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Reviews for June 24th, 2016

      Nuts!, directed by Penny Lane, is no ordinary documentary. It centers around how Dr. John Romulus Brinkley developed a cure for impotence by injecting impotent patients with goat testicles back in the early part of the 20th Century. Yes, you read that correctly. It certainly seems like it's at least to some degree a farce, but for majority of doc, you might find yourself on the side of Brinkley as he battles against Morris Fishbein, the head of American Medical Associated, who accused him of being a quack. Lane delves into Brinkley's background, i.e. his childhood, and the details of how he started his highly profitable medical practice involving the cure as well the origins of his own radio station where he offered medical advice. As the doc becomes increasingly complex, it will make you feel like you're in a roller coaster ride with twists and turns that you probably won't expect unless you're already familiar with this under-reported story. While the narrative itself is quite fascinating and surprisingly funny, the inventive way that Lane tells the narrative throughout Nuts! is what truly makes it extraordinary. She includes plenty of animated sequences that invigorate the film while providing an irresistibly captivating hook through humor and wit. The fact that she finds just the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally as well as intellectually in merely 79 minutes is yet another feat of this very well-edited and well-structured doc. Nuts! opens via Cartuna at Film Forum.


Directed by Jamie M. Dagg

      John Lake (Rossif Sutherland), an American doctor volunteering in Laos, goes on the run after he killed a man responsible for raping a woman. The authorities believe that he also raped the woman. He hopes to be able to return to America, but the American Embassy in Laos refuses to help him. With his life on the line, he does everything in goes on a desperate journey to escape Laos and to avoid being captured.

      Intense and gritty, River is a solid thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat more often than not. The screenplay by writer/director Jamie M. Dagg doesn't waste much time before it shows the doctor getting into the quagmire that fuels the dramatic momentum for the rest of the film. More comic relief would've helped to all the audience from being slightly less exhausted. Not much happens that could be considered mind-blowing or shocking per se in terms of plot, but the fact that River maintains its suspense without turning into an uneven mess makes it a cut above your average B-thriller. It's refreshing, though, to see a thriller that doesn't star Liam Neeson for a change. Rossif Sutherland is a very capable actor, and he handles the emotional burden of the film quite competently----especially because he's in nearly every scene.

      Jamie M. Dagg wisely avoids convoluting the film with unnecessary tangents, i.e. there's no romantic subplot or flashbacks. By keeping River lean, Dagg keeps the plot focused strictly on the plight of its protagonist. Even the running time of 1 hour and 26 minutes shows how disciplined he is as a director along with his editor, Duff Smith. If only the film were to have a more effective title than just plain "River" because that weak title doesn't immediately catch your attention nor does it lead you to believe that you're about to watch a riveting thriller.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Well Go USA.
Opens at Cinema Village.

Swiss Army Man

Directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by A24 Films.
Opens at Landmark Sunshine and AMC/Loews Lincoln Square.


Directed by Johnnie To


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Well Go USA.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.


Directed by Todd Solondz


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by IFC Films and Amazon Film Studios.
Opens at Angelika Film Center.