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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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Regrettably, that’s exactly how the audience feels too after sitting through this tiresome meditation on one man’s intellectual reawakening. As Sam, Michael O’Keefe, whom you might remember from Caddyshack and Michael Clayton, is ineffective, as are Blake Bashoff and Sean Patrick Thomas, who play a gay couple whom Sam befriends. Only Catherine Dent as Sam’s wife, Mary, displays any naturalistic emotion, which only makes you pity her for having to suffer through the awful script. In fact, the film’s only interesting elements are the interspersed illustrations, which, despite their infrequency and mediocrity, add some needed visual and emotional energy.

“You’re in your shit or shut-up years,” Mary tells Sam, referring to his mid-life crisis. It’s too bad the movie chose the former. – CM

Forev
★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Narrative features
Forev dares to answer the question that all other films have shied away from: What would happen if you took a road trip with a girl you only casually knew, asked her to marry you, broke down in the desert after hitting an armadillo and had to rescue your sister from some creepy bearded guy she met at a bar – all while trying to make it back home so your spur-of-the-moment fiancée could star in a hot-dog commercial? That’s a weighty question indeed, and first-time writer-directors Molly Green and James Leffler deserve absolutely no credit for answering it.

“We should probably just get married then, if you’re going to be here anyway,” Pete (Matt Mider) tells Sophie (Noël Wells). Other clumsy and seemingly impromptu lines follow, including “This is, like, a really good idea” and “Sophie and I are getting married, and it’s going to be awesome.” This is enlightening stuff.

After sitting through too little drama, too few laughs and too much handheld camera for 88 minutes, it almost hurts to admit that this film is not badly acted and actually has some sweetness to it. But it has a fake, student-film feel that is impossible to ignore. Instead of fully exploring the vulnerability and fragility of the characters, Forev offers too many ridiculous, unfunny scenarios on the way to a somewhat honest and effective ending. – CM

The Front Man
★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Documentary features
I used to know a therapist who would advise his patients, “Consider how current your feelings are.” What he meant was that a personal desire doesn’t remain valid simply because you haven’t fulfilled it.

That’s the idea behind this documentary portrait of New Jersey musician Jim Wood, who has been plugging away for decades as the leader of the band Loaded Poets and still dreams of “making it.” But does he deserve to? On the basis of this film alone, Wood is a pretty unremarkable guy: He likes bad movies, Bettie Page and collecting records, and the cutesy material he writes hasn’t been marketable since Patrick Bateman discovered Napster. (Only after Wood has sent the latest Loaded Poets demo to a bunch of record labels does he discover that several of them are now defunct.)

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