Main Page
Alphabetical Menu
Chronological Menu

Reviews for December 16th, 2016

Documentary Round-Up

      No, Eating You Alive, is not a horror film about cannibalism nor is it about a flesh-eating parasite, but it can be seen as somewhat of a horror film about the lack of nutrition in America. Director Paul David Kennamer Jr. gets into the science of what makes plant-based whole foods so healthy while meat products and processed foods harm your health. Rooted in Peace essentially combines the docs Food, Inc., Supersize Me, That Sugar Film, Fast Food Nation and The C Word into one film. Allopathic doctors don't have a financial incentive to keep you healthy; they're in the business of disease treatment, so if you don't have a disease, how would they make any money? Essentially, they're prostitutes for their pimp, Big Pharma. Who's behind the textbooks in medical school? You guessed it: Big Pharma. It's no wonder that doctors receive virtually no education on nutrition. As one expert wisely put it, if you step on a nail, would it make more sense to drug yourself up with painkillers or to remove that nail? Doctors provide you with drugs to treat a disease without using nutrition to prevent it. Did you know that even seemingly healthier oils like olive oil aren't that good for your nutrition? Olive oil, after all, is processed. Did you know that you don't need to get your protein from animals because protein can be found in plants? Penn Jillette, interviewees, makes a valid and bold point: if you put a bucket of movie popcorn in front of someone and they're disgusted by its smell, then they're probably healthy. If they love the smell, though, send them directly to the hospital. Although Eating You Alive is a little too long at a running time of 112 minutes, it's filled with useful and essential information that could inspire you to become a vegetarian or vegan and to steer clear of any food product that has more than a few ingredients in its label. On a related note, please click here to read my article about the cover-up of hidden MSG and its potentially harmful health effects. Garden Fresh Media opens Eating You Alive at IFC Center on Wednesday, December 14th. The doc Rooted in Peace goes even further than just advocating nutrition: it highlights the importance of finding peace within your mind and body while living in these very violent times. The cycle of violence around the world can be stopped one person at a time. "Violence" isn't just referring to how human beings kill one another, but also how human being kill animals and nature. It doesn't help that pop culture glorifies violence through video games and movies while making too many people desensitized to it. Director Greg Reitman travels around the world to ask experts what could be done to find peace within oneself and to make the world a better place. Interviews with Deepak Chopra, Desmond Tutu, Ted Turner, Pete Seeger and even David Lynch add a lot of provocative perspectives. Reitman learns about the healing power of meditation. Fixating on happy thoughts helps to relax one's heart and mind----it's interesting to observe how the heart actually controls the brain sometimes instead of the brain always controlling the heart. Rooted in Peace does jump from one complex topic to another, i.e. war, deforestation, carbon pollution, and malnutrition, among others, which might make it seem like it's biting more than it could chew initially, but Reitman does a great job of tying it all together at the end. The film's most powerful message is that we're all connected to not only each other but to nature as well. Without trees, we wouldn't exist. We are the tree and the tree is us, so-to-speak. Everything you do--even by clearing your mind through yoga/meditation--can have a positive effect on the world around you even if it's merely a small effect. The best outcome for man and nature is when they're both working symbiotically, so understanding that concept is a crucial step in achieving any kind of peace. Thank you, Greg Reitman, for sharing all of these hopeful messages with younger generations who will someday pass their attained wisdom to the next generation. Consider it your duty as a human being to see Rooted in Peace for the sake of mankind's future. This potent and enlightening documentary alone may not change the world, but it can change the way you think about at the world and the symbiosis of man and nature. It's also worth mentioning the well-chosen soundtrack, especially the song "Yellow" by Coldplay. Blue Water Entertainment opens Rooted in Peace at Cinema Village. Over at Film Forum, there's the doc Ghostland: The View of the Ju/'hoansi about the Ju/'hoansi Bushmen of Namibia. The word "ghost" in the title comes from what one of the Ju/'hoansi refers to as the first thoughts they had when they saw white people visiting them during a Safari for the first time. Four of the bushmen experience a huge culture shock when they briefly travel to Europe. Director Simon Stadler uses a mostly laissez faire approach to documentary filmmaking by merely letting the camera observe the Ju/'hoansi, with the exceptions of a few scattered interviews with them. The film's structure is pretty standard: the first part shows the Ju/'hoansi's daily practices in Namibia, the second part shows how they struggle to assimiliate overseas in Europe, and the third part is their return to Namibia. That third part could have been mined for some insight, but it's too ephemeral. One of the Bushmen's comments about how Europeans seem so tired, stressed and overworked compared to the Ju/'hoansi touches upon an provocative theme that Stadler fails to explore further. Ghostland manages to be mildly engaging, but it's not nearly as powerful or illuminating as Lost Boys of Sudan. It would make for an interesting double feature with The Gods Must Be Crazy.

Collateral Beauty

Directed by David Frankel


Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Opens nationwide.


Directed by Denzel Washington


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Paramount Pictures.
Opens in select theaters.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Directed by Gareth Edwards

      Years after Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) of the Galactic Empire had killed her mother and forced her father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), to help them build a dangerous weapon, The Death Star, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) joins the Rebel Alliance forces along with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), and Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed). They go on a mission to try to steal the plans for the Death Star from the hands of the Galactic Empire on tropical planet Scarif.

      A lot more happens within the twisty plot of the convoluted screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, but no spoilers or surprises will revealed here. While Star Wars: The Force Awakens felt fun and thrilling, Rogue One lacks that exhilaration factor and, more often than not, feels dull. It's quite obvious to see what the vast majority of the budget was spent on. If impressive sound design and visual effects are enough to keep you entertained, then you'll enjoy this blockbuster--as long as you don't expect more than that. Style sometimes becomes substance, but in the case of Rogue One, the impact of its style becomes increasingly underwhelming, shallow and even numbing. Yes, it's eye-filling, but what about the audience's mind, heart and soul? Attempts to establish a modicum of romantic chemistry between Jyn and Cassian fails miserably. There are a few witty lines of dialogue here and there to please the avid Star Wars fans, but they're far and few between.

      The systemic problem with Rogue One comes from its screenplay that cares very little about the interpersonal relationships between its characters or about making them come alive. It cares more about moving the plot forward to bombared your eyes and ears with the next CGI action sequence. Within the first few minutes of the film, Jyn Erso is already torn apart from her family without any time to get to know them as a family, so audiences don't truly feel emotionally invested in the relationship with neither of her parents because their relationship isn't explored enough. The plot moves in a rather pedestrian fashion while forgetting to stop to get to know at east one of the characters enough to find a window into their mind and soul so that you can care about them and root for them. K-2SO (voice of Alan Tudyk), the droid, becomes the most lively character among them evem though he's not human. At a running time of 2 hours and 13 minutes, Rogue One suffers, like many blockbusters, from too much spectacle and not enough truth, but its greatest sin is that it feels dull, insipid and underwhelming despite a plethora of loud action scenes and dazzling visual effects.

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

Two Lovers and a Bear

Directed by Kim Nguyen

      Roman (Dane DeHaan) and Lucy (Tatiana Maslany) live in the small Canadian town of Apex in the far northern province of Nunavut. Both of them suffer from traumatic events from their past that still haunt them, but it's that emotional pain that helps to fuel their love of one another. Each of them deals with their own trauma differently. Roman turns to alcohol addiction which sends him to a rehab center after experiencing a breakdown. Lucy still has visions of her deceased, abusive father. Once he's released from rehab, Roman and Lucy go on an snowmobile adventure together in spite of warnings of an impending snowstorm.

      Two Lovers and a Bear works as an honest and tender drama because the characters feel real thanks to the sensitive screenplay by Kim Nguyen. Even when the plot veers into unpredictable territory while incorporating suspense and fantasy elements, it still remains grounded in humanism and isn't afraid to go into dark, un-Hollywood territory. When the first fantasy element gets introduced in a scene with Roman's encounter with the titular bear, it feels a bit jarring, amusing and silly at first, but throughout the rest of the film, it becomes more meaningful and symbolic. Roman and Lucy's relationship has its ups and its downs just like any relationship does. Their biggest fight happens to be over Lucy's decision to pursue her biology degree far away from Apex instead of staying around town with Roman. Most importantly, though, Nguyen establishes the romantic chemistry between Roman and Lucy from the get-go while avoiding schmaltz and melodrama.

      Two Lovers and a Bear's biggest asset is its convincingly moving performances by the Dane DeHaan and Tatiana Maslany, two underrated actors. Fortunately, they have meaty material here to display their talents. Both of them manage to find the emotional truths of their complex roles. You can grasp that a lot goes on inside Roman and Lucy's heads. Kudos to DeHaan and Maslany for having the courage to display their raw, naked emotions so unflinchingly; it's probably a lot harder to shake emotional nakedness off than physical nakedness off. Bravo to Nguyen for not shying away from capturing the Roman and Lucy's raw passion during their sex scenes--in other words, he isn't afraid of making a film that's actually for adults. Too many films nowadays are made for young adults/teens and, in turn, end up shallow, overproduced, and suffering from too much spectacle and not enough truth (yes, I'm looking at you, Rogue One!). At an ideal running time of 96 minutes, Two Lovers and a Bear is raw, heartfelt, well-acted and exhilarating. It's a refreshingly unpredictable, imaginative, and un-Hollywood film that has just the right balance of truth and spectacle.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by eOne Entertainment.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

The Wasted Times

Directed by Cheng Er


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by China Lion Film Distribution.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.
Questions? Comments? Please click here.

Main Page
Alphabetical Menu
Chronological Menu

Avi Offer
The NYC Movie Guru
Privacy Policy