“You know how people occasionally come out of epic movies like Malcolm X and The Return of the King and are all, Wow, that didn’t seem like three hours at all? That won’t be the case here — The New World feels every bit of its two hours and 15 minutes (already shortened about 15 minutes from its original cut). It doesn’t feel like time wasted, though. Everything is a visual feast, comparable in spectacle and wonder to any of the CGI fests we’ve seen in the past year. (It’s all the more impressive if you can appreciate how cool it is that most of the film was shot using natural light.) ”
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Some short takes after the jump
For his second dramatic feature, writer-director Kevin Jordan (Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire), once again “presented” by Martin Scorsese, draws on his own experiences in the lobster farming business. Danny Aiello stars as estranged patriarch Frank Giorgio, stuck in a tight spot when his wife (Jane Curtin) decides to move out at the same time as his bank defaults on a loan and forces the business on the auction block. Plus it’s Christmas and the usual family reunion tensions abound. There’s nothing radically unpredictable to the story, but Jordan draws so well on the idiosyncrasies of the family profession that it makes the movie worth watching, even if the “surprise” climax is overly telegraphed. Aiello’s perfectly cast as the gruff but caring grandpa, but lesser known cast members like Daniel Sauli (playing director Jordan, more or less), Heather Burns (as his fiancée) and Henry Yuk (as Aiello’s down-to-Earth, Brooklyn-accented Chinese friend) do strong work alongside him.
END OF THE SPEAR
In the 1950s, a group of missionaries ventured into the rain forests of Ecuador to make contact with the Waodani tribe, an infamously violent group who were on the verge of extinction due to their endless cycles of blood-feuds. The missionaries refused to fight back when cornered, and were killed; but later, their families followed in their footsteps to forgive the killers and live together in peace. Writer-director Jim Hanon has made this movie before, as the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor. It was a better film, as the excerpts from it at the end of this one show. There’s some nice photography, and Louie Leonardo makes a strong impression as Chief Mincayani, but the wall-to-wall “inspirational” soundtrack is unnecessary, as is the constant voice-over narration. Non-stop talk works for nonfiction, but for drama, Hanon doesn’t seem to know that less can be more. The true story is a powerful testimony to the wonders of faith and forgiveness; it doesn’t need special-effects visions of angels or giant snakes to “enhance” it.
LIVE FREAKY! DIE FREAKY!
Fans of MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch — in which claymation replicas of famous people mutilated one another in a wrestling ring — are the most likely audience for this stop-motion puppet feature about the Manson family, starring the voices of Green Day, Rancid, The Transplants, John Doe, Jane Wiedlin, Theo Kogan, and Asia Argento. If you thought the puppet sex in Team America was graphic, this movie makes Trey and Matt’s marionettes look like SpongeBob SquarePants in comparison. The idea is clearly to incense cultural conservatives with non-stop foul language, blasphemy, and puppet snuff porn (and like many postmodern Manson romanticizations, the flick ignores the man’s ugly racism), but it’s all too silly to take seriously; an amusing dirty joke best suited for drunken college kids at midnight. Billy Joe Armstrong is hilariously over the top as “Charlie Hanson,” and Faith No More’s Roddy Bottum has composed some catchy songs. Written and directed by punk scenester John Roecker, it’d be really funny if this qualified for next year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar.