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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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Half the film is palpably angsty-broody, so it’s a relief when you find yourself grinning along with the boys as they fall in love with the scenery, each other and the creatures they study.

There are a few scenes with Clark that are totally emo-Mowgli, running with a wolf pack in a golden field, but none of it translates as hokey. The wolves are definitely wolfish and not German shepherds, a la Game of Thrones, which earns this flick some definite bonus points and a place with wolf-movie greats like Cry of the Wild by Bill Mason. There are a lot of parallels in this story – ranchers learning to live with wolves, sons learning to live with dads, sons learning not to “lone wolf” it – but hot dad Wilson said it best: “Forming a new pack’s tough business.” Well said, hot dad, well said. Now brush your hair. Also, for all you Francophiles, James Franco’s Rabbit Bandini Productions is behind this film. – Brendan O’Connor

Ernest & Celestine
★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Special screenings
Love is love. It’s a simple idea that so many people can’t grasp. Black and white, boy and boy, girl and girl – or indeed, mouse and bear – it’s never anything to be afraid of. But it seems to only make sense to one inquisitive mouse, Celestine (Mackenzie Foy), and one hungry Bear, Ernest (Forest Whitaker), who meet quite by accident when Ernest saves Celestine’s life only to then try and eat her for a snack.

In the film’s world, though – inhabited by animals a la Art Speigelman’s Maus – the other mice and bears are afraid. Mice live underground, bears aboveground, and the two share very little with each other. When Ernest and Celestine find themselves on the wrong side of the law in both the bear and mice world, that notion is challenged in startlingly emotional ways and the unlikely pair find each other to be perfect protectors for each other in different ways.

The animation, done in a sumptuous broken-line storybook-style watercolor, is outstanding. Despite the rumors of its demise, 2D hand-drawn animation isn’t dead. In fact it’s becoming vital again in Europe, and this is a brilliant example of what it could be again. – RB

Finding Neighbors
★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Narrative features
Finding Neighbors may take this year’s festival prize for the most boring, contrived and downright ridiculous scenarios. Writer-director Ron Judkins’ movie is so tone deaf, badly paced, poorly scored and amateurishly acted that the only thing you’ll be finding is the door when you walk out early from this clunker of a dramedy.

Sam is an aging author of graphic novels. Fame has passed him by, and his inspiration has dried up. He mopes around the house while his wife supports him financially, and he can’t even work up any emotion when the sexy next-door neighbor (Julie Mond) takes naked showers outside his window. “I miss it, the glory days,” he tells himself. “[I’m] stuck, immobile. … I want to wake up.”

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