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Reviews for April 1st, 2016

Documentary Round-Up

      The controversial doc Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, about the CDC's cover-up of data in a 2004 study that links MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccines to autism, will open your eyes to the corruption of a government agency whose job is to protect public welfare. Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the film's director, combines fair and balanced interviews with sources ranging from parents of autistic children who were harmed by MMR vaccines to politicians, doctors and a former pharmaceutical rep along with archival footage of congressional audio recordings of Dr. William Thompson, CDC whistleblower who called Dr. Brian Hooker, a biologist, to confess that the CDC had covered-up and even manipulated crucial data in the 2004 study. Vaxxed does bring up the fact that Dr. Wakefield was accused of fraud in his 1998 report on MMR vaccines and autism, but he was falsely accused. Unless you're made out of stone, you'll find yourself deeply moved by the interviews with the parents of children who have been injured by MMR vaccines and show clear signs of autism. The facts presented will enrage you because they show how the CDC knew that MMR vaccines are linked to autism, but did everything in their power to supress that link. You'll learn that, according to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, pharmaceutical companies cannot be held liable for causing harm to consumers injured by MMR vaccines (in other words: you can't sue them), and that when it comes to scientific testing, MMR vaccines aren't tested as rigorously and thoroughly as pharmaceutical drugs. There are no long-term studies that have tested MMR vaccines nor are there any studies that test unvaccinated children against vaccinated children. For all of you naysayers who might be in disbelief that the CDC would not conduct such tests (doubt is a healthy reaction, after all), please click here to watch a clip of Dr. Coleen Boyle, the Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC, admitting at a congressional hearing that no vaccinated vs unvaccinated studies to test the MMR vaccine safety have been conducted yet. Vaxxed shows you in an easy-to-understand way precisely how the CDC covered-up and manipulated the data from the 2004 study, and what makes that data so crucial for the sake of public welfare to begin with. Even more enraging are the revolving doors between government and Big Pharma: Dr. Julie Louise Gerberding, the former director of the CDC during that study, now works for the pharmaceutical company Merck as President of Merck Vaccines. Merck just so happens to have an exclusive license to manufacture MMR vaccines. Make of that what you will. Not surprisingly, Dr. Gerberding declined to be interviewed. Her silence speaks louder than words, though. Big Pharma seems like a pimp while government agencies such as the CDC and even the mainstream media are essentially Big Pharma's unctuous prostitutes. Learning about the CDC's conscious decision to undermine public welfare reminds me of what Hannah Arendt wrote about the banality of evil. Many members of the CDC are merely following orders and don't even consider the option of subversively criticizing the "party line" like Dr. Thompson dared to do so bravely. How is the CDC's cover-up not a crime against humanity? If there were any justice in this world, they would be tried in the Hague. If there were indeed a Nuremberg-like trial for the CDC, it's doubtful that the excuse "I was just following orders" would be accepted. Better yet, there should be mandatory mental health assessments for all government agencies as well as politicans. Just imagine if Donald Trump were to undergo a mental health assessment! I wouldn't be surprised at all if Narcissistic Personality Disorder were a common mental illness found in our government. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of vaccines, Vaxxed will ultimately change the way you look at vaccines and the CDC as long as you're a critical thinker who's open to new information and not a "Good German." To be fair, though, the doc doesn't highlight the difference between two kinds of vaccines: vaccines that contain adjuvants and thimerosal, a preservative that contains mercury, and live, attenuated vaccines that don't have any adjuvants and preservatives. How easily can vaccines without adjuvants and preservatives be found? Are they safer than vaccines with adjuvants and preservatives? That's a minor, forgivable issue that can be solved once you do more research and ask questions after watching the film. Prepare to be concurrently enlightened, alarmed, and enraged. Instead of seeing vapid junk like Batman v. Superman (which is part of America's "bread and circuses"), see this important exposť and then decide for yourself whether or not it's worth the risk for you and your children to be injected with an MMR vaccine. If you disagree or doubt what's said in the documentary, that's alright because doubt is a healthy part of critical thinking. However, you have no right to pressure/threaton anyone to into censoring the film as long as the safety of vaccines are in question. All of the individuals in our government and Big Pharma-related agencies who have used threats to censor Vaxxed have merely brought America closer to Nazi Germany than it already is. I wouldn't be surprised if those very same individuals would have voted for Hitler and been welcomed into his Nazi party. No, that is not hyperbole, and I will not be retracting that statement even if you were to pay me $100 trillion. Oh, and a message to the cowardly members of the Immunization Action Coalition who used pressure and threats to censor Vaxxed: you will never even come close to possessing the talents of Joseph Goebbels when it comes to suppressing the truth from the public. Questions that every tax-paying American citizen should consider to ask the CDC are: 1) Why do they think that the case of MMR vaccine safety is closed without an independent study involving vaccinated vs non-vaccinated children? 2) If that study were to conclude that MMR vaccines were indeed harmful, would the CDC admit it? 3) How would that admission affect the CDC's profits as well as Big Pharma's profits? Would the CDC sacrifice significant profits for the sake of public welfare? As a taxing paying citizen, I encourage you to call the CDC and ask them those questions directly. Hopefully, they're not too busy singing the song "Edelweiss" with members of Big Pharma or the IAC. Just so you know, hydrologized gelatin, an ingredient found in adjuvanted vaccines, contains processed free glutamic acid, a.k.a. MSG, a neurotoxin. Please click here to read about the cover-up of hidden MSG and its potentially harmful health effects. Cinema Libre Studio opens Vaxxed at the Angelika Film Center.

Chongqing Hot Pot

Directed by Qing Yang

      Liu Bao (Chen Kun), Xu Dong (Qin Hao) and Four Eyes (Yu Entai) are good friends who own a struggling hot pot restaurant underground. They owe Mister Seven (Chen Nuo), a mob boss, a hefty amount of money, so in hopes of expanding their business, they use a jackhammer to provide the restaurant with more space. Little do they know that they jackhammered their way right into a bank vault. Liu merely wants to cover the hole to undo the damage, but when he meets Yu Xiaohui (Bai Baihe), a childhood friend, who works at bank as a teller, she convinces him to rob the bank with her help.

      Part action film, part suspense/heist thriller and a dash of romance, Chongqing Hot Pot is combines a hodgepodge of genres with uneven results. Its attempts to generate emotion falls flat while Liu and Yu lack chemistry. Their backstory isn't particularly well-developed to boot. Much of it is mildly entertaining, and it's slickly-directed, but it's not clever or exhilarating enough when it needs to be. Director Qing Yang does structure the film in an interesting way by beginning with the heist before flashing back before the hole into the vault was created. The third act, where most films fall apart, is the film's weakest section because, while it does have a surprise or two thrown in there, none of it feels believable nor do you wish to see these team of bank robbers go on another heist mission.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Release by China Lion.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.

Miles Ahead

Directed by Don Cheadle

      Don Cheadle gives a tour de force performance as the legendary jazz musician Miles Davis who battled drug addiction. A persistent reporter, Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor), inquires about Davis' life, so the film flashes back and forth between different time periods in his life. This is a very messy, uneven and unconventional biopic that doesn't quite hook you on an emotional or dramatic level, but it does have plenty of atmosphere to keep you mildly engaged at least. Davis seems like a very interesting, complex character, though, so it's disappointing that Cheadle neglects to delve deeper into his head to give audiences a closer look about what might have been going on inside of it. Miles Ahead essentially goes dark, but it doesn't get profound enough. Perhaps a documentary about Miles Davis would have done him much more justice because by the end of this biopic, you'll still wonder what made Davis truly tick, what made him such an iconic figure for so many years and, most importantly, what he was like "behind the curtain", so-to-speak.

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Release by Sony Pictures Classics.
Opens in select theaters.


Directed by Jeffrey Brown


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Release by Footage Films Studios.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

Stealing Cars

Directed by Bradley Kaplan

      Billy Wyatt (Emory Cohen), a juvenile delinquent, gets sent to Bernville Camp for Boys after a number of criminal offenses including stealing cars. At the detention center, he must deal with a rough guard (Paul Spark) and Montgomery De La Cruz (John Leguizamo), the juvie detention center's director who's curious about his troubled childhood. Billy walks out of a meeting with his estranged mother (Felicity Huffman) when she arrives for visiting hours, and has yet to cope with a tragic, traumatic event that he struggles to remember involving him and his father (William H. Macy) as well as his sister. Meanwhile, he proves to be quite popular among the other boys because he's surpringly well-read and clever. Despite his wild behavior, he's a good person on the inside which can be observed through he friendship with another troubled teen (Al Calderon) and his flirtations with the detention center's nurse (Heather Lind). Mike Epps plays a sheriff who befriends Billy when he tries to escape a few times.

      While the screenplay by Will Aldis and Steve Mackall treads familiar territory, it does so in a way that's grounded in humanism and bolstered by the charismatic and convincingly moving performance by Emory Cohen, a national treasure. Whenever he's onscreen, which is, fortunately, very often, he commands your attention much like the actors of the Golden Age of American Cinema did. He takes the complex character of Billy Wyatt and provides you with a window into his mind and soul so that you empathize with him even if you may not always agree with all of his actions. Little by little, with the help of flashbacks as well as the dynamics between Billy and Montgomery, you learn more about Billy's troubled past and the specific causes of his rebellious behavior.

      Another of the film's strengths is how it balances humor with the heavy subject matter while not shying away from going into dark territory. Although he's playing against type here because his role is more meaty than his past roles, Mike Epps briefly provides some comic relief. It's also refreshing to see John Leguizamo in a serious role. Epps and Leguizama are fortunate to be working with a script that breathes life into its supporting characters. Even the nurse who, in a less sensitive screenplay, would've been a one-dimensional character, turns out to have much more than meets the eye given her backstory. Admittedly, though, Stealing Cars loses a little plausibility in the third act with a few turns of events and "coincidences" that seem a bit far-fetched and heavy-handed, but it still remains captivating. Don't be deceived by its poorly-chosen, B-movie title. This is a better-than-average, engrossing drama. It would make for an interesting double feature with Standing Tall, another film about a juvenile delinquent that's opening this weekend.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at Village East Cinema. Available on DVD and VOD on April 5th.

A Weekend With the Family

Directed by Chris Stokes


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Release by Footage Films Studios.
Opens at AMC Empire.
Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe Movie reviews, reviews RSS Tutorial Vaxxed, Andrew Wakefield, vaccines, CDC, whistleblower Questions? Comments? Please click here.

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