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Reviews for November 4th, 2016

Documentary Round-Up

      Beauty Bites Beast (what a great title!) sheds light on the vital and universal human rights issue of female helplessness. Director Ellen Snortland tackles the issue head-on, and not only shows evidence of how serious a problem it is around the world, but also takes a look at its societal and cultural causes.

      Women have been conditioned by society and culture to think they are inferior to men — “Disney Princess” films like Beauty & the Beast share some of the blame. Fortunately, Beauty Bites Beast comes along to unravel and reverse that conditioning. Snortland shows footage of brave women around the world being trained to stand their ground and fight back against verbally and physically abusive men. The film aptly demonstrates that, as human beings, it is a right to stand up for yourself and to protect yourself regardless of gender. One of the film’s many highlights is footage of the Jerusalem-based organization El Halev as they teach their students how to use self-defense as a tool of empowerment. Interviews with subjects such as El Halev’s co-founder Yehudit Zicklin-Sidikman are truly illuminating and inspirational.

      What elevates this documentary above your average doc? There's not a single dull or dry moment to be found. Snortland finds just the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally as well as intellectually. What a remarkable achievement for a first-time filmmaker! Snortland includes plenty of refreshing wit and humor which invigorates the film and makes it irresistibly entertaining from start to finish.

      Most importantly, though, she asks very thoughtful, interesting questions revealing that she's not only a caring, big-hearted human being, but also a critical thinker. Those questions lead to provocative answers that help to enrich the doc further. Every woman, young or old, who has ever felt powerless against a man and wants to learn how to overcome that powerlessness — both physically and mentally — should see Beauty Bites Beast. At an ideal running time of 84 minutes, it's a vital, captivating, and moving doc.

      It would make an interesting double feature with The Eagle Huntress, which also opens this weekend, and with Muriel's Wedding an empowering Australian film about an insecure woman who learns how to overcome her feeling of uselessness instilled by her emotionally abusive father, and to stand up to her bullying ex-friends. Providence Entertainment Group opens Beauty Bites Beast at Cinépolis Chelsea.

Doctor Strange

Directed by Scott Derrickson

      Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a neurosurgeon, shatters his hands so badly after a car accident that he's unable to work again. Desperate to heal his much-needed hands, he travels to Nepal where The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) can, allegedly, provide that healing. Little does he know that she has something entirely different to offer to him: the ability to attain superpowers. Mordo (Chewetel Ejiofor) serves as his mentor and Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) is the villain who Doctor Strange must defeat to save the universe. Back in New York, he has his colleague, Christine (Rachel McAdams), a potential love interest.

      There have been quite a number of superhero origin movies. Some are terrific, i.e. Iron Man and Spider-Man while others like The Green Lantern and, recently, Max Steel, are pretty dreadful. Doctor Strange falls somewhere in the mediocre middle. It has the dazzling CGI that looks great on the big screen in 3-D and impressive production design, but the screenplay by Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill doesn't have enough surprises and witty dialogue, with the exception of one brief scene with Doctor Strange stealing objects from the librarian (Benedict Wong) while using his invisibility powers. There's too much exposition and blandness which makes the film's momentum wane. Bravo to casting directors Sarah Finn and Reg Poerscout-Edgerton, though, because Benedict Cumberbatch radiates so much charisma that his performance rises above the material. He's the right actor for the part, and the film is lucky to have him. The same can be said about the underrated Mads Mikkelsen, although he doesn't have enough scenes. Tilda Swinton, as usual, is captivating, but her character has a scene toward the end with Dr. Strange that's tries, yet fails to add depth and emotion while nearly derailing the entire film with a corny speech. She's undermined by the stilted dialogue.

      Audiences go to see movies Doctor Strange for the spectacle and for pure escapism. It certainly has plenty of visual spectacle, but the story itself not thoroughly exhilarating or as much fun as it could've been because it feels too pedestrian. Perhaps the sequel will have a more interesting story and a wittier screenplay that would make the experience less dull. Please be sure to stay through the end credits for a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Walt Disney Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Hacksaw Ridge

Directed by Mel Gibson


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Lionsgate Films.
Opens nationwide.


Directed by Jeff Nichols


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Focus Features.
Opens in select theaters.


Directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn


Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by 20th Century Fox.
Opens nationwide.

Trash Fire

Directed by Richard Bates, Jr.


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