well as destroying things around him—kind of like The Hulk, except he’s much shorter, in blue instead of green and doesn’t wear any clothes. Anyone who hasn’t read the Watchmen graphic novels will feel confused during most of the film because of so many different characters and storylines that make for quite a convoluted plot. Co-screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse don’t spend enough time introducing the superheroes or coherently explaining their backstory until later in the second act when it’s too late. Whenever the characters start talking to one another, the film loses its momentum because the dialogue simply feels contrived, although there are a few witty one-liners and some physical comedy that provides some much-needed relief. Unfortunately, none of the superheroes truly stand out in a way that you could root for them, care about them emotionally or desire to see more of them. They all seem too one-dimensional and bland. On a positive note, director Zack Snyder, who also directed the exhilarating 300, impresses with his visual style once again. The CGI effects look dazzling with plenty of eye candy and scenes look so amazing that you’ll feel like you’re looking at a beautiful painting, much like the visuals in 300. There are also a terrific musical score, plenty of fast-paced action sequences which provide a rush of adrenaline, and graphic violence which, admittedly, gets a bit over-the-top and, at times, will give you the sensation that you’re watching a music video. At an excessive running time of 159 minutes, Watchmen has stunning visuals with lots of thrilling, mindless action sequences which don’t compensate for an overstuffed, confusing plot and bland, forgettable superheroes that leave you feeling underwhelmed. Number of times I checked my watch: 4. Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.