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Be Kind Rewind

Video store worker Mike (Mos Def) is in trouble.  His flaky friend Jerry (Jack Black) accidentally erases his entire video library via a power surge. In danger of closure, they devise a plan to re-create the films for their remaining customers.  The resulting craziness brings an unexpected bonus making them as legendary as the stars they portray.
Be Kind Rewind is tinged with nostalgia.  Harking back to the days when films meant something the character’s passion is pleasing to watch. Their brass tacks
cam-corder escapades reflect the acknowledged beginnings of many current film-makers.  By indulging their imagination, the meagre budget allows the duo to successfully capture a film’s essence.  The reaction to their epics shows audiences respond to genuine effort, rewarding inventiveness over blandness.  The various recreations are amusing without insulting their source creating a film steeped in affection. 
Cinema’s inspirational allure adds another thematic layer.  The store’s imminent demise binds the community together, despite its archaic use of videotape over DVD.  Although its devotion to video is somewhat implausible, it ties into the film’s point in respecting the past.  Director Michael Gondry’s theories on cinema’s blurring of history is interesting, with the camera never telling the full story.  Despite the one-joke idea wearing thin a little towards the end,  the energy involved is hard not to enjoy.  Gondry’s quirky touches give the film its own groove, despite the story’s slavish facsimile of past cinematic glories.
Jack Black and Mos Def make a fine comedic pair.  Almost mirroring the team-ups of classic comedy duos, they venture into slapstick and pathos with ease.  Black doesn’t stretch himself any further acting wise, but his style suits the story.  Their new found fame complete with burgeoning egos give their roles some much needed edge, with the comedy smoothly arising from the situation.  With a lot of current films marketed as ‘products’ any film celebrating the diversity of ideas is always welcome.
Be Kind Rewind occasionally hits a few slow patches deflating momentum.  Like the films it copies however its flaws are overcome by the charm and devotion to their subject.  Not quite a laugh riot, the film gently reminds that any kind of passionate film-making is one to be treasured.
Rating out of 10:  6  

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Sidney Lumet’s directorial longevity is evidence of his cinematic bravery.  Treading a slightly obscure commercial path his unconventional style has refreshed old tales.  Told through a haphazard timeline, his new film delivers his trademark character driven dramatics with aplomb.  Each unfolding event allows Lumet to relish in every scene where the devil is in the details.
Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a company executive embezzling funds.  Desperate to continue his lavish lifestyle Andy creates a strategy.  Roping in his deadbeat younger brother Hank (Ethan Hawke), he plans to rob his parents’ jewellery store.  When a tragedy occurs during the heist their father Charles (Albert Finney) determines to find justice.  Becoming a portent to upcoming events, the robbery drags the family into financial and moral bankruptcy.
Criss-crossing before, during and after the robbery the tragic jigsaw becomes clear.  Unearthing new revelations, each piece shows the increasing desperation of Andy’s actions.  His brotherly influence over Hank paints a disturbing portrait of a pathetic man at breaking point.  Lumet’s steady direction creates an all too real look at the price of familial loyalty and past regrets.  Kelly Masterson’s non-linear script maintains suspense, with pre-robbery scenes deftly playing on the viewers knowing expectations.    Whilst the overlapping concept is generally well done certain scenes are prone to repetition.   A tighter narrative structure could have made things more compelling making use of its fine cast.
Lumet is renowned for gathering excellent ensembles.  Seymour Hoffman, Finney and Hawke strongly convey their characters’ moral barometer, revealing their reaction to the robbery.  Finney especially is fantastic at showing the pain and anger at the senselessness of crime.  Marisa Tomei as Andy’s wife gives a good performance as someone sensing the coming wave of emotional doom.  It’s pleasing that unlike some veteran directors, Lumet is willing to embrace new technology to tell stories.  The HD photography immediately places audiences into the film leading to sometimes unsettling viewing.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a gritty thriller showing one action’s ripple effect.  Despite the occasional sluggish pacing the solid story and strong acting prove Lumet’s movie craftsmanship remains razor sharp.
Rating out of 10:  7