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Reviews for January 24th, 2014

24 Exposures

Directed by Joe Swanberg


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by IFC Midnight.
Opens at IFC Center.

Documentary Round-Up

      Director Godfrey Reggio's Visitors is certainly an ambitious, visually stunning achievement that makes quite provocative statements about mankind and its relationship with technology albeit with no words spoken. The black-and-white cinematography along with the score by Phillip Glass makes it all the more aesthetically mesmerizing and transfixing. Those sentiments remain true until roughly the hour-mark when tedium and repetitiveness start to set in. Watching a gorilla stare at you at the beginning of the film is a shot that's quite effective and leads to a roller-coaster ride of emotions if you choose to stare back at the gorilla. The images of the moon's landscapes and buildings on Earth also work well. Visitors begins to drag once Reggio fixates on human beings staring at the camera, some of them playing video games. Those sequences last too long and their emotional and intellectual impact diminishes with each human face shown---granted, Reggio includes faces of both men and women of various ages, so at least one can say that there's variety. If this film were longer than 1 hour and 27 minutes, its tedium would've been even more frustrating and less forgivable. Cinedigm opens Visitors at Landmark Sunshine Cinema in glorious 4K digital projection--the way it's meant to be seen. Keep in mind that this is the kind of film that if you choose to watch it on the small screen, it'll probably lose its visual and aural impact. Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America celebrates the music of Argentinian folk singer and political Mercedes Sosa who died in 2009 at the age of 74. Director Rodrigo H. Vila combines concert footage, archival footage and interviews conducted by Sosa's son, Fabian Matus, that give you a reader's digest understanding of Sosa's life. If he were to include more thorough biographical information, this doc would be more dry less accessible by mainstream audiences who prefer not to be bombarded with lots of info. The significant moments of Sosa's life are the ones that add meat to the film, i.e. how she fled to Paris during the dictatorship of Argentine President Jorge Vidala, and her struggles with depression. During the snippets of her concert footage, you at least get to read the translations of her lyrics and notice how poetic and meaningful they are---unlike a lot of modern day songs with empty lyrics. If you're not moved to tears by Sosa's life and how she persevered, you must be made out of stone. Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America, opening at Cinema Village via First Run Features, is a genuinely heartfelt, adequately informative introduction to the life and music of Mercedes Sosa.

Enemies Closer

Directed by Peter Hyams

      Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Xander, a French-Canadian drug lord who's set out to retrieve 50 pound of heroin that a cargo plane was carrying before it crashed into a lake. Nearby the crash site, Henry (Tom Everett Scott), an ex-Navy diver who's now a park ranger, comes to the aid of Kayla (Linzey Cocker) when he sees her injured at a park. She flirts with him and persistently asks him out on a dinner date for later that night. Meanwhile, Clay (Orlando Jones) shows up to exact revenge on Henry because he blames him for the death of his soldier brother.

      Anyone who expects a logical, clever plot or believable characters should look elsewhere. A third act plot twist can be easily predicted from a mile away. The action scenes with Van Damme deliver the goods, though: they're entertaining in a guilty pleasure, over-the-top sort of way, and you can easily see what's happening to whom during all the kicks, punches, shoves and other action moves. Just looking at Van Damme's crazy hairdo says a lot about what kind of action movie to expect. It's interesting that he's given the chance to speak in French, his native tongue, here.

      Director Peter Hyams keeps to pace moving along quickly enough and the running time down to 1 hour and 24 minutes, so it doesn't overstay its welcome---he probably understands that too much craziness can be exhausting after a while. Not surprisingly, the dialogue by co-writers Eric and James Bromberg ranges from serviceable to laughably bad which makes Enemies Closer one of the funniest films of the year. It's outrageous, unintentionally funny, cartoonish, dumb and consistently entertaining---in other words: the ultimate B-movie that's best watched at midnight with a group of friends while intoxicated.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Lionsgate Films.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.

Gimme Shelter

Directed by Ron Krauss


Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Roadside Attractions.
Opens in select theaters.


Directed by Sebastián Lelio

      58-year-old Gloria (Paulina García), a divorced mother of two adult children, goes to a singles club where she meets Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a divorced father who also has two adult children. They start to have feelings for each other, date and have sex. He, unlike Gloria, is seven years her senior, newly divorced and still remains emotionally connected to his his ex-wife and has an unhealthy relationship with his children, though, who are unemployed, live with his ex-wife and rely on him for money. She, unlike Rodolfo, has a boring office job; he owns an amusement park where he introduces her to the game of paintball for the first time. Is their relationship meant to last? Are they both in love with one another? Are Gloria and Rodolfo truly happy, for that matter?

      Writer/director Sebastián Lelio provides you with enough character details so that you can come up with different answers to the questions above. Both Gloria and Rodolfo enter their relationship with some emotional baggage, although Rodolfo seems to have more baggage than she does and handles it less maturely despite that he's older than her. Perhaps suffers from a certain degree of narcissism and uses Gloria as his supply to fill some kind of void. Lelio leaves that up to interpretation, focusing just on Gloria and Rodolfo's interactions. Rodolfo seems nice and sweet, but the more you get to know him, you realize that he's insecure, immature and, perhaps, unctuous. His actions at a dinner party isn't particularly nice, but you can say the same for the way that Gloria treats him from the moment they enter the party. Such complex relationships are very rare to find onscreen, especially with characters over the age of 50. Like a great filmmaker, Lelio finds just the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally as well as intellectually. The brief moments of comic relief work effectively, and, most importantly, Lelio shows Gloria with pure, unadulterated humanity and warmth while letting you judge her for yourself. She may have changed by the end credits or she may have remained the same person she was before she met Rodolfo---decide that for yourself. Regardless of whether she's likable, unlikable or somewhere in between, she's a very interesting and intelligent woman. If there were more roles for women like Gloria, the film industry would be treating both men and women fairly.

      No review of Gloria would be complete without mentioning Paulina García bravura performance in the titular role. She tackles the character's fierceness and fragility convincingly, and isn't afraid to be both emotionally and physically naked. Just by smoking a cigarette and staring at something or someone, she conveys a wide variety of emotions through her facial movements which speak louder than words. In other words, she as the right skills as an actress, and, most likely, depth as a human being, in order to sink her teeth so smoothly into this complex, memorable role. Yes, this is a Chilean film that remains focused on two very specific characters, but its themes are both universal and relatable---if you don't relate to it now, just wait until you reach Gloria and Rodolfo's age. At a running time of 110 minutes, Gloria manages to be warm, wise, sophisticated and deeply human. Paulina García is a revelation. It's the kind of film that will linger in your mind for weeks.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Roadside Attrations.
Opens at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Angelika Film Center.

Old Goats

Directed by Taylor Guterson


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Music Box Films.
Opens at Cinema Village.

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