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Reviews for January 10th, 2014

The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box

Directed by Jonathan Newman

      In 19th Century London, Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard), a teenager, discovers that his parents (Ioan Gruffudd and Keeley Hawes) have gone missing and that his younger brother, Felix (Xavier Atkins), has been kidnapped. To find and save his family, he must defeat the villainous Otto Luger (Sam Neill), the owner of a hotel who's after a precious Midas Box which can magically turn things into gold. Mariah also needs to find that Midas Box before Otto does, so, with a bit of luck, he manages to get a job at the hotel and to befriend a teenage coworker (Mella Carron). Lena Headey plays Otto's assistant, and the scene-stealing Michael Sheen shows up as a secret age who helps Mariah on his quest.

      The screenplay by Matthew Huffman and Christian Taylor, based on the novel by G.P. Taylor, caters more to young audiences than older ones because it lacks sophistication, nuance, and complexity. The positive side to that though is that children will not find themselves to be confused by the simplistic plot that grows increasingly cartoonish. Any emotion can be attributed to the actors each of whom is well-cast, especially Aneurin Barnard. If you're adult who's bored by the dialogue or plot, there's the top-notch, authentic-look set and costume designs that provide some eye candy; don't expect any brain candy. For that matter, don't expect too much in terms of thrills or surprises here either. To complain, though, that the plot feels derivative of other films wouldn't be fair because most films are derivative of something nowadays.

      Director Jonathan Newman moves the film at an appropriately brisk pace and ends it after 1 hour and 40 minutes. If the running time were over 2 hours, it would have become frustratingly boring. He and the screenwriters knew what to omit from the novel so that the film wouldn't overstay its welcome. To be fair, the fact that The Adventurer follows well-worn formula isn't a problem in itself; it depends on how the film follows it. In this case, it follows the formula in a old-fashioned, kid-friendly, unchallenging way.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by RLJ Entertainment.
Opens at AMC Palisades 21.

The Banshee Chapter

Directed by Blair Erickson


Please check back soon for a full review

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Xlrator Media.
Opens at Arena Cinema in Hollywood, CA.

Cold Comes the Night

Directed by Tze Chun


Please check back soon for a full review

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Stage 6 and Samuel Goldwyn Films.
Opens at Quad Cinema and AMC Empire 25.

Free Ride

Directed by Shana Betz


Please check back soon for a full review

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Phase 4 Films.
Opens at Quad Cinema.


Directed by Bruce Ramsay


Please check back soon for a full review

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Breaking Glass Pictures.
Opens at Cinema Village.

In Bloom

Directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross

      Eka (Lika Babluani) and Natia (Mariam Bokeria), two fourteen-year-old friends, live in the country of Georgia circa 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. War rages on far away from their homes, but it takes the sidelines as the girls' coming-of-age story serves as the crux of the plot. Natia likes Lado (Data Zakareishvili) and, concurrently, has to deal with the pressures by her parents to marry a different guy, Kote (Zurab Gogaladze), who's quite domineering. Eka deals with bullying and the consequences of gossip at school. Both girls come from dysfunctional families---Eka's father is in jail, and Natia's father gets drunk a lot. Their mothers don't seem to pay enough attention to them. When Lado gives Natia a gun, she plays around with it and shows it off the Eka in the film's few scenes that veer into thriller territory.

      In Bloom works as a tender, heartfelt, understated coming-of-age drama that takes its time to reach its climax. Writer/director Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross fixate more on establishing mood and character development to immerse you in the lives of Eka and Natia. Fortunately, they succeed at making you care about these two girls as human beings---there's not a false note in either of Babluani's or Bokeria's performance. Showing both of the girls' life at home and the dynamics between their family members helps you to understand their thoughts, feelings and behavior better. Aesthetically speaking, In Bloom has terrific cinematography with washed-out, non-bright colors that reflect the film's bleakness and somber tone.

      When it comes to the shifts from drama to thriller and back to drama again, that's where In Bloom starts to weaken a little and feel uneven, but, fortunately, that mostly happens during the end of the second act; everything prior to that thoroughly hooks you in emotionally and intellectually. Its ending, which won't be spoiled here, doesn't tie everything but very neatly with a bow and leads to more questions than answers, but that's quite normal for a foreign film. If this were an American film, it would've been dumbed-down, oversimplified and probably not as emotionally-charged.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Big World Pictures.
Opens at Angelika Film Center and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1

Directed by Lloyd Kaufman


Please check back soon for a full review

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

The Rocket

Directed by Kim Mordaunt

     Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe), a 10-year-old boy lives in an impoverished village in war-torn Laos with his mother (Alice Keohavong), father (Sumrit Warin) and grandmother (Bunsri Yindi). They believe that he's cursed with bad luck because of superstition. Tragedy strikes which leaves Ahlo's father widowed and, on top of that, a greedy company plans to build a second dam thereby displacing villagers. They journey through the mountains to a relocation camp where their homes have not been built yet like the government had promised them. There, Ahlo befriends two individuals from the camp: Kia (Loungnam Kaosainam), a orphaned girl, and her eccentric, alcoholic uncle, Purple (Suthep Po-ngam), who's obsessed with James Brown. To prove that he's not truly cursed with bad luck, Ahlo defies expectation by building a rocket to compete in a Rocket Festival.

      Writer/director Kim Mordaunt has made a film that successfully blends art-house and mainstream elements. It's accessible to art-house audiences because the screenplay feels organic and grounded in realism without too much sugar-coating. Mordaunt strikes just the right balance between darkness and lightness while trusting the audience's intelligence. If this were a Hollywood film, it would probably be dumbed-down and you wouldn't care much about the characters. Instead, you do care about Ahlo as a human being and that helps to make you more emotionally invested in the film, especially during thrilling third act. Each performance is natural and believable, and the cinematography remains impressive without become pretentious or over-using shaky cam. Moreover, The Rocket doesn't overstay its welcome at a running time of 96 minutes.

      Unlike most films that tug at your heartstrings and try to uplift you, this one does so in a way that's earns its uplift without making you feel like you're manipulated. Mordaunt wisely includes just the right amount of comic relief along with interesting details and symbolism that might become more meaningful after repeated viewings. Adults can take their children to see The Rocket and be equally entertained--as long as their children can handle reading subtitles, of course. It's destined to become a sleeper hit.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Kino Lorber.
Opens at IFC Center and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

The Suspect

Directed by Won Shin-yun


Please check back soon for a full review

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Well Go USA.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.


Directed by Rob Moretti


Please check back soon for a full review

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Left of Center Entertainment.
Opens at Quad Cinema.
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