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Reviews for August 12th, 2016
Reviews for August 12th, 2016

Documentary Round-Up






      Out with the old, in the with the new. That's the way of the world. In The Lost Arcade, Chinatown Fair, an arcade Sam Palmer opened back in 1944, was closed for good in 2011 before Lonnie Sobel bought it and renovated it, but it became a ghost of its former self. Director Kurt Vincent makes a strong case about how Chinatown Fair brought teenagers and young adults from a variety of cultures together in one place. It was like a home away from home for many of them. While those points are fair and persuasive, they're not particularly balanced. The Lost Arcade becomes unfocused, repetitive and shallow becasue Vincent doesn't dig deeply enough to explore any of the doc's themes. That would have been fine if there were more of a human element to the film: more personal stories from any of the subjects or even some amusing anecdotal stories to hold your interest or at least to keep you emotionally invested to a certain degree. If you're not a fan of video games, chances are that The Lost Arcade won't be particularly engaging. Given that we're in a Golden Age of Documentaries, it's disappointing that this doc doesn't live up to its potential by lacking insight and being somewhat lethargic as well as overlong despite its brief running time of 1 hour and 19 minutes. The Lost Arcade opens at an ideal venue, The Metrograph, near Chinatown.


Disorder

Directed by Alice Winocour




      A war veteran, Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), works as a bodyguard for Jessie (Diane Kruger), the wife of a wealthy businessman. The more that Vincent spends time with Jessie, the more he suspects her husband might be involved in criminal activity.

      Matthias Schoenaerts is perfectly cast because he tackles Vincent's strength and fragility with conviction, and he brings his genuine charisma, suaveness and warmth to the role as well. He would make for great James Bond. It's easy to understand what Jessie sees in Vincent when they start flirting with one another. Winocour wisely builds the tension gradually without relying on excessive violence to generate intensity. She truly provides audiences with a portal into the mind of Vincent so that they're along with him for the unpredictable ride although it's not always easy to grasp what exactly he's thinking and feeling. In other words, she doesn't spoon-feed you; she leaves some room for interpretation. The suspense feels somewhat Hitchcockian at times, and, fortunately, it's more of a slowburn---not too slow, though. As Hitchcock himself believed, suspense can be found in the anticipation of what's to come, so he would most likely be very pleased with Disorder.

      It's best to see Disorder on the big screen with a good sound system because the film's sound becomes a character in itself. Winocour also leaves enough room for interpretation regarding backstory or any other kind of explanations that would be considered too Hollywood. This is in many ways an un-Hollywood film because it's not only visually stylish, but also well-nuanced and intelligent and doesn't rely on exposition. Most importantly, though, Winocour trusts the audience's patience and intelligence which is a true feat in itself. Disorder deserves to be a sleeper hit like Tell No One.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Sundance Selects.
Opens at IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas



Hell or High Water

Directed by David Mackenzie




     

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by CBS Films.
Opens at AMC/Loews Lincoln Square and Regal Union Square.



My Best Friend's Wedding

Directed by Alexi Tan




      Gu Jia (Shu Qi), a fashion editor, is about to embark on a trip from Beijing to Milan for work, but she changes her plans when she learns that her best friend since childhood, Lin Ran (Shaofeng Feng), tells her that he's about to get married a week later in London. She heads off to London unbeknownst to anyone except for her assistant, Ma Li (Ye Qing). It's now up to Gu Jia to try to stop Lin Ran, whom she secretly loves more than just a friend, from getting married to Meng Yixuan (Victoria Song Qian). Nick (Rhydian Vaughan), a foreigner she meets on the plane ride to London, helps her with her plan.

      Director Alexi Tan wisely casts the sexy and charismatic beauty Shu Qi in the lead role. Gu Jia comes across as a narcissist at first while just thinking about what she herself wants and not factoring in the feelings of Lin Ran's bride-to-be, but, not surprisingly, she evolves throughout the course of the film while learning valuable lessons about love, heartbreak and friendship. You do want Gu Jia to find happiness during her struggle. When it comes to the classic scene from the original where one of the characters sings "I Say a Little Prayer" while others join in, it falls flat and feels awkward in this remake---Rhydian Vaughan doesn't have enough panache or comedic timing compared to Rupert Everett who starred in that role in the original film. Although less emotionally engrossing and funny than the American version from 1997 starring Julia Roberts, My Best Friend's Wedding is nonetheless a sweet, slick, harmless and pleasantly diverting romantic dramedy. There have been better remakes in the past, and there have been worse. This one falls somewhere in between.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Magnum Films.
Opens at AMC Empire.



Operation Chromite

Directed by John H. Lee




     

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by CJ Entertainment.
Opens at AMC Empire.



Pete's Dragon

Directed by David Lowery




      Pete (Oakes Fegley) survives a car crash that kills his parents, and ends up in the woods where he befriends a giant, friendly dragon he names Elliot. He lives safely with the dragon in a cave, but Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), a forest ranger, discovers him when the logging company her fiancÚ, Jack (Wes Bentley), and his brother, Gavin (Karl Urban), starts cutting down trees in the area. Grace, Jack and his daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence), kindly allow Pete stay with them for the time being. Gavin, however, angers Pete because he wants to capture the dragon, so Pete is put to the test to try to save his beloved dragon. Robert Redford plays Meachum, a man who had witness Pete's dragon himself when he was younger.

     

Although Pete's Dragon has its heart in its right place, its dull screenplay by write/director David Lowery and co-writer Toby Halbrooks leaves more to be desired. The central bond between Pete and Elliot feels hearwarming, but the plot surrounding them fails to be engaging in spite of the strong performances by everyone onscreen. Most of the poignancy doesn't come from the screenplay; it comes from the moving performances which barely compensate for the screenplay's shortcomings.

      The Jungle Book and the animated film How to Train Your Dragon were much more exhilarating and thrilling. Pete's Dragon has a strong first act, but once Pete separates from Elliot, that's when the film's momentum begins to wane before picking up ever so slightly in the third act. On top of that, it's not quite clear what Gavin wants to do to the dragon once it's captured. Does he want it killed? Experimented on? Or both perhaps? Either way, he seems like a boring and forgettable villain. While the CGI does look impressive on a visual level, the film ultimately lacks the magic and soul of the classic children's book.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Walt Disney Pictures.
Opens nationwide.



Sausage Party

Directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon




     

Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Columbia Pictures.
Opens nationwide.