By Nick Schager
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Simon Abrams
By Amanda Lewis
By Scott Foundas
By B. Caplan
Editor's note: Not all of WorldFest/Houston's films were available for screening prior to the opening of the festival. Below is a complete list of the feature films showing at this year's WorldFest; some are short reviews, and others offer only a brief synopsis. Reviews are by Joe Leydon or David Theis.
ABCDThis year's WorldFest is full of immigrant stories. This one, directed by Krutin Patel, tells the story of an Indian-born mother fighting to keep her two first-generation kids under her controlling Hindu wing. Raj is the dutiful one. He's a hard-working accountant who is somewhat skeptical of the old ways, but who accepts them anyway, out of loyalty to Mom and to keep the peace. Nina is his wild sister, who responds to her mother's efforts to arrange an Indian marriage by picking up idiotic men in bars. We've seen this story before, though not often from the subcontinental angle. It's told a bit crudely -- Nina's men are caricatures of jerks, rather than the real thing -- but the scenes from inside Indo-American culture ring true. This is especially so when the family winds up inside a Hindu temple, where Raj compares the numerous statues to the paintings in horror movies. "Their eyes follow wherever you go." And the staid-sounding mother has some amusing business of her own, as when she talks a frustrated traffic cop out of giving her a ticket. (D.T.)
Across the Line A Guatemalan woman witnesses a murder while illegally crossing the U.S. border, then has to decide whether to cooperate with the investigation. Cast: Brad Johnson, Sigal Erez, Adrienne Barbeau. Director: Martin Spottl.
Amargosa A documentary about 76-year-old dancer and painter Marta Becket, and her creation of a dance company in the ghost town of Death Valley, California. Cast: Mary McDonnell (narrator). Director: Todd Robinson.
The Annihilation of FishTwo visionary characters, one who is busy saving the world from the devil via prayer, and one who is an eccentric alcoholic, find each other through the mist of their fantasies. Cast: Lynn Redgrave, James Earl Jones, Margot Kidder. Director: Charles Burnett.
AstoriaSet in a Queens neighborhood known as Little Athens, this film tells the story of a young man who wants to escape the 'hood and find the lost tomb of Alexander the Great. Cast: Paige Turco, Rick Stear, Ed Setrakian. Director: Nick Efteriades.
Blue MoonThere is plenty to like in director John Gallagher's romantic fable, including the performances of Ben Gazzara, Rita Moreno and Burt Young, who arguably make up the strongest cast of any film in the festival. The movie opens with considerable promise, as a 65-year-old Italian-American man introduces his scrumptious new love to his rapidly aging friends. The group is attending yet another friend's 65th birthday party. The friends take her for a model, but she's an archeologist who is looking for the lost ramparts of the Battle of Brooklyn. "The Battle of Brooklyn?" the old guys repeat in amazement. Who knew? But when the story shifts to its main narratives -- an older couple's almost forgotten love for each other, and a young couple that is just starting down love's path -- it turns conventional. But even when the story feels overly familiar, the cast keeps it at least moderately entertaining. (D.T.)
CementA beautiful and dangerous woman causes a rift between the cops and the wiseguys in this darkly humorous tale that zigzags back and forth in time. Cast: Chris Penn, Sherilyn Fenn, Jeffrey Wright and Henry Czerny. Director: Adrian Pasdar.
Civility A disaffected young man reluctantly returns home to attend his murdered father's funeral and the reading of his will. Once there, he finds himself in the sights of his father's killers. Cast: Tom Arnold, William Forsythe, Liam Waite, Clarence Williams III. Director: Caesar Cavaricci.
Dancing Soul A beautiful, unhappy young fencer and a successful dancer in full-blown midlife crisis meet and work their way toward some sort of relationship. Cast: Katerina Lipiridou, Konstandinos Konstandopoulos. Director: Lucia Rikaki.
Deep SixThis is a slick-looking film; some talent obviously went into its art direction. Unfortunately director Michael Wolk's gangland romantic comedy is short on charm, without which this show dog becomes a mere mutt. The film focuses on Robbie, a small-time Brooklyn mobster who takes a limo ride into Manhattan to attend his own birthday party, where he will be reacquainted with his old high school sweetheart, whom he never quite got over. He hasn't seen her in ten years, but he has flown her in for the event and put her up in a swank hotel. She, in return, expects him to treat her like a friend, not a lover. That was hard to swallow, so right away the characters were hard to take seriously, even in a comedy mode. Somebody tries to whack Robbie at his own party, so he and his lost love have to hit the streets together. All of this feels very predictable, and the characters aren't interesting enough to take up the slack. (D.T.)
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