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Reviews for May 23rd, 2014

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn

Directed by Phil Alden Robinson


*****Full review coming soon*****

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Lionsgate Films.
Opens at AMC Empire.


Directed by Frank Coraci


*****Full review coming soon*****

Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by Warner Bros.
Opens nationwide.

Cold in July

Directed by Jim Mickle


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

The Dance of Reality

Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by ABKCO Films.
Opens at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

The Fatal Encounter

Directed by Lee Jae-Kyoo

      In 1777 Korea, King Jeong-jo (Hyun Bin) learns that assassin Eul-Soo (Jo Jung-suk) and two palace servants (Jung Jae-young and Jung Eun-chae) have been ordered to kill him. He has survived many other assassination attempts in the past by members of the Noron faction who are also responsible for murdering his father. Gwang-baek (Jae-hyeon Jo) has been training the assassins to kill ever since their were young orphans. Complicating matters, one of Jeong-jo's servants confesses to Jeong-jo that he had known Eul-Soo since they were very young when both were raised by the pernicious Gwang-baek. Tensions between Queen Jeongsun (Han Ji-min), Jeong-jo's grandmother, and his mother, Lady Hyegyeong (Kim Sung-ryung) also arise.

      Director Lee Jae-Kyoo keeps the suspense building a gradual pace as more details emerge that escalate the assassination threat against the King. This isn't a simple good vs. evil story, though, because it has complexities as you learn more and more about the characters' histories and the dynamics of their relationship which aren't black-and-white. The way that Jae-Kyoo informs you about those histories, though, lacks subtlety because he resorts to flashbacks rather excessively. Imagine being told a very compelling story that has you at the edge-of-year seat when, all-of-a-sudden, the storyteller stops the story to provide some vivid exposition every 15 minutes or so before returning to the story. He or she not a particularly effective storyteller because by pausing the story so many times, it loses its dramatic momentum. The same can be said for director Lee Jae-Kyoo. If those flashbacks were to be condensed and/or omitted while being referred to somehow briefly in the main story instead, The Fatal Encounter would have been consistently captivating and shorter than 2 hours and 15 minutes. Fortunately, the action sequences aren't excessive or particularly gory for that matter, so at least the director knows that the characters and the ensuing drama are more important than mind-numbing action scenes.

      Aesthetically, the production values are all top-notch. Everything from the cinematography to the set design, costume design, lighting and make-up look exquisite and add a richness to the film as well as some eye candy. It's worth noting that The Fatal Encounter surpassed The Amazing Spider-Man at the Korean box office, and it right deserves that major feat. Hopefully, one day, American audiences will embrace such sophisticated thrillers made for adults and turn them into blockbusters instead of supporting the constant onslaught of vapid, bloated, uninspired comic book movies, but I'm not going to be holding my breath for that moment to arrive anytime soon.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by CJ Entertainment.
Opens at AMC Empire.


Directed by Darren Paul Fischer

      Zak (Daniel Fraser) and Marie (Eleanor Wyld) live in a world where everyone is differentiated based on the frequency that they were born with. The higher the frequency, the lower the intelligence. Only people with similar frequencies be compatible. Zak has a low frequency while Marie has a high one, so according to what science dictates, they're not supposed to form any kind of relationship. That science gets put to the test when Marie meets Zak and asks him to participate in an experiment to study relationships. They meet again years later when Zak claims to have found a way to manipulate frequencies to have hers and his frequencies on the same level.

      The plot synopsis above might seem confusing initially, but you won't feel confused while watching Frequencies because there's enough exposition to make you follow what's going on. Yes, it may be complex, but it's not complicated. Writer/director Darren Paul Fisher has a lot of courage for tackling such an original idea that's equally provocative and captivating especially given the fact that we're living in an age where most films are dumbed-down, shallow and derivative. If Hollywood were to start making films like this, we'd be in a new Golden Age of Cinema. Why can't The Hunger Games be as consistently smart and deep as Frequencies instead of asinine and shallow?

     To offset the intricate, serious details of the plot, Fisher includes some humor and wit along the way; this isn't one of those dry, dull, exhausting "thinking person" movies like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It's much more along the lines of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in terms of how it combines humor, depth and cleverness with a highly imaginative concept without veering into pretentiousness or making you feel exhausted. Ultimately, Frequencies has more imagination and intelligence than all of the Hollywood films in recent memory combined. Take that, Hollywood!

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

Lila, Lila

Directed by Alain Gsponer

      David Kern (Daniel Brühl), a waiter, discovers an unpublished manuscript in an antique nightstand's drawer that he had purchased at a flea market. In an attempt to woo a young woman, Marie (Hannah Herzsprung), he hands her the manuscript while passing it off as his own. She reads and it turns out to be a masterpiece, so, she agrees to date him. He refuses to send it to a publisher, but she does so anyway thereby attracting the attention of a book publisher. Soon enough, David quits his job as a waiter to begin his book tours and reading the novel out loud in front of large audiences. Everything changes when Jacky (Henry Hubchen) arrives at one of the book readings, approaches David and claims to be the true author of the novel.

      The strong, charismatic performance Daniel Brühl in the lead role just barely saves Lila, Lila from sinking because of its rather contrived and somewhat dull screenplay by Alex Buresch. Too much suspension of disbelief is required for you to not only buy the plot, but also to grasp what David sees in Marie to begin with other than her good looks. When he was just just a waiter, Marie wouldn't date him; after he lies to her about writing the brilliant manuscript, she suddenly likes him. Why does he fall for someone who likes him for such superficial reasons? He deserves better. Or perhaps he's not particularly bright. He stammers during the readings of books, and audiences don't mind forgiving him for that each time he struggles with a word.

      The dynamics of David's relationship with Jacky is much more interesting or believable than anything else in the film. A clever twist toward the end of the third act adds a new layer of complexity and makes you see both David and Jacky in a different perspective. How Buresch wraps things up in the third act feels rather too neat and "Hollywood," and both David and Marie's character arcs lack an organic quality that would make them more true-to-life or memorable for that matter. Fortunately, whenever Lila, Lila loses steam and makes you roll your eyes, the talented Daniel Brühl's performance helps to raise the film back to mediocrity while anchoring it with some much-needed genuine poignancy.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Corinth Films.
Opens at Quad Cinema.

The Love Punch

Directed by Joel Hopkins

      Kate (Emma Thompson) teams up with her ex-husband, Richard (Pierce Brosnan), and travel to Paris to steal a $10 million diamond that bride (Louise Bourgoin) will be wearing at her wedding at Cote d'Azur. The groom, Frank (Laurent Lafitte), a greedy French businessman, had bought Richard's company and bankrupted it thereby wiping out Richard and Kate's pension funds. Joining them for the heist are their friends, Penelope (Celia Imrie) and Jerry (Timothy Spall).

      Can The Love Punch be called predictable and silly? Yes, but so what? Writer/director Joel Hopkins doesn't set out to make a heist film that's meant to be taken seriously or over-analyzed for that matter. Don't ask how they're able to scale rocks to reach the wedding party to begin with. Hopkins wisely doesn't cater to the lowest common denominator---in other words: there are no poop or vomit jokes to be found here, and the humor isn't mean-spirited or juvenile like in most pathetic excuses for romcoms nowadays (yes, Blended, I'm looking at you!). He also grounds the film in just the right amount of sweetness without giving you a cavity. The screwball scenes work because the cast seem to be having such a great time, i.e. when they disguise themselves to infiltrate the wedding. Kate and Richard driving down steep steps during a car chase also generates some laughs because it's so absurd which can also be said for much of the film.

      Casting director Elaine Grainger should be commended for selecting just the right actors. Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson have great chemistry and rapport. They're even as fun to watch as Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn were in Bringing Up Baby because, in both cases, there's plenty of friction between the romantic leads. Thompson and Brosnan, as well as Imrie and Spall, play off of each other very well and add plenty of charm to the film. They all get their moments to shine. What also shines brightly is the breathtaking Cote d'Azur setting which becomes a character of itself. At an ideal running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes, The Love Punch is a delightful, breezy and outrageously funny slice of mindless entertainment with a charming cast. It will surely leave you with a smile on your face.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Ketchup Entertainment.
Opens at Regal E-Walk.

Words and Pictures

Directed by Fred Schepisi


*****Full review coming soon*****

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Roadside Attractions.
Opens at AMC Village 7 and The Paris Theatre.

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