“All You Need”
Kellie Martin stars as Beth Sabistan in this dull romantic comedy/family drama about a woman finding herself amid a divorce and crumbling family. One of those movies that seemingly could end at any moment but decides not to, “All You Need” is redundant and overwrought as it wrings the towel of dysfunctional family life to no apparent effect. Director and co-writer Randy Ser creates palpable characters and lots of good intention, but arranges so many transformations that the point of the film soon becomes muddled and lost.
But hey, at least there’s no cigarette smoking in it. [Andy Sywak]
“Artists & Orphans”
Lianne Klapper McNally wrote, produced and directed this heart-wrenching and eventually heart-warming documentary about a group of New York artists who help out an orphanage. Arriving at a theater festival in Georgia (not the Peach State but the former Soviet Republic), the visiting Americans go to great lengths and personal hardship to provide clothing and sustenance for a large group of street children.
Essentially a documentary about a philanthropy mission, the fact that the caregivers are artists ultimately has little to do with the story. Short, gritty and brilliantly scored, McNally definitely knows what she is doing. Yet, by attempting to make some grandiose connection between art and humanitarian relief, the theme of “Artists & Orphans” sometimes appears pretentious in trying to supercede its good intentions. [Andy Sywak]
From Chile comes this literate sleeper about the collapse of a rich man due to his sexual obsession with his dying grandmother’s young caretaker. What is unique about director Silvio Caiozzi’s film is how the camera constantly moves slowly around its complex characters, like a sentinel deity observing its moral decisions. Like a psychological Greek tragedy with a modern repressed-Catholic twist, this is both grotesque and exciting in its subtle eccentricity. However, for a 140-minute movie, its main flaw is its anti-climatic ending. The best features of “Coronation” are its excellent acting, directing and location shots. [Joseph Martinez]
With little of the charm or nostalgic associations of “The Journey of Natty Gann,” Maria Peter’s “Little Crumb” is yet another variation of a young orphaned boy’s quest for his biological parents. Think about what it would be like to watch a production of “Oliver,” “Little Orphan Annie” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” back to back to back – painful.
A family film slated for a Christmas release, it hopes we can connect with a lovable little scamp. I’d like to make a connection with Ruud Feltkamp, the child actor who plays Crumb – my fist, his jaw. [Patrick Wright]
Four stars for this unexplainable documentary about Denmark’s iconic director/artist Lars Von Trier’s art installation, “Psychomotor 1: The World Clock.” Jesper Jargil directed this digital video about 53 actors in a building with 19 rooms for 50 days. The script is totally improvised, but the actors’ motivations are determined by changing colors controlled by the movements of ants in New Mexico. Gloriously chaotic and frighteningly existential, the topic of this film is disturbing but exciting to ponder. If you don’t know about Von Trier’s (“Dancer in the Dark”) influential Dogme95 film movement, check it out at www.tvropa.com. [Joseph Martinez]
A frustrated young photographer befriends an inner-city youth and his family in Roger Roth’s debut feature “Focus.” Gradually becoming embroiled in their life, Robert (Brandon Karrer) soon gets involved further than he bargained for.
With all its cheesy dialogue and feel-good themes, the first hour of “Focus” watches like an ABC after-school special meant to promote community involvement. When David begins rolling around the ghetto with his adopted street gang, however, the film builds in immediacy and becomes quite gripping. Roth does a very deft and fair job at exploring race relations in “Focus,” honing in on common ground while effectively juxtaposing differences without ever becoming remotely PC. Earnest, yet innovative, Roth makes “Focus” a promising debut. [Andy Sywak]
“A Galaxy Far, Far Away”
A poorly conceived and inconsistent documentary about Star Wars fanatics waiting in line for 42 days for the 1999 premiere of “Episode One: The Phantom Menace.” A few scenes of the extreme behavior of die-hard Star Warriors got a few chuckles out of me, but the director ridicules his subjects more than sympathizes with them. A lack of focus and horrible sound recording make this film a chore to watch. The comparison to “Trekkies,” the Star Trek fan movie, is too easy to make: “Trekkies” – good film. “Galaxy” – bad film. Two stars. [Joseph Martinez]
“His Wife’s Diary”
A lighthearted Russian drama about the love pentagon surrounding poet Jan Bunin during his exile in France, “His Wife’s Diary” is a refreshing movie that goes for that big Hollywood look while still retaining its own cultural identity. Jan is crude to his wife by taking a lover who falls for another woman. A young writer who becomes infatuated with Jan’s wife creates the basis for all the strange events to follow. Based on Jan’s wife’s diary, this colorful feature is entertaining and humorous. Expansive cinematography and gorgeous exterior locations in the France add eye candy to this already enjoyable film. [Joseph Martinez]
“The Long Holiday”
A filmmaker with the heart of a poet, Holland’s Johan van der Keuken has made a compelling documentary that celebrates the human spirit even as his own mortality is looming near. Diagnosed with prostate cancer, Johan is encouraged by his wife Nosh to take a journey across the world. The film chronicles his conversations with Tibetan monks, Bhutanese tribes and Brazilian doctors as he looks for philosophical and medical answers. A deeply intimate portrait gilded by masterful camera work, editing and narration, “The Long Holiday” is a finely crafted film. A positive dose of optimism in a society that too often associates death with loss and regret, this film is one of the best of the festival. [Patrick Wright]
“That’s My Story”
“That’s My Story,” the chronicle of blues man John Lee Hooker, is a look at one of the few surviving originators of Mississippi River Delta blues. A veritable who’s who of the blues world, the film pays homage to an American master while interviewing other blues players such as Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt along the way.
Unfortunately, Director Jorg Bundschuh tries too hard to include every aspect of Hooker’s life in the 70-minute running time, leading to a few continuity problems with editing choices. Though the soundtrack itself will hold strong appeal for any blues aficionado, Hooker’s story would be a better film if it was in his own words. [Patrick Wright]
“The Hundred Steps”
This excellent film about a young man standing up to the Mafia is Italy’s very worthy Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film. Director and Co-writer Marco Tullio Giordana’s story of individual bravery takes place in Sicily in the late 1960s and ’70s, and Giordana brings the romance and intrigue of the island to life so lusciously you want to hop on the next plane there. Based on a true story, Peppino Impastato (a powerful Luigi Lo Cascio) journeys through communism and hippie communes on his quest for justice. Beautifully shot and effectively acted, “The Hundred Steps” will make any “Sopranos” fan question his devotion. [Andy Sywak]
Bostonian Richard Moos’ directorial debut, “Orphan,” is an interesting idea in need of meatier dialogue and acting ability to pull it off. Anna (Charis Michaelson) is left orphaned at age 12 when her businessman father is gunned down by hitman Jake McCrory (Marty Maguire). After taking a nearly fatal shot to the shoulder, Jake is visited by the ghost of Anna’s father, who convinces the killer to change his life and become Anna’s protector. Ten years later, Jake’s calling as guardian angel is almost done just as Anna’s life is again put at risk.
As a fan of the “assassins and orphans” genre, I find that “Orphans” falls short of Luc Besson’s “The Professional,” which I recommend. [Patrick Wright]
Chilean Sergio Castilla directed and wrote this decent film about the problems experienced among four wealthy, alienated teenagers one summer in Santiago, Chile. Joshua Walker and Adrian Castilla play two giddy American teenagers who take up residence in an abandoned country house along with two Chilean girls. They smoke pot, make videos and generally never miss an opportunity to overact their roles as bored teenagers.
Constantly bouncing back between English and Spanish while ingeniously mixing hand-held camera vantage points with traditional ones, Castilla’s film is enjoyable to watch. In the end, however, a lack of strong story development keeps this movie from being anything too transcendent. [Andy Sywak]