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Reviews for October 31st, 2008

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Directed by Kurt Kuenne.

This riveting, informative and emotionally stirring documentary follows the murder of Dr. Andrew Bagby, whose ex-girlfriend, Shirley Turner, killed him in a fit of rage on November 5th, 2001. Family members and friends of Andrew describe him as a genuinely loving and charismatic guy while his colleagues say he had always been friendly and arrived promptly to work. That’s why they were suspicious on the morning of November, 5th 2001 when he didn’t show up for work. Shirley Turner premeditated his murder to make it look like a suicide. The situation became more complicated when she fled to Canada where she was arrested and then went to court where a Canadian judge set her free on bail while awaiting extradition her to the United Sates. That’s around the time when she gave birth to Andrew’s baby, Zachary, and had joint custody of him with David and Kathleen, Andrew’s loving parents. Director Kurt Kuenne, a childhood friend of Andrew, documents so much dramatic tension, surprising twists and emotion on camera that you’ll end up forgetting that you’re watching a documentary film. The audio recordings of telephone conversations between Shirley and David show how creepy, selfish and psychotic Shirley became as time progressed. After Shirley kills again, the Bugbys felt more distraught than ever. Why couldn’t the justice system protect the Bugby family from such a deranged madwoman? Kuenne explores that important issue thoroughly and with sensitivity. While the archival footage and testimonies describe the events compellingly, the rest of the film feels poignant and enlightening as Kuenne allows those interviewed camera to analyze the events and to openly share their emotions and thoughts about them with you. Moreover, he moves the film along at an appropriately fast pace with stylish editing and a musical score that keeps your eyes glued to the screen from start to finish. Ultimately, Dear Zachary manages to be an intelligent, gripping and profoundly moving documentary. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Released by Oscilloscope Pictures. Opens at the Cinema Village.

One Day You’ll Understand

Directed by Bruce Campbell.

A goth teenager, Jeff (Taylor Sharp), from a small Oregon town, kidnaps B-movie legend Bruce Campbell (himself) so that he could defeat the Guan-Di monster. Fans of Bruce Campbell will surely be pleased to watch him playing a spoof of himself and of his characters from B-movies, such as Evil Dead. While Campbell has a lot of campy fun in his role here, the film itself lacks the wit that you would expect from a spoof. Screenwriter Mark Verheiden includes the basic elements of the B-movie horror genre such as cheap gore effects, a fake-looking monster, wooden performances, absurd twists and, of course, characters who behave stupidly to the extent that you want them to be killed. However, most of the attempts to generate tongue-in-cheek humor fall flat because they feel too juvenile and get old pretty quickly. A more imaginative and funnier screenplay would have kicked up My Name is Bruce many more notches in terms of entertainment value. It ultimately never truly becomes the guilty pleasure that it could have been. Please be sure to stay through the end credits for additional scenes. Number of times I checked my watch: 4. Released by Image Entertainment. Opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

One Day You’ll Understand

Directed by Amos Gitai.

In French with subtitles. Based on the autobiographical novel by Jérôme Clément. Victor (Hippolyte Girardot) tries to uncover more information from his elderly mother, Rivka (Jeanne Moreau), about his grandparent’s experiences in World War II. He had always been raised as a Catholic, but, he suddenly discovers a mysterious letter that his father had sent to German officials during the war that asserted his status as German. What could he have been hiding about himself? Upon speaking to his mother more and more, he learns that his father was actually Jewish as were his grandparents. It takes Rivka a while, though, to spill out the complete truth about her parents and to come to terms with those memories. Emmanuelle Devos plays Victor’s wife who travels with Victor to a small French village where his grandparents had hid during the Holocaust. Despite a provocative premise that opens the door for many potentially moving scenes, there’s really not enough poignant moments to make you emotionally stirred. The real dramatic tension of the film occurs during the more subtle and quiet scenes without dialogue. On a positive note, Jeanne Moreau adds some much-needed emotional weight with her powerful performance. She not only acts through speaking, but with her facial movements and eyes as well. Director/co-writer Amos Gitai could have taken the material much further with a more dramatic tension onscreen and with an ending that doesn’t feel so abrupt. Number of times I checked my watch: 3. Released by Kino International. Opens at the Quad Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

The Other Side of the Line

Directed by James Dodson.

Priya (Shriya Saran), a call center employee in India, falls in love with a customer, Granger (Jesse Metcalfe), and travels all the way to San Francisco to meet with him. Once there, she pretends that she’s American, that her name is Jennifer, so he’s under the false impression that Priya stood him up. Meanwhile, her father (Anupam Kher) and mother (Sushmita Mukherjee) desperately search for their daughter because she’s about to have an arranged marriage with Vikram (Asheesh Kapur) an Indian guy she hasn’t met before. Granger and Priya’s romance grows stronger each day despite their cultural differences. Tracey Jackson infuses comedy, romance and drama with mixed results. Some of the attempts to generate laughter and poignancy are forced and awkward with stilted dialogue. It’s acceptable, though, that the plot comes across as clichéd, formulaic predictable because much of it feels sweet and amusing to watch. Also, director James Dodson moves the film and fast enough pace with a lively soundtrack so that there’s rarely a dull moment. Larry Miller briefly shows up to add some much-needed comic relief as Granger’s boss and owner of the hotel that Priya and Grager stay at. Granger and Priya don’t have palpable romantic chemistry and they’re certainly no Harry and Sally. However, if you can suspend your disbelief and forgive all the plot’s contrivances, and mildly enjoy, you’ll be able to buy into their “Hollywood-ized”, fluffy romance. The Other End of the Line ultimately manages to be a forgettable, yet harmless, uplifting, sweet and mildly diverting date movie. Number of times I checked my watch: 2. Released by MGM Studios.


Directed by Toby Wilkins.

Seth (Paulo Costanzo) and his girlfriend, Polly (Jill Wagner), go out camping, but can’t get their tent up. When they head back on the road with their SUV, Dennis (Shea Whigham), an escaped convict and his girlfriend, Lacey (Rachel Kerbs), abduct them and steal their cash. Little do they know that once they all enter a convenience store at a gas station, a new terror lurks in the form of a gooey blob monster with splinters that kills its host and controls its body parts. How can they manage to kill the splintery blob monster? Who among the four young adults will die first? The first question actually ends up more interesting to answer than the second one because writer/director Toby Wilkins has a somewhat inventive idea when it comes to the monster’s method of detecting its host. Each of the characters, especially Seth, behaves so stupidly and irresponsibly as if they’ve never seen a horror/sci-fi movie in their life before, so you won’t really care if and when they die. Why not include some more well-needed comic relief? Wilkins overuses the shaky camera effects whenever the monster is onscreen, which gets pretty tedious and ineffective quickly. With its lazy screenplay and a lack of truly frightening moments, Splinter will disappoint horror fans, but at least it will mildly engage sci-fi fans who don’t mind sitting through a mostly unimaginative creature feature. Number of times I checked my watch: 3. Released by Magnet. Opens at the Village East Cinema.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Directed by Kevin Smith.

, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), two best friends who live together, must find a way to pay all of their escalating debts. They both work at the same coffee shop, so, one day, Zack has an idea to make a porno with Miri at the shop after closing. As straightforward as that sounds, it gets more complicated once Zack and Miri toy with the concept of being romantically involved rather than stay best friends during the shoot. Jason Mewes shows up as one of the actors in the porno and Justin Long provides some laughter as an over-the-top gay porn director with a hunky boyfriend (Brandon Routh, yes, the same actor who played Superman in Superman Returns). It’s laugh-out-loud funny to watch how Zack and Miri cast the porn along with the outrageous costumes and scenarios that they film. To balance all of the perversion onscreen, Smith includes a few surprisingly sweet and tender moments, none of which are particularly moving, but at least it’ll make you feel a little less dirty and somewhat care about Zack and Miri as human beings. None of the visual gags or hilarious one-liners will be spoiled here. Any fans of Kevin Smith, though, should know to expect plenty of shocking, vulgar, gross-out humor that tests your boundaries of what’s appropriate to watch and hear onscreen. As long as you’re willing to keep an open mind, Zack and Miri Make a Porno manages to be a delightfully shrewd, hilarious slice of raunchy fun. Number of times I checked my watch: 1. Released by The Weinstein Company.

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