Reviews for October 30th, 2009
The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day
Directed by Troy Duffy.
The McManus brothers, Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) have been hiding out peacefully with their father, Poppa M (Billy Connolly), in Ireland when they learn about the murder of a Catholic priest in Boston. The murder style resembles that of their own with pennies places on the victim’s eyelid and two shots to the back of the head. Soon enough, the two brothers head to Boston to punish the criminal(s) who shot the priest to death. They bump into a Mexican man, Romeo (Clifton Collins Jr.) along the way and let him join their mission. Meanwhile, a sexy FBI agent, Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz), investigates the murder and helps three detectives (Brian Mahoney, Bob Marley and David Ferry) with their work as more and more bodies start piling up. Judd Nelson plays a dangerous mafia boss and Peter Fonda shows up as The Roman. Writer/director Troy Duffy, who also wrote/directed the straight-to-video original, ups the ante with more action, more comedy and a more complicated plot that will mindlessly entertain its devoted fans who can easily forgive the weaknesses and aren’t demanding when it comes to cool action sequences, none of which are particularly amazing here. The dialogue given to Clifton Collins Jr. does provide a few moments of much-needed comic relief. Unfortunately, though, the weaknesses include very wooden, amateurish performances, especially by Julie Benz as Eunice, and pretentiously stylish editing and cinematography that are quite nauseating more often than not. The character of Eunice doesn’t even come close to having as much panache as Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) from the original film. Smecker only gets a very brief cameo here, but by then it’s too little, too late. At a lengthy running time of 117 minutes, The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day is mindlessly entertaining on occasion, but lacks the refreshing pizzazz and clever surprises found in the original. Its pretentious editing style and wooden performances get frustrating rather quickly. Number of times I checked my watch: 4 Released by Apparition. Opens at Regal Union Square 14, AMC Empire 25 and AMC/Loews 84th St.
Directed by Richard Harrah.
1. Lori (Yvonne Strahovski) and Nick (Eion Bailey), a newlywed couple from Chicago, travel all the way to Arizona to spend their honeymoon exploring the Grand Canyon by mule. Neither of them was smart enough to plan out all the details of the Grand Canyon trip in advance because, when they arrive to a small town in Arizona, they learn that they need permits and the deadline to request them has already passed. Luckily, they meet Henry (Will Patton), a local townsman who claims that he can get them two permits and be their guide through the canyon because he’s familiar with its terrain. Initially, everything runs smoothly during their mule ride into the beautiful Grand Canyon, but little do they know that they’ll wish that they had chosen spend their honeymoon in Hawaii. Their survival skills against nature will be put to the test once Henry succumbs to the venom of a snake bite. Will Lori and Nick be able to escape the Grand Canyon alive without Henry to guide them along? Not surprisingly, Lori can’t get a signal on her cell phone, so, without being able to call for help, she and Nick must brave the elements of nature around them as they trek onward. They climb a steep cliff together and deal with ravenous wolves. In the most gruesome scene, Lori must amputate part of Nick’s leg after an injury that turns worse. Screenwriter Steve Allrich essentially takes a very simple, seemingly familiar plot and focuses on Lori and Nick’s physical and psychological struggles to survive against nature’s challenges. Neither Lori nor Nick are fleshed out well enough as characters whom you truly care about, but at least they’re not particularly annoying or over-the-top in any way. Allrich does his best to maintain a sense of realism throughout, although you’ll probably find it hard to avoid wondering when a sadistic killer or some sort of supernatural creature might jump out from nowhere à la The Hills Have Eyes, The Descent or A Perfect Getaway. The tension arises from the unpredictability of what will happen next to Lori and Nick as they continue their desperate attempts to reach safety. Richard Harrah does a great job of makes the most out of the visuals of the Grand Canyon, which becomes a character of its own that looks so majestic and grandiose, yet somewhat eerie and intimidating concurrently, especially during the powerful aerial shots at the very end of the film. At a running time of 1 hour and 42 minutes, The Canyon manages to be a taut, unpredictable and intense thriller. You’ll never look at the Grand Canyon the same way again. Number of times I checked my watch: 1 Released by Truly Indie.
Directed by Jared Hess.
Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano), a home-schooled teenager, lives with his widowed mother, Judith (Jennifer Coolidge), in a small town. He spends his time writing sci-fi stories which he hopes will get turned into novels. At a teen writers’ camp that he briefly attends, he meets his favorite author, Dr. Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement), a sci-fi novelist who desperately needs to write a best-selling sci-fi novel that would boost his waning career. Tabatha (Halley Feiffer) and Lonnie (Hector Jimenez), two socially awkward teenagers he meets at the camp, convince Benjamin to submit his manuscript titled “Yeast Lords,” to a contest that Dr.Chevalier judges. Dr. Chevalier reads the story, loves it and decides plagiarizes it while changing its protagonist’s name from Bronco (Sam Rockwell) to Brutus and altering other details. Meanwhile, Lonnie directs a very amateurish film version of Benjamin’s story with the help of Tabatha and Benjamin’s new friend, Dusty (Mike White). Director/co-writer Jared Hess, who also wrote/directed Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, combines lowbrow, offbeat comedy and drama with intentionally awkward, imaginative reenactments of scenes from “Yeast Lords.” More often than not, the jokes are juvenile, forced and crass while appealing to the lowest common denominator, but, if you’re willing to check your brain at the door, you’ll occasionally laugh-out-loud scenes thanks to the abundant comedic energy of the actors who seem to be having a lot of fun in their silly roles. It’s also worth mentioning that Hess has chosen a very lively soundtrack that makes great use of the song “In the Year 2525” by Zagar & Evans. Jemaine Clement shines the most in terms of charisma and comedic timing among everyone else, although the underrated Michael Angarano does bring some charisma to his role as well. At times, though, the characters of Dusty and Lonnie get too over-the-top and annoying. It would have been beneficial had Hess included at least one appealing character who’s grounded in realistic circumstances rather than write each character in such a cartoonish way. At a running time of 90 minutes, Gentlemen Broncos manages to be a juvenile, crass and silly mess that’s occasionally irritating to watch, intermittingly funny and over-the-top, but nonetheless amusing and wildly imaginative. It’s best enjoyed with a group of friends late at night while checking your brain at the door. Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Released by Foc Searchlight Pictures. Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema.
How to Seduce Difficult Women
Directed by Richard Temtchine.
Philippe (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), a French Manhattanite who wrote a best-selling book, How to Seduce Difficult Women, conducts a special course that helps a group of 10 romantic losers learn the steps that it takes to seduce women. The advice that he gives to the losers includes obvious no-brainers such as never showing up late to a date. Philippe has problems of his own when it comes to his deteriorating relationship with his cold wife, Gigi (Stephanie Szostak), and the fact that he’s have a sexually-charged affair with a married woman, Betty (Opal Alladin). He can’t even remember the correct age of his own 15-year-old daughter. One of those losers, Mo (Jonathan Hova), a Middle Eastern man, works at a fruit stand and comes onto female strangers rather strongly, which tends to turn the vast majority of them off. In a particularly distasteful scene, after another loser, Al (Bill Dawes), explains that he told his wife in bed he wants to “declare Jihad” on her vagina, the camera moves right onto the Middle Eastern Mo. Another loser, Doug (David Wilson Barnes), seduces a Peruvian woman, Angelica (Natascia Diaz), who pronounces his name as “Dog.” Writer/director Richard Temtchine intersperses brief interviews with men and women from the streets every now and then. Those interviews, much like the ultra-thin narrative scenes, fail to generate any laughter or much-needed insights perhaps because the questions asked aren’t particularly provocative and meaty enough. The ways that the losers attempt to seduce women gyrates between very contrived and frustratingly inane and annoying. Had Temtchine written more intelligent and refreshing jokes that don’t feel so derivative and unimaginative, they’d actually be funny or at least amusing. Or he could have taken the subject of seduction of women more seriously by including revelations that would justify why the contents of Philippe’s book are so illuminating and significant to begin with. At a running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, How to Seduce Difficult Women manages to be a vapid, sophomoric and toothless comedy that's low on insight and filled with distasteful, unfunny humor and contrived situations that often fall flat. Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by Quadrant Entertainment. Opens at the Village East Cinema.
Directed by Glenn Silber.
This mildly engaging documentary follows the 2008 campaign work of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with over two million blue-collar workers who went all around the United States to campaign for Barack Obama back in 2008. They literally went door-to-door to citizens’ homes to try to ask them whom their voting for and to persuade them to vote for Obama. It’s inspirational to observe how the members of the SEIU, some of them of them even mothers, dedicate their precious time to get involved in politics with such passion rather than spending time taking care of their family or working at their regular job back at home. Director Glenn Silber does a decent job of showing what the SEUI members went through to get Obama elected, but he pretty much squanders his opportunity to intelligently analyze the information in an unbiased and illuminating way. For instance, why are the SEIU members so convinced that Obama will live up to his promises about change for this country? Do they think that Obama is truly behind the American people and will do what’s best for them, i.e. ending the war in Iraq, instead of what’s best for Wall Street and pharmaceutical companies? What are Obama’s flaws? Perhaps the image of Obama that they had in their mind was what they wanted to believe without questioning it, but how is that intrinsically different from blindly voting for Obama? Brief interviews with Mos Def during a Take Back Labor Day concert in Minneapolis doesn’t add much in terms of much-needed insight and neither do the interviews with Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent of Time Magazine, and Jonathan Altar, senior editor and national affairs columnist of Newsweek. Silber also follows how the SEIU evolved their efforts during the collapse of the economy as well as of the time that Sarah Palin had embarrassed the Republican Party with her downright stupidity, weakening McCain’s campaign significantly. Would the SEIU been successful in their mission/campaigning if Palin weren’t so dumb and incompetent? That’s another question among many other meaty ones that’s not explored. At a running time of only 1 hour and 16 minutes, Labor Day manages to be mildly engaging, but lacks sufficient insight, intrigue and provocativeness to rise above the kind of footage you’d typically find in an infomercial or, worse, in propaganda. Number of times I checked my watch: 4 Released by Catalyst Media Productions. Opens at the Quad Cinema.
Looking for Palladin
Directed by Andrzej Krakowski.
Josh Ross (David Moscow), a Hollywood talent agent, travels all the way from California to Guatemala in search of Jack Palladin (Ben Gazzara), an actor whose fame culminated during the 1960’s and 70’s and, since then, dropped out of the entertainment industry and fled to Antigua, Guatemala. Little does Josh know that his trip to the small town of Antigua won’t be so brief or facile as expected. His credit card doesn’t work and the local police chief (Pedro Armandariz, Jr.) won’t accept any bribes for information about Palladin’s address. The first act takes much too long as Josh wanders around Antigua rudely and desperately asking locals for the whereabouts of Palladin as if he had a hidden agenda to find him, i.e. to kill him. By the time the second act arrives and Josh finally encounters Palladin, your patience begins to wanes pretty fast once the poorly developed, corny and contrived subplot surfaces regarding Palladin’s relationship with Josh. It turns out that Josh is Palladin’s stepson whom he abandoned years ago. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Andrzej Krakowski meanders more often than not and fails to bring any of its characters to life so that you would actually care about their thoughts and feelings. Even the attempts at comic relief fall flat. Josh comes across as an annoying, rude and self-centered man who has a lot of growing up to do, which the script doesn’t even remotely allow him to do. David Moscow’s performance as the bland Josh is mediocre at best, but Ben Gazzara at least sinks his teeth into the role of Palladin with ease and conviction that keeps you at least marginally engaged whenever he’s onscreen. The dialogue between Palladin and Josh feels so stilted and lacking poignancy that you’re likely to be bored during the third act that switches gears from dull comedy to silly melodrama. At a running time of 1 hour and 55 minutes, Looking for Palladin suffers from an unfunny, unmoving, stilted and often meandering screenplay which can’t be saved by Ben Gazzara’s engaging and charismatic performance. Number of times I checked my watch: 4 Released by Wildcat Releasing. Opens at the Cinema Village.
Directed by Hans-Christian Schmid.
In German, Bosnian and Serbian with subtitles. Goran Duric (Drazen Kühn), the former commander of the Yugoslavian National Army, goes on trial at the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal, located in The Hague, for allegedly ordering the deportation and deaths of dozens of Bosnian Muslim civilians fifteen years ago. The prosecutor, Hannah Maynard (Kerry Fox) feels sure that she can prove that he’s guilty of those war crimes, but the case against him weakens when a key witness, Alen Hajdarevic (Kresimir Mikic), commits suicide after Goran’s lawyer, Mladen (Tarik Filipovic), destroys his credibility as a reliable witness. Hannah hopes that Mira (Anamaria Marinca), Alen’s sister, will be able and willing to testify as witness to help win the case before it’s too late. Stephen Dillane plays Hannah’s boss, Keith Haywood..Will Hannah be able to persuade Mira to be brave enough to speak out about Goran’s crimes on the witness stand? Not surprisingly, Goran’s lawyer fines more ways to make it difficult for Mira to speak out. Director/co-writer Hans-Christian Schmid blends drama, suspense and tragedy quite intriguingly. He builds suspense gradually as Hannah digs deeper and deeper to strengthen the case against Goran and discovers new, revealing information about his crimes. However, the suspense wanes in the rather lazy and weak third act that ends too hurriedly and abruptly. At the heart and soul of Storm, there’s the two solid performances by Kerry Fox as Hannah and Anamaria Marinca, whom you might recognize from 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, as Mira. Schmid wisely writes the character of Hannah as a sharp, perceptive, determined and courageous individual with a very sound moral conscience, which makes it quite easy for you to care about her throughout her endeavors. At a running time of 102 minutes Storm manages to be a mostly riveting, well-acted and compelling drama that slightly fizzles out during its rushed third act. Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Released by Film Movement. Opens at the Quad Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.