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Reviews for March 1st, 2013

The End of Love

Directed by Mark Webber

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Variance Films.
Opens at Cinema Village.

Hava Nagila: The Movie

Directed by Roberta Grossman

      Have you ever wondered about where the folk song "Hava Nagila" originated or what its lyrics mean? How did it become so popular in America? What might be more Jewish: gefilte fish or the Hava Nagila? Along comes Hava Nagila: The Movie to provide you with the history of the folk song. Its melody came from a Ukranian shtetl and, via the Jewish Diaspora, it ended up in Palestine where the lyrics were finally added to accompany the music. Harry Belafonte tremendously helped to ignite Hava Nagila's popularity in the US after he sang his own version of the song in the 1950's. Connie Francis, Elvis, Bob Dylan, Celia Cruz and Bruce Springsteen are among the many other singers who helped the song flourish there by singing it. Since then, as the music clips show, it has travelled to a variety of countries around the world ranging from Egypt to the UK, South Korea, Russia, Mexico and Thailand.

      Director Roberta Grossman wisely adds a little suspense or conflict to the film by including the battle over the song's authorship. Was it Abraham Zevi Idelsohn or Cantor Moshe Nathanson who truly wrote the lyrics? Interviews with the descendants of both Idelsohn and Nathanson shed some light on the matter that will lead you to believe that either of those two men could have been the true author because arguments for both cases are made quite persuasively by their families.

      Grossman and writer Sophie Sartain deserve to be commended for keeping this documentary from being boring and dry. They inject a lot of humor and wit, especially into the voice-over narration, which makes for a highly entertaining experience unlike any other documentary in recent memory. Grossman also moves the film at just the right brisk pace so that there's never a dull moment, and ends the film at roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes, the ideal running time for this subject matter. It may not be particularly revealing or profound, but Hava Nagila: The Movie is one of those rare, crowd-pleasing documentaries that compels you to tap your toes and leaves you with a great big smile on your face from ear to ear upon exiting the theater.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by International Film Circuit.
Opens at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Jack the Giant Slayer

Directed by Bryan Singer


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

Molly's Theory of Relativity

Directed by Jeff Lipsky

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Adopt Films.
Opens at the Angelika Film Center.


Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel

      Bold, ugly, beautiful, haunting, nauseating, pretentious, scary, tedious and disgusting. Can a documentary be all of those descriptions concurrently? After watching Leviathan, the answer is a resounding "yes." The doc follows a fishing vessel as its crew members catch a variety of fish and gut then them. This is the kind of film that if it doesn't hook you, no pun intended, within the first 30 minutes, you'll be bored and/or annoyed by it for the remaining hour. The sights and sounds that you see and hear are at first are very hard to discern because of there's a lot of darkness and shaky camerawork, so you'll be confused about where you are and what you're seeing/hearing. Once you figure those basic questions out, you'll breathe a small, ephemeral sigh of relief.

      Co-directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel offer you no narration, context or even interviews thereby putting a lot of the burden on you to interpret the meanings of what you see and hear on your own. They make you feel as though you're right there on the fishing vessel. Eventually, it becomes much like a horror film because the directors put you right along with the gutted fish carcasses--blood, guts and all. Those images alone need no explanation because, like the entire film itself, they hit you on a visceral level. As the saying goes, images speak louder than words. Prepare to feel sea-sick at first and then sick to your stomach by the disgusting practices of the commercial fishing industry. If you have a strong stomach and can make it through to the end of Leviathan, you might find yourself speechless as you try to absorb everything you just saw.

      At a running time of 1 hour and 27 minutes, Leviathan is one of the most viscerally horrifying films in years.

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by The Cinema Guild.
Opens at the IFC Center.

The Lost Medallion

Directed by Bill Muir

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by MeThinx Entertainment.
Opens in select theaters.

A Place at the Table

Directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Magnolia Pictures.
Opens at Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Elinon Bunin Munroe Film Center.

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