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Reviews for December 16th, 2009


Directed by François Ozon.

In French with subtitles. Inspired by the short story Moth by Rose Tremain. Katie (Alexandra Lamy), a single mother, lives with her 7-year-old daughter, Lisa (Mélusine Mayance), and works at a local factory. Her boyfriend who fathered her daughter had ditched both of them years ago. Katie begins a sexually-charged romance with Paco (Sergi López), a co-worker, and, eventually he moves in with her and gets her pregnant. They call the chubby little baby boy Ricky (Arthur Peyret). Not surprisingly, Lisa doesn’t quite like that Ricky’s getting more attention that she is. When he ends up with two mysterious bruise-like marks on his back, Katie and Lisa accuse Paco of abusing him even though neither of them had witnessed him in the act. Soon enough, Paco claims that he’s wrongfully accused, packs up his things and leaves the house. What ensues after that won’t be spoiled here, but it’s worth mentioning that writer/director François Ozon adds a bizarre supernatural twist that’s rather refreshing, imaginative and suspenseful because it’s hard to predict where the plot will go as it progresses or what other kinds of twists might occur. He does include a line of dialogue in the first act that cleverly foreshadows the supernatural twist, though. What might happen when the media find out about the supernatural secret that Katie and Lisa desperately try to keep hidden from attention? After all, Katie just wants to lead an ordinary, quiet life, but that’s easier said than done. Once the plot veers further into supernatural territory, you’ll find yourself laughing at a few offbeat, absurd scenes where Ricky doesn’t quite behave like any other baby you’ve seen. Unfortunately, the film loses its momentum later in the second act when Ozon unsuccessfully attempts to escalate the drama into poignant, more grounded moments by focusing more on Katie’s mental state and feels as a loving mother, but the transition into those scenes aren’t smooth enough and leave the third act too contrived, unwarranted and awkward when juxtaposed with the rest of the lighthearted and amusing film. At a running time of 1 hour and 29 minutes, Ricky manages to be refreshingly unpredictable, imaginative, funny and provocative, but it eventually becomes a bit uneven, awkward and lacks emotional resonance.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by IFC Films.
Opens at the IFC Center.

A Town Called Panic

Directed by Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar.

In French with subtitles. Indian (voice of Bruce Ellison) and Cowboy (Stéphane Aubier) come up with the idea to surprise their friend, Horse (voice of Vincent Patar), with a barbeque as a gift for his birthday. While Horse is away from his computer, Indian and Cowboy use the internet to purchase 50 bricks to built the barbeque, but end up accidentally ordering 50 million bricks instead. Soon enough, their house turns to rubbles when all the bricks crush it while damaging the house of his neighbor, Steven (voice Benoit Poelvoorde) and his wife. When Cowboy and Indian rebuild the walls for a second time after forgetting to build it with a door, someone mysteriously steals the walls and, in turn, Steven gets blamed for it and thrown in jail. Horse is supposed to attend piano lessons with his teacher, Madame Longree (Jeanne Balibar), who’s also his love interest, but he can’t make it to his lesson on time because he’s now on an adventure with Indian and Cowboy as they go under water, down into the center of the Earth and through a snowy landscape where they encounter a giant robotic penguin controlled by mad scientists. They also encounter bizarre pointy-headed sea creatures along the way. Co-writers/directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar have created a zany, and outrageous comedy of errors using stop-motion animation, plastic toy figures, paper cut-outs and modeled clay. The dialogue is often fresh, funny and wit, but you’ll also find hilarious visual gags, many of which come and go very quickly, so attentive viewers will be rewarded the most. If the animation style were more sophisticated à la state-of-the-art CGI, it would’ve lost its inherent charm. Cowboy and Horse’s high-pitched voices sound quite laugh-out-loud funny no matter what they’re saying. It’s also worth noting that while the plot is quite uncomplicated on the surface, there are so many interesting, twisted details, comedic energy along with such a fast pace that there’s never a dull moment to be found. At a running time of only 1 hour and 15 minutes, A Town Called Panic manages to be a refreshingly zany, clever, funny and truly bizarre comedy of errors that will delight audiences, young and old.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Zeitgeist Films.
Opens at the Film Forum.

Under the Eightball

Directed by Timothy Grey and Breanne Russell.

This compelling and provocative documentary charts the history and potential causes of Lyme disease as well as how and why many doctors misdiagnose Lyme-disease patients with other diseases such as Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and more. Lori Hall-Steele, director Timothy Gray’s sister, lived in Traverse City, Michigan and led a healthy life until all-of-sudden, one day, one of her legs loses function and soon she ends up bound to a wheelchair with both legs unable to function. No matter how much time she spent at the Munson Medical Center and other medical facilities, her health continued to deteriorate while a wide variety of doctors came up with conflicting diagnoses none of which confirmed for certain whether or not she had Lyme disease, a treatable, non-fatal disease. Co-directors Timothy Grey and Breanne Russell examine the disease’s potential environmental causes such as how the local water in Michigan is contaminated with toxins. They bravely go to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to bring water samples to be tested, but they’re turned away despite that their tax money pays for the DEQ’s services---the lady working at the front desk there treats them with such anger and hostility (i.e. calling the police) that she could easily have worked for the Gestapo back in Germany during the 1930’s. Interestingly and frighteningly, scientists in Nazi Germany had been experimenting with chemical and biological warfare that involved infecting humans with diseases through bugs that carry the disease. During World War II, the Japanese conducted similar experiments in Unit 731 with POWs as test subjects. Many Japanese and Nazi scientists from WWII are working for the U.S. government today. Other examples of inhumane experiments include the Tuskegee syphilis experiments by the Public Health Service on nearly 400 black men from 1932 to 1972. Under the Eightball essentially treads the same water as Under Our Skin but goes further with its potential cause of Lyme disease. During the time that Lyme disease began spreading from ticks to humans in the small town of Lyme, Connecticut, the Animal Disease Center in nearby Plum Island “coincidentally” conducted experiments on infecting ticks with diseases. Is the U.S. government responsible for intentionally allowing Lyme disease to spread while undermining public welfare? Why do physicians not have the accurate information to properly diagnose and treat Lyme disease? Why is there are cover-up of the toxic levels of the water supply our country? Each of these questions is delicate and very important for everyone to ponder no matter harsh the answers might be. Other interesting questions to ponder which the documentary doesn’t tackle is: Why is there a cover-up of the unlabeled toxins (i.e. Aspartame and MSG) in our food and beverages? (Please click here to learn more). Also, why are food and drugs regulated by the same administration (the FDA) and not separate ones? Why food and drugs together in particular? Greedy pharmaceutical companies receive help by government agencies such as the FDA and, not surprisingly, politicians, to essentially use you, the public, as guinea pigs in experiments that essentially maximize pharmaceutical industry profits while undermining public welfare and keeping doctors and patients uninformed and unaware of what's actually going on. Physicians who express disagreement with the “party line” can easily lose their license at the very least. Anything, especially science, is a waste when it combines with ego and greed. Luckily, documentaries such as Under the Eightball come around every now and then to raise public awareness and to compel the public the think and, most importantly, to ask the right questions to be fully informed, which is a task that’s easier said than done and quite challenging. At a running time of 2 hour and 2 minutes, Under the Eightball manages to be a compelling, provocative and enlightening documentary that will open your eyes to the true horrors of our morally corrupt health industry.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Andalusian Dogs.
Opens at the IFC Center.

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