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Reviews for June 12th, 2015

The 11th Hour

Directed by Anders Morgenthaler


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Brainstorm Media.
Opens at Cinema Village.


Directed by Aleksandr Mitta

      Toward the end of WWI, Marc Chagall, a Russian-Jewish painter, returns to his hometown, Vitebsk, where he lives with his wife, Bella (Kristina Schneidermann). He establishes a school there for aspiring artists. Professor Kazimir Malevich (Anatoliy Belyy) firmly believes in an artistic style of painting called Suprematism unlike Chagall, so their different beliefs cause both of them to clash with one another. Naum (Semyon Shkalikov), a poet, flirts with his love interest who just so happens to be Chagall's wife. Meanwhile, Lyova (Yakov Levda), a Hasidic young man, studies at the art school in spite of the disapproval of his father, Rabbi Itzhal (Dmitriy Astrakhan).

      Chagall-Malevich, a very loose biography that takes many creative liberties, has a complex story with interesting characters. Unfortunately, writer/director Aleksandr Mitta fails to take that story and to turn it into a compelling film. He blends drama and romance with whimsical magical realism in a way that feels awkward and gimmicky. It doesn't help that none of the actors bring the characters to life because of their wooden performances, but even if you were to forgive that, there still remain the problems of oversimplified, underwritten characters and the lack of subtlety.

     None of the scenes feel organic or believable, especially one that takes place in a communal shower room that includes intellectual conversations with students that most likely would never take place in that particular kind of location between young men. At a running time of just under 2 hours, Chagall-Malevich is a contrived, clunky biopic that often drags and fails to pack any emotional punches.

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by ShiM-Film, LLC.
Opens at Cinema Village.

Jurassic World

Directed by Colin Trevorrow

      Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) works at the Jurassic World theme park as a velociraptor trainer. When scientist Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) engineers a new dinosaur, Indominus Rex, tycoon Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) insists that Owen should test it out first. Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio) plans to use the new reptiles as weapons for the military. Meanwhile, operations manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) has to deal with waning profits and the arrival of her young nephews, Gray (Ty Simpkins) and 16-year-old Zach (Nick Robinson). They all find their lives at risk when Indominus Rex and other raptors escape from captivity.

      Jurassic World follows the basic plot formula of every creature feature, including the first Jurassic Park, without offering anything that feels fresh, clever or surprising. Even on a purely aesthetic level, the thrills are sporadic because there's too much exposition and poor editing as the camera jumps back and forth following parallel plotlines. There's not a single scene that stands out or that will be remembered. Sure, the CGI looks nice, but it lacks the charm and wow factor that came with the use of animatronics in the first film. It's also rather violent and has some sexual innuendo that feels more awkward and unnecessary.

      Chris Pratt, unfortunately, doesn't have the acting chops to carry the film. Bryce Dallas Howard does a better job, although the clunky, pedestrian screenplay, written by four writers, doesn't do her any justice. The human villains are poorly written and cartoonish. The same can be said about the heroes that we're supposed to be rooting for, but they're nothing more than cardboard cut-outs. Shallow, overlong, unimaginative and lackluster, Jurassic World is yet another disappointing Hollywood blockbuster.

Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by Universal Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Opens at Regal Union Square 14 and AMC/Loews Lincoln Square.

Set Fire to the Stars

Directed by Andy Goddard


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Strand Releasing.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

The Stranger

Directed by Guillermo Amoedo


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