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Reviews for July 20th, 2012

30 Beats

Directed by Alexis Lloyd

      Based on the play "La Ronde" by Arthur Schnitzler, 30 Beats centers around ten New Yorkers throughout the course of one scorching hot summer. There's Adam (Justin Kirk), a young man who sees a psychic, Erika (Jennifer Tilly), who tries to help him with problems he has with Julie (Condola Rashad), his ex-girlfriend's younger sister who shows up at his apartment to lose her virginity. Why he doesn't see a regular psychiatrist instead of a psychic is a whole other matter. After Adam sees Erika, Erika then deals with her own relationship issues with Diego (Jason Day) who's been cheating on her with Laura (Paz de la Huerta). Laura tries to seduce her chiropractor Matt (Lee Pace) who's having relationship problems with Kim (Vahina Giocante) who tries to ignite a relationship with Julian (Thomas Sadoski). Julian seeks the services of a dominatrix/high-end call girl, Alice (Ingeborga Dapkunaite), who's desperate to find a sperm donor so that she can become a mother. She hopes to find that sperm in Sean (Ben Levin), a young man whom she meets at a gym. Sean, as it turns out, is a virgin, and may or may not lose his virginity to his friend, Julie thereby closing the circle of vignettes.

Writer/director Alexis Lloyd has made a film filled with seductive, sexy characters and, in a way, the film itself can also be called seductive and sexy. She doesn't offer much in terms of closure or deep revelations because, after all, this isn't a Hollywood film where everything must be spoon-fed to the audience nor is it a message-driven film. Some vignettes are better-written than others, but all of them feel concurrently organic and surprising. The characters do behave and talk like New Yorkers do in terms of their attitude toward sex. Not every sexual relationship is the same, and there's always the aftermath of sex to deal with. Fortunately, at least some of the characters are mature enough to know that and, therefore, they want more out of their life.

      Lloyd interweaves the vignettes in clever ways, and wisely chooses not to show the actual sex scenes which is rare for a film that deals with sex. By avoiding the images of sex scenes, she leaves the sex to your imagination, a much more powerful tool--after all, one could argue that the true sensations of sex (i.e. orgasms) are all more mental rather than physical; sexual organs/objects merely serve as a catalyst.

      At an ideal running time of 1 hour and 28 minutes, 30 Beats manages to be a sexy, smart and sophisticated exploration of sex, love and everything in between.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Roadside Attractions.
Opens at the Village East Cinema and Clearview's 1st & 62nd St.

The Dark Knight Rises

Directed by Christopher Nolan

      Bruce Wayne, aka The Dark Knight (Christian Bale), has been hiding in exile for the past eight years while assuming the blame for the death of Gotham's district attorney, Harvey Dent. He comes out of exile when Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked villain, threatens to destroy Gotham City with a nuclear device. Moreover, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar who steals from the rich, may or may not be on Bruce Wayne's side. Surely on his side, though, is his loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), and his business manager, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), as well as police officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Police Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman).

      To regurgitate The Dark Knight's plot any further would not do it any justice because it would ruin the many surprises in store for you. Writer/director Christopher Nolan and co-writer Jonathan Nolan should be commended for taking a seemingly simple good vs. evil comic book story and turning it into a concurrently thrilling, riveting and emotionally devastating experience. Nolan isn't afraid to unflinchingly show the human aspects of his characters which make them all the more worth caring about. Even Bane has an interesting backstory that, in a way, humanizes him as a villain. How the general public of Gotham City reacts to Bane will not only surprise and perhaps frighten you, but also make you think about those events within the context of the real world. Any blockbuster that leads to those kind of provocations is already more than just your average, run-of-the-mill blockbuster.

      Surely, The Dark Knight Rises has explosive action sequences, nifty CGI, and a great musical score that provide plenty of eye and ear candy. It deserves, with flying colors, all of its accolades for its many technical achievements come Oscar time, but it also deserves to be nominated for Best Picture because it's, thus far, the best American film of the year in terms of boasting Oscar-caliber performances, a smartly-written and tender screenplay with strong beginning, middle and end to boot. Many, if not all, of the American films this year started on a strong, satisfying note, but completely lost their momentum by their unsatisfying third act or they overstayed their welcome. Even at 2 hours and 45 minutes, The Dark Knight Rises will never bore you because of how much its screen time is carefully spent on developing its characters, atmosphere and story, thoroughly and believably. There are even a few moments of comic relief that provide well-needed levity amidst the very somber, gloomy mood that the film often evokes. The entire cast delivers amazing performances, so it's difficult to pick just one who stand-out the most, whether it be Tom Hardy, Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman or Michael Caine. Perhaps upon a second viewing, a different actor's performance will stand out more. The Dark Knight Rises is ultimately the most emotionally and intellectually rewarding blockbuster in years.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Queen of Versailles

Directed by Lauren Greenfield

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Magnolia Pictures.
Opens at the Angelika Film Center and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

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