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Reviews for May 3rd, 2013

Documentary Round-Up

      Opening on Wednesday, May 1st at the IFC Center is The Source Family, co-directed by Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille, and released by Drag City Film Distribution. Have you ever wondered what it's like to be part of a commune in the 1970's? Well, now's your chance. This fascinating doc charts the rise and fall of The Source Family, a commune led by Jim Baker. He started recruiting members of the commune after he opened the legendary restaurant Source in Los Angeles, serving healthy, organic food. He had his own psychedelic rock band and, get this: 14 wives. Former commune members recall their experiences in vivid detail which makes it easy for you to grasp how and why they became brainwashed by Jim Baker. The freedoms of the hippie lifestyle in the Source Family commune came with a price which eventually led to its demise. Yet, in some ways that won't be spoiled here, the commune has lived on. Ultimately, The Source Family is equally entertaining and informative. Aroused, directed by Deborah Anderson, gives 16 women the chance to discuss about their work in the adult film industry. They briefly explain how they ended up working in porn, why, and how they feel about it. While it's refreshing to watch a doc about an under-reported subject matter, Anderson misses many opportunities to provide any real insight or revelations about these women nor does she humanize them enough. You essentially learn very little about them by the time the end credits role. Perhaps she should have cut down the number of subjects from 16 to 5 or so to give them more screen time; instead you get snippets of interviews that last no more than a minute or two before cutting to another woman. Or perhaps Anderson should have asked better questions. Either way, you'll leave Aroused undernourished both intellectually and emotionally. The doc opens at Village East Cinema via Ketchup Entertainment. For those of you interested in the current economic and ecological crises transpiring, there's the doc Occupy Love opening at the Cinema Village by Fierce Love Films. Director Velcrow Ripper takes a rather hopeful perspective on the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Arab Spring and other collective, rebellious efforts. What were the common themes tying these events that brought everyone together? Love for each other and for planet Earth. Many talking heads reiterate how the power of love has led and can still lead to progress and shifts in the paradigm. What's clear is that the status quo must change, but is love the true major driving force? Perhaps it's a very euphemistic way of looking at the horrors taking place around the world, economically and ecologically---yes, our planet is experiencing global warming, pollution, etc. But Ripper neglects a few of mankind's major vices that are huge obstacles: apathy, selfishness, materialism and simple-mindedness. Also, what about something more practical changing banking regulations, namely, the Basel Accords? All-in-all, Occupy Love is a well-edited doc with its heart in the right place, but it's incomplete, simplistic and euphemistic. Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's could have been a revealing, suspenseful or at least fun look at the fashion world at Bergdorf Goodmans but instead it's shallow, tedious and, worst of all, boring. The interviewees talk a lot, but actually say very little. You'll feel as though you're watching a long commercial for the legendary store. Directed by Matthew Miele, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's opens at the Angelika Film Center and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center via Entertainment One. Unmade in China, opening at the Cinema Village via Seventh Art Releasing and co-directed by Tanner King Barklow and Gil Kofman, is an amusing doc about Kofman's outrageous experiences in China as he directs an American thriller in Chinese entitled Case Sensitive. He doesn't speak a word of the language, so he seeks the help of translator. The Communist government in China makes so many changes to the screenplay and to the film itself once it gets made that you'll have to see this doc to believe it. Kofman pokes a lot of fun at the frustrating events that transpire to him and his film, and he also seems to have a great time poking fun at Chinese culture. However, he spends a little too much time navel-gazing which adds unnecessary padding and gets tiresome. The insights are rather facile and simple as can be said about the overarching lesson: think twice before making a film in China. By the time Unmade in China ends, you'll be quite tempted to get yourself a copy of both the Chinese government's version of Case Sensitive as well as the director's cut.

Desperate Acts of Magic

Directed by Joe Tyler Gold and Tammy Caplan

***Full review coming soon***

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Gold Cap Films.
Opens at the Quad Cinema.

Iron Man 3

Directed by Shane Black

***Full review coming soon***

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Walt Disney Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Love is All You Need

Directed by Susanne Bier

***Full review coming soon***

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.
Opens at Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn

Directed by Paul Borghese

      Fresh out of a nine-year prison sentence for armed robbery, Bobby Baldano (William DeMeo) returns to Brooklyn with the hopes of starting a new, peaceful life working for the construction company of his father, Joseph (Armand Assante). However, instead of accepting the job offer, he goes back into his life of crime as a mobster by seeking revenge against those who put him behind bars to begin with. Will he continue to risk his life for the mafia or will he straighten out his life by working for his dad? Cathy Moriarty plays Sarah, Bobby's mother.


Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn follows a standard crime drama formula which in and of itself is acceptable because a film can be formulaic and still succeed in being highly or at least moderately entertaining. William DeMeo gives a solid performance while Armand Assante and Cathy Moriarity briefly add some gravitas. What keeps the film from greatness or even mediocrity is its banal, convoluted screenplay by writer/director Paul Borghese that refuses to trust the audiences' intelligence because it leaves no room for interpretation or, God-forbid, some subtlety. The voice-over narration unnecessarily spoon-feeds you information and explanations as if you have never watched a crime drama before.

      Moreover, the flashbacks are integrated rather awkwardly, and even though you're expected to root for Bobby, you never feel emotionally invested in him because his character doesn't fully come to life. There aren't any real surprises to hold your interest either---yes, there's betrayal, but it can be seen from a mile away and you won't find yourself caring about transpires to Bobby. By the time a young woman enters Bobby's life as his girlfriend in yet another contrived subplot, the film's dramatic momentum has already dissipated, leaving you with waxing boredom until the overlong running time of 116 minutes finally comes to an end.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Lionsgate Entertainment.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.

Something in the Air

Directed by Olivier Assayas

      In 1941 Paris, highschoolers Gilles (Clément Métayer) and his girlfriend, Christine (Lola Créton), and their friends join a student movement as revolutionaries who lash out against authority, including police, who stand in their way of free speech. When a violent uprising results in an injured security guard at school, Gilles, Christine and Alain (Félix Armand) flee to Italy. Their lives change innately there as they explore drugs and sex. Alain meets an American named Leslie (India Salvor Menuez) with whom he has a sexually-charged relationship.

      What starts as a provocative, suspenseful thriller turns into a quiet, emotionally resonating drama that tenderly explores the fragility, awakenings and curiosities of youth. Writer/director Olivier Assayas captures those moments with sensitivity and keen eye for period detail and atmosphere. Clément Métayer, Lola Créton, Félix Armand and India Salvor Menuez are each well-cast, sexy, charismatic and, most importantly, look and behave believably like youths from the 1970s. Créton absolutely sizzles in her role just like she did in Goodbye First Love. Everything from the set design, music and costumes also help to give the film an authentic evocation of that time period. Assayas should also be commended for displaying the youths' sexuality (or more accurately, sensuality) with frankness and honesty, i.e. not shying away from showing nudity thereby heightening the realism; if this were an American film, the actors'/actresses' bodies would be "conveniently" covered with a blanket even when they get up from their bed.

      Admittedly, the script doesn’t go profoundly into the minds of its protagonists nor does it offer many insights, but the strong performances come to the rescue because they make up for the deficiencies in depth—in fact, the performance add depth. Once the youths arrive at Italy, Something in the Air does lose a little bit of dramatic momentum and narrative focus, but not enough to prevent you from being captivated.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by IFC Films.
Opens at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Turtle Hill, Brooklyn

Directed by Ryan Gielen

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Will Pork Productions.
Opens at the Quad Cinema.


Directed by Clay Liford

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at reRun Gastropub in Brooklyn.

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