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Reviews for October 5th, 2007

-Directed by Alan White.
Heather Graham gives a mediocre performances as Hope, a lonely waitress at a diner who has bigger dreams and suffers through an abusive relationship with her boyfriend, Will, played by Jeremy Sisto. The plot initially sounds a lot like that of Waitress, but in execution it bares very little resemblance given confusing and contrived scenes. Hope spends her time outside of waitressing by having sex with Will or taking drugs. For the rest of the film, she tries to avoid him in different scenarios which feel more bizarre than merely dreamlike. In each scenario, she interacts with a different customer in the diner and learns something about them. Director Alan White fails to generate any real dramatic tension or interesting character development, although he does include some stylish editing. Ultimately, you’ll end up with a headache from the gimmicky, confusing plot. Number of times I checked my watch: 8. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: Low. Released by Truly Indie. Opens at the Quad Cinema.

Desert Bayou
-Directed by Alex LeMay.
This provocative documentary focuses on what happened to the 600 Hurricane Katrina evacuees after they were relocated from their flooded homes in New Orleans to a military camp way outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. As you probably already know, the U.S. government was very inefficient in their response to the crisis and treated the evacuees with disrespect, such as by searching them immediately after their plane landed. Director Alex LeMay wisely goes beyond the issue of government incompetence to tackle sensitive issues such as racism and social class differences. Meanwhile, there’s also evidence of kindness and tolerance among Utah residents who pitch in to help the evacuees, who are primarily black. Through interviews with the evacuees themselves, politicians as well as scholars such as a rabbi who’s not afraid to openly voice his opinions, LeMay has created a well-balanced and thoroughly compelling film. It manages to be uplifting by finding the light at the end of the tunnel during a time of crisis. Stay tuned after the end credits for an additional scene. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: High. Released by Cinema Libre Studio. Opens at the Village East Cinemas.

Finishing the Game
-Directed Justin Lin..
Just like Best in Show, Finishing the Game has a very loose “documentary” style that pokes fun at a competition, but without enough zany humor. A bunch of wannabe actors try out during an audition to replace Bruce Lee in a film called Game of Death. Meredith Scott Lynn plays the painfully unfunny casting director who must watch actors with names like Troy Poon (Dustin Nguyen) or Breeze Loo (Roger Fan) try to channel Bruce Lee. Meanwhile, the dim-witted director of the film, Kirschenbaum (Jake Sandvig), argues with her as to who should be chosen. Unfortunately, co-writer/director Justin Lin fails to milk enough imaginative ideas and most attempts at humor fall flat with repetition. If only Finishing the Game were as refreshingly outrageous, tongue-in-cheek and hilarious as trailers of the kung-foo films show within the film itself. Number of times I checked my watch: 6. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: None is required or desired. Released by IFC First Take. Opens at the IFC Center.

For the Bible Tells Me So
-Directed by Daniel G. Karslake.
This documentary about what the Bible says about homosexuality manages to be moving and somewhat fascinating. Director Daniel G. Karslake provides a lively scientific and psychological explanation as to how a child might turn out to be gay through nature’s way. He also interviews scholars such as, Archbishop Despond Tutu, as they give a less literal interpretation of the Bible. They wisely explain that the rules set in the Bible were not laws, but mere suggestions and that the rules must be look at within the context of the vastly Biblical culture. The most important remark, though, is when one interviewee states that people shouldn’t interpret the Bible for what it reads, but rather for what it says--i.e. “between the lines”. The stories of how a some individuals deal with homosexuality and how their family and friends reacted to the news adds some poignancy, but, ultimately, For the Bible Tells Me So isn’t as insightful as the documentary Trembling Before G_d, which treads similar ground. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by First Run Features. Opens at the Quad Cinema.

The Heartbreak Kid
-Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly.
Eddie (Ben Stiller) cheats on his new wife, Lila (Malin Akerman), during their honeymoon in Mexico when he meets Miranda (Michelle Monaghan) a sexy, charismatic woman. Although the premise sounds like it could be a romantic drama with some comedy just like the original 1972 film, it’s actually more along the lines of gross-out comedy with a sprinkle of romance and drama. Jerry Stiller plays Eddie’s crass father who says to his son things like, “Why didn't you crush her p***y?” and, in one scene, shares a hot tub with a woman who has horrifyingly large, fake boobs. The humor involving Eddie’s experiences with Lila falls under the same kind of outrageousness and silliness with more sexual content and nudity—there’s even a sex scene that’s more explicit than the one you’ll find in the NC-17 Lust, Caution. Anyone familiar with the Farrelly brothers, who co-directed such films as There’s Something About Mary and Me, Myself and Irene, wouldn’t expect anything less or different from them. Just make sure you check your brain at the door before watching this. Also, stay tuned through and after the end credits for additional scenes that cap the lid on two subplots. Number of times I checked my watch: 1. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: None, as long as you check your brain at the door. Released by Paramount Pictures.

Lake of Fire
-Directed Tony Kaye.
Shot in black-and-white, this angry, provocative and insightful documentary looks at both sides of the abortion issue without really choosing between the two. Two unnecessarily graphic scenes show the actual process of abortion and what the fetus looks like all chopped up—not a particularly subtle image. An anti-abortionist used extreme methods to make his statement by murdering an abortionist. Even with many threats and protesters outside, some abortion clinics remain remained open. Some of footage of the anti-abortionists generates some surprising laughter given how outlandish their statements seem. Writer/director Tony Kaye incorporates many interviews with experts, but the most insightful and articulate one who he should have included more of is Noam Chomsky. By the 2 hour mark, all the points have pretty much been made, so when the film goes on for another 20 minutes, it drag a bit and overstays its welcome. Nonetheless, it’s still a compelling and thought-provoking documentary. Number of times I checked my watch: 2. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: High. Released by THINKfilm. Opens at the Film Forum.

Let it Ride: The Craig Kelly Story
-Directed by Jacques Russo.
Snowboarding means a lot to professional snowboarder such as Craig Kelly in this surprisingly moving and breathtaking documentary. Kelly devoted his life to snowboarding and even risked it every single day that he hit the slopes. Sadly, he and six others died during an avalanche in 2003. As he stated in the fascinating interviews, snowboarding made him feel truly free and happy. Director Jacques Russo wisely combines the history of how Kelly rose to fame along with interviews which help to humanize and understand his mentality better. On top of that, there’s a terrific soundtrack along with plenty of awe-inspiring footage of him and other snowboarders riding the slopes. The last five minutes feel a bit tacky and distracting when audience members at a film festival give their redundant praise of the film and how they’d recommend it to others—although, it’s funny when one guy says he’d recommend the film to his friends and enemies. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by Ally Distribution and Locomotion Films. Opens at the Cinema Village.

The Man Who Souled the World
-Directed by Mike Hill.
This lively and fascinating film documents how revolutionary skateboarder Steve Rocco created the boom of the skateboarding industry with his company World Industries. Through many interviews, Rocco seems like a true genius who has accomplished a lot and influenced many people, namely Jason Lee who used to be a skater before he turned to acting. Rocco also created Big Brother Magazine which helped to ignite Johnny Knoxville’s career after he served as a contributor to the magazine. Director Mike Hill includes exciting footage of other skateboarders, such as Rodney Mullen, Mikey Vallen and Jeremy Klein, showing off their amazing talents with their boards. If you enjoyed Dogtown and Z-Boys and, especially if you’re a skateboarder, you’ll enjoy this documentary very much. Number of times I checked my watch: 1. Entertainment Value: High (especially if you’re a skateboarder). Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by Ally Distribution and Whyte House Productions. Opens at the Cinema Village.

Michael Clayton
-Directed by Tony Gilroy.
George Clooney gives a strong performance as the title character, a fixer at a law firm who gradually uncovers corruption involving Karen (Tilda Swinton), a litigator of the law firm’s client, U/North. Clayton begins to smell something fishy when Arthur (Tom Wilkinson), an attorney at his company, gets after acting paranoid and loony. Unlike the confusing Syriana, the intricate plot here unfolds with increasing clarity and lots of riveting suspense. Writer/director Tony Gilroy opens the film with an interesting scene as Karen sweats heavily as if she did something wrong and then backtracks the plot to show you how and why she got to that point through the eyes of the slick and savvy Michael Clayton. Any other plot revelations would spoil the surprises of this smart, provocative and riveting thriller. Number of times I checked my watch: 0. Entertainment Value: Very High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.

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