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Florida Film Festival 2014 movie reviews

Not sure what flicks to catch at this year’s fest? Use our reviews as your guide

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'American Jesus'

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'The Babadook'

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Theresa has taken the job in Singapore to send money back to her family in Ilo Ilo, a province in the Philippines, but she runs head first into the reinforced wall of Jiale's stubbornness and resentment of being handled by a stranger. The film is set during the Asian financial crisis in the late '90s, and the fear and helplessness that Jiale's parents face as their lives shift under foot is familiar but takes away from the more interesting story of how Jiale softens in a particular way to the undeserved support Theresa provides his coming of age. Watching his face process these feelings makes you think that Koh is either a great actor for his age, or that he's spoiled brat in real life. Either way, he's a standout. – RB

The Kill Team
★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Documentary features
When heinous crimes occur, folks tend to shrug and ask, “How could this have happened?” Even more remote to the public is the psychology that drives soldiers at war to intentionally murder civilians.

The Kill Team, director Dan Krauss’ latest documentary, provides a concise explanation for this phenomenon.

Anyone familiar with the 2010 Rolling Stone article knows the gist: A team of U.S. infantrymen hunted Afghan civilians for sport in 2009. When the story broke, photos of severed heads, soldiers smiling over bloody corpses and details of human-finger trophies shocked the American public.

Viewers getting into this documentary shouldn’t expect a war story so much as a true crime tale. In fact, there’s no combat footage at all – just still shots and interviews with the imprisoned culprits, which are the film’s most haunting aspect.

We are forced to see the faces of the murderers; we are exposed to their personalities, their explanations. And they aren’t the maladjusted psychos you’d expect.

One of the convicted, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, makes a succinct point: The ingredients for this crime exist in all infantry units. In war, the pressure to get “a kill” stands side-by-side with the threat of being killed. The line between combat and murder becomes so thin that all it takes is a nudge.

The Kill Team makes us face the scary truth about the bloodbaths in Iraq and Afghanistan: The only thing that differentiates the Kill Team from many other infantry units is the simple fact that they were caught. – Fred Lambert 

Last I Heard
★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Narrative features
The bad news: The film that Paul Sorvino is coming to the festival to promote, Last I Heard, isn’t very good. The good news: Sorvino is excellent in it, good enough to make the movie watchable and even somewhat touching.

Sorvino plays Mr. Joe, an aging former mob boss from Queens who is released from prison after serving a 20-year sentence for racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder. Awaiting him is his 43-year-old daughter (Renee Props) whom he’s never really known and a world he no longer recognizes.

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