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Reviews for September 4th, 2015

Documentary Round-Up

      Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, directed by Alex Gibney, follows the life and work of ex-Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Gibney starts the doc by showing how much people around the world worship Steve Jobs as if he were an idol. He then provides you with a wealth of background information about Jobs' childhood, teenage and college years including how he formed Apple Inc. Fortunately, not all of the doc is hagiography because Gibney does briefly delve into the darker side of Jobs, particularly how selfish he was and mistreated those around him including his ex-wife. Jobs comes across as a charming, intelligent narcissist who knows how to captivate an audience whenever he speaks. In other words, like all great narcissists, he's a very good actor. Gibney certainly knows how to choose the right subject because Jobs' complexity makes him all the more captivating and worthy of a feature-length film. As is usually the case with Gibney's docs, this one is slickly-edited and has just the right amount of comic relief (mostly in the brief video of an young boy joyfully lists all of Apple's technological devices that Steve Jobs created). With that said, the running time of 2 hours and 8 minutes does feel slightly excessive because there's too much expository information that seems to serve as filler. Nonetheless, you'll catch a glimpse of what makes Jobs fallible, and find a little mildly provocative food for thought about the advancement of modern technology, i.e. how technology helps to connect us to one another yet alienates us at the same time. Magnolia Pictures opens Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine at Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Before We Go

Directed by Chris Evans


Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Radius-TWC.
Opens at Angelika Film Center.


Directed by Eskil Vogt


Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Kimstim Films.
Opens at IFC Center.

Bloodsucking Bastards

Directed by Brian James O'Connell


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Shout! Factory.
Opens in select theaters.

Break Point

Directed by Jay Karas


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Broad Green Pictures.
Opens at AMC Empire.

Chloe & Theo

Directed by Ezna Sands


Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by ARC Entertainment.
Opens at Cinema Village.

Heroes of Dirt

Directed by Eric Bugbee

      Phin Cooper (Joel Moody) loves nothing more than BMX riding. He even gives up college for BMX which disappoints his parents, Claire (Diane Bakos) and Tim (Bill Allen). When a series of unpaid citations gets him into trouble with the law, Phin misses a BMX competition and is ordered by the court to do community service at Calvary Youth Center. He mentors and befriends as troubled teen, Blue Espinosa (William Martinez) while teaches him the sport of BMX.

      Like any great sports drama, Heroes of Dirt is less about the sport itself than about the struggles of its characters as well as their bonds of friendship. Phin and Blue are both troubled teenagers, yet they find ways to overcome their troubles through their experiences together. Perhaps to a certain extent, the sport of BMX serves as a way for Blue and Phin to channel their frustrations and angst. The character arc of Phin as he gradually learns how to become a good roll model and to value friendship above all will make you feel uplifted and bring tears to your eyes unless you're made out of stone. The evolving dynamics of his relationship with Blue allow the film to be more compelling and engrossing than your average sports drama.

      Writer/director Eric Bugbee along with co-writers Jill Bugbee, Bob Massey and Kevyn Bashore deserve to be commended for finding just the right balance between plot and character development while concurrently keeping the film grounded in humanism with its heart on its sleeve at all times. They also avoid resorting to preachiness, although there are more than a few inspirational, positive messages for audiences to take home with them by the time the end credits roll. Sure, some of the plot has cliches, but so what? After all, there are some truths to be found within cliches, and it's a cliche to complain about cliches.

      When it comes to its sports action scenes, Heroes of Dirt delivers some thrills and suspense. The cinematography looks great and, most importantly, you'll actually be able to clearly follow what's going on during all of the BMX stunts. You don't have to be an avid fan of BMX to be captivated by the film, but if you are indeed an avid fan, you'll probably enjoy it even moreso. In an industry where there are too many sports dramas about football, baseball, boxing and surfing, it's quite refreshing to come across one about BMX for a change. Ultimately, Heroes of Dirt combines the best elements of Hollywood and arthouse films: it's equally tender, heartwarming, relatable and inspirational while remaining a captivating, exhilarating and thrilling experience.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Blue Trail Entertainment.
Opens in select theaters.

La Juala de Oro

Directed by Diego Quemada-Díez


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

The Transporter Refueled

Directed by Camille Delamarre

      Frank Martin (Ed Skrein), an ex-special ops mercenary, has a simple mission for Anna (Loan Chabanol): he must transport three prostitutes, Gina (Gabriella Wright), Qiao (Wenxia Yu) and Maria (Tatiana Pajkovic) who are seeking revenge against their pimp, Karasov (Radivoje Bukvic), by stealing his money because he had enslaved them in the sex trade industry since they were children. Meanwhile, Anna holds Frank's father (Ray Stevenson) hostage to ensure that Frank follows through with his mission.

      This summer has been inundated with action thrillers ranging from the new Mission: Impossible to Hitman: Agent 47 and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. While there's nothing groundbreaking about The Transporter Refueled, at least it delivers the all the expected goods: it has thrilling action scenes, dark/witty comic relief and a debonair action star who's worth rooting for. Beyond that, it's grounded in a father-son relationship that adds a modicum of humanism. Fortunately, the plot isn't too complicated, and exposition is kept to a bare minimum unlike in the new Mission: Impossible. Of course, you'll have a much better experience if you check your brain at the door and suspend your disbelief, but that can be said for the vast majority of action thrillers.

      Director Camille Delamarre and cinematographer Christophe Collette know how to shoot action scenes in a slick, entertaining way that isn't exhausting, head-ache inducing or hard to follow. If you're a fan of the first film in The Transporter franchise, you'll most likely enjoy this one just as much even without Jason Statham because Ed Skrein exudes just as much charisma if not more than Statham does. He makes for a very appealing lead, and has a great screen "presence," so kudos to casting director Nathalie Cheron. By the time the end credits roll, you'll be hungry for the next Transporter. At an ideal running time of 95 minutes, it's a sizzling, action-packed thrill ride and a pure rush of adrenaline.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by EuropaCorp USA.
Opens nationwide.

Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos

Directed by Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste

      Toto (voice of Bruno Bichir), a timid young chicken, lives on a ranch that's going bankrupt. Scared of the consequences of a forthcoming eviction, Toto agrees to enter a cockfighting competition to save the farm along with his friends and love interest, Di (voice of Maite Perroni), who live there. His friends, including a roosterthat had once dropped out of a cockfight years ago, train him for the big event in hopes having him win the much-needed prize money.

      Un Gallo con Mucho Huevos (A Brave Little Rooster) will charm and delight little kids while keeping their parents entertained as well. Writer/director Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste pays homage to other films such as Rocky, Happy Feet and even The Godfather, but he does so in a tongue-in-cheek way. The first act sets up the story by explaining how Toto and his friends met and stayed friends while living on the farm for many years. The rest is essentially a standard, harmless underdog story of Toto finding the physical and mental courage to become a hero.

      You'll find plenty of witty, amusing scenes along with screwball comedy in the form of misconstrued words---i.e. the scene when one of the characters tries to explain to the grandmother, the owner of the ranch, that there's an upcoming cockfighting competition. There's also a funny scene involving the introduction of Di, although Spanish-speaking audiences will be the only ones who grasp the double entendre because the subtitles don't do it any justice (hint: it's very similar to the double entendre joke of the name "Marlene Sasseur" in The Dinner Game). To be fair, Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos never quite reaches the level of brilliance found in Pixar movies, but it's at least much better than the underwhelming Chicken Little and just as hilarious, zany and fun as Chicken Run. Prepare to be delighted from start to finish.

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