Victor (Celso Franco), a 17-year-old barely scraps a living as a wheelbarrow carter. He needs to make more money to be able to buy a cell phone that can record videos. The friend/co-worker of his older sister just so happens to be selling the kind of cell phone that he wants, so when a local butcher Dario (Paletita) offers him the chance to make $100, he takes it. His task sounds simple enough: to transport 7 boxes from the butcher shop to another location. Little does Victor know that Nelson (Víctor Sosa) was originally hired to transport the boxes, and that there's something not quite kosher inside those boxes.
Writer-director Juan Carlos Maneglia and co-writer Tito Chamorro have woven a suspense thriller that's grounded in social realism which in itself is quite an accomplishment given how vapid and brainless most thrillers are these days. They gradually build up tension with just the right amount of exposition to keep you captivated from start to finish. It's refreshing to see a new young actor, Celso Franco, play a lead role so convincingly; the fact that he's an unrecognizable actor helps to enhance the film's sense of realism. There aren't too many surprises, though, but Victor does encounter many obstacles along the way that put his life in danger, and the ending puts everything into a very interesting perspective.
Fortunately, directors Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori keep the running time at 100 minutes and the pace moving along briskly enough while avoiding excessive shaky cam or going off on distracting or silly tangents. In other words, they make the most out of their limited budget and keep the story focused and easy-to-follow without requiring you to check your brain at the door. 7 Boxes is ultimately yet another example of how the most effective suspense thrillers are usually found outside of Hollywood and with much lower budgets.
After the Dark
The doc Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq, which opened Feb. 5th at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center via Kino Lorber, focuses on the life and work of ballet dancer Tanaquil Le Clercq, a.k.a. Tanny, who died of polio in 2000. Director Nancy Buirski wisely structures the film in a way that makes sense: she first provides you with interviews and archival footage that highlights what makes Le Clercq such a brilliant, talented ballerina who even became a muse for choreographers Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine. Le Clercq became Balanchine's wife, and, according to one interviewee, they had a relationship that gyrated between hot and cold. Buirski next introduces to you the fact that Le Clercq suffered from polio which left her paralyzed thereby forcing her to do what she loved to do the most: dancing. The director doesn't dwell too much on Le Clercq's polio, although there are some poignant interviews that describe in detail what Le Clercq went through as a result of the disease. Sometimes Balanchine was there for her and sometimes he wasn't---as one interviewee candidly admits, it's not 100% clear what it was about Balanchine that Le Clercq didn't like. In the most insightful and profound moments of the doc, you learn that Le Clercq found a way to accept her disease and had a certain kind of spirituality by valuing the important parts of life during such times of adversity. Buirski deserves praise for assembling articulate interviewees who help tremendously to illuminate Le Clercq's life and work.
A Field in England
The Lego Movie
Love & Air Sex
Mars at Sunrise
The Monuments Men
Seven members of a World War II platoon must travel to Germany to retrieve monuments and paintings, which the Nazis had stolen, and return them to their rightful owners. The platoon, known as The Monuments Men, include art historian Frank Stokes (George Clooney) who serves as the leader, Jean Claude Clairmont (Jean Dujardin), James (Matt Damon), Richard (Bill Murray), Walter (John Goodman), Donald (Hugh Bonneville) and Preston (Bob Balaban). Cate Blanchett plays an art gallery curator who has very valuable information about precisely which works of art have been sent to Germany.
What sounds like an intriguing premise that should generate at least some suspense turns out to be a tepid film that never quite comes to life despite the many talented actors on board. None of the members of platoon are given a back-story which would be forgivable if the plot were to hold any interest. Clooney moves the film at a rather sluggish pace and includes a musical score that's too light for such a subject matter. Perhaps he and co-writer Grant Heslov should have heightened the darker elements of the film or integrated the dramatic and comedic elements more smoothly. Unfortunately, the comedic moments aren't the laugh-out-loud kind and those scenes come across as clunky juxtaposed with the more serious scenes. The dialogue feels stilted and none of the lines are particularly memorable or have enough wit.
To be fair, all of the actors give solid to mediocre performances, but they don't rise above the banal screenplay. The set design is top-notch, though, and the same goes for the costume design which add a modicum of much-needed realism and richness. If only the same could be said about the rest of this underwhelming film. At a bloated running time of 1 hour and 53 minutes, which feels more like 3 hours, The Monuments Men is boring, tepid and clunky. It's one of the most disappointing films in recent memory. You're better off watching paint dry.
Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage
Shahin Sean Solimon stars as Sinbad the Sailor who's in love with the sultan's (David Light) daughter, Firoozeh (Sadie Alexandru), despite of her father's disapproval of their relationship because Sinbad isn't wealthy enough. Fortunately, Sinbad has a big heart and plenty of courage which is put to the test when an evil sorcerer known as the White Thief captures Firoozeh and holds her hostage in a black desert. Sinbad must travel to search for the love of his life and to save her within 40 days and 40 nights.
Based on the classic stories of The Arabian Nights, Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage, narrated by Patrick Stewart, is a highly entertaining, invigorating throwback to the films of visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen. Director Shahin Sean Solimon blends stop motion animation and CGI in ways that may not be slick and look super-expensive like most Hollywood blockbusters these days, but they have more visual inventiveness, charm and pizzazz. The same could have been said for the films that Harryhausen did the visual effects for, i.e. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, It Came from Beneath the Sea, Jason and the Argonauts, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and his final film, 1981's Clash of the Titans. Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage is so effective as an homage to Haurryhausen's visual style that you'll feel as though you're transported back in time to the golden age of cinema, the 50's and 60's.
Beyond the film's aesthetic triumphs, it also offers plenty of exhilarating excitement, thrills and suspense as Sinbad goes on his adventure to save the princess while battling all sorts of creatures, including the Cyclops, along the way. The fight scenes, combined with the stop-motion animation, are quite fun and, in B-movie style, they're even a little bit campy. Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage is the kind of film that should be seen on the big screen with a large group of friends. Fans of Ray Harryhausen should rejoice. If there were any justice, it would become a cult classic.
Someone Marry Barry
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear
Welcome to the Jungle
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