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Reviews for October 5th, 2012

Escape FireFat Kid Rules the World

Directed by Susan Frömke and Matthew Heineman


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Roadside Attractions.
Opens at the AMC/Loews Village 7.

Fat Kid Rules the World

Directed by Matthew Lillard

      Troy (Jacob Wysocki), an obese high school student, lives with his father (Billy Campbell) and younger brother (Dylan Arnold), and suffers from depression, loneliness and suicidal thoughts. Just when he's about to commit suicide by throwing himself in front of a bus, Marcus (Matt O’Leary) saves his life. The two of them gradually become friends and Troy even lets him crash at his place because he has no where else to sleep. Troy's father doesn't quite approve of Marcus at first nor do you expect him to. Marcus, as it turns out, is a high school dropout and aspiring musician, so he enlists Troy as a drummer in his new punk rock band.

      Anyone with an average IQ would be able to easily figure out what will happen after Troy befriends Marcus and join his band. The screenplay by Michael M.B. Galvin and Peter Speakman doesn't really take any major risks or offer surprises up its sleeve, but it still remains an engaging story thanks to a convincingly moving performance by Jacob Wysocki who also played a lonely protagonist in Terri. It must have been difficult for Wysocki to shake off this role emotionally because, at times, it does get into dark territory. As much as you could say that this film is a comedy, it also has elements of tragedy that turn it into a tragicomedy albeit one that becomes more upbeat as it goes along. Matt O'Leary also excels in his performance as the energetic Marcus. Both Troy and Marcus have their own flaws and conflicts which make it understandable why they get along so well together. The evolving dynamics of their friendship is what grounds the film in realism and poignancy when the film veers into contrived territory in the second half. It would have been more interesting had the screenplay served more as a character study of Troy, but perhaps that would have turned the film into something else entirely.

      Fat Kid Rules the World marks the official directorial debut of Matthew Lillard and he should be commended for manning a ship without letting it sink, so-to-speak. Everything from the music to the cinematography, casting, editing and pacing feels just right. Lillard certainly has a promising future as a director, and hopefully he will take more risks with his next endeavors.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Outsider Pictures.
Opens at the Cinema Village.

It's Such a Beautiful Day

Directed by Don Hertzfeldt

Full review coming soon

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Opens at the IFC Center

The Oranges

Directed by Ian Helfer

Full review coming soon

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by ATO Pictures.
Opens in select theaters.

Paradise East

Directed by Nick Taylor

      Ernie (John Borras) lives in a small apartment with his younger brother, Chip (Seth Abrams), and his father, Lucky (James Kissane). Both Ernie and Chip are loafers: Ernie tries his luck as a pimp/hustler when he's not bumming around the house with unemployed Chip. Their father, who at times wears a fur coat, runs a local coffee shop. A parish priest (Bruce Barton) may look like your typical priest, but he doesn't act like one when he goes on a murderous rampage.

      Pretty much all of the characters in Paradise East come across as unlikable, ugly lowlifes who behave in many self-destructing ways. Writer/director Nick Taylor makes every scene count with crisp cinematography, exquisite lighting and set design along with well-chosen music that makes for an enriching experience. When the characters talk to the camera, the film goes from color to black-and-white. Even when it's in color, though, the colors are more or less muted. The slightly slanted camera angles, particularly during the scenes with Ernie and Chip sitting in their kitchen, reflects how the characters' lives are in disarray. Those beautiful elements of the production design counteract the film's ugly characters and dark premise. Other contradictions can also be found in details like a Catholic cross placed in nearly every scene even though the characters aren't exactly acting like good Catholics. Moreover, Taylor includes some ephemeral moments of dry, dark comic relief. James Kissane steals the show with some hilarious, outrageous one-liners.

      The slow-building suspense derives from an overall atmosphere of dread and gloom that may or may not to something horrifying and grotesque any minute. Will there be lots of bloodshed and mayhem? Why is the film called Paradise East to begin with? Those questions won't be answered here so as not to spoil any of the surprises in store for you.

      Ultimately, watching the characters in Paradise East going about their daily lives is equivalent to watching a train wreck because you know you shouldn't be watching them, yet you can't stop yourself from doing so. You might feel like taking a long shower after watching the film, but that doesn't stop Paradise East from being an outrageously entertaining guilty pleasure that takes more narrative and aesthetic risks than most films do nowadays.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by East Street Films.
Opens at the Cinema Village.

Wuthering Heights

Directed by Andrea Arnold

Full review coming soon

Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Opens at the Film Forum.

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