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3 items from 2013

Film Reviews: Opening This Week (Oct. 28-Nov. 1, 2013)

1 November 2013 6:08 PM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

Ender’s Game

Distributor: Summit Entertainment

An anti-bullying allegory writ on the largest possible scale, “Ender’s Game” frames an interstellar battle between mankind and pushy ant-like aliens, called Formics, in which Earth’s fate hinges on a tiny group of military cadets, most of whom haven’t even hit puberty yet. At face value, the film presents an electrifying star-wars scenario — that rare case where an epic space battle transpires entirely within the span of two hours — while at the same time managing to deliver a higher pedagogical message about tolerance, empathy and coping under pressure. Against considerable odds, this risky-sounding Orson Scott Card adaptation actually works, as director Gavin Hood pulls off the sort of teen-targeted franchise starter Summit was hoping for.

— Peter Debruge

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Free Birds

Distributor: Relativity Media

Month-old mashed potatoes wouldn’t leave behind as questionable an aftertaste as “Free Birds,” a »

- Variety Staff

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Grim and Overly Drawn Out, Immigrant Is Unconvincing in Its Relevations

29 October 2013 9:00 PM, PDT | Village Voice | See recent Village Voice news »

Immigrant is reportedly based on writer-director Barry Shurchin's own family history, but the story he's chosen to tell is so melodramatic and relentlessly grim that any passion he feels for the material isn't reflected onscreen. It's 1979 and 10-year-old Daanyik (Sam Dixon) and his parents (Harry Hamlin and Angela Gots) have just emigrated from Russia to New York. A former engineer, Daanyik's father is humiliated by having to work as a laborer, and quickly spirals into self-pity and alcoholism. At yeshiva school, Daanyik runs afoul of a bullying rabbi (Michael Lerner) obsessed with using dodgeball as a man-making teaching tool. Later, the boy battles for inner-city playground turf against a group of American kids who make fun of his broken English. The yeshiva and playground sc »

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Film Review: ‘Immigrant’

28 October 2013 6:03 PM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

Barry Shurchin’s autobiographical account of his childhood as a 9-year-old Russian immigrant in late-’70s Gotham piles on one traumatic event after another: suicide, beatings, sexual abuse, murder — little Daanyik is spared nothing in the free world. But the storyline develops so erratically that it lacks any internal momentum, with some scenes unfolding in exhaustive detail and others seemingly missing, as if whole chunks had been shot and later edited out. The film’s violent, angry kid’s p.o.v., though strongly conveyed, hardly invites sympathy for its pint-size protagonist and will likely prove too hostile to achieve much traction in limited release.

Coming home drunk to the family’s Moscow apartment on the eve of their departure for America, Daanyik’s father, Deema (Harry Hamlin), resents the whole notion of repatriation, driven to leave by his wife’s fear of rising anti-Semitism and the government’s sudden encouragement of Jewish exodus. »

- Ronnie Scheib

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