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Reviews for September 6th, 2013


Directed by Anne Fontaine

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Exclusive Media.
Opens at Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Bounty Killer

Directed by Henry Saine

      In world where corporations have left society in ruins, a group of bounty hunters called Council of Nine form to kill the remaining businessmen/bankers. Drifter (Matthew Marsden) and his sidekick, Jake LeMans (Barak Hardley), are among the Council of Nine, and meet Mary Death (Christian Pitre) after she escapes gypsies. When Drifter learns that he has become the new target for bounty killers because he was a former CEO, he, Jake Mans and Mary Death team up to kill anyone and everyone who tries to kill him.

      Irreverent, campy and zany, Bounty Killer is a mindless action comedy that's best enjoyed with a group of rowdy friends and a few beers. From the get-go director Henry Saine establishes the film's tone with its open credits sequence and maintains it, for the most part, throughout. The action does get tedious occasionally, but there's always the comic relief provided by the character Jake LeMans---without him, the film would've been boring.

      You'll find cool cars, sexy babes and lots of violence---sound like a bit like what you get from the Fast & Furious series? At least Bounty Killer has more amusing, funny, wild and crazy moments and wears its B-movie vibe on its sleeve. Don't worry about any of the plot's intricacies or about whether or not you'll care about anyone onscreen. Nothing is really meant to be taken seriously; it's all just 90 minutes of guilty pleasure fun, as long as you check your brain at the door.

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

Documentary Round-Up

      We the Parents sheds light on the very important, timely issue of education reform by showing it in action. Parent Revolution, a group partially made up of parents, struggle to implement a California law called the Parent Trigger Law which gives parents the power to convert an under-performing school into a charter school or to close it down. The parents must first gather signatures for a petition to give to the school's superintendent. Their first attempt to implement the law is at McKinley Elementary School in Compton, California. As with many aspects of life, many things are more easily said than done, so, not surprisingly, Parent Revolution faces many obstacles along the way. The Parent Trigger Law may seem simple, but, like all laws, it comes with technical details which decrease its efficiency and make it slightly more complicated. Director James Takata shows those complications, both expected and unexpected, as he follows and interviews Parent Revolution and puts a human face on the issue of education reform. He wisely includes some footage of criticism of Parent Revolution---after all, there are many sides to every issue. The running time of just 1 hour is quite lean for such a complex subject matter, but Takata should be commended for focusing on just one of Parent Revolution's struggles without going off into distracting tangents---he could have, for instance, included more footage of the daily lives of the families at McKinley Elementary School or some interviews with the hard-working teachers. Perhaps by trimming down the doc to 1 hour makes it more accessible for young children to watch it because of their short attention spans (even teenagers' attentions last about an hour). The equally inspirational and moving We the Parents, opening at the Quad Cinema via Go For Broke Pictures, would make a great double feature with Won't Back Down. The most heartbreaking doc of the week, if not the year thus far, is I Am Breathing about Neil Platt, a man who changes the way he looks at life while he suffers from motor neuron disease (MND), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Co-directors Emma Davie and Morag McKinnon show what Platt has to go through day by day with the assistance of his beloved wife. You watch as he writes a very profound letter on his computer to his one-year old son in hopes that when the son grows older, he will be able to get to know his deceased father through that letter. In no way does this become a medical documentary, although Platt briefly states that his disease may have been cause by a bee sting to his eye when he was younger. Davie and McKinnon bring out Platt's abundance of wit and wisdom in just 1 hour and 12 minutes---if I Am Breathing were any longer, it would've become tedious and exhausting. Please be sure to bring a lot of tissues for the last 10 minutes or so because you'll be balling your eyes out, unless you're made of stone. It opens at the IFC Center via Scottish Documentary Institute. Also at the IFC Center there's International Film Circuit's Fire in the Blood which tackles the issue of unaffordable AIDS drugs in third world countries. Western pharmaceutical companies (often lumped into the term "Big Pharma") refuse to set lower prices in those countries even if were to save many lives. Patent laws prohibit the selling of generic drugs for affordable prices. Director Dylan Mohan Gray does an adequate job of showing the horrors of the AIDS epidemic in countries in Africa, although he doesn't include enough levity that would have provided some breathing room in the midst of all of the shocking, emotionally devastating fact presented. Through talk-head interviews with many key figures such as Desmond Tutu and Bill Clinton, you learn a lot about how complicated and seemingly futile it is to change Big Pharma's party line: favoring profit while undermining public welfare. The future doesn't look that promising either, but at least with this doc, a powerful wake-up call, there'll be more public awareness about what's going on overseas---unfortunately, the John Q public prefers to read more about trivial matters like whom Justin Bieber is dating rather than important topics like the AIDS epidemic or Big Pharma's corruption. There's no denying that watching Fire in the Blood will make your blood boil.

Hell Baby

Directed by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Millenium Entertainment.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.

Il Futuro

Directed by Alicia Scherson

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

Mission Park

Directed by Bryan Ramirez

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Armando Montelongro Productions.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.


Directed by Régis Roinsard

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


Directed by David Twohy

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Universal Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

A Teacher

Directed by Hannah Fidell

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Opens at AMC/Loews Village 7.

Things Never Said

Directed by Charles Murray

     Shanola Hampton delivers a bravura performance as Kalindra Stepney, an aspiring poetess who works as a waitress in Los Angeles and finds herself stuck in a loveless marriage with her husband, Ronnie (Elimu Nelson). She's at a turning point in her life because she's unhappy, confused and frustrated, and wants to do something to ameliorate her life, but Ronnie holds her back from fulfilling her dreams to become a poetess and to discover herself. He doesn't support her emotionally and they simply don't connect anymore. At an open mic night where she reads her poetry to a captive audience, she meets Curtis (Omari Hardwick), a young man who shares her passion for poetry and treats her with respect. Unlike her husband, Curtis serves as a great motivator for Kalindra, but he also serves as a threat to Ronnie when she starts having an affair with him.

      Writer/director Charles Murray has woven a very powerful drama brimming with poignancy, charisma, tension and beautiful words of wisdom. It's quite refreshing to find an American film with not only depth, but also a complex role for its lead actress that doesn't objectify women. Kalindra comes across as an emotionally wounded human being who has plenty of intelligence, creativity and even happiness buried deep inside her, and it takes a catalyst like Curtis to bring it out of her and inspire her to feel free enough to do some much-needed soul-searching. In a way, Kalindra's poetry becomes a form of therapy and catharsis for her both on an emotional and intellectual level. Her emotional journey and character arc feels complete, organic and, most importantly, believable thanks to Murray's tender, wise and genuinely heartfelt screenplay. Never does the film veer into melodramatic or pretentious territory; it all feels real and authentic from start to finish. It also has one of the most realistic endings in recent memory because it remains true to the character of Kalindra and treats her with respect without sugar-coating any solutions to her complex issues.

      The primary heart and soul of the film is Shanola Hampton's performance which radiates with warmth, charisma, truth and rawness. It's a star-making performance that, if there's any justice inthe world, could and should lead to acting awards and, hopefully, more complex roles in the future. You'll find yourself not only rooting for Kalindra, but also caring about her as a human being. You'll be sad when she's sad, happy when she's happy, and inspired when she's inspired. That in itself is a testament to the power of a truly great film. Things Never Said is the kind of film that Hollywood rarely makes anymore: smart, deep, honest, genuinely poignant and complex. In an industry filled with shallow, pointless, mindless films, it's a breath of fresh air. It will nourish your heart, mind and soul.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Codeblack Entertainment.
Opens in select theaters.


Directed by Fro Rojas

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Active Fox Productions.
Opens at AMC Empire 25.

Touchy Feely

Directed by Lynn Shelton

Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Magnolia Pictures.
Opens at Cinema Village.

Winnie Mandela

Directed by Darrell Roodt

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by RLJ Entertainment.
Opens at AMC Empire 25, AMC/Loews Village 7 and AMC/Loews Magic Johnson.

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