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The Best Indiewire Film Criticism for the Week of April 8-12

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by Forrest Cardamenis
April 12, 2013 5:05 PM
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Oscilloscope "It's a Disaster"

Every week, for your easy-viewing pleasure, Criticwire will bring to you a roundup of all the reviews that appear on the various blogs on the Indiewire Network. This week is heavy on criticism of "42" and "To The Wonder," but The Playlist and Shadow And Act made time for much smaller releases, while Press Play took a look back at "Room 237." Click on the name of the film to be taken to the full review.

Indiewire:

"To The Wonder:" "There's a logic to the ebb and flow that remains cyclical from start to finish. This is Malick's world, but with 'To the Wonder,' he invites us in." -- Eric Kohn

Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy:

"42:" "It does hit the essential points of a great American saga, one that every young person ought to know and some of us older viewers ought to know better. That's what matters most."

"Disconnect:"

 "'Disconnect' is tough to watch at times because it cuts so close to the bone. That's also why it's so effective. I can't imagine any audience member who won't relate to at least one of the characters or the dilemma they face."

The Playlist:

"It's A Disaster:" "Assembling a cast of eight actors in one house for a film that's part relationship dramedy and part end-of-the-world movie, Berger keeps the setting fresh and the pace moving in a story that takes a humorous look at the problems, both epic and trivial, that threaten to ruin lives." -- Katie Walsh

"42:" "

'42' is excessively retro, neglecting the urge to pepper scenes with comic relief or oppressing, flashy conflict. But it's the sort of approach that keeps these characters from being 'rebels' with phony redemptive character arcs." -- Gabe Toro

"This Ain't California:" 

"Even if Persiel's film is a slight hoax, this has so much energy flowing through it, that it just turns into both a good story, and a document of an undefined time and place that many teenagers finding themselves will experience." -- Kevin Jagernauth

"The Angels' Share:" "What really matters in 'The Angels' Share' is that Robbie wants to change, a sentiment that is taken at face value, as is much of the film's woefully underdeveloped dramatic plot points." -- Simon Abrams

"Antiviral:" "Brandon Cronenberg is clearly eager to make a name for himself and like most young film directors, 'Antiviral' is bursting with visual flourishes and ideas. Cronenberg adopts a sterile aesthetic -- there are a lot of white, minimalist rooms -- a deeply mannered storytelling technique from the performances to the pacing...But unfortunately, these tics get in the way of the movie." -- Kevin Jagernauth

"Oblivion:" "'Oblivion' makes clear that, with a less confused script, the director has real talent. An architecture professor on the side, the same immaculate sense of design is in place in the film...But Kosinski has improved as a storyteller, too. The screenplay can drift towards the expository sometimes, but is well-structured and twisty enough to keep you involved for much of the running time." -- Oliver Lyttelton

"To The Wonder:" "They're all characters with a void in their existence (like Penn in 'The Tree of Life'), and it hit us on a gut level. Because for all of the glorious landscapes and images, it's also a film of real, searing feeling, but not necessarily in the way you might expect." -- Oliver Lyttelton

Shadow And Act:

"Imani:" "What Kamya does here instead, is stealthily observe the ways in which people, regardless of their own station in life, try to exert power over the lives of others." -- Wendy Okoi-Obuli

"

42:" "'42' is inspiring, but it's also slightly reminiscent of movies like The Blind Side and Remember the Titans, films that seek to simplify racism through the context of sports, with its codes of sportsmanship and a pure sort of democracy which ensures that every man “deserves a fair shake” if he's got the goods." -- Zeba Blay

"Wonderful World:" "There's a simplicity to a story that seems to think its so much more, which I find somewhat repulsive; It's just lazy filmmaking overall." -- Malcolm Woodard

"Un Homme Qui Crie" ("A Screaming Man"):" "As is usual with Haroun's films, loud, physical and external conflict is absent from the screen and attention placed, instead, on the quiet, internal conflict of man -- in this instant, one man, Adam (aka Champ) played admirably by Youssouf Djaoro." -- Wendy Okoi-Obuli

"Salsa Giants:" "'Salsa Giants' is filled with love for Salsa and full of vibrant positive energy: it is clearly a work of love by everyone involved in making the documentary." --

Willem S.A. Costa Gomez

"Life, Above All:" "

What carries the film isn't the secret itself but how people deal with it. As long as the lie is well set up, people are willing to accept a story at face value and, as long as the creator of the lie is able to stand firmly by it without any outward sign of weakness, then others will accept the lie as truth." -- Wendy Okoi-Obuli"Africa United:" "Despite the films uplifting and adventurous spirit, however, there was something a little flat about it at times. It has all the right ingredients for a classic children's film -- it has adventure, villains, obstacles a plenty -- but there just didn't seem to be a great sense of excitement, terror, thrill, or even great emotional depth to it, until, perhaps the last third of the film." -- Wendy Okoi-Obuli

Thompson On Hollywood:

"Oblivion:" "Unfortunately, this well-cast movie's set-up is a lot better than its resolution; that said the movie has more visual talent and brain cells than most of the crap the studios serve up these days. Kosinski is only going to get better." -- Anne Thompson

"Gangs of Wasseypur:" "The pop culture references in 'Gangs' are not tacked on, post-Tarantino-style, as smug winks to an audience of fans, though they may have played that way in India. And they are not evidence of 'reflexivity' in the academic sense. They are simply an accurately observed characteristic of the milieu in which the story unfolds." -- David Chute

"To The Wonder:" "'To The Wonder,' to me, played like a slighter (and more repetitive) version of 'The Tree Of Life' in most respects, its flowing, exquisite imagery and elegant soundscape certainly pleasing to the eye and ear but the moves and motives of its sketchy characters failing to offer enough substance to nourish the spirit." -- Matt Mueller

James On Screens:

"To The Wonder:" "Malick is clearly rejecting the novelistic narrative thrust and deeply drawn characters we might expect on screen. As he did far more successfully in 'Days of Heaven', he asks us to read into his images, the way we do with the more compressed genres of painting and poetry...This feels more like Malick has made a series of serious, inexplicable misjudgments."

"It's A Disaster:" "'It's a Disaster' is the kind of film that plays much better than it sounds like it should. It's another end-of-the-world (maybe) ensemble piece, but the deft writing and directing by Todd Berger and the straight-faced comic acting by America Ferrera, David Cross and Julia Stiles make it all feel fresh."

Press Play:

"Room 237:" "These characters are not 'proper' film critics. But their obsessive readings can be seen as a metaphor for all film analysis. That burning need to scrutinize -- to interpret and explain -- is the soul of even the most sophisticated criticism. What 'Room 237' does is take that internal desire to understand and transforms it into a raging, slobbering, terribly funny movie monster. -- Robert Greene

Kevin Lee's response:

"But when I try to take the long view on contemporary film criticism and culture, I sometimes wonder if all we're doing each week is describing new pictures painted on prison walls. It's a prison not of our own making, but born out of a system that encourages us to lose ourselves inside movies as perpetual consumers, rather than enabling us to look through, around, and beyond them."

"42": Odie: "Don Burgess' lighting brings us closer to the internal acting being done by Boseman...you can see him working out his game plan/side hustle at all times. Unfortunately, that damn score by Mark Isham overshadows some finely underplayed moments."
        Steven: "
Agreed. If the studio has any mercy, they should at least release a cut of the film on Blu-ray minus the score. I guarantee you, this is far more intense and poetic film without that absolutely unnecessary weep music." -- Steven Boone and Odie Henderson
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