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Reviews for December 9th, 2016

Documentary Round-Up

      In the terrific documentary On the Map, director Dani Menkin combines archival footage with contemporary interviews to tell the story of an incredible moment in basketball history: how the underdog Israeli basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv took everyone by surprise by winning the European Cup against CSKA Moscow in 1977. You'll learn about how the team was assembled with players from America, i.e. Tal Brody, along with the historical events that occurred during that time. Menkin's passion and reverence for the sport basketball can be felt quite palpably from start to finish, and it's a contagious feeling even if you're not an avid basketball fan. There's not a single dry or dull moment that makes you wonder: "When is the exam???" In other words, this is the kind of documentary that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. It will make you stand up and cheer! You can watch with your friends and family while learning a lot and enjoying every minute of it concurrently. Menkin also includes stylish editing and a fast pace that makes the film even more cinematic. When will Hollywood make a narrative version of this story? At an ideal running time of just 85 minutes, On the Map manages to be everything you want an underdog story to be: suspenseful, inspirational, heartfelt and, ultimately, uplifting. Bravo to both Maccabi Tel Aviv and Dani Menkin! It's a slam dunk! Hey Jude Productions opens On the Map at Cinema Village.

The Brand New Testament

Directed by Jaco Van Dormael

      God (Benoit Poelvoorde) lives in Brussels with his wife (Yolanda Moreau) and his young daughter, Ea (Pili Groyne), and son, JC (David Murgia). Fed up with how her dad causes death and destruction via his computer, Eu logs onto his computer and has a text message sent to everyone on Earth notifying them of how much time is left before they'll die. She listens to the advice of JC to find six additional apostles each of whom will be part of a new testament. In hopes of finding the apostles and writing down their stories, she escapes into the outside world through a portal send her crawling out of a washing at a laundromat. A homeless man, Victor (Marco Lorenzini) agrees to write the stories down for her. Aurelie (Laura Verlinden), Francois (Francois Damiens), Jean-Claude (Didier De Neck), Marc (Serge Lariviere), Martine (Catherine Deneuve) and Willy (Romain Gelin) are the six humans designated as apostles.

      The Brand New Testament delivers when it comes to its wildly inventive premise and in its execution. The humor isn't for everyone though---what humor is for everyone? Any film that tries to please everyone usually ends up pleasing very few ultimately. If the twisted, dark, off-the-wall humor found in similar films like Being John Malkovich and Micmacs is your cup of tea, prepare to laugh out loud a lot. Very little happens in the film that makes any sense, but that's ok because the screenplay by co-writer/director Jaco Van Dormael and Thomas Gunzig never takes itself too seriously while piling on more and more crazy, unpredictable events and characters. As the saying goes, there's a fine line between brilliance and madness, and this film surely walks a fine line between those two realms.

      Perhaps the funniest scene involves Martine's affair with a gorilla. You'll have to see it to believe it. It's also amusing to watch Catherine Deneuve in a role reversal after playing a prostitute in the classic Belle De Jour; in this film, she hires a male prostitute to sleep with her. At a running time of 1 hour and 52 minutes, The Brand New Testament is bold, zany and outrageously funny. It's a godsend, and the most wildly original comedy since Being John Malkovich. Please be sure to stay through the end credits for a very brief stinger.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Music Box Films.
Opens at IFC Center

Frank & Lola

Directed by Matthew M. Ross


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Paladin.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

La La Land

Directed by Damien Chazelle


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Summit Entertainment.
Opens nationwide.

Office Christmas Party

Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon


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