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Reviews for December 22nd, 2010

Little Fockers

Directed by Paul Weitz

Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) anoints his son-in-law, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), as the new patriarch of the family. Greg, the head nurse at a hospital, lets a sexy pharmaceutical rep, Andi Garcia (Jessica Alba), give him samples of erectile dysfunction drugs. Jack suspects that his son-in-law might be cheating on his wife, Pam (Teri Polo), so he follows him in hopes of catching him in the act of adultery. Meanwhile, Pam and Greg prepare for the upcoming birthday party of their twins, Samantha (Daisy Tahan) and Henry (Colin Baiocchi). In yet another subplot, Pam’s ex-boyfriend, Kevin (Owen Wilson), shows up and flirts with Pam thereby making Greg feel uncomfortable. To mention any of the other subplots would be pointless because the film itself is also pointless on top of being asinine and painfully unfunny. Co-writers Larry Stuckey and John Hamburg resort to humor that appeals to the lowest common denominator which ranges from disgusting---vomit, enemas---to just plain cringe-worthy, i.e. when Greg kneels in front of Jack in the bathroom in order to stab his penis with a syringe or when Henry asks Greg at the dinner table, “Can girls poop from their vagina?” Good luck trying to laugh when Greg accidentally hurts his finger while cutting a roasted turkey as blood sprays all over the place include on Jack’s shirt. A battle between Greg and Jack at the twins’ birthday party is not only silly, but poorly directed by Paul Weitz, especially when he tastelessly includes the Jaws theme. There are not enough scenes with Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand as Greg’s delightfully offbeat parents, but, then again, the material that the actors have here is very weak and uninspired, so even their brief appearances fail to invigorate this lazy comedy. At a running time of 1 hour and 38 minutes, Little Fockers is tedious, asinine, jejune and so painfully unfunny that it will make your eyes and ears bleed.
Number of times I checked my watch: 9
Opens nationwide.
Released by Universal Pictures.


Directed by Nicolas Philibert

Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the Film Forum.
Released by Kino International.

Secret Sunshine

Directed by Lee Chang-dong

In Korean with subtitles. Lee Shin-ae (Jeon Do-yeon), a young widow, moves with her son, Jun (Seon Jung-yeop) to a new town, Miryang, the birthplace of her late husband. On her way there, she meets Jong-chan (Song Kang-ho), a mechanic, when her car breaks down in the middle of a highway. The two of them spark a friendship that might lead to a romance, but, before then, he gives her assistance in opening a piano school. As you learn from her discussion with the local pharmacists, she refuses to believe in God. Her lack of faith evolves when she must deal with yet another tragedy in her life: someone kidnaps and murders Jun. That’s when she joins a Christian evangelical group in hope of finding comfort and answers as she tries to come to terms with the tragedy. She even visits her son’s murderer in prison and goes to the extent of forgiving him. Writer/director Lee Chang-dong has woven a profound, multi-layered character study of a bereaved, mentally unstable mother’s emotional journey which becomes much more complex as it progresses. Just when you think you have the mother all figured out, she surprises you with her actions in ways that won’t be spoiled here. Even if her actions put her morals into question, at least she remains a very true-to-life character that’s far from a cardboard cut-out. A few scenes tend to drag toward in the third act, but Jeon Do-yeon gives such a brave, emotionally devastating performance as Lee that she becomes the heart and soul of the film who helps to keep you captivated even when the pacing tends to get a bit too slow. She tackles a wide range of emotions with utter conviction so that her innate transformation and epiphanies are believable. Concurrently, you’ll find it easy to sense Lee’s fragile state of mind throughout her journey. Song Kang-ho provides a modicum of comic relief every now and then as Jong-chan, but, for the most part, Secret Sunshine remains very heavy and melancholic in terms of its tone. At a running time of 2 hours and 22 minutes, Secret Sunshine is profoundly moving, intelligent and unflinching. It boasts a brave, emotionally devastating performance by Jeon Do-yeon.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens at the IFC Film Center.
Released by IFC Films.

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