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Reviews for September 20th, 2013


Directed by Dennis Iliadis

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by IFC Midnight.
Opens at the IFC Center.


Directed by Bryan Fogel

      Christian O'Connell (Ivan Sergei), recently dumped by his Jewish girlfriend, meets Alison Marks (Jennifer Love Hewitt), the daughter of a rabbi, and pretends to be Jewish so that she'd like him more. He also lies to her and her mother, Marcy (Wendie Malick), that his name is Dr. Avi Rosenberg. He tracks down his Jewish childhood friend, Adam Lipschitz (Joel David Moore), in hopes that he will teach him how to behave believably like a Jew. Adam, as it turns out, has problems of his own with his domineering fiancÚ, Hanna (Jamie-Lynn Sigler).

      Based on a play, the script by co-writers Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson tries desperately to be funny, but falls flat more often than not. There's nothing inherently wrong with Jewish stereotyping/satire even if it's offensive because it's been done well in cult classics like The Hebrew Hammer and The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob; here, though, the comedic attempts lack wit and comic timing. With a more imaginative and less juvenile screenplay, Jewtopia would have at least succeeded as an amusing screwball comedy. Instead, though, its screwball elements aren't taken far enough, and Fogel and Wolfson often cater to the lower common denominator. It doesn't help matters that Christian comes across as an asshole and idiot, so that makes it a futile effort for you to actually want him to get the girl of his dreams.

      To be fair, the supporting roles of Tom Arnold and the underrated Lin Shaye add some chuckles during their brief scenes, but both of their talents are underused. In a recent interview with Lin Shaye for Insidious Part 2, she told me that she'd love to play the roles that Lucille Ball had played back in the Golden Age of Cinema. Would some smart director or casting director please give her the juicy comedic lead role that she so rightfully deserves? Unfortunately, Jewtopia's systemic weakness in the comedy department underserves her as well as the other cast members no matter how hard they try to rise above the witless material.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Variance Films.
Opens at Quad Cinema.


Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Warners Bros. Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Documentary Round-Up

      After Tiller, co-directed by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, focuses on the only four doctors in America who currently have the legal authority to perform third-trimester abortions. Each of them is a colleague of Dr. George Tiller, an abortionist who was murdered by someone who strongly opposed abortions back in 2009. The remaining doctors include Dr. LeRoy Carhart, Dr. Warren Hern, Dr. Susan Robinson, and Dr. Shelley Sella. Your learn a lot about their hard work as well as the history of how abortion became legal. After Tiller effectively humanizes the doctors and the employees who must carefully choose whom among the many applicants will be approved for an abortion. That process is much easier said than done, and there are many grey areas that make matters complex. The applicants must be sure that they want an abortion and they even go through counseling so that the doctors can help them to rationalize their decision and to understand its consequences. It's quite a frustrating and emotionally devastating experience for the doctors to go through this day in and day out---and to deny applicants even though they plead with the doctors over the phone. No matter which side of the abortion issue you're on, prepare to be emotionally devastated yourself by the time the end credits role. Oscilloscope Laboratories opens After Tiller at the Film Forum and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. The doc Generation Iron, narrated by Mickey Rourke, sheds light on the professional sport of bodybuilding and profiles seven bodybuilders who prepare for an annual bodybuilding competition at Joe Weider's Olympia Weekend. The winning bodybuilder will crowned as Mr.Olympia. Director Vlad Yudin combines interviews with the bodybuilders themselves, namely, Hidetada Yamagishi, Branch Warren, Roelly Winklaar, Ben Pakulski, Kai Greene, Dennis Wolf and 2011's Mr.Olympia champion Phil Heath. The more you spend time with these subjects, the more you learn how hard it is physically and mentally to be a great bodybuilder. One slight injury can be a setback. Yudin doesn't opt for getting into the nitty gritty about how to become a bodybuilder--this would be a totally different kind of doc if that were the case. Instead, the interviews create a warm and human perspective that will help you be at least somewhat emotionally invested once the Mr.Olympia competition commences later on. Yes, most of Generation Iron is a build-up toward that competition, but Yudin also briefly balances that with some alarming information about the dangers of steroids--again, if he'd delve further into that dark realm, the doc would be totally different and probably inaccessible to the mainstream audiences. At a running time of 1 hour and 46 minutes, Generation Iron is suspenseful, well-edited and adequately illuminating without being too heavy or dry. It opens in select theaters via The Vladin Company. At the Quad Cinema, you'll find Arise, a doc about women from around the world who have risen up become environmental activists to make a difference in the world. After all, we live in a cosmopolitan where everything is connected, so small changes can lead to big differences. Some of those smart, brave women include Majora Carter in the Bronx, Vandana Shiva in India, Maggie Fox in Colorado, Judy Nyguthi Kimamo and Jessica Posner in Kenya, and Aida Shibli in Israel. These are women who clearly feel passionate about their environmental work whether its through raising awareness about issues like climate change or by helping others to use nature productively without the use of pesticides. Judy Nyguthi Kimamo, for instance, has taught women in a Kenyan village how to raise a garden to feed their poor families. Between the footage of those women, co-directors Lori Joyce and Candice Orlando tack-on some narration by Darryl Hannah with beautiful images and poetic words of inspiration. All of this is in just under 1 hour and 20 minutes---in other words, a lot of complex array of topics covered in too little time thereby leading to slight oversimplification, but it's equally inspiring and moving nonetheless.

Thanks For Sharing

Directed by Stuart Blumberg

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Roadside Attractions.
Opens nationwide.

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