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Reviews for June 1st, 2012

As One

Directed by Moon Hyeon Seong

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens at AMC/Loews Ridgefield Park.Center.
Released by CJ Entertainment.

A Cat in Paris

Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Opens at the Angelika Film Center.
Released by GKIDS Films.


Directed by Jesse Baget

      Leroy (Sizemore), a Ku Klux Klansman, goes to a Texas prison work farm for tax evasion along with his friend, Bubba (Kevin Farley). Upon Bubba's death, Leroy gets a new cellmate: Emilio (Hector Jimenez), a Mexican field laborer. Emilio, with his big, unkempt hair and frequent jibber-jabbering even at night, perturbs Leroy at first. Leroy's attempts to pursuade the prison's warden, Merville (Stacy Keach) to give him a different cellmate don't succeed, so now he has to find ways to get along with him, a task that's much easier said than done for him, especially given his bigotry.

      One of Cellmates' many surprises is that its plot goes to unexpected places. Just when you think that the entire focus will be on the friendship--or lack thereof--between Leroy and Emilio, there's suddenly a budding romance between Leroy and Madalena (Olga Segura), a Mexican maid who he flirts with at Merville's office despite that she doesn't know English and he doesn't know Spanish. It's an absolute hoot to hear Merville's frequent speeches about his love of potatoes and potato farming. You'll feel as though you're watching a Christopher Guest mockumentary given how absurd he seems. The same can be said for Leroy and Emilio. Writer/director Jesse Baget together with co-writer Stefenia Moscato deftly blend outrageous comedy with satire and wit. They poke fun at racism and the prison system itself, but not in mean-spirited ways. The comedy certainly would not have been so laugh-out-loud funny were it not for the comedic talents onscreen, especially that of Hector Jimenez who's even funny just to look at.

      At an ideal running time of 1 hour and 25 minutes, Cellmates is a bold, witty and hilarious satire that's a slice of comedy heaven. You'll laugh until it hurts.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the Quad Cinema.
Released by Cavu Pictures.

Hide Away

Directed by Chris Eyre

      A young man (Josh Lucas), a successful businessman, purchases a sailboat, Hesperus, docked at a harbor in a small town. He moves into the sailboat as he attempts to fix it. Meanwhile, he befriends a local waitress (Ayelet Zurer) and an old mariner (James Cromwell). Some tragic event in his past haunts him to the extent that he feels depressed and nearly suicidal. Will he be able to come to terms with his past and move forward? Will he fall in love with the waitress and find happiness/tranquility?

      What could have been a very poignant and insightful drama instead turns into a sluggish, oversimplified and lazy film that hits you over the head with metaphors and stilted dialogue that barely scratches the surface of what's really going on inside the young man's head. Given the protagonist's many struggles to find happiness/tranquility, he does make for a complex character that's interesting initially, but ultimately frustrating. The film's main problem can be found in the undercooked screenplay by Peter Vanderwall which leaves too much important information to the audience's imagination, particularly when it comes to the young man's tragic past. The brief flashbacks don't help much because they leave you with more questions than answers.

      In yet another undercooked part of the film, the young man lets a grocery store clerk, Lauren (Casey LaBow), stay overnight on his boat because she's traumatized from her abusive husband. What happened to that woman? The audience doesn't see her or hear from her again. A very bizarre, jarring scene takes place mid-film that feels like a music video. Also, it seems that the restaurant that the waitress works at can somehow stay in business without any customers. Had Vanderwall invested more time in adding small details that brings the characters and the small down to life, perhaps the film would be much more rewarding experience for attentive viewers.

      On a positive note, director Chris Eyre, who's also responsible for directing Smoke Signals includes exquisite cinematography with many picturesque scenery that certainly provide a lot of eye candy. That Hide Away manages to be even remotely moving is a testament to Josh Lucas' strong, well-nuanced performance. If only he had a smarter screenplay to sink his teeth into.
Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Opens at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
Released by MMC Joule Films.

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Directed by Léa Pool

      This illuminating and provocative documentary about pink ribbons of breast cancer that many people take for granted day after day. Breast cancer fundraising occurs every year by organizations such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Avon and Estée Lauder who bring women (and money) together along with cross-marketing to help fight breast cancer and raise awareness. Is the word "fight" really appropriate to use? How does simply raising awareness help the women if no one takes action? How effective can it possibly be to euphemize a disease such as breast cancer that can be quite fatal and very difficult to go through? In fact, a much greater percentage of women get the disease today than back in 1940. With its positive message of hope, what kind of message does that really give women?

      Director Léa Pool answers those vital questions with well-balanced interviews that shows precisely how complex the issue of breast cancer marketing and its various treatments is in reality. Like in any issue, there are more than 2 sides to the coin: there are the sides, the ridges, the sides of the ridges, the corners and so on. If you're a myopic individual who blindly believes in the pink ribbons, this documentary will probably not have much of an impact on you. But if you're an open-minded believer, prepare to be shocked and enraged--which you have every right to be. You might be especially angered, for instance, by the fact that the same companies that sell and produce carcinogenic products also invest money in finding treatments for cancer. Or you might be angry/frustrated at the corporations' lack of accountability.

      Who or whom should you be angry at, though, and why? As one interviewee wisely states, not all kinds of anger are an unhealthy way of expression; there is a form of healthy anger that can and should be expressed. Fortunately, Pool interviews many of the experts on all sides of the spectrum ranging from the activists, Stage 4 cancer victims, doctors and corporate execs each of whom has their own interesting perspective. Moreover, Pool wisely omits herself from the film by not including any voice-over narration because that allows her subjects to speak for themselves and for you as the audience to use your own intelligence to come to your own conclusions via critical thinking.

      Adolf Hitler once stated, "How fortunate it is for governments that the people they administer don't think." Critical thinking is a task that's easier said than done in a society and culture that dumbs down, simplifies, euphemizes or, worse, ignores harsh truths while our government and pharmaceutical industry takes advantage of this. Ask yourself: What incentive, if any, does our government and pharmaceutical industry have for finding an actual cure for cancer if treating is more profitable than curing it? Industry insiders at least admit that little to no funding goes toward researching environmental causes for cancer. So, given that both the government and Big Pharma are like pimps when it comes to how they abuse their money and power while undermining public welfare. If government and pharmaceutical companies are pimps, then who do you think are the prostitutes? Watch Pink Ribbons, Inc., think critically and decide for yourself.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens at the IFC Center.
Released by First Run Features.

Sexual Chronicles of a French Family

Directed by Pascal Arnold

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the IFC Center.
Released by IFC Midnight.

U.N. Me

Directed by Matthew Groff and Ami Horowitz

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens at the AMC Empire 25.
Released by Disruptive Pictures.

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