Main Page
Alphabetical Menu
Chronological Menu

Reviews for January 8th, 2016

Documentary Round-Up

      Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art provides a fascinating introduction to the Land Art (a.k.a. Earthworks) of the 1960's and 70's. Director James Crump blends photos, archival footage and interviews in a way that's captivating. He wisely doesn't assume that you already know a lot about Land Art, so he doesn't bombard you with lots of talking heads and information that would have made the doc too dry and boring for those who are unfamiliar with the topic---this isn't one of those docs where you're tempted to ask at the end "When's the exam??" You'll learn about artists such as Robert Smithson, Michael Heiz and Walter de Maria, and get to view their majestic works of Land Art. A photo, after all, is a thousand words, so the observation of their Earthworks alone turns out to be an illuminating and even awe-inspiring experience. Moreover, Troublemakers is briskly edited without any dull moments along the way during its brief running time of 1 hour and 12 minutes. It opens at IFC Center via First Run Features.

The Abandoned

Directed by Eytan Rockaway


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

      Opens at IFC Center.


Directed by Jason Kartalian

      Martin (Ian Hutton) recently broke up with his girlfriend and became unemployed after his restaurant failed. After meeting Lauren (Justine Wachsberger) on a dating site, she agrees to show up at his apartment to meet him, but upon arrival, she seems apprehensive of him. There's more to her than meets the eye, as it turns out, and to top it all off, she even locks herself in his bathroom while taking a bath. How Martin persuades her out of the locked bathroom or whether the two of them will get along with one another won't be spoiled here so that you'll maximize your enjoyment of the film's surprises.

      Writer/director Jason Kartalian has woven a heartfelt romantic drama that's concurrently relatable, engrossing, sweet and tender. He fills the film with plenty of humanism (read: truly special effects) as Martin and Lauren converse with one another. The dialogue sounds very natural which in-and-of itself is an amazing feat given how too many American dramas nowadays have stilted dialogue. Another aspect of the screenplay's strength is how it balances the story's light and dark elements without going overboard in either direction, especially when someone rather aggressive from Lauren's life shows up at Martin's apartment. Kartalian builds the suspense as layer upon layer of both of their pasts, especially Lauren's, get revealed. In turn, their new relationship becomes all the more complex and interesting as well. Martin seems like a pushover on the surface, but, he's not gullible or dumb at all. He's a kind and warmhearted person, and it's easy to see what makes Lauren drawn to him. Fortunately, Ian Hutton radiates not only warmth, but also charisma in the role of Ian. Justine Wachsberger also impresses as she tackles a wide range of complex human emotions as Lauren.

      Jason Kartalian further enriches the plot through the very creative production design and the use of poetic symbolism when it comes to the seahorses that Martin has in an fish tank in his bedroom. You'll have to see Seahorses to find out what makes those seahorses such provocative metaphors. Most importantly, though, Kartalian keeps the running time down to 1 hour and 34 minutes, so the film doesn't overstay its welcome; if Lauren and Martin were to continue to stay in the apartment and converse, it would feel too stuffy and exhausting for the audience. Seahorses is one of the best romantic dramas since Before Sunrise. If it doesn't win your heart over, you must be a cynic and made out of stone.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Viewfinder Entertainment.
Opens at Arena Cinema in Los Angeles.

Trust Fund

Directed by Sandra L. Martin

      Reese Donahue (Jessica Rothe), an aspiring writer living in Chicago, comes from an affluent family and has always had everything handed to her on a silver platter by her very generous and loving father, Grayson (Kevin Kilner). He even gives her a job at the company that he owns despite that she lacks the proper qualifications. When she discovers that her deceased mother had left her and her older sister, Audrey (Louise Dylan), a $10 million inheritance in a trust fund, she secretly takes her inheritence money and flies to Italy to stay with her Italian boyfriend. She all the money to him, though, for an investment that doesn't quite pay off in the way that she expected. Meanwhile, her father hires a private investigator (Willie Garson) to track her down, and Sam (Matt Kane), a potential love interest, waits for her in Chicago.

      Trust Fund deals with a few universal, relatable and timely issues including the struggles of following one's dream and becoming truly autonomous during these shallow times. Reese might seem like an unlikable character given that she took the money out of the trust fund without permission, but it's common for young adults like her to make irrational decisions that they later regret. The real question though is whether or not she'll learn from her mistakes and never repeat them. The screenplay by Sandra L. Martin doesn't quite answer that question concretely because Reese's father never punishes her for her wrongdoings. In fact, he's very forgiving---perhaps too forgiving. It could very well be that Reese suffers from affluenza because she doesn't seem to grasp that her actions have consequences until after to commits them. Does she have any genuine empathy? That question is up for interpretation. Either way, Reese comes across as a fallible young woman which makes her all the more human and relatable. Martin should be commended for centering the film around a female character who's not objectified but instead a complex human being. Jessica Rothe is very well-cast in the lead role, and has charisma---she's just a charismatic as Lola Kirke from Mistress America.

      The production values look quite impressive with slick cinematography, picturesque locations and a fast enough pace so that very few scenes drag. To be fair, though, the third act does feel a bit rushed with a few contrived twists and convenient, somewhat overly simplified, Hollywood-ish turns of events that won't be spoiled here, but those are minor flaws that don't take too much away from the film's entertainment value. Ultimately, Trust Fund is a captivating, well-directed and timely drama with a radiant breakthrough performance by Jessica Rothe.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Transatlantic Films.

      Opens at AMC Town Center 20 (Purchase tickets here), AMC Studio 28 (Purchase tickets here) and AMC Independence Commons 20 (Purchase tickets here) in Kansas City.

Questions? Comments? Please click here.

Main Page
Alphabetical Menu
Chronological Menu

Avi Offer
The NYC Movie Guru
Privacy Policy