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Reviews for January 23rd, 2015

Against the Sun

Directed by Brian Falk

      During World War II, Harold Dixon (Garret Dillahunt), a U.S. Navy pilot, Gene Aldrich (Jake Abel), a radioman, and Tony Pastula (Draco Malfoy), a bombardier, struggle to stay alive together on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after they're forced to land their plane when it runs out of fuel. Harold takes charge by volunteering to become Gene and Tony's leader on the raft. He has them empty out their pockets and bags to see what items they have to use as possible survival tools. With no water or food, their chances of surviving are pretty slim.

      Based on a true story, Against the Sun offers more thrills and engrossing drama than Life of Pi because the screenplay by writer/director Brian Falk and co-writer Mark David Keegan maintains as much realism as possible and stays focused on the struggles of the three men drifting at sea. It's equally fascinating and suspenseful to watch as the men find clever ways to find sources of food and to battle the elements, not-to-mention fighting off a shark. Gradually, you get to know their personalities and some details from their past. The dynamics of their relationship aboard the raft, though, remain the most intriguing and help to enrich the film even more, especially when a secret rises to the surface which might change the way you perceive one of the character (no, I won't be spoiling that surprise here).

      The solid performances from each actor help to heighten the sense of realism, and the same can be said for the special effects that look quite impressive given the low budget. Falk makes you feel like you're right there along with the Navy men. You feel happy when they're happy, sad when they're sad, and hopeful when they're hopeful. To be fair, you might experience a sense of tedium setting in eventually, but the three men also experience tedium at the same time. Their physical and mental strengths, which help them to persevere despite the odds, are both believable, as well as tremendously inspiring. Falk and Keegan deserve kudos for allowing the film to stay lean, and for avoiding the use of excessive schmaltz, preachiness, exposition and flashbacks while keeping the running time under 2 hours at 100 minutes. Against the Sun would make for a great double feature with the John Wayne film, Island in the Sky.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by The American Film Company.
Opens at Quad Cinema.

The Boy Next Door

Directed by Rob Cohen


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Universal Pictures.
Opens nationwide.


Directed by Xavier Dolan


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Roadside Attractions.
Opens at Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.


Directed by David Koepp


Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Lionsgate
Opens nationwide.

Strange Magic

Directed by Gary Rydstrom


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Touchtone Pictures.
Opens nationwide.
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