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Reviews for May 12th, 2017

Absolutely Anything

Directed by Terry Jones


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens in select theaters.

Dead Awake

Directed by Phillip Guzman


Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by FilmRise.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Directed by Guy Ritchie

      Vortigern (Jude Law) murdered Arthur's uncle, Uther (Eric Bana), and became the new king. Years later, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam), recognizes his right to become king. He seeks revenge against Vortigern with the help of a mage (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and a powerful sword known as the Excalibur.

      Part of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword feels like a music video while the other part feels like a video game. The screenplay by writer/director Guy Ritchie and co-writers Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram throw character development aside and rush through the plot instead while eschewing wit and any palpable thrills for that matter. Lines like "let's play" before a fight sequence sounds like something a teenager obsessed with video games would come up with. This isn't the kind of movie where characters have any conversations with one another; the dialogue is just there to move the plot forward or for the sake of exposition. To top it all off, Ritchie includes very choppy editing which gives the film some energy instead of trusting the tensions found in the story itself. The shots last roughly 2-5 seconds with the exception of one shot of Arthur looking exhausted after an action scene that lasts 7 seconds. The quick-cut cinematography feels more headache-inducing than fun or exhilarating. It's frustrating to become truly absorbed in any of the the scenes because of all of the nauseating quick-cutting. Equally, any of the actors' charisma gets lost in terrible editing, camerawork and shallow screenplay.

      On a positive note, the costume design and visual effects look great and provide some eye candy, but not nearly enough to invigorate the film. If the running were 90 minutes instead of 126 minutes, King Arthur would've been harmless. If there were some campiness to be found, it would've been fun in a guilty pleasure sort of way. At 126 minutes, though, it's an overlong, exhausting, and dull blockbuster that's all Spectacle and zero Truth, even if you look beneath the Spectacle.

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


Directed by Ricardo de Montreuil


Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by BH Tilt.
Opens nationwide.

Paris Can Wait

Directed by Eleanor Coppola


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.
Opens at Angelika Film Center and The Paris Theatre.


Directed by Jonathan Levine


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by 20th Century Fox.
Opens nationwide.

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe

Directed by Maria Schrader

      Stefan Zweig (Josef Hader), a Jewish Austrian writer, spent his final years in exile while the Nazis were rising to power. He moved to England, New York and Brazil with his second wife, Lotte (Aenne Schwarz). His first wife, Friderike (Barbara Sukowa) fled to New York to escape the Nazis, and he visited her apartment. At a press conference, he made it clear that he refuses to take a political stance against anyone, even Hitler, or to come to any conclusions about a country after spending very little time there. Like many great writers, he's a critical thinker, but he's concurrently tormented by his conflicting thoughts and feelings as he struggles to find a new place to call home during wartime.

      Writer/director Maria Schrader and co-writer Jan Schomburg go through an unconventional route for a biopic by selecting 6 chapters from the last years of Zweig's life while keeping Zweig at a somewhat emotional distance from the audience. The opening scene in a banquet ceremony sets the film's rhythm and tone as the camera remains positioned at the head of the table as guests greet one another, make small talk, and move toward the direction of camera until Zweig is seen up close shaking hands as he's being celebrated. That's quite an interesting way to introduce the character of Zweig as you wonder what makes him so significant. You gradually learn about him as a writer, but Schrader and Schomburg focus more on him as a human being during his more private moments. It's not easy to get inside his head, and the transitions from one chapter to the next feel slightly abrupt just as you start to become engrossed. With the exception of one scene when Zweig meets the mayor of a town and the mayor's wife, there's not much in terms of comic relief. The film suffers from occasional anemia while the exquisite cinematography helps to enliven as well as enrich it ever so slightly.

      Joseph Hader breathes life into his role with a raw, understated performance that somewhat compensates for the screenplay's lack of emotional depth. He convincingly captures Zweig's mental turmoil even during the film's quiet moments. The always-reliable Barbara Sukowa briefly shows up with yet another radiant, memorable performance. Strong performances can only go so far when the dialogue remains low on poignancy and potency. Unfortunately, Stefan Zweig doesn't quite rise to the power, wit and warmth of other recent biopics about brilliant writers and thinkers, i.e. Hanna Arendt and Trumbo.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by First Run Features.
Opens at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.


Directed by Alexi Pappas and Jeremy Teicher


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

Urban Hymn

Directed by Michael Caton-Jones


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Level 33 Entertainment.
Opens at Cinema Village.

The Wall

Directed by Doug Liman


Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions.
Opens in select theaters.

The Wedding Plan

Directed by Rama Burshtein


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Roadside Attractions.
Opens at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Quad Cinema.

Whiskey Galore!

Directed by Gillies MacKinnon


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