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Reviews for October 22nd, 2010

Boxing Gym

Directed by Frederick Wiseman.

This often boring and shapeless documentary follows a bunch of boxers inside Lord’s Gym, a small boxing gym located in Austin, Texas. It costs fifty dollars, cash only, for a one-month membership, and both men and women, even elderly ones, can be found there. Director Frederick Wiseman, known for directing a variety of documentary ranging from La Danse to Titticut Follies, decides to take himself out of the documentary by merely allowing the camera to record the boxers working out sans the use of any interviews with them. You learn next to nothing about the gym and its boxers even though you’ll find yourself at least mildly curious for some much-needed information about them or at least some kind of substance. By the hundred and twelfth time that you’re watching someone box a speed bag or box someone inside the boxing ring, you’ll find yourself painfully bored unless you’re a truly avid fan of boxing. Wiseman also chooses not to add any narration or musical score nor does he include stylish cinematography that zooms in and out, so, yes, in many ways, this is a classic example of cinéma vérité that makes you forget that there’s a camera involved. Every documentary ought to answer the question “So what?” at least to some degree, but Boxing Gym fails to do so which means that you’ll find yourself asking that question to yourself quite frequently if you’re not nodding off to sleep by the repetitious footage. An ephemeral cut to the exterior of Lord’s Gym feels like a small breath of fresh air after the camera lingers so long inside it. Had Wiseman humanized the boxers by interviewing them or, perhaps, showing some footage of their life outside the gym, perhaps there’d be more meat on Boxing Gym’s bones so that non-boxing fans would be simultaneously entertained and enlightened. Instead, Boxing Gym is well-shot, but often lazy, tedious and, above all, boring. It’s one of the most unenlightening and underwhelming documentaries of the year.
Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Opens at the IFC Center.
Released by Zipporah Films.


Directed by Baltasar Kormákur.

Paul Stanton (Dermot Mulroney), a District Attorney, lives with his beloved wife, Diane (Diane Kruger), and young daughter, Chloe (Mia Stallard), in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Just after he pushes for maximum sentence for a father who took the law into his own hands by shooting the man who sexually molested his daughter, Paul finds himself breaking the law himself when Chloe develops a rare degenerative lung condition that requires her to get a lung transplant. His only hope in getting the lung transplant in time to save her life is by crossing the border into Mexico to find Dr. Novarro, a doctor who performs the illegal transplants—although, as Paul learns the hard way, he’s supposed to wait for Dr.Novarro to contact him first instead of initiating the contact himself. Not surprisingly, Paul gets into escalating danger the more he desperately searches for the doctor’s whereabouts in the Mexico underworld. Sam Shephard briefly shows up as a man who helps him find Dr. Novarro. Director Baltasar Kormákur does include appropriately brisk pacing and stylish cinematography, but the screenplay co-written by Walter Doty and John Claflin starts out promisingly with palpable tension as Paul travels to Mexico, but once he arrives there, that’s when the plot’s twists and turns begin to feel contrived and, in some cases, utterly improbable, which means that you’ll find yourself caring less and less about Paul’s plight and what transpires to him. How, for instance, can Paul remain unscathed after climbing over a wall that has barbed wire on top of it? Is he Spider-Man? The pulsating, overbearing musical score doesn’t help to compensate for the waning tension, especially in the over-the-top third, rushed third act. It would have been beneficial to the story had the co-writes fleshed out the bonds between Paul, his wife and his daughter more rather than treating them like mere pawns to move the plot from point A to point B. At a running time of only 1 hour and 23 minutes, Inhale is a pedestrian thriller that suffers from implausibility, an overbearing musical score and excessive style over substance.
Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Opens at the IFC Center.
Released by IFC Films.


Directed by James M. Hausler.

Billy (Nick Stahl) returns to his home in Northern Virginia after a bad break up with his ex-girlfriend, Alice (Alona Tal). He doesn’t get much attention from his parents, Tom (Robert Forster) and Terry (Patricia Kalember) other than having dinner with him and his sister. Little do they know that he’s emotionally distraught over his break-up and can’t get his mind off of Alice. Stanley (Jonathan Jackson), his best friend, suffers even more from a break-up with his own-girlfriend and has turned into a misogynist creep, so, not surprisingly, has a detrimental effect on his friendship with Billy. Soon enough, Billy and Christian (Christopher M. Clark), Stanley’s roommate, team up to try to figure out what Stanley might be hiding because, after all, Stanley’s ex-girlfriend has been reported to be missing. Writer/director James M. Hausler pretty much spoils any of the much-needed tension by giving away key information within the first few scenes, so the mystery that Billy and Christian try to solve is no real mystery for you as an audience member. The many flashbacks aren’t particularly surprising or revealing for that matter. It would have been so much more interesting had Hausler explored Stanley’s psyche deeper and fleshed out his friendship with Billy more. The same can be said for Billy’s relationship with Alice which lacks chemistry, so you don’t truly grasp why he’s still pining over her. On a positive note, Nick Stahl does give a decent performance, and Hausler’s use of lighting, camera angles, set designs and musical score does help to creating a foreboding atmosphere as if some sort of tragic event will be transpiring. Unfortunately, no matter what happens to the characters, the screenplay doesn’t bring any of them to life enough to that you’d care about them as complex human beings instead of mere caricatures. At a running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes, Kalamity is a lackadaisical albeit stylishly directed thriller deficient in suspense, imagination and genuine poignancy.
Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Opens at the Village East Cinema.
Released by Screen Media Films.


Directed by Michael W. Watkins.

*Full review coming soon*

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens in select theaters.
Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Punching the Clown

Directed by George Viens.

*Full review coming soon*

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens at the Quad Cinema.
Released by Viens Films.

The Soprano State: New Jersey's Culture of Corruption, Part 1

Directed by Peter A. LeDonne.

*Full review coming soon*

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the Chelsea Clearview Cinemas.
Released by New Jersey Pictures.

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