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Entries in John Esther (58)

Friday
Feb012013

Blue Caprice

Blue Caprice
Directed by: Alexandre Moors
Released on: January 19th, 2013 (Sundance Film Festival)
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Inspired by the Beltway sniper attacks of October 2002, writer-director Alexandre Moor's feature debut premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Lee (Tequan Richmond) is a teenage boy living on the Antigua Islands by himself. Abandoned, he is drawn to John (Isaiah Washington), a father of three young children. After saving Lee's life, John takes Lee under his wings, providing the father figure Lee never had. After John's three children return to his mother, Lee fills a void for John, too.

Months later, John and Lee arrive in John's hometown of Washington, USA, in search of John's kids. It turns out that there is a restraining order against John, and he is not to contact his wife or kids.

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Monday
Dec242012

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Released on: December 21st, 2012
Grade: 2 out 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Released one week after the shooting massacre in Newtown, CT, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie's Jack Reacher opens up with Charlie (Jai Courtney) aiming his high-powered rifle at several people going about his or her day in Pittsburgh, PA. Amongst the possible targets is a young girl (Sophie Guest).

One can feel the tension in the theater. It may be too soon to show such images, but studios have to follow their release schedule.

Then Jai starts shooting, killing strangers from thousands of feet away.

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Monday
Jun202011

El Velador

El Velador (The Night Watchman)
Directed by: Natalia Almada
Screened at: LAFF 2011 | June 18th & 19th, 2011
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Few films or documentaries laboriously and quietly examine the life of the working poor as well as The Night Watchman (El Velador), the latest documentary by Natalia Almada (To the Other SideEl General).

Set in the infamous Cualican cemetery called "El Jardin" ("The Garden"), the night watchman, Martin, and others construct crass gravesites and mausoleums for the victims — or soldiers ("capos"), depending on how one looks at it — murdered as a result of the highly profitable narcotic trafficking in the northern Mexico area. Day by day, under the sun, gravediggers, bricklayers, cleaning women, food vendors, etc., do their low-paying jobs as the rich are put to rest. Without visible exception, the ones doing the work have already existed longer than the recently deceased.

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Monday
Jun202011

Sex Crimes Unit

Sex Crimes Unit
HBO Documentary Series
Screened at: LAFF 2011 | June 18th & 19th, 2011
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Two days and one day before the HBO premiere on June 20th, the Los Angeles Film Festival screened Sex Crimes Unit, an insightful yet flawed look at a group of dedicated city employees working to bring rapists and other sexually violent perpetrators to justice.

Before the Sex Crimes Protection Unit was formed in 1974 by Manhattan District Attorney and father of five daughters, Robert M. Morgenthau, victims of rape had very little legal recourse. Marital rape was not considered a crime (and good luck with prosecuting acquaintance or date rape cases). It was subject to statues of limitations. And more importantly, it was, and still is to a considerable degree, a victim-precipitated crime. In other words, a woman had it coming to her — even if she was married, at home, sober, in bed asleep, and the assailant broke into the house and sexually violated her. (Some of the reasoning behind this latter part, especially when it came to women holding this point of view, are among the more interesting moments in the documentary.)

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Monday
Jun202011

City of Life and Death

City of Life and Death
Directed by: Lu Chuan
Released on: May 15th, 2011 [USA/LIMITED]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

As Hitler and company were busy turning Europe into an abattoir, their non-Occidental bootstrapping companions in the land of the rising sun marched into Nanjing, China, December 1937 to conquer, rape, steal and kill their purportedly racial inferiors.

Boiling with racial hatred, the Japanese Imperial Army systematically, randomly, wantonly killed thousands of Chinese civilians and soldiers who had already surrendered. As the Chinese city canvas swirls and whirlpools into a fury of reductive madness, a group of Chinese and Europeans are allowed to create a Safety Zone where the sick, sad and surrendered are protected from the sickness, sadism and spurious violence outside the gates. But that can only last for so long.

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Friday
May062011

The Life of Fish

The Life of Fish (La vida de los peces)
Directed by: Matías Bize
Screened at: NBFF [April 28th - May 5th, 2011]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

When he was younger, Andrés (Santiago Cabrera) had close friends, a special girl named Bea (Blanca Lewin), and a general sense of communal security. But that was more than 10 years ago. Andrés is now 33, living abroad, working around the world as a travel writer, and living a life of noncommittal relationships – most likely constantly communicating in a language not his first (or theirs).

In general, Andrés probably enjoys his modus vivendi, but when the expatriate returns home, what he left behind drowns him in a seductive/reductive whirlpool of remorse and regretful moments.

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Thursday
Apr142011

My Perestroika

My Perestroika
Directed by: Robin Hessman
Released on: March 23rd, 2011 [IFC NYC - LIMITED]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

During my undergraduate studies as a Russian and Soviet Studies major I had the opportunity to witness the tumultuous transitions of the latter days of that experiment known as the Soviet Union. From the comfort zone of a university campus in Tucson, Arizona to ground zeroes in major Soviet cities, I witnessed the "evil empire" as it openly embraced perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness).

As anger, frustration and hope mounted in the streets of Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg), friends and strangers spoke openly with westerners during those days. Those English-Russian conversations over vodka, bread, butter and caviar were some of the most concise I ever took part in. The Russians of that generation often had a gift for being direct and to the point when they spoke (or drank) — whether it came to the necessary dismantling of the brutal Soviet Union political system, US President Ronald Reagan's doublespeak about the USSR or personal friendship.

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Thursday
Mar242011

WIN WIN

Win Win
Directed by: Thomas McCarthy
Released on: March 18th, 2011 [LIMITED]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Powered by the best screenplay in an American film so far this year, the latest film by writer- director Tom McCarthy (Station Agent; The Visitor) tells the story of Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), a family man trying to keep his life from crumbling.

A lawyer in a small New Jersey town, business has been very slow for Michael lately. Unfortunately, that will not stop the bills from coming in. Backed into a corner, Michael comes across a scam that takes one of his clients, Leo Poplar (Burt Young), out of Leo's house and into an old folk's home. It seems to be a rather safe gamble, but then Leo's grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), unexpectedly shows up, threatening to unravel the plan, the extra money for Michael, and maybe even Michael's license to practice law.

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