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Jordan (2010)
Quite good
14 June 2010
I saw "Jordan" at the Waterfront Film Festival over the weekend and really enjoyed it; it was pretty easily the best of the films I had a chance to see. The plot was solid and the acting was quite good (most notably from the young girl who played Jordan -- that solid of acting from a child is rare), but I was most impressed with the deliberate, tense pacing of the film. Overall it was a very enjoyable thriller, with a surprisingly poignant ending.

The filmmakers and child actress were present for the screening I attended and answered a few questions, which was a nice extra treat.

(sorry, I needed more lines to meet the minimum)
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13 June 2009
I saw this film at the Waterfront Film Festival and was very impressed. The script is very sharp; it was both the funniest and most moving film I saw at the festival, and was filled with acutely observed moments and truths about relationships. The direction and acting were also superb. In particular Jess Weixler turned in an amazing complex and nuanced performance as Vandy.

I would highly recommend this film. It is an auspicious first film for writer/director Jay DiPietro.

(stupid line minimum)

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Humpday (2009)
Goes slowly downhill
13 June 2009
What a disappointment. This film started off promisingly, with a very funny premise that is established in a semi-believable way. Sadly, that is really all there is to the film. The funny premise leads nowhere, it is just milked and milked and milked until the audience is no longer laughing, but rather just waiting for it to end. Believability also starts going out the window about halfway through the film, with characters acting and reacting in ways that no human would, but are required contrivances to keep the story rolling along.

I too was not a fan of the overall aesthetic of the film, a sort of forced naturalism, with almost exclusively hand-held camera work, awkward quick focus and zoom changes, and an improvised feel to the dialog. I felt this sharply contrasted with the highly contrived nature of much of the script, and I also feel that it is generally unpleasant anyway.
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13 June 2009
I saw this film at the Waterfront Film Festival, and found it quite disappointing. Ostensibly, the film was an attempt to link spirituality and activism. Sadly, the spirituality in the film amounted to little more than the hollow postmodern rejection of any structured belief system and vague embrace of "tolerance". In a similarly disappointing vein, the activism envisioned by the filmmakers was nothing more than generally pointless (and often very vague) political protest. It was somewhat fitting with the hopeless, oblivious idealism of the film as a whole that it ended with a group chanting "We are here and we are not leaving" ... on the anniversary of having left the south central LA garden a year earlier.

Overall, the film came across as an attempt to seem deep to the more simple-minded viewers, but could fairly easily be recognized as hollow by everyone else.
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Man on Wire (2008)
Simply amazing
20 June 2008
I too saw this at the Waterfront Film Festival, and wow, what an experience.

It is hard to put into words just how good this film is, and on just how many levels it works. It is intensely fun, good-natured, laugh-out-loud funny at times, poignant and heart-wrenching at others. The images, not just of the central feat, but of many of Philippe Petit's performances are arresting and jaw-droppingly beautiful. Each of the supporting characters is colorful and entertaining in his or her own way, but none more so than Petit himself, who is so instantly likable that it is hard not to get immediately drawn in to this fascinating tale.

Even with this description, I am not doing the film justice. I have not seen a film this good in years. If you have a chance (I believe it is scheduled for release in August), GO SEE THIS MOVIE.
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Flightplan (2005)
How sad.
27 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Rarely have I been so annoyed by a film. Perhaps this is because "Flightplan" starts off with such promise before descending (ha ha) into a laughably ridiculous, clichéd, and downright boring final third. The movie develops as a fascinating and emotionally gripping story of a delusional woman who is convinced her dead daughter accompanied her on board as has been kidnapped.

**SPOILERS** ... but surprise! She is, in fact, correct! Coincidentally, none of the 500 passengers saw the girl or witnessed her kidnapping. Coincidentally, the air marshal and a flight attendant are in cahoots to orchestrate a hijacking threat, demand a $50 million ransom, and attempt to pin the entire thing (including the on-board ransom demand) on a woman who has no idea what is going on. Right.

What surprises me is how far off base Roger Ebert's review was of this film. He writes, "Often in thrillers we think of obvious questions that the characters should be asking, but do not, because then the problems would be solved and the movie would be over." That's right, and "Flightplan" is a textbook example. Jodie Foster's character figures out the entire conspiracy, gains control of the situation, is able to take the hijacker's gun ... and then gives the gun to the captain, has him leave the plane, and seals all the exits so as to be alone with her (surprise!) still-armed foe. Sure, this allows for yet another limping-attacker-slowly-chasing-resourceful-woman climax, but the repeated blatant assaults on the audience's common sense and credulity are simply too much to take.

"Flightplan" seemed promising as it slowly established the impossibility of the actual explanation it provides. There is the possibility of a good movie in there, but as it stands, "Flightplan" is an enormous cheat.
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Primer (2004)
Unbelievably fascinating
22 May 2005
This is perhaps the most consistently intriguing film I have ever seen. The story captures the viewer's attention by gradually introducing facts, ideas, and conjectures as they become available to the characters. Do we always know what is going on? No, no more than the two scientists do. Do not let other reviews fool you, however; by the conclusion, the plot is not nearly as difficult to unfold as some would lead you to believe.

Yes, the film was made for $7000, and yes, the credits cast listing is about 5 lines long, but these kind of details are minor distractions. I did not know these things when I first saw the film, and though you will not confuse the look and sound for a $50 million production, it is very watchable and arguably appropriate for the material.

Don't be discouraged by critics and audiences who are too lazy and slack-jawed from spoon-fed big-budget tripe to watch the film to its conclusion; see it for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
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