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Reviews for April 6th 2012

American Reunion

Directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

      Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) live with his wife, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), and young daughter. He's hoping that an upcoming 13th high school reunion might help to ameliorate his sexless marriage. So, on they go to their hometown where they reunite with Jim's pals, namely, Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Chris Klein) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas). Oz now works as a sportscaster, and Stifler works at a law firm. When Oz bumps into his old flame, Heather (Mena Suvari), their attraction reignites despite that he has a girlfriend, Mia (Katrina Bowden), and that she has a boyfriend (Jay Harrington). The gang from American Pie catch up on old times which includes drinking booze and acting like rowdy hornballs. Stifler encourages Jim to yield to the flirtations 18-year-old, Kara (Ali Cobrin), whom he had once babysat. Not surprisingly, she joins their party and passes out from drunkenness before Jim tries to break into her home to sneak her back into her bedroom. Oh, and Stifler takes pleasure defecating right into the beer cooler of Heather's boyfriend. Never has there been so many role models onscreen!

      You might as well throw logic and reason out the window because very little happens that makes sense or that feels believable for that matter. Everyone's over-the -top and goes through awkward situations, especially Stiffler, but that's what makes the film entertaining like a fun popcorn movie should be. The biggest laughs come from Jim's dad (Eugene Levy) who's just as scene-stealing as he was back in American Pie. Occasionally, though, the laughs wane whenever the gags are witless and uninspired--i.e. toilet humor which has been done to death already in movies like Bridesmaids. Perhaps poop jokes are simply standard in modern American comedies like pies-in-the-face used to be be back in the day. Co-directors/writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg could have easily trimmed at least 10 or 20 minutes off the film because at a running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes, it does overstay its welcome.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Opens nationwide.
Released by Universal Pictures.

Damsels in Distress

Directed by Whit Stillman

Full review coming soon

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Opens at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Landmark Sunshine.
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Nameless Gangster

Directed by Jong-bin Yun

      In 1982, Choi Ik-hyun (Choi Min-sik), a South Korean customs officer about to be laid off, finds a stashes of methamphetamine. He seizes the opportunity to make money by selling the drugs to a ruthless, powerful crime boss, Choi Hyung-bae (Ha Jeong-woo). Ik-hyun gradually enters the gangster world as he partners with Hyung-bae, putting both of their lives at risk for the sake of money and power. They get along initially, but soon tensions arise between the two, and their friendship and business partnership becomes unstable as well as volatile.

      A truly great crime thriller should have palpable suspense, action and drama coupled with at least enough realism to character depth to make you emotionally invested in the story and its characters---even if they're far from moral. Nameless Gangster acheives each of those feats with flying colors. On the surface, it's a gritty, suspenseful thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat as the twists and turns arise. None of those surprises will be spoiled here, though. Beneath the surface, it's a profoundly human story about how easy it can be to become corrupt. Ik-hyun essentially gets sucked into the world of gangster crime like a whirlpool. Greed, selfishness and the thirst for power are addictive and seductive to people like him and Hyn-bae. They're both evil and violent men, but not in a cartoonish way because they're not one-dimensional characters. Ik-Hyun's biggest challenge is trying to get out of the whirlpool which only gets more complicated given the government's corruption.

      Writer/director Jong-bin Yun offers both style and substance. He keeps the pace moving along swiftly and keeps the plot character-driven without resorting to contrived or dull moments. A lot happens until Ik-hyun becomes Hyung-bae's partner-in-crime, but the many events that transpire never feel convoluted or confusing. It also helps that the entire cast delivers solid performances, especially the very talented Choi Min-sik who you might recognize from I Saw the Devil and Oldboy. He's absolutely mesmerizing onscreen, and sinks his teeth into the complex role with aplomb as well as charisma.

      At a running time of 2 hours and 13 minutes, Nameless Gangster is a well-acted, intelligent and riveting thrill ride that will take your breath away. It's one of the most powerful gangster films in years.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens at AMC Empire 25.
Released by CJ Entertainment.

We the Party

Directed by Mario Van Peebles

Full review coming soon

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Opens in select cities.
Released by ARC Entertainment.

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