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Reviews for October 12th, 2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age
-Directed by Shekhar Kapur.
Cate Blanchett gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Queen Elizabeth I, who, in her middle age, struggled to defend herself against the Spanish Inquisition, led by Spanish King Philip II (Jordi Mollà) and her cousin (Samantha Morton), while in a love triangle between an explorer, Walter (Clive Owen) and his younger lover, Bess (Abbie Cornish). It’s quite obvious where most of the budget went to: toward custom design, set design and even some special effects toward the end. Unfortunately, co-writers William Nicholson and Michael fail to enliven the convoluted plot which lacks focus. Whenever Cate Blanchett is onscreen, the film suddenly becomes alive because she performs with utter conviction—she even gets all the nuances of Queen Elizabeth right, some of which are actually quite funny. There’s not enough chemistry between her and Walter or Walter and Bess, for that matter, though. A battle sequence later in the second act feels underwhelming and too brief. At least Cate Blanchett makes this a marginally entertaining sequel to Elizabeth. Number of times I checked my watch: 4. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low. Released by Universal Pictures.

-Directed by Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth.
In Mongolia, Bagi (Batzul Khayankhyarvaa), a young nomad escapes an animal plague which he discovers was fabricated to get rid of nomadic culture. He, along with other nomads, ends up in a coal-mining town where he saves the life of Zolzaya (Tsetsegee Byamba) and joins a revolution. Despite picturesque scenery, the minimal plot and weak character development lead to many scenes that feel dull and tedious. Occasionally, co-writers/directors Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth include a few poignant scenes with lyrical moments, but often the pace feels so painfully slow with too little dialogue that it’s difficult to feel anything other than boredom seep in. The revolution itself doesn’t occur until later on and not enough happens during it to keep you engaged or absorbed. At a running time of 104 minutes, Khadak feels much longer, therefore, overstays its welcome. Number of times I checked my watch: 7. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by LifeSize Entertainment. Opens at the Cinema Village.

King Corn
-Directed by Aaron Wolf.
Ever why you’re so addicted to those delicious Entenmann’s cookies? This provocative documentary explains how and why. Director Aaron Wolf follows Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis as they investigate the process of how hair follicles have corn—yes, corn—inside the them. They both travel to Greene, Iowa, a rural town where both their ancestors grew up as farmers. It turns out that farmers use corn to feed their cows and that there’s plenty of excess corn stored in a huge facility. Big corporations such as Pepsi and McDonalds have products that have more corn than you would think—i.e. through corn oil, corn-fed beef and, worst of all, high fructose corn syrup. It’s quite disgusting as you watch Ian and Curt try to make high fructose corn syrup from scratch. Even scarier is how consumption of products with the syrup a) leads to Diabetes Type II and b) don’t allow your body to signal you to stop consuming when enough-is-enough, unlike when eating chocolate without the syrup. The motive for why big companies use high fructose corn syrup may seem obvious (it has a lot to do with something called “profit”), but the long term effect it has on the health of consumers in the long run feels quite alarming. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: High. Released by Balcony Releasing. Opens at the Cinema Village.

Lars and the Real Girl
-Directed by Craig Gillespie.
The underrated Ryan Gosling gives a strong performance as Lars, a lonely young man who orders a sex doll online and treats it as if it were a real person. He lives with his older brother, Gus (Paul Schneider), and his sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer), both of whom try to cope with Lars’ delusion in their own way. Lars’ psychologist (Patricia Clarkson), meanwhile, tries to gradually help Lars get back to normalcy. Although the plot seems bizarre at first, what makes it very special is how screenwriter Nancy Oliver blends very poignant dramatic scenes with just right touch of comedy without going overboard in either genre. She grounds the film in reality with likable, charming characters, which makes it even more absorbing and even refreshing. Fortunately, the performances all across the board are quite believable. Who would have thought that Craig Gillespie, the director of the dumb, juvenile comedy Mr.Woodcock, could manage to direct such a smart and truly refreshing gem? Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: High. Released by MGM and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment.

Naked Boys Singing!
-Directed by Robert Schrock and Troy Christian.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Broadway show of the same name, yes, Naked Boys Singing! completely lives up to its name. Instead of filming a new version of play for film, co-directors Robert Schrock and Troy Christian film the staged version performed at The Hayworth theater in Los Angeles. Forget about plot or character development—this show is clearly all about the lively songs sung by the naked male singers. With all the amazing choreography, lighting design and flashy editing, you’ll soon forget that the singers are actually naked. It would have been interesting to be enlightened by some interviews with the cast members (or, perhaps, the casts’ “members”, too) and audiences, but this filmed version of the show keeps you at least somewhat entertained. Number of times I checked my watch: 2. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: None is required or desired. Released by TLA Releasing. Opens at the Quad Cinema.

-Directed by Kenneth Branagh.
Andrew (Michael Caine), a wealthy man, plays a twisted game with Milo (Jude Law), the younger man whom his wife had an affair with. The press notes indicate not to reveal the essential plot in order to allow the audience to be surprised and intrigued. Unfortunately, whether they know the plot or not, they’ll notice the contrived, silly and awkward dialogue between Andrew and Milo. Many scenes feel like a play, which makes sense given that Sleuth is based on the play by Anthony Shaffer. However, director Kenneth Branagh seems to care more about stylish set design, which looks almost futuristic, and to play around with the cinematography in strange angles (read: too many close-ups) rather than developing the characters or the plot in a believable way. At a running time of merely 86 minutes, Sleuth looses steam and plausibility quicker than you can imagine. Number of times I checked my watch: 8. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: Low. Released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Terror's Advocate
-Directed Barbet Schroeder.
In this mildly engaging documentary, Jacques Vergès, a French attorney, explains how he had once defended a wide range of criminals such as Klaus Barbie, Carlos and the Jackal and, especially, Djamila Bouhired, a a terrorist in the Battle of Algiers who he eventually married. Director Barbet Schroeder does an adequate job of presenting the basic facts of Vergès’ past through the words of Vergès himself as a he smokes a cigar. However, the answers don’t seem to be revealing enough of Vergès’ psyche—what he truly feels or thinks about his actions in the context of today. Schroeder overloads the film with interesting facts that open too many cans of worms without proper analysis and synthesis. In a way, he asks you to do the synthesis and to decide what you think of Vergès instead, but that omission seems more like a copout than anything else. At a running time of 135 minutes, Terror’s Advocate drags a bit and overstays its welcome. Number of times I checked my watch: 4. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by Magnolia Pictures. Opens at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Why Did I Get Married?
-Directed by Tyler Perry.
Four dysfunctional married couples gather at a cottage in Colorado for a winter retreat. Luckily, they’re not haunted by any supernatural entities or an evil madman—after all, this is a Tyler Perry movie; not a Eli Roth movie. The couples include: Terry (Tyler Perry) & Diane (Sharon Leal), Gaven (Malik Yoba) & Patricia (Janet Jackson—yes, she’s back from hibernation), Marcus (Michael Jai White) & Angela (Tasha Smith), and, finally, Sheila (Jill Scott) & Mike (Richard T. Jones). Sounds like a more simplified version of Love Actually with Hugh Grant. Instead, you some yelling, especially from Angela, and some scenes that make you feel like you’re watching a soap opera. It’s refreshing to see Janet Jackson onscreen, but her character isn’t as interesting as the others, namely, Sheila, whose husband doesn’t feel attracted to because of her weight issues. Writer/director Tyler Perry once again combines drama and comedy while leaning much more heavily toward drama. Admittedly, the third act feels a bit contrived and convoluted as he tries to tie all the subplots neatly. The overall messages about forgiveness, tolerance and compassion may seem somewhat corny and clichéd, but they’re important and uplifting nonetheless.. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by Lionsgate. center>

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