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Reviews for September 2nd, 2016

Documentary Round-Up

      Fans of John Berger, a poet, art critic, painter and novelist ought to rejoice because with the documentary The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger, they get to meet the man behind the curtain, so-to-speak, without resorting to just talking heads or spoon-feeding the audience with hagiography. The four shorts about Berger take place in winter, spring, summer and fall, respectively. In the first short, "Ways of Listening," directed by Colin MacCabe, Tilda Swinton peels green apples while listening to Berger discuss his childhood memories, including how his vivid recollection of how his father sliced and peeled apples. Never has the act of slicing and peeling apples been so engrossing and illuminating. Through their conversation, you can grasp how intelligent, warm, compassionate, charismatic and witty Berger is as a human being---it takes two to tango, so the same can be said about Tilda Swinton. The next short, "Spring," directed by Christopher Roth, focuses on how Berger perceived the relationship between man and animal in the quaint rural town of Quincy. This is the only short that doesn't actually have Berger in it, but it's still fascinating and witty. "A Song for Politics", directed by Colin MacCabe and Bartek Dziadosz, manages to be the most thought-provoking and timely of the shorts. Perhaps the most insightful of all the arguments presented in that short is how the overload of information on the internet and other mediums creates so much noise that people stop caring about anything like government corruption, so they become desensitized, i.e. all the corruption that Snowden uncovered with his leaks. Finally, there's the short "Harvest", directed by Tilda Swinton, where Swinton brings her two kids, Xavier and Honor, to visit Berger's residence at Quincy. Just like in the first shirt, fruit symbolic: the fruit in this case are blueberries which Berger's late wife, R.I.P., had picked in the garden that he still looks after to this very day. You'll observe just how passionate Berger was about his wife, and how lucky he is to have friends like Tilda Swinton and her two kids. At a running time of 90 minutes, The Seasons in Quincy is a profound and refreshingly unconventional doc that will nourish your mind and soul. It opens Wednesday, August 31st at Film Forum via Icarus Films.


Directed by Pedro Morelli


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by IFC Midnight.
Opens at IFC Center.

Max Rose

Directed by Daniel Noah


Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Paladin.
Opens at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

No Manches Frida

Directed by Nacho G. Velilla


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Pantelion Films.
Opens nationwide.


Directed by Luke Scott

      Lee (Kate Mara), a risk-management consultant, arrives at an underground bunker where Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), a humanoid made from synthetic DNA, is imprisoned because she attacked psychiatrist Kathy Grieff (Jennifer Jason Leigh) during a session thereby losing her privileges to go outside the bunker. Morgan has feelings, but no empathy or regret when it comes to crossing moral boundaries. Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones) serves as the head of the experiment while Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones) while Dr. Cheng (Michelle Yeoh) works as the program's director. Everything changes once psychiatrist Alan Shapiro (Paul Giamatti) arrives to conduct a series of psychological evaluations on Morgan. Meanwhile, nutritionist Skip (Boyd Holbrook) develops an unrequited crush on Lee.

      Luke Scott, in his feature film directorial debut, is quite a competent and assured director at least when it comes to the aesthetic elements of Morgan. The production values look impressive, and the ensemble cast is very well-chosen. The film's main problems, though, lie where most films problems can be found: in the screenplay. The first act feels quite riveting, provocative and promising, but after Dr. Alan Shapiro conducts his psychological evaluations on Morgan, the screenplay by Seth W. Owen begins to take a nosedive into shallow, preposterous, dull and contrived B-movie territory with chases and all, but none of the cleverness of the first act. Even the big twist at the end can be seen a mile away if you're an intelligent and perceptive audience member.

      The subplot involving Skip trying to romance Lee is unnecessary, too corny and distracting while nearly derailing the entire momentum of the film whenever he tried to flirt with her---when he tried to plant his first kiss on her so randomly, it deservedly led to bad laughs from the audience. As plausibility wanes, so does the suspense and intrigue. Scott and his editor, Laura Jennings, at least are disciplined enough to keep the running time at an appropriate length: 92 minutes. If it were any longer, it would have been an exhausting chore to sit through. Essentually, Morgan is no less dull, shallow and forgettable than your average direct-to-VOD Sci-fi thriller, but with a bigger budget and A-list cast.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by 20th Century Fox.
Opens nationwide.


Directed by Pedro Morelli

      Emma (Alison Pill), a young woman working at an artificial sex doll shop, is insecure about her small breasts, so she gets her breasts surgically enlarged. To purse her passion for cartooning, she creates a cartoon about Edward (Gael García Bernal), a film director shooting his latest film in Rio De Janeiro. He has a very small penis which becomes a problem when Marissa (Jennifer Irwin), a studio exec, hits on him. His film is about a model, Michelle (Mariana Ximenes), who becomes a novelist who writes about Emma.

      Zoom has a premise that sounds like it could and should be a wildly entertaining, Kaufmanesque mindf*ck, but it's poorly executed because it quickly tedious, dull and exhausting. The first 20 minutes or so show some promise as you're introduced to the film's narratives within narratives within narratives. Director Pedro Morelli's use of animation during the story of Edward is quite visually impressive, but not much more than that. Neither of the three connected stories feels captivating, clever, emotionally engrossing or zany enough to rise above mediocrity. Nor does Zoom cut deep enough into its issues of male and female insecurities or the issue of shallowness. None of the talented actors rise above the lackluster material. For far more brilliant and satisfying mindf*cks that have a strong premise and execution, see Inception or The Science of Sleep which also stars Gael García Bernal.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Screen Media Films.
Opens at Village East Cinema.
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