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Reviews for July 10th, 2015

Documentary Round-Up

      SlingShot sheds light on Dean Kamen's invention of the SlingShot, a device that cleans dirty water via vapor compression. Kamen tries to implement that device in third world countries where it's needed the most, but must first find a way to educate the people there about how to keep that water clean by not putting their dirty hands in it and by not using dirty containers to store the water. Director Paul Lazarus goes off on a few rather distracting tangents that delve into Kamen's other inventions, i.e. the Segway Human Transporter and the Coca-Cola-sponsered Freestyle Soda Fountain. The section about the SlingShot doesn't show up until after the Segway's section, so you might find yourself asking "What is this film really about??" by the time the topic switches from one invention to another. Kamen does come across, though, as a lively subject, though, with a quirky sense of humor that at least helps to make the doc entertaining. You'll learn more about Kamen's personality and genius than about the SlingShot. While the doc does provide you with a reader's digest view of the SlingShot's invention, thereby making it accessible to the layman, but it's rather unfocused and lacks more meat (insight) on its bones. SlingShot opens at Cinema Village.

The Gallows

Directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing


Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Mad Women

Directed by Jeff Lipsky

      In the quiet town of Iris Glen, Harper (Christina Starbuck) lives with her husband, Richard (Reed Birney), and her adult child, Nevada (Kelsey Lynn Stokes). Her oldest child works abroad in Ukraine, and another one of her children died of cancer at a very young age. She runs for town mayor after just being released from jail for conspiring to murder an abortionist, and, on top of that, she gets diagnosed with breast cancer. Richard is imminently going to prison for statutory rape while Nevada has issues of her own to cope with when she dates a creep, Otto (Eli Percy), who had been stalking her.

      Dysfunctional family movies if they're emotionally engaging and believable. Mad Women lacks both essential qualities despite solid performances from everyone onscreen. Writer/director Jeff Lipsky combines drama, dark comedy, shock value and a smidgen of romance in a way that lacks fluidity, vitality and panache. Although it's quite refreshing to see a film that doesn't have dinosaurs, zombies or any of the Hollywood cliches that pass for "entertainment", Mad Women does gets quite repetitive and dull while too many scenes overstay their welcome. It's alright that none of the characters are particularly likable or relatable for that matter---they're all very flawed which usually makes them more interesting. If only the dialogue weren't so clunky and stilted, perhaps they would actually come to life.

      Shock value in dysfunctional dramedies have been done better before (see Todd Solondz's Happiness, for instance), but here it's poorly integrated. Lipsky should be commended, though, for dealing with lots of heavy issues rarely explored in American cinema nowadays, but he doesn't go dig deep enough. The film ultimately bites off more than it can chew. At a running time of 2 hours and 11 minutes, Mad Women feels undercooked, lackluster and overlong.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Plainview Pictures.
Opens at Village East Theater.


Directed by Brian Lynch


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Universal Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Stations of the Cross

Directed by Dietrich Brüggemann


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Film Movement.
Opens at Anthology Film Archives.


Directed by Kim Farrant


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Alchemy.
Opens at Angelika Film Center.

The Suicide Theory

Directed by Dru Brown

      A depressed artist, Percival (Leon Cain), hires a ruthless hitman Steven Ray (Steve Mouzakis) to kill him after many failed suicide attempts. The two form an unexpected bond as they struggle to come to terms with tragedy from their past. Steven lost his wife in a hit-and-run accident while Percival still grieves over his boyfriend who had been killed. Complications arise when Steven's desire to kill begins to wane.

      The Suicide Theory has a very compelling, refreshingly inventive concept with a story that offers mystery, suspense, drama and a few intruiging and heartfelt moments along the way. It loses a bit of its oomph as it tries to pull the rug a little from under the audience in the third act with all the twists and turns that it takes. Much of the film feels grounded in humanism thanks to the screenplay by Michael J. Kospiah which has some witty dialogue. What it lacks, though, is subtlety: it doesn't trust the audience's intelligence enough and, instead, spoon-feeds it with too many expository moments and flashbacks. Kospiah and director Dru Brown deserve to be commended for not using blood and guts as a means of entertainment.

      Both Steve Mouzakis and Leon Cain give terrific performances and have great chemistry together. The dynamic between Steven and Percival's relationship remains the most interesting part of the film, though, so at least you won't find yourself bored. You might even find yourself touched by some of the turn of events, except toward the end when The Suicide Theory loses its footing and becomes slightly less emotionally engrossing because of tacked-on, gimmicky and M. Night Shyamalanian twists that it doesn't truly need to rely on.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Freestyle Releasing.
Opens at select theaters.
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