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Reviews for September 19th, 2014

Documentary Round-Up

      Did you know that you have cheaper and cleaner choices to fuel your car than gasoline? Did you know that other countries, like Brazil, have already mandated that ethanol must be offered at local gas stations as an alternative to gasoline? Oil companies in America, though, don't want you to know about ethanol and other alternatives, i.e. methanol, compressed natural gas, electricity, as a means of fueling your car. We're living in a world with limited resources (oil), but unlimited growth. Fortunately, the powerful, illuminating and vital documentary Pump has come along to raise awareness about the alternative fuels which you have every right to know about. Co-directors Josh and Rebecca Tickell interview a wide range of experts, namely, the former President of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, former President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Peter Goldmark, and others including ordinary people who use the alternative fuels. Instead of going about the issue angrily like some documentary filmmakers do (I'm looking at you, Michael Moore!), the Tickells focus more on the practical solutions to our oil problems while avoiding preachiness or a bombardment of dry facts and figures. You'll see evidence of how the alternative fuels are much more beneficial environmentally and economically than gasoline. The film's editing is quite slick and its pacing feels brisk enough without leaving you bored like some documentaries do. In other words, the Tickells find just the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them intellectually. You can show this to your teenagers and they'll stick through it until then end and find it quite illuminating. Most importantly, though, Pump will change the way you look at fuel forever. It will do for fuel what An Inconvenient Truth did for global warming. Submarine Deluxe opens Pump at Cinema Village and AMC Empire 25. The doc Art and Craft is about art forger Mark Landis. Co-directors Sam Cullman and Jennefer Grausman gained direct access to their subject throughout the interviews. In a particularly memorable scene, you get to watch how Landis meticulously goes about forging the paintings which he then donates to museums whose curators he successfully dupes. You'll have to observe his brilliant techniques of forgery to believe them. How has has managed to con curators for 30 years is quite interesting, but what's even more intriguing is when the doc ponders why he's done it for so long without profiting from it financially. What's in it for him? Cullman and Grausman, wisely, distance themselves from their subject while avoiding the temptation to judge him even as the ex-registrar of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Matthew Leininger, tries to stop Landis and have him prosecuted. More dramatic tension could have been mined from the attempts to prosecute Landis, but that's not as important as focusing on Landis because, from start to finish, he makes for a very increasingly complex subject who walks a fine line between genius and madness. On top of that, he may or may not be telling you the truth. If he's duping curators, who's to say he's not also duping the filmmakers? That's part of what makes this Art and Craft so thoroughly compelling. Oscilloscope Laboratories opens it at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Angelika Film Center.

Hector and the Search for Happiness

Directed by Peter Chelsom


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Relativity Media.
Opens at Regal Union Square and AMC/Loews Lincoln Square.


Directed by Anna Martemucci

      Upon returning for Thanksgiving break from the first semester in college, a group of high school friends reunite in their hometown, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Tori (Rachel Keller) has to deal with the awkwardness of living with her family and with the waning friendship between her and her best friend, Katie (Kate Boyer). Right on the first day of the holiday break, Scott (Tobin Mitnik), a former prom king, gets dumped by his girlfriend, Heather (Claire Chapelli), but an unexpected romance might be on the horizon for him with his friend, Tori, when she bumps into him (literally) with her car after a reunion party.

      Hollidaysburg works as a teen dramedy thanks to the tender, sensitive and true-to-life screenplay by Dan Schoffer. The characters talk and behave like human beings would rather than like cardboard cut-outs of human beings. Many scenes feel grounded in realism and have an understated quality to them which makes the film all the more un-Hollywood. Refreshingly, you won't find poop jokes, kicks to the groin, or any other attempts at appealing to the lower common denominator. Most importantly, though, it remains character driven and each character changes and grows in a way that's believable without any tacked-on, gimmicky twists in the third act. Each character seems likable because he or she is fallible, authentic and complex. This might be the first American dramedy since Boyhood to have characters who don't get on your nerves and who have more to them than meets the eye.

      Director Anna Martemucci should be commended for selecting such a talented cast of young actors who know how to give natural performances without over or under-acting. They all have a very promising future in the world of acting, so hopefully they'll continue to make the right choices with meaty roles like those in Hollidaysburg. On an aesthetic note, the cinematography looks quite exquisite without resorting to shaky cam or overly-stylish editing that would've been pretentious. Moreover, the film's soundtrack is also well-chosen with many beautiful, meaningful songs. At an ideal running time of 88 minutes, Hollidaysburg brims with genuine warmth, tenderness and humanity. It's a real triumph.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Starz Digital Media.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.

The Maze Runner

Directed by Wes Ball


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by 20th Century Fox.
Opens nationwide.


Directed by Alan White


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Lionsgate Films.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

Swim Little Fish Swim

Directed by Ruben Amar and Lola Bessis


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Under the Milky Way.
Opens at Cinema Village.

This is Where I Leave You

Directed by Shawn Levy


Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Opens at nationwide.


Directed by John Curran


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by The Weinstein Company.
Opens at Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.


Directed by Kevin Smith


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by A24 Pictures.
Opens at nationwide.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Directed by Scott Frank


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Universal Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

We Are Kings

Directed by Toby Hubner


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at Arena Cinema in Los Angeles.


Directed by Tim Gagliardo and Donavon Thomas


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Loaded Dice Films.
Opens at The Crest Theater in Westwood, CA.
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