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Reviews for January 29th, 2016

Everybody's Fine

Directed by Zhang Meng


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Cheng Cheng Films.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.

The Finest Hours

Directed by Craig Gillespie

      In 1952, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), Tiny Myers (Abraham Benrubi), Frank Fauteux (Graham McTavish), D.A. Brown (Michael Raymond James), and Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), get trapped on a sinking oil rig off the coast of Massachusetts in the midst of a brutal nor'easter. Meanwhile, Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana), the commanding officer of the Coast Guard, sends a Coast Guard sailor, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), on a mission to save the lives of the oil rig workers. Bernie, who's engaged to his girlfriend, Miriam (Holliday Grainger), gathers three other Coast Guard sailors, namely, Ervin Maske (John Magaro), Richard Livesey (Ben Foster) and Andy Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), to brave the elements for the risky rescue mission.

      Based on a true story, the screenplay by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson deftly combines thrills, suspense, drama and a little bit of romance along the way.Everything from the costume designs to the make-up and set designs help to enrich the authenticity of that particular time period. The first act isn't quite as fast paced as the second act as it introduces you to the Coast Guard members and sets up the relationship between Bernie and his love interest, Miriam. Director Craig Gillespie cuts back and forth between those scenes and the scenes of the oil rig workers dealing with their catastrophe. The scenes on land as effectively engaging as the scenes at sea, but at least they ground the film in humanism and adds some character development. What elevate the land scenes tremendously is the charismatic Holliday Grainger who gives a truly radiant breakthrough performance. You'll find yourself very engrossed and mesmerized whenever she's onscreen. She has as much on-screen presence as some of the actresses from the Golden Age of American Cinema did, so hopefully other smart casting directors will notice her as well---she deserves to become a star.

      Once the Coast Guard team sets out on their rescue mission, that's when The Finest Hours becomes thoroughly exhilarating with edge-of-your-seat suspense as their 36-foot boat tackles large waves and searches for the sinking oil rig without the use of a compass. In IMAX 3-D, you'll feel like you're right there with the Coast Guard braving the elements of nature. You'll truly get your full money's worth of a pricey IMAX 3-D ticket during those scenes. Fortunately, action scenes don't overstay their welcome because, if they did, they would have become exhausting, nauseating and might have resulted in making you feel seasick. At a running time of just under 2 hours, The Finest Hours is thrilling, suspenseful and captivating while remaining grounded in humanism. It's also the first must-see film of 2016.

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


Directed by Doron and Yoav Paz


Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Epic Pictures Group.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

Kung Fu Panda 3

Directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh Nelson


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by DreamWorks Animation.
Opens nationwide.

Mountain Men

Directed by Cameron Labine

      Topher (Tyler Labine) and his estranged brother, Cooper (Chace Crawford), reunite in their small hometown when their mother, Marion (Christine Willes), remarries. The two brothers are vastly different. Cooper lives in a big city where he works as a lawyer; Topher still lives in his hometown and works as a pot dealer even though he's about to become a father. When they drive to a family cabin on the Rocky Mountains to investigate a potential squatter, a series of events leads to the two brothers finding themselves stranded on the mountain in the middle of winter.

      The combination of dysfunctional family drama, survival tale and comedy might sound like it could result in aconvoluted and uneven product, but, fortunately, the sensitive screenplay by writer/director Cameron Labine focuses more on the dramatic elements: dysfunctional relationship between Topher and Cooper. The evolving dynamics of their relationship, which include some epiphanies for both of them along the way, feel more engaging than the film's comedic attempts and action/suspense scenes during the survival tale portion. In other words, it's their character arcs that lift the film up from mediocrity. There's so much going on between the two brothers---so many buried sentiments that rise to the surface gradually---that Mountain Men doesn't really need the added tension of them trying to survive being stranded on the mountain. It seems like that's just there to make the film more accessible to modern young audiences who need a "big Hollywood event" to occur in order to be entertained.

      Nonetheless, Cameron Labine's screenplay establishes the nuances and complexities of Tyler and Cooper's relationship in an authentic way that successfully grounds the film in humanism. The convincingly moving performances by Tyler Labine and Chace Crawford help to add authenticity by making Tyle and Cooper seem like real brothers, especially when they argue. Both brothers change inately by the time the end credits roll, but at least you got the chance to watch how they change throughout the film. Especially given that endings are a film's Achilles' heel, it's also worth noting that Mountain Men has a satisfying, plausible ending that doesn't feel too Hollywood because it's well-earned, true-to-life and trusts the audience's imagination as well as intelligence without tying everything very neatly in a bow. At its core, Mountain Men is a refreshingly heartfelt, warm and tender film.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Level 33 Entertainment.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

Rabin: The Last Day

Directed by Amos Gitai


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Kino Lorber.
Opens at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
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