Reviews for October 15th, 2010
2012: Time for Change
Directed by João Amorim.
*Full review coming soon*
Number of times I checked my watch: 1 Opens at the AMC/Loews Village 7.Released by Mangusta Productions, Curious Pictures and Postmodern Times.
Directed by Joe Maggio.
*Full review coming soon*
Number of times I checked my watch: 3 Opens at the reRen Gastropub Theater in Brooklyn.Released by Dark Sky Films and Glass Eye Pix.
Directed by Olivier Assayas.
In 1974, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Edgar Ramírez) attempts to assassinate a businessman in London before moving to Paris where he joins the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) under the command of Michel Moukharbal (Fadi Abi Samra), a.k.a. André. He soon commits terrorist attacks for Japanese Red Army. Now adopting the nom de guerre of Carlos, after killing three policemen who tracked him down, he flees to Yemen where he now must obey orders from Wadie Haddad, (Ahmad Kaabour), the head honcho of the PFLP. Wadie sends him out on a new mission to take hostage the oil minister of OPEC, so Carlos and his team of six militants arrive at OPEC headquarters where they kidnap some ministers and force them to board a plane. Carlos ruins his mission when he accepts he hefty ransom in exchange for the release of the ministers. Despite losing his ties to Wadie, Carlos continues to commit acts of terrorism for a variety of countries, namely, Iraq, Syria and even Germany where the Stasi protect him. In a subplot that shows more of Carlos’s human side, he develops a romance with Magdalena Kopp (Nora Von Waldstatten), the wife of Johannes Weinrich (Alexander Scheer), a member of the Germany Revolutionary Cells. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he gradually loses his contacts and allies before his arrest in 1994. Director/co-writer Olivier Assayas and co-writer Dan Franck have woven an intricate action thriller that also serves as somewhat of a character study of the notorious Carlos the Jackal throughout his rise and fall. Carlos is certainly cruel, tough and cold as a terrorist, but he’s also quite cunning and does have a bit of charisma which helps you to grasp what the women in his life see him. Edgar Ramírez nails the performance of Carlos with utter conviction and radiates so much energy that you’ll find yourself captivated whenever he’s onscreen, which, fortunately, is very often. Assayas moves the film along at an appropriately brisk pace so that there’s no room for scenes that drag, and, moreover, he wisely doesn’t dumb the plot down, so you’ll find a lot to digest as it spans two decades worth of history. There’s also a healthy dosage of comic relief interspersed ever so often. The action scenes feel riveting, but the even more palpable suspense comes during the final segment of the film when the French authorities are very close to hunting down and capturing Carlos once and for all. Ultimately, Carlos is a suspenseful, captivating and provocative thriller that’s epic in scope and boasts a powerful, star-making performance by Edgar Ramírez.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Released by IFC Films. Opens at the IFC Center (330-minute version) and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (165-minute version).
Carmo, Hit the Road
Directed by Murilo Pasta.
*Full review coming soon*
Number of times I checked my watch: 5 Opens at the Quad Cinema.Released by First Run Features.
Directed by Tony Goldywn.
*Full review coming soon*
Number of times I checked my watch: 1 Opens at the Angelika Film Center and AMC/Loews Lincoln Square.Released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
After hitting her head and nearly drowning in a tsunami during the Indian Ocean earthquake in 2004, Marie LeLay (Cécile de France) a French journalist, experiences visions of the afterlife. She decides to write a book about those experiences and presents the first three chapters to a publishing company instead of writing a book about François Mitterrand, the 21st President of France, which she had originally agreed to do. In a parallel subplot, George (Matt Damon), a factory worker, lives alone in San Francisco and, as it turns out, he has given up his work as a psychic reader. His brother, Billy (Jay Mohr), nonetheless, brings him a client to read which he agreed to do albeit hesitantly. George takes a cooking course where he happens to be partnered with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), who happens to be sexy and happens to be recently single. To state that they end up flirting with one another would be to state the obvious. What do you think happens to their relationship when George reluctantly agrees to hold Melanie’s hand to use his psychic skills? In yet another parallel subplot, Marcus (Frankie and George McLaren), a young boy in London, develops a curiosity with the afterlife when his brother (Frankie and George McLaren) dies after a vehicle hits him as he crosses the street. He stumbles upon a website where George promotes his own physic capabilities. Screenwriter Peter Morgan has woven three stories that gently touch upon the issue of the afterlife. It’s intriguing to watch how the lives of Marie, George and Marcus will inevitable connect. The weakest story, though, belongs to George because the events that transpire between him and Melanie feel too contrived as if Melanie were merely a plot device. Morgan eventually provides you with some much-needed background information about how George developed his psychic ability. One particular scene between him and Marcus is the most moving scene in the film. Even if you don’t believe in the afterlife, at least the three main characters are each developed well enough for you to care about them as human beings. In other words, you’ll find yourself suspending your disbelief in the afterlife only within the context of the world that these people inhabit. Cécile de France gives a genuinely heartfelt and charming performance, although it’s worth mentioning that the other actors get a chance to shine as well. Director Clint Eastwood maintains a leisurely pace to allow you to absorb each story as the plot jumps from one to another. The music score is well-chosen and, at times, the cinematography looks impressive. If only the Peter Morgan had taken more risks with the screenplay by delving a little deeper into impact of the afterlife on the three characters rather than playing it safe spending most of the time trying to connect each of their lives, perhaps Hereafter would have been a much more emotionally resonating and powerful experience. At a running time of just over 2 hours, Hereafter is well-acted, quietly moving and mildly intriguing, but not nearly as powerful as it could have been with a braver script that took more risks.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3 Opens at the Regal Union Square 14 and AMC/Loews Lincoln Square. Expands nationwide on October 22nd, 2010. Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Directed by Jeff Tremaine .
Johnny Knoxville and his buddies, namely, Steve-O, Wee Man, Preston Lacy, Ryan Dunn, Danger Ehren, Dave England, Bam Margera and Chris Pontius, are back for a variety of pranks that push the envelope in terms of gross-out attempts at humor. The titles of each prank pretty sums up what you’re going to expect, for instance, there’s Poo Cocktail Supreme, Beehive Tetherball, Sweatsuit Cocktail and The High Five. In another prank, a pig eats an apple right out of Preston Lacy’s butt. Some of the pranks are funnier than others, but they all provide at least two essential elements that all Jackass fans probably want: shock value and the tendency to make you ask yourself, “Should I be watching this?” The 3D effects merely add to the experience by giving you the sensation that it’s all happening in right front of you and, in some cases, like in the terrific opening and closing slow-mo scenes, you’ll get dildos flying in your face. Just as expected, Johnny Knoxville dons an old man costume quite convincingly and pretends to have projectile diarrhea or, in other pranks, he makes out with his granddaughter and wipes his butt in public. If you’re not a fan of Jackass by now, chances are that you’ll find this third installment to be painfully unfunny and boring. It’s one of those love-it or hate-it kind of movies. Imagine the most disgusting act you can think of. Now multiply that by 1,000 and you’ll get close to how the level of disgusting that pertains to Jackass 3D. Do images of poop, urine, dripping sweat and vomit make you laugh out loud? How about a bunch of people engaging in masochistic behavior? If so, you’ll enjoy every single prank found in this unapologetically sick, perverted, deranged and profoundly inane film. You’ll have to see it to believe it.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Opens nationwide.Released by Paramount Pictures.
Directed by Mariana Chenillo.
José (Fernando Luján) divorced his wife, Nora (Silvia Mariscal), years ago, but lives in an apartment building right across from her. One day, he arrives at Nora’s apartment with frozen meat packages that the delivery man sent him because she’s not home. Little does José know that Nora lies dead in bed until he checks her bedroom. It turns out that she committed suicide by swallowing lots of sleeping pills. The process to bury her, though, is more difficult than he thinks because, as Rabbi Jacobitz (Max Kerlow) says, Nora’s body can only be buried on Sunday, two days later, because the day before is the Sabbath and Friday evening is the first night of Passover. Jewish law requires to bury her within 24 hours of her death and, on top of that, Jewish cemeteries don’t bury those who committed suicide, but the rabbi is willing to an exception if José makes a hefty donation to the synagogue. Chaos ensues when José learns that Nora prepared for him a bunch of recipes for Passover dinner with everything properly labeled in the refrigerator. His son, Rubén (Ari Brickman), and other relatives soon arrive for Passover, but, without Nora, it’s not going to be a typical Seder. Writer/director Mariana Chenillo blends tragedy, drama and comedy with a surprisingly light touch. Just when you think the plot will delve more into comedy, it turns around and moves back to tragic elements without dwelling on them to the point of making you feeling depressed, though. Chenillo, wisely, adds some suspense when it comes to Nora’s past especially when José discovers new information about Nora, which won’t be spoiled here. The performances are quite believable all across the board. Even Verónica Langer as the eccentric Aunt Leah remains realistic without going over-the-top in quirkiness. (Fernando Luján) gives a very understated, well-nuanced performance that helps to ground the film its more serious tones. With a less competent writer/director, Nora’s Will could have either felt too melodramatic, sitcomish or stagey because it takes play almost entirely inside Nora’s apartment, but, fortunately you’ll find so many interesting characters and surprises in so store that it manages to be a quietly engrossing, funny and thought-provoking tragicomedy boasting lively characters and a well-nuanced performance by Fernando Luján.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Opens at the Paris Theatre.Released by Menemsha Films.
Directed by David M. Matthews.
*Full review coming soon*
Number of times I checked my watch: 1 Opens at AMC/Loews Village 7 and Regal E-Walk 13.Released by N-Secure Films and Bluff City Films.
Samson & Delilah
Directed by Warwick Thornton.
Samson (Rowan McNamara), an indigenous young man with messy hair in need of some trimming, lives in the middle of the Central Australian Outback, a desert located miles away from civilization, with his brother and his brother’s bandmates. He wakes up in the morning to the song “Sunshiny Day,” by Charley Pride, on the radio, sniffs some gasoline, wanders outsides, sniffs some paint and wanders outside some more. It’s easy to grasp how monotonous and aimless his life feels like, but that’s all about to change. Adjacent to his home there’s Delilah (Marissa Gibson), a young woman about his age who lives with her beloved, ailing grandmother, Kitty (Mitjili Napanangka Gibson). When she’s not taking care of her, she can be found doing what she’s passionate about: painting. Kitty passes away, and Samson gets into fight which, soon after, leads to him runaway away from home with the grieving Delilah. She recently cut her long hair, an act that proves to be a symbolism of transition as if she knows that this marks a turning point in her life. Samson and Delilah steal the community’s car and head out in hopes of ameliorating their sad lives. Writer/director Warwick Thornton has a knack for creating a variety of atmospheres through minimalism. Delilah remains laconic and Samson taciturn even though their blossoming romance, but that’s not a setback because they Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson give such authentic, raw performances. Their eyes and other facial expressions speak volumes about what’s going on inside their minds that words probably would not be able to adequately describe. The landscape, a character of its own, looks so picturesque at times that its beauty provides a sharp contrast to the melancholy that Samson and Delilah experience through their journey. It’s also worth mentioning Thornton’s use of lyricism, i.e. the image of hungry ants crawling up and down a piece of leftover kangaroo meat laying on the ground. The film’s soundtrack, fortunately, isn’t overbearing because it’s used only when Samson and Delilah listen to the radio. Pay close attention to the lyrics of the opening song, “Sunshiny Day,” because it not only comments on the Samson’s mentality and on the dynamics of Samson and Delilah’s forthcoming romance, but also summarizes the film’s amalgamation of sadness and hope. At a running time of 1 hour and 37 minutes, Samson & Delilah is a poetic, tender and unflinchingly real love story. Its powerful visuals, music and raw, captivating performances will leave you feeling deeply moved.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1 Opens at the Village East Cinema.Released by IndiePix.
Directed by Angela Christlieb.
This very bizarre, experimental and marginally provocative documentary about an imaginary city, Urville, located on an island off the shores of the Côte d'Azur. It’s the most modern city in the world, can only be found via a GPS system, has a divorce rate less than one percent and gender and race equality can be found there as well. You won’t find any prisons, and those seeking political asylum can feel safe there. Everyone who lives there has their own home no matter regardless of their particular income. On top of that, if you have Alzheimer’s or Diabetes, all you have to do to get cured from those diseases is to drink the champagne in Urville. Director Angela Christlieb essentially explores a mythical, fictionalized, utopian society that’s vaguely reminiscent of the town of Pleasantville from the classic movie Pleasantville because everyone seems happy there. Christlieb travels to three towns located in province of Champagne, the mountains of Vosges, and the French department of Calvados. Each town shares the same name as the mythical city of Urville. Just meeting some of the townspeople will make you think you’re watching a Christopher Guest “documentary” because, for instance, the mayor of one of the Urvilles hosts the elections in his very own closet; the town’s real estate agent runs for election as mayor and dresses in Redskin clothing because he thinks he’s an Indian. Maud Piquion , in her soothing narrates the nighttime footage of the mythical city of Urville in a way that makes it very dreamlike. Eventually, the “documentary’s” momentum does wane a bit because Christlieb doesn’t question any of the townspeople’s claims or explore them in a larger context; she leaves that burden to you as an intelligent member of the audience to ponder. At a running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, Urville is a strange, mildly provocative and imaginative “documentary” that eventually loses a little steam toward the end.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Opens at the Anthology Film Archives.Released by Flying Moon Production.