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Orlando Weekly's guide to the 2013 Florida Film Festival

Central Florida’s annual festival of film and food returns for its 22nd year

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If you don’t like that posh explanation, you can take director Ben Wheatley’s terrifying travelogue at face value: a dark comedy bordering on bloody farce. Whatever meaning you embrace, it’s difficult to escape the fact that, though well-acted and intriguing, this caravan of comedy has far too few laughs and runs out of gas about an hour in. It wants to be Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend but ends up more like Weekend at Bernie’s.

If you’d planned to watch Sightseers on Tuesday, April 9, skip it and instead see a different type of crime caper: The Sting. This 1973 masterpiece starring Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Robert Shaw is playing in Winter Park’s Central Park, weather permitting, at 8 p.m. The picture and sound quality on the outdoor screen are never that great, but, hey, you get to see one of the greatest movies of all time for free, in commemoration of its 40th anniversary, so stop complaining and go eat your free popcorn. – CM

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THE TAIWAN OYSTER

★★

“I feel like a minor character in someone else’s story,” the main character in director Mark Jarrett’s debut feature tells his friend. The same goes for the audience of The Taiwan Oyster, as we often feel like mere observers, watching the action without much emotion or interest.

Two American friends, Simon and Darin, are teaching English in Taiwan (and running a small newspaper, The Oyster) when a fellow countryman dies accidentally. Knowing that the orphaned American has no one to claim him and will be cremated against his wishes, the two slightly disillusioned friends plan a Texas-style road trip across Taiwan to look for the perfect burial spot. And in predictable fashion, they meet an attractive and similarly disillusioned woman, and discover something about themselves along the way. It’s all just a bit too neat.

It didn’t have to be this way. Jarrett and his co-writers invented a unique scenario, found a good actor in Billy Harvey, who plays Simon, and an interesting “MacGuffin,” or ultimately unimportant plot device to keep things moving, as Alfred Hitchcock would describe it. Jarrett also makes good use of his camera, capturing both the urban grittiness and the rural beauty of Taiwan, often in a sad, contemplative way. But after an hour and 45 minutes of deep conversations, bad acting by Jeff Palmiotti (as Darin), forced literary references and plot points that stretch believability, we’re ready for this trip to end.

Don’t expect a pearl inside this oyster. The best you can hope for is some tasty meat without too much sand. – CM

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THIS IS MARTIN BONNER

★★★

This Is Martin Bonner needs festivals to survive. In the world of general releases, it wouldn’t stand a chance. It’s too plodding and empty, at least at first glance. But let it wash over you at its own steady pace and you might get sucked into its quiet, lonely world.

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