Category Archives: Film

“A LIFE NOT TO FOLLOW”— Neo Noir in Boston

a life not to follow

“A Life Not to Follow”

Neo-Noir in Boston

Amos Lassen

Directed by Chris Di Nunzio , “A Life Not to Follow” is a neo-noir film in three self-contained chapters with each one being related to the other two. In the first chapter we get the story of unfortunate Eric (Fiore Leo)) a guy who has quite a rough life and who grew up behind bars. He no longer has any value to the local crime syndicate because of a fall he took for them and his attempt at revenge for being thrown out did not go as planned. He was determined to kill those responsible for his demise and feels this is the way to atone for his past sins and that no price is too high especially since he knows that his death is coming in the near future.

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Finola (Erica Derrickson) , his “girlfriend” who is really not as much into him as he would like think, feels for him and his pain. Luca (Michael Capozzi) is a menacing character who Eric meets before his world goes sour is pure evil.

In chapter two we meet Angelo (John Martellucci),  a guy who will do whatever it takes to get to a better place in the world. He thinks he has been given that chance when he is told to dispose of Luca. Luca has been his best friend but Angelo knows that either he kill him or be killed himself. Chapter three brings together the first two chapters. Here Tobias Kane (David Graziano), a former F.B.I. man turned private detective crosses paths with some of the most disgusting criminals of the time as he tries to find a missing girl. He knows that this case will either save him or end his life.

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There is the story of quite a beautiful young woman that, at first, we know nothing about but brief snippets of her appear as if to bind the three chapters together. Set in Boston, we get three different perspectives of the same world and as the chapters come together, we get quite a film. There are two actors that really stand out— Fiore Leo as a gangster and loner is intense while David Graziano is brilliant as the detective Kane.

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The mood of the film is immediately set by the cinematography by Nolan Yee. Di Nunzio’s direction and script are excellent all around. It is interesting that the gangster film never seems to become old hat. Every once in a while we get one that blows us away and given the proper distribution, this may be the one for this year. Everything about it gets an A plus rating. We are introduced to a group of characters that do not seem to be aware of the world they live in and if they do not wake up, they are then to be destroyed by it.

“(DIS)HONESTY: THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES”— We All Cheat

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“(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies”

We All Cheat

Amos Lassen

Think about it—from ticket fixing in police departments to test-score scandals in schools, from elected leaders’ extra-marital affairs to financial schemes undermining the economy, dishonesty has become a major part of the news. What is so sad is that it’s not just true in the headlines – everyone cheats.

“In (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies” we follow Israeli born Duke University psychology professor Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist who has a specific concentration on how and why people lie. Director Yael Melamede presents his story quite simply as an extended lecture that Ariely gives to a group of people. Sporadically throughout the film overhead shots show the individuals in crowds as unknowing subjects in one of Ariely’s elaborate social experiments. While his lecture is remains fascinating and captivating because of his research, Melamede intercuts this with various parts about “high-profile” liars like Joe Papp, a doping cyclist and insider traders. Someone does something wrong or transgresses and the situation grows out of their control until they are caught.

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“We humans like to believe certain things about ourselves: that we are good and honest people, for one. Sure, we might innocently add a few inches to our…height on online dating sites, or fudge our taxes, but we are essentially virtuous”.

This is a documentary about why we lie and it shows the extent to which we fib (almost everybody does, it turns out, across nations and gender and social class). Perhaps most interestingly, it also how we shows us how we rationalize doing so.

In addition to Ariely’s experiments we see interviews from high-profile liars: Tim Donaghy, an NBA referee, a stock trader, Marilee Jones, MIT’s dean of admissions (who falsified her own academic history), ex-Manhattan stockbroker Garrett Bauer and former corporate lawyer Matthew Kluger, who hatched and fostered a complex insider trading scheme and Kelley Bolar a black mother who lied about where she lived in order to give her two daughters a better education. (She ended up being criminally prosecuted and serving jail time, a reminder of the ugly truth of our justice system.) While we do not get any exceptional insights, the film is full of interesting trivial examples (that in actuality are really not so trivial). We learn that bankers are twice as likely to lie as politicians, and swearing on a Bible does make us more likely to tell the truth. Despite pointing out the horrific consequences of large-scale deceit such as with the financial crisis of 2008, the tone of the film is somewhat optimistic.

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As Ariely explored through his scientific experiments on lying, he selected a group of people to take a multiple choice math exam and let them decide how many questions they got right or wrong after shredding the exam sheet. They get paid if they answered all the questions correctly. Little do the test-takers know that the machine only shredded the sides of the paper, so Ariely has a way of knowing who lied and by how much they lied. His conclusions of that experiment and others are interesting but not shocking: everyone lies to a certain degree and has a “fudge factor” that allows for them to lie up to a point without sacrificing their dignity. We see that lying increases when two people collaborate together. In the interviews we have a wide variety of liars from cheating wives to bankers who explain what their thought process was when they were lying and even how they justified the lie to themselves. There is the banker who is guilty of insider and who justified it because many others did it and so it was okay. One of the interviewees states that “a lie is like a knife: it’s okay if it’s used to butter your own bread, but not if it’s used to stab someone”. I want to know more about that wisdom. What we do not get, and it is a pity, is insights and revelations about the root of lying. Could it have something to do with narcissism? It certainly is not enough to say that lying is simply an innate part of human nature and that animals also lie. This is a lively, witty and captivating film that has some interesting tidbits of wisdom. It could have been more profound but then we could also be lied to.

“THE GRID: ZOMBIE OUTLET MAUL”— A New Animated Feature

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“The Grid: Zombie Outlet Maul”

A New Animated Feature

Amos Lassen

I am sure we all remember when animated films were for children and the adults that went were usually parents taking the kids to the movies. Times have changed and so has animation as we see with the success of so many animated films in the past few years. Now we go a bit into the future and the paranormal with Linda Andersson’s “The Grid: Zombie Outlet Maul”.

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It all starts when electrical devices come to life after an offshore nuclear plant explosion, and take over the abandoned Anameter Coast. Life is grand for Creative Outlet (the voice of Deborah Stewart) and her friends until they realize they must fight for their lives against a bumbling band of bullies, The Voltz Gang (car battery chargers), who now work for the evil and damaged Power Plant named Drusilla.

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Remo, a nebbishy remote control (the voice of Harry M. Ford) runs through town to warn his friends at the Energy Bar while being chased by The Voltz Gang. When he  arrives, Hazel Switch (the voice of Thea Gill) and her band, Switch Hazel can’t hear his pleas over their loud rock music. It isn’t until he proves to bar owner, Auto d’Fuse (MJ Lallo), that they need to shut down the bar to avoid being attacked. First they have to get permission from Mane (Danny Pardo), who is outraged by the idea of taking the bar off the electrical grid.

After much consideration, the Energy Bar friends head to the beach to ride out the emergency. But when Gennie the Generator (Leah Cevoli) runs out of fuel, they find themselves growing weaker by the moment, since they are no longer able to recharge.

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It really hits home when Auto sees his girlfriend, Elwira Buss leading a group of zombie outlets across the sand. The friends realize that their “zombiehood” is not far off if they can’t figure out something soon.

“THE GREAT MAN”— War and Immigration

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“THE GREAT MAN”

War and Immigration

Amos Lassen

French director Sarah Leonor’s “The Great Man” is a drama about the traumas of war and immigration and the way they affect people. It stars Jérémie Rénier in a powerful story about friendship and solidarity and takes a closer look at how men try to piece their lives back together when they’ve been changed by war.

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Hamilton (Jérémie Rénier) and Markov (Surho Sugaipov) are coming to the end of their five years of service in the Foreign Legion. While being posted for six months in Afghanistan, they find themselves in crossfire while on an impromptu and unauthorized leopard hunt. Hamilton is shot and nearly killed and Markov risks his own life to save him at the expense of his own dreams of gaining French citizenship. The two men are reunited later in Paris. Hamilton has remained in the Foreign Legion and Markov, a Chechen, is living a poor life as an illegal immigrant and trying to provide for his young son Khadji. When Markov is killed in an accident, Hamilton conscience tells him to look after the kid of the man who saved his life.

Markov joined the Legion as a foreign refugee, hoping that this would ease the way for him to gain his French citizenship and provide a better life for his young son. Ultimately, the complications of immigration and legal status takes a turn even against those who have spent time saving others.

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Hamilton and Markov have bonded during their service and this is really tested during an ambush in Afghanistan. Hamilton wants to escape war altogether and Markov learns that even after several years of service he’d have to re-enlist in order to get French identity papers. He chooses to quit and he begins trying to adapt to civilian life by meeting his young son, Khadji (Ramzan Idiev), who doesn’t speak his own language and who doesn’t remember him. While Markov eventually wins the boy over by teaching him the French legionnaire’s code of honor, father-and-son bonding is abruptly brought to an end.

What we see in “The Great Man” is the symbiotic relationship between brothers and the role of the group as guarantor for a legitimate masculinity as Freud theorized. Director Sarah Leonor shows harmony and phallic symbolism when we see the image of a soldier carrying a wounded brother across a landscape, a shot of uniformed men lined up in fascist accuracy and the sound of dog tags as they jingle on a bare chest. The homoerotics haunt the shots, but they never really take over the narrative. Leonor tells a narrative tale about the perverse promises of a father who’s never anywhere to be found.

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This is an intimate metaphysical drama depicting the traumas of war and emigration. When Hamilton gets shot in an ambush, Markov saves his life but is reprimanded for it. When he returns to France, he is given a choice: either sign up for another three years or be dishonorably discharged without obtaining French nationality. (Many Legionnaires are foreigners who enlist in exchange for future citizenship.)

Markov opts to stay in Paris as an undocumented immigrant and finds his son who he hasn’t seen since going overseas. We soon learn that both father and son are Chechnyan refugees forced to flee their homeland during the war, and that their livelihood depended upon Markov (whose real name is Mourad) getting papers for the family.

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Here are questions of international conflicts and how they affect national identity especially in a country like France where they cannot seem to get a handle on illegal immigrants. Director Leonor conveys emotions through purely visual terms. The wonderful scene where Markov and Khadji are reunited is particularly effective in this regard as we see each character’s longing and confusion without much dialogue.

The focus of the film is entirely on men. The film isdivided into chapters, each titled with a different name. We see how men here interact with each other and how they change and this reflects traditionalist male values of honor and loyalty or the idea that a life saved is a life earned. Hamilton’s identity is sacrificed when he faces the responsibility of fulfilling an unspoken obligation for Markov. He steps in at a key moment to help Markov’s son, thus helping shape the boy’s perception of manhood and the importance of maintaining integrity.

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Obviously, to me anyway, is intention to focus on French immigration laws and the sense of alienation those without a national identity face. Are the men here supposed to represent father figures and if this is so why are there no women representing mother figures? Are the men we see here archetypal and idealized versions of what a father figure, even one that’s absent, should be? Is there something about gender here that is not overt? Then again there can also be the idea that men are only great when they have to deal with responsibilities that have been traditionally performed by women. Does Hamilton become great because he is raising a child?

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I may be digging to deep but I usually do with French films. There is no judgment or criticism of the characters by the director; she merely observes and lets us decide.

“THE GIRL IN THE WOODS”— A Missing Friend

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“THE GIRL IN THE WOODS”

A Missing Friend

Amos Lassen

When several friends find a message from a missing friend, a group of events unwind that changes lives. A friend receives a text message that says “Find me and northing else. A few moments later the same friend who sent the message girlfriend calls him to tell him that her boyfriend has disappeared after the two of them has words. At first we think that he has just gone somewhere to cool down but as time passes and he is not heard from we can only wonder what has happened and why he sent that mysterious text message. We have been cleverly set up not knowing what to anticipate. As we wait for something to happen we get to know the characters and the story to develop at its own pace (which happens to be the pace the director chose). The biggest surprise is that this is not a horror film although at first it certainly seemed to be one.

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The story sounds as though it could be a horror film, but that’s not how it plays. Turkish filmmaker Tofiq Rzayev bases his film on his own English screenplay. “Find Me” which he and screenplay have rendered into Turkish by himself and Erdogan Ulgur. Mert (Deniz Aslim) is worried about Ai, a good friend of his who has mysteriously gone missing. Ali’s fiancée Jeren (Gizem Aybike Shahin) is very worried and the only clue is that another friend saw him going in the direction of the local woods and the text that Mert received. When Mert inevitably goes wandering in the woods, we feel no sense of dread. Then things happen and the audience is as shocked as the actors. There is a lot of dialogue but the film does not try to trick us or pull us into some kind of plot full of gimmicks. What it accomplishes in half-an-hour many full length movies have not been able to do.

Jevahir Jasghir changes from when we see her as an amiable young woman into one with quite a temper and she knows how to give a look that will stay with the viewers for quite a while after the film has ended. At first Jeren thinks that Ali has just taken off to relax after she realizes that she might have pushed him a bit too hard about their wedding. Mert, being the good friend that he is, takes over to look for Ali and this ultimately takes him into the woods where he meets Jashir who seems to be a lovely girl who tells him that the land he is on belongs to her and that she never leaves it because society is not good to her. Mert seems to understand this and soon the two are totally attracted to each other but the woods seem to be hiding something. Now that we feel comfortable watching this, a shock is leveled at us and the ending is a total surprise. The direction and the performances are excellent all around and this short film works just beautifully from start to finish.

“FRANCESCO”— The Life of St. Francis

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“FRANCESCO”

The Life of St. Francis

Amos Lassen

The 1989 film of the life of St. Francis by Italian auteur Liliana Cavani, will be released on Blu-ray and DVD by Film Movement Classics on September 1st to coincide coinciding with the celebration of Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States.

It was nominated for a Palme d’Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and is included as one of 15 “Religion” movies in Pope John Paul II’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications list of “Some Important Films” – better known as the Vatican Film List – created in 1995 for the 100th Anniversary of Cinema.

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The basis for the film is Hermann Hesse’s “Francis of Assisi and it tells the life of the iconic and influential Saint Francis, played by Academy Award-nominee Mickey Rourke, and the rise of the Franciscan order that he founded. As they mourn his death, “Francis’ devoted followers recall episodes from the saint’s life and charts his transformation from the pampered son of an aristocrat into a selfless man of faith devoted wholly to a life of apostolic poverty”. The film also stars Helena Bonham Carter as Saint Clare, Francis’ spiritual inspiration and disciple. With a Beautiful soundtrack by composer Vangelis (Chariots of Fire), the film is “a deeply human portrait of one of the most beloved and complex figures in the history of religion and civilization”.

Francis is seen as a figure in secular history and a model of secular virtues and the film downplays his uncompromisingly ascetical and authoritarian religious practice and beliefs The film is a fiery and fascinating depiction of the saint that’s surprisingly contemporary. Mickey Rourke is excellent in this movie of a saint wrestling with himself. Cavani’s St. Francis is a young virile man grasped by, and growing into, the awareness of God. It is grace that leads him from curiosity about God and about human suffering to a radical love for simplicity rooted in creation and the Catholicism. That radical love is seen in a desire to alleviate that suffering whenever possible through works of mercy, all depicted movingly in this film. He loved voluntary poverty and detachment from the bondage of the love for material things. Possessing nothing, he would possess all and give all.

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Cavani also shows the true willingness of Francesco’s bishop to give him a chance to show that he was not simply another heresy-prone enthusiast, which plagued the Church at the time. This film is far from a subtle polemic with subtexts against the Church. Francis is indeed a reformer but not a bitter revolutionary. Like a true reformer he was always reforming including self-reformation.

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The film skips back and forth to Francis’s eulogy where Clare and other key followers grieve and honor his passing and the resonance he brought to their lives. While this facet of the movie is effective at the end and in some other key places, it is a bit jarring and takes away from the absorbing moments shown during his life.

Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of St. Francis is sensitive, controlled, subtle, but also prepared and delivered. The film as a whole was magnificent -a true example of ensemble acting at its finest. We get the feel of life in the 12th century just as Europe was coming out of the Dark Ages and change was happening everywhere.

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St. Francis and his followers did not intend to begin a worldwide movement of a monastic order, and his confusion, disappointment, and frustration at the response to his “rule” was palpable and heartbreaking. Each of the young men in the original group was as diverse as could be, yet they were all brought together under the loving care and friendship of Francis. The humor and antics balanced their rather grim existence and made them all the more human. There were moments of intense sadness, but also of joy and we experience these emotions in this film.

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The bonus features include excerpts from the Cannes Film Festival press conference, a collector’s booklet with a forward by director Liliana Cavani and an essay by film critic Aaron Hillis.

“CHOCOLATE CITY”— Amateur Night

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“Chocolate City”

Amateur Night

Amos Lassen

Michael, a struggling college student faces changes when he meets the owner of a male strip club who convinces him to give amateur night a try. “Chocolate City” is an all black take on “Magic Mike”.

Michael realizes that stripping is his natural calling and overnight becomes a big star. He had been working part-time selling hamburgers to help support his mother (Vivica A. Fox) and older brother. What he really wants is a girlfriend and he is enamored of Carmen (Imani Hakim) but because he does not have a car she refuses to go out with him.

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Just when his family was about to have their electricity cut off, Michael was approached in the Men’s Room of a club and offered a job dancing at a women’s club but he decides it was not for him. But then his brother who knows how much money he can make urges him to reconsider because of the amount of cash he can make. Michael was soon working really hard and this caused his grades to suffer but he was able to buy a car and have sex.

Of course the stripper/dancers are all wonderfully handsome and built men and their routines are very, very hot. Of course his mother began to worry about where Michael’s sudden wealth was coming from and both and Carmen had no idea that he was making it dancing for screaming women.

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The other dancers resent Michael because he got top billing and he was new and he made more money than they did. Unfortunately, “Chocolate City” is filled with clichés, and stereotypes, and the dialogue is just awful. I have no idea what Writer/director Jean-Claude La Marre was thinking when he took on this film. There are some good dancing/stripping routines and Robert Ri’chard as Michael has a great body and can really move. However the film is so obviously a rip off and does not approach the original.

“ROCK IN THE RED ZONE”— Life and Music in Sderot, Israel

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“Rock in the Red Zone”

Life and Music in Sderot Israel

Amos Lassen

Sderot, Israel is in the war zone. The town once known for its rock scene that revolutionized Israeli music, has for the thirteen years been the target of ongoing rocket fire from the Gaza strip. Through the personal lives and music of Sderot’s musicians and from the filmmaker’s personal narrative, we see the town’s trauma as well as its enduring spirit.

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Israel established the desert city of Sderot in the 1950s as a transit camp for immigrants from Arab countries, followed in the 1980s by Ethiopians. Even thought for many it was Jerusalem that they wanted to see, they ended up here working in factories. When then prime minister Ariel Sharon launched his 2005 initiative to disengage from Gaza. Sderot was in a vulnerable position for frequent close-range Qassam rocket bombings from Gaza. Amidst casualties, maimed neighbors and crumbling buildings, Sderot’s youth found a way to deal with both their anger and their hope in rock music. They wrote lyrics to western style music, first in English and then in Hebrew and this brought Middle-Eastern melodies to new and unique sound. Bomb shelters turned into music clubs. For many of these musicians, Tel Aviv’s opportunity was weighed against Sderot’s authenticity. Filmmaker Laura Bialis arrived in Sderot in 2007 for a three-week stay to document the rock music scene and then two months later, she returned to live there. Bialis found a community, love and a new family. Her film documents Sderot’s efforts to gain attention from Israel’s large cities. Like the best films, Rock in the Red Zone raises and deals with serious questions about roots, a person’s sense of belonging, and other issues. For many of us who have lived in Israel, Sderot is a desolate and forsaken place. This is not true for our filmmaker. She fell in love with Sderot and with a local resident who she married and who later became her child’s father. What many do not know is that Sderot is home to an important part of the Israeli music scene. It’s the place of origin for bands that employ both contemporary Israeli and North African rock influences that we hear in such groups as Teapacks, Knesiyat Hasechel (Church of Reason) and Sfatayim (Lips). Bialis met Avi Vaknin, a musician who would soon become her husband, as well as Hagit Yaso, an Ethiopian immigrant who won Israel’s reality TV show, “A Star is Born,” in 2011, and musician Micha Biton. The movie is about Sderot the place but even more so it is “an investigation of the creation of art under fire.”

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Bialis was born in Israel but grew up in Los Angeles. After finishing her film “Refusenik” about the thirty-year movement to free Soviet Jews she returned to Israel. Bialis studied at Stanford and at the University of Southern California film school and thought about going to Sderot after a friend sent her an article about the rockets , Bialis considered traveling to Sderot after an Israeli friend sent her an article about the many rockets that land there.

Many maintain that it is Sderot brought East and West together in a new rock fusion and the culture of Israel today reflects that diversity. Then there is the story of how the people of Sderot have dealt with the years of rocket attacks from Gaza. Bringing these two stories together gives us a fascinating documentary about Israel.

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Here is a film that focuses on real people to whom right- or left-wing means little. What the people of Sderot share is being hit by rockets from Gaza and the music that they turn to for comfort. As she narrates the film, Bialis follows the sounds of Sderot while also taking the viewers into the hearts of the people of the city.

The film combines footage of rocket attacks of which some of involve some of the main subjects in the film, cinema verite scenes of debates, breakdowns, Color Red siren chaos and loving moments surrounding music. Surprisingly a film about a music scene becomes a look at “life and resilience, choices, defeats and triumphs”.

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We meet principal people in the Sderot music scene and the time we reach the end of the film, we have seen them grow and change and we care about them and their city. The documentary contains humor, drama and a compelling narrative and it affects us. Every time we hear a siren we stop and think about the people we see here. It is so interesting to see of Bialis’ own transformation. It is quite a distance from Los Angeles to Sderot and quite a different culture and way of life.

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In the movie we get a snapshot of the “real” Israel with concentration on the effects of politics on the lives of people while at the same time staying away from politics. Sderot seems to sit between Hamas on the one side and an uncaring government and fellow Israelis on the other. Some of the residents can’t stand the onslaught of rockets and leave, others have no other place to go.

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“Rock in the Red Zone” raises and deals with serious issues and questions about roots, a sense of belonging, a country’s responsibilities are to its citizens, and salvation through music. As we watch, we are forced to think about these issues and a film that does that deserves five stars.

“THE LOST KEY”— Sex Advice? from the Torah and Kabbalah

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“The Lost Key”

Sex Advice from the Torah and the Kabbalah

Amos Lassen

“The Lost Key” a new documentary about sex advice gleaned from the Torah and Kabbalah, is not only anti-gay and anti-women but also contradictory throughout. The focus begins on Venezuelan

Ricardo Adler whose divorce was very difficult for him and he decided to try to discover how to achieve a fulfilling and lasting marriage. His search took him to Rabbi Manis Friedman, who introduced him to Kabbalah’s ancient secrets to attain the highest form of intimacy. The film than concentrates on his transformation in a new marriage and also looks at how other couples have responded to what the rabbi and the film consider to be a revolutionary way to sexual connection. I ask how revolutionary it can be when it comes from texts written hundreds of years ago. The film claims it is about forgotten wisdom and that it can “inspire society to rediscover intimacy, one bedroom at a time”. I say, “Give me a break, sex has not changed since the beginning of time and while methods vary, sex has remained the same”.

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“The Lost Key” has absolutely nothing new to say and it is reminiscent of the religion classes of the 1950s. Ricardo Adler gives Rabbi Manis Friedman, credit for saving his love life and course for happiness by teaching him the Kabbalah’s ancient secrets for achieving intimacy and that is what this film is; a tribute to the rabbi and not much more than that. What is said and seen here is completely outdated both in regards to sex, but also regarding gender equality and to the rights of people of diverse sexual orientations. It is ultra-conservative and it seems to me that it attempts to teach that intimacy is the best when it involves giving and receiving (duh!!!) but I do need a rabbi or anyone else to tell me that. But that is not all— Rabbi Friedman maintains and insists that only a man can do the giving and that the woman is the one who gets the receiving. (Does his wife dare to tell him that she is in the mood for receiving or does only he get to say when he feels like giving?). What this means according to the rabbi is that the penis is the only giver and the uterus is the only receiver. Therefore penetration of the vagina is the only acceptable way for couples to achieve intimacy. After all, the rabbi says, “The harmony of giving and receiving is something that exists only between a man and a woman”. Does this mean that there is no intimacy in this world outside of sexual intimacy and that those who practice it differently are therefore, by biblical definition, abominations?

The film has been winning prizes at festivals but that is because of the make up of the audiences where the majority consider themselves to be heteronormative. It will be even more interesting to hear the reactions when it is screened in liberal cities like Boston where there is a huge Jewish population that is made up of all the colors of the rainbow. I do not think that the rabbi’s definition of intimacy will float there.

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The film puts women in a passive role by frequently saying that females are categorically incapable of any performing any role in intimate relationships other than being a receptacle. Further, Rabbi Friedman states that the missionary position is the one and only route for achieving intimacy (since the man does what he does while the woman waits to receive him.

There is a sequence in which the Rabbi shares this with a couple being counseled and the wife suggests to the Rabbi that she finds diversity in their sex life a wonderful way for partners to explore and learn about intimacy between them. The Rabbi interrupts her and says that women should not be so active in intimacy. When the husband defends his wife, he tells the rabbi that he is narrow minded in his view on intimacy and the rabbi agrees. The very fact that he does agree tells us where this is all going. I realize that all of this is just foolish out-of-date jabberwocky but I keep watching and hoping that something will change.

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The husband then defends his wife and suggests that the Rabbi has a “narrow” view on intimacy to which the Rabbi smiles and agrees. The lessons of The Lost Key are so out of whack with 2014 that it’s hard to appreciate a word of the film. The Lost Key is honestly one of the most inaccessible documentaries I’ve ever seen because it leaves no room for interpretation or conversation. The film probably succeeds in preaching to the converted, but there is little opportunity for anyone else to accept its lesson.

There are other that scenes both support the rabbi’s views so I am not quite sure what kind of audience will watch this dreadful documentary just as I am sure that not many people will go home and practice what the rabbi has to say. Listening to the rabbi here supports the present day state of America in terms of organized religion—why bother? But he is not alone as we see other talking heads/sex experts who look like fools as they speak. Is there no wonder why there is such a small percentage of people who ascribe to organized religion in the LGBT community? What about the straight community? When a religion dictates what intimacy is, we need to ask ourselves several questions and then hit the door. I am an observant ands active Jewish gay male and have always been. I love my religion because it is sane. Yet every group has its kooks and this rabbi undoubtedly was standing next to Moses when he etched the Ten Commandments into stone.

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Aside from the film’s content, it is a very amateur attempt at a documentary. The camera even shakes—perhaps the cameraman was trying to be intimate with it. Those who do see this film and pay to do so would be better off spending their money on corned beef on rye or falafel on pita.  Those who do opt to see will not likely be surprised to see a bearded, traditional Orthodox rabbi telling them that missionary-style with a man on top, a woman on the bottom in near total darkness within the confines of marriage is the “right” way to have sex. But then comes the surprise— the same rabbi tells then that it is this position that will lead to a heightened, perhaps even holy, intimacy and that this and other lessons from the Torah can “usher in a new era of sexual relations,” and I quote from the film’s press release.

The documentary is headed to American US theaters on August 12. We are told that it promises to reveal to audiences “how a sexual relationship can go beyond mere physical pleasure and become a spiritual experience where two become One.”

It sets out to prove that the lessons of traditional, Orthodox Judaism can lead to better sex by showing couples how to create a heightened sense of intimacy. Director Ricardo Adler says that the oneness with God is the singular and “highest form of physical intimacy.” Now I have to wonder how many people stop to think of God while having sex?

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I should have suspected something the moment I saw Rabbi Friedman in his black suit and long grey beard—I know these kinds of rabbis. We now see that it is not beyond them to take the life of a teenage girl at a gay pride parade. (I know, that is not a fair statement but then neither is murder a fair way to deal with that you do not like).

The rabbi is flanked by a press representative wearing in a yarmulke and a larger man who is also dressed in traditional clothing. Was he afraid to address us alone? I wonder if he has read either “Kosher Sex” or “The Kosher Sutra” by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach or if he knows that there is a kosher sex toy industry. I do not see how this film can possibly offer a “revolutionary way” for couples to improve their sense of connection without knowing this. We have already heard about intercourse with the lights off and the man on top of the woman and that this is considered the best ways to achieve the highest level of intimacy. But guess what—there is more. There are other limits for intimacy that restrict other sexual activities in order to allows this intimacy to be exclusive to heterosexual, married couples. Does the rabbi not think that unmarried people do not have sex or is that the sex they have is not intimate? Now Friedman says that this kind of sex has to be fine because it has been going on for 5000 years. Does that mean that oral sex is too new to be considered intimate because people have only been having it for say 4000 years? I would like to see where it is written down that these people who have been intimate share that with us.

Why Friedman doesn’t think about those 5,000 years that have been also filled with “not only unhappy marriages, but physical and sexually abused women, a subjugated LGBT population, and a sexual culture of restriction and shame”. I am stunned that this film ever got made and I am even more stunned that people will pay to see it. Which is the bigger shonda? I have no idea but I do know crap when I see and hear it.

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Not only is this film factually not true, it implies homosexual couples cannot achieve this highest intimacy. I understand that Adler reacted to that statement with “You’re talking to a guy who has been heterosexual since day one, whose family is heterosexual”. Is that a valid excuse for leaving something out of the film? It would like making a movie about vegetables and because I do not like green peas, I ignore the fact that they exist. I also do not like people who think that are making the definitive version of something when they have no idea of what they are talking about. Is it no wonder that Adler’s marriage fell apart? He probably sexually bored the hell out of his wife.

“CUB”— Only a Weekend Camping Trip

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“CUB”

Only a Weekend Camping Trip

Amos Lassen

What could possibly go wrong on a weekend camping for a troop of innocent cub scouts and their teen chaperones? First we have an evil psychopathic killer, then his wild young protégé who place some ingenious traps in the woods that bring bloody and violent results. This is “dark, bloody, imaginative fairy tale” about a camping trip that turns deadly. We meet 12-year-old outcast Sam who, along with his fellow cub scouts, are forced to confront and deal with unspeakable evil. At the camp in woods there are rumors of a mysterious and deadly werewolf. Sam is certain that the woods are inhabited by something evil and he comes upon a feral young boy and then later upon his evil psychopathic mentor. He tires to convince the others of what he has found but they do not listen until traps begin to take their violent toll on the group.

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Belgian director Jonas Govaerts brings us a film that is fast paced and entertaining but also very scary. The werewolf is merely a ruse perpetuated by the older scoutmasters to scare the boys before their trip begins. Sam (Maurice Luijten), never buys the story; he knows the truth behind the myth is really the masked wild child called “Kai” living in the forest (as introduced in the prologue). Because he does not have parents, Sam is the outcast of the bunch and his obsession with Kai makes him an easy target to be bullied and teased by the other scouts. Sam a voyeur and an explorer who is confused and conflicted over his place in the world. He sees this camping trip as both excursion as a way to escape. (and find Kai).

Kai is the true mystery of the movie. He lives in a giant tree nest and he is more of a thief than a beast yet there is something menacing about him. Kai is only the signpost to the evils lurking within the woods. The forest is covered with elaborate and deadly traps and we have no idea who is minding and setting them. It does not take long before the killing begins.

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We can say that this film is a summer camp slasher. It borrows and repurposes several horror tropes when the bodies start piling up including picking up a token female character in an otherwise all male cast. What makes the movie unique though is what it does with the bodies of the dead.

It all starts deliberately slow through the first half hour and only giving an occasional hint of what’s to come. It’s when Sam and Kai finally meet that movie really turns up the intensity and the blood starts. And when that starts the film becomes kinetic and brutal, gory and graphic with a bit of comedy as well.

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Actually there is a prologue that is quite creepy and misleading. Then we meet Sam and the scouts and leaders. Something happens with two bullies that causes a change in direction and the group goes further into the woods than originally planned and a story around the campfire about Kai scares the scouts. In the story, Kai, a werewolf is rumored to be stalking its prey in those very woods.

Sam runs into a savage young boy wearing a mask and he is convinced he has found the real Kai and is laughed at. Although Kai is not a mythical beast, there remains the threat of something sinister brewing in the air. The group is actually being stalked by a flesh and blood skilled and patient killer, and Sam quickly realizes that the legend of Kai is not so important.

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This is the first feature film directed by Belgian Jonas Govaerts and it brings weaves together a campfire yarn and 80’s slasher. “Cub” doesn’t break new ground, but it does deliver a perfectly solid gut punch from a new director.

On the way to their campsite the counselors start telling tales of a werewolf in the woods in the hopes that it will keep the kids in their tents. Sam becomes fascinated with the idea and starts searching for the woodland monster. When Sam comes upon Kai wearing a wooden mask, he learns that he lives in a tree house.

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Instead, he stumbles upon a feral child, wearing a disturbing wooden mask, who lives in an elaborate tree house. Sam and Kai become reluctant friends but unfortunately Kai has a father who is a more traditional slasher type. In fact, Kai and his father have a knack for setting up elaborate booby traps in the very woods where this peaceful camping trip is taking place.

This is a horror film that is built with stock elements but the way it is presented makes it unique. Govaerts knows exactly how to shoot an effective scare sequence and the music score by Steve Moore is perfect.

The shock and suspense sequences have just enough gore to keep bloodthirsty viewers happy. The movie establishes enough danger early on to make it clear that anyone or anything could die at any moment, and Govaerts is happy to provide the killings.

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Kai as a snarling, drooling, and feral child is really creepy. His father, the slasher is a bit more conventional, but both are plenty ominous thanks to how little back-story we get. There’s just enough to understand what we’re dealing with, but never enough to understand why. Towards the end, the film begins to fade and becomes a generic slasher film and that is too bad because up until then it had been quite an experience. Nevertheless it is a solid look at horror and unexpected journey into the woods.

Bonus features include Deleted scenes, SFX reel, Short film (Blu-only), Music video (Blu-only), Trailers.