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Reviews for November 7th, 2014

Documentary Round-Up

      Pelican Dreams, directed by Judy Irving, is an equally informative and captivating doc about California's brown pelicans. Irving clearly has a passion birds much like she did in Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, and that passion can be felt here in spades. This isn't one of those dry docs filled with talking heads and infographics; the stunning footage of the pelicans remains front and center. One of the pelicans, Gigi, caused a traffic jam on the Golden Gate Bridge before being sent to a rehabilitation facility for wildlife animals. Morro, a pelican with a wing injury, also stays at the facility. There's more to pelicans than meets the eye, and that's what makes them so fascinating. Pelican Dreams will teach you about how they communicate, how they deal with changes to their environment due to the BP oil spill and DDT, how they learn to dive into the water for fish, and you'll even find out whether or not they dream. What happens to Gigi and Morro won't be spoiled here, but what's certain is that after this 80-minute doc, you'll have a much deeper understanding of and passion for pelicans. Shadow Distribution opens Pelican Dreams at Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. Warsaw Uprising documents the failed attempt of the Polish resistance army to free Warsaw from Nazi Germany. Using archival newsreel footage from start to finish, director Jan Komasa brings those events to life with the help of colorization, speech readers and voice-over narration from fictionalized reporters and U.S. airmen. The suspense and poignancy of the images are palpable not only because they're real, but also because you feel like you're right there with the Polish resistance as you're watching the tragic events unfold before your eyes. There are even a few surprisingly light moments. You can truly sense that Komasa and his crew worked hard to make the most out of the well-edited footage. Rarely has a documentary's archival footage been so effectively moving and powerful. Warsaw Uprising is one of the most essential, potent and haunting documentary war films ever made. Next Film opens it at the Quad Cinema.

9 Full Moons

Directed by Tomer Almagor


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Urban Tale Productions.
Opens at Arena Cinema in Hollywood.


Directed by Christopher Nolan


Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by Paramount Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Viva La Liberta

Directed by Roberto Andō

      Toni Servillo gives superb performances in dual roles as Enrico Oliveri, the leader of an opposition party, and as his identical twin brother, Giovanni Ernani, fresh out of a mental hospital. Enrico flees to Paris after delivering an embarrassing political speech, without even explaining what's going on to his wife, Anna (Michela Cescon. His chief aide, Andrea Bottini (Valerio Mastandrea), seeks out Giovanni in hopes of having him temporarily impersonate Enrico. While Giovanni learns about the inner workings of the political system and helps Andrea to loosen up a bit, Enrico rests from his political life as he bonds with his ex-girlfriend, Danielle (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), and her husband, Mung (Eric Nguyen), a film director. Little does Andrea know that Giovanni will impersonate Enrico for much longer than originally planed and that the responses to his speeches filled with philosophical musings will so positive.

      The screenplay by Angelo Pasquini and writer/director Roberto Andō, based on his novel, blends comedy, drama and political satire in a way that's equally entertaining and thought-provoking without going over the top when it comes to comedy or satire. Both the comedic and politically satirical moments are quite gentle which gives the film some breeziness. The real pleasure here, though, is watching the talented Toni Servillo playing two roles very convincingly. His facial features look quite stiff when he's playing Enrico, but they're much more relaxed when he's playing Giovanni.

      Servillo's tongue-in-cheek performance as Giovanni is amusing and gives you the sensation that he's winking at you most of the time. That performance is somewhat reminiscent of Marcello Mastroianni's performance in Divorce Italian Style, a classic Italian satire of divorce, which would make for a very interesting double feature with Viva La Liberta. At 94 minutes, an ideal running time for any kind of comedy, Viva La Liberta, is a smart, refreshingly whimsical and witty political satire that boasts winning performances by Toni Servillo in dual roles. It might as well be called Politics Italian-Style.

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