Clear Blue Tuesday
A group of eleven New Yorkers struggle with many aspects of their life post-9/11 over the course of seven years. Each of them is scarred in some spiritual or physical way by the tragic events of that clear, blue Tuesday. Sam (Cassandra Kubinski), an aspiring actress, and her roommate, Etta (Erin Hill), a Sci-fi harpist, struggle to find love. Kyle (Asa Somers) is a workaholic employee of a corporation whose girlfriend, Rose (Becca Ayers) suffers a mental breakdown that threatens their relationship. Daniel (Jeremy Schonfeld) lives with his new wife, Reena (Julie Danao), while pining for his girlfriend who had died on 9/11. There’s also a porter, Ricardo (Robi Hager) street performer, Jack (Greg Naughton), a musician, Syd (Brother Love), and Jain (Vedant Gokhale), a young man who goes through an identity crisis. Finally, there’s Caroline (Jan O’Dell), a business woman who desperately searches for son after 9/11 left her physically injured. Director/co-writer Elizabeth Lucas inundates the film with so many awkward musical numbers that the modicum of dramatic momentum quickly wanes. Too many scenes feel like amateurish music videos with singers who don’t really seem like they’re putting all of their heart into their performances---with the exception of Jan O’Dell who adds much needed heart, soul and gravitas. None of the other characters come to life, though, which means that you won’t find yourself emotionally invested in their struggles with love, death, identity and other universal themes that, with a much more sensitive screenplay, could have felt more relatable and organic. Even the ways that the characters’ lives intersect feel too contrived---each of those subplots could easily be explored and expanded with much more thoroughness in a separate, more focused film. At a running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes, Clear Blue Tuesday is an often stilted and uninvolving amalgamation of drama, tragedy, romance and awkward musical numbers. Jan O’Dell steals the show with her genuinely heartfelt performance.
Going the Distance
Garrett (Justin Long), a newly single New York guy who works at a record label, chills with his friends, Box (Jason Sudeikis) and Dan (Charlie Day), at a bar where he meets and flirts with Erin (Drew Barrymore), a summer intern at a newspaper based in New York City. They start dating throughout the summer, but after six weeks, she has must go back to live at home all the way in San Francisco with her overprotective sister, Corinne (Christina Applegate) and her husband, Phil (Jim Gaffigan). Nonetheless, Garrett and Erin agree to continue their relationship over a long distance because they still have feelings for each other. Erin hopes to get a permanent job on New Year’s Day at the New York newspaper so that she can be close to Garrett. For the time being, they resort seeing each other whenever possible during the holidays. In one of the many cringe-worthy scenes, they have sex on Corinne’s dinner table unbeknownst to the fact that Phil is eating at the table. Corinne cleans the table before dinner and finds a pubic hair on it. Garrett and Erin’s romance becomes stale the longer they’re apart, so they try to spice it up by having phone sex and chatting via Skype, but neither of those attempts work. Will she cheat on him? Will he cheat on her? Will she find a job in New York? Will he find a job in San Francisco? Will they end up happily ever after? Who cares? The screenplay by Geoff LaTulippe resorts to sex-related humor as a means of generating laughter, but most of it falls flat on its face because it just sounds painfully awkward and unrealistic balanced against the contrived drama and corny moments. There’s Something About Mary and, of course, the classic, intelligent When Harry Met Sally… balanced romance and sex comedy much more smoothly and effectively. By the end of Going the Distance, both Garrett and Erin will get on your nerves so much that whenever they talk, you’ll feel like nails are scratching a chalkboard. At a running time of 1 hour and 49 minutes, Going the Distance is an uneven, painfully contrived and uninspired romantic comedy that’s low on laughs and chemistry while high on awkward dirty talk and unnecessary foul language.
Last Train Home
Machete (Danny Trejo), a former Mexican federal agent, now works as a day laborer in Texas. Booth (Jeff Fahey), a shady man, offers him $150,000 to assassinate Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) on the pretense that McLaughlin plans to send thousands of illegal Mexican immigrants back to Mexico. During the assassination attempt, Machete realizes that he has been double crossed when someone unsuccessfully tries to kill him. He now teams up with Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), the leader of a rebellious group of illegal immigrants, to exact revenge on those responsible for attempting to murder him. He soon finds out that Booth used him to boost the approval rating of McLaughlin and that a drug lord, Torrez (Steven Seagal), and a corrupt businessman (Don Johnson) actually fund McLaughlin’s campaign. Torrez had brutally murdered Machete’s wife and daughter. Jessica Alba shows up as an immigration officer while Cheech Marin shows up as Machete’s brother, a priest who also works in the funeral business. Lindsay Lohan plays Booth’s drug-addicted daughter who later dresses incognito in a nun outfit to shoot up Machete’s villains. Anyone who takes the plot by co-writer Álvaro Rodríguez and director/co-writer Robert Rodriguez seriously will miss out on all the crazy fun on display. Sure, very little actually makes sense and there’s lots of nudity, stylized violence and icky gore to be found, but it’s all done with tongue-in-cheek humor and hilarious one-liners. How many action films have a hero swinging through a window on someone’s large intestine, for instance? You can’t help but laugh whenever Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan (who essentially plays herself) and Cheech Marin come onscreen. Machete is a lean, mean killing machine who holds no bars. It’s an absolute guilty pleasure to watch him kick some ass from start to finish, and you might find yourself cheering him on. At a running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes, Machete is one of the most outrageously entertaining, tongue-in-cheek guilty pleasures since Kill Bill---as long as you’re willing to check your brain at the door from start to finish.
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Based on a true story. In 1940, Max Manus (Aksel Hennie) returns from fighting in the Finnish-Russian War to Norway where the Nazi Germans have already begun their occupation. He quickly becomes part of the resistance movement in Norway and, upon getting seriously injured, he seeks the help of a friendly nurse to escape from the hospital’s second-story window so as to avoid getting captured and interrogated by the Nazis. Now a fugitive of the Nazis, he flees to Scotland where he receives military training, and finally returns to Norway where he continues his brave resistance against the Nazis. His friends, namely, Gunnar Sonsteby (Knut Joner), Gregers Gram (Nicolai Cleve Broch), and Kolbein Lauring (Christian Rubeck), risk their lives to fight along with him while Max’s nemesis, Siegfried Fehmer (Ken Duken), a commander of the Gestapo, desperately tries to hunt him down. Max eventually meets and falls in love with Ida (Agnes Kittelsen). The screenplay by Thomas Nordseth-Tiller turns Max Manus into brave, charismatic and skillful war hero who’s worth rooting for and caring about throughout his many life-threatening endeavors. In one of the film’s most suspenseful sequences, Max and his resistance team go incognito and plant bombs on the sides of a ship belonging to the Nazis. Aksel Hennie gives a captivating, raw performance as Max---it’s the kind of performance that allows you to feel truly immersed in the story even if you’re already familiar with it. Given Max’s charms, you’ll find it easy to grasp what Inga sees in him to begin with. Their romance could have been fleshed out a little more, though, but that’s a minor, forgivable flaw. Co-directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg move the film along at just the right pace and include an appropriate music score that heightens the tension during the many pulse-pounding moments. They also incorporate the flashback sequences quite smoothly and effectively. At a running time of just under 2 hours, Max Manus is a taut, captivating, well-acted and thrilling war film.
Mesrine: Public Enemy #1
Our Beloved Month of August
Prince of Broadway
Elvis (Kenneth Nkosi) must drive roughly 998 miles from Durban, South Africa all the way to Cape Town in time for his imminent wedding while his fiancée, Ayanda (Zandile Mstuwana) nervously waits day by day for his return. His best friend/best man, Tumi (Rapulana Seiphemo), comes along with him on the lengthy road trip which doesn’t quite go as smoothly as they hoped it would. They hit obstacles along the way that cause them delays such as their car breaking down, an adoption of a pet goat which carry around, and Rose (Jodie Whittaker), a doctor from England who recently broke up with her cheating boyfriend and now joins Elvis and Tumi as a passenger on their road trip. When they stop at a local bar to wait for the mechanic to fix their car, Elvis and Timi, who are black, encounter racism from the white South African bar patrons. Meanwhile, as the wedding day approaches, Ayanda questions her love of Elvis as her wealthy ex-boyfriend shows up to try to win her over despite that her mother (Sylvia Mngxekeza) can’t stand him. Director/co-writer Jann Turner has take a seemingly simple plot and turns it into a whimsical and funny journey that becomes more engrossing as it progresses because Elvis, Tumi, Ayanda and Rose each comes to life as a fallible human being. They each go through a journey that’s also spiritual so that by the time they reach their destination, they have each changed in certain aspects. Some of the solutions to the conflicts that Elvis and Tumi go through are solved too neatly and easily so as merely to move on with the plot, though, but those are minor shortcomings. White Wedding is far from your typical road movie because its comedy is deftly balanced with serious dramatic themes, such as racism, regret, distrust and more that crop up in gentle ways that don’t distract too much from the film’s overall upbeat tone. At an ideal running time of 1 hour and 33 minutes, White Wedding is a whimsical, uplifting, funny and unexpectedly engrossing journey with just the right balance of comedy and drama.
The Winning Season
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop