FFF: Saturday, April 9

12 p.m. at Regal Winter Park - Snowmen (2 Stars) This hammy, amateurish production co-stars Ray Liotta and Christopher Lloyd, but mostly focuses on a group of kids, one of whom is dying of cancer (natch), and their effort to make their lives matter by getting in the Guinness Book of World Records for constructing the most snowmen. Or something. Snowmen gets more tolerable as it reaches its life-and-death conclusion, but getting there is like watching a school play when none of your kids are in it. -JS

12:30 p.m. at Regal Winter Park - Louder Than a Bomb (4 Stars) What 2002's hit Spellbound did for spelling bees, this inspiring documentary does doubly well for high school spoken-word poetry slams. The filmmakers follow four socioeconomically diverse teams as they prepare for Chicago's 2008 "Louder than a Bomb" competition, the nation's largest such event. Standout subjects include Nova Venerable, who writes bracingly about her disabled brother, and the students of inner city Steinmetz, 2007's surprise champions who nearly implode en route to the rematch. The ending isn't as neatly uplifting as you might expect, but you'll be riveted until the final explosive verse. -Seth Kubersky

3 p.m. at Enzian Theater - A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt (4 Stars) Since cable TV has cornered the market on food drama in the last decade or so, heightening suspense and ratcheting up the drama behind every cracked egg, it can be forgiven that filmmaker Sally Rowe's 10-years-in-the-making chronicle of perfectionist chef Paul Liebrandt moves at a more leisurely pace than what we're now accustomed to. Following the arrogant-yet-devoted Liebrandt through the biggest transition period of his career - from coming hot off the heels of his three-star New York Times rating for his previous employer, Atlas (he was the youngest chef ever to merit the rating) to being degraded to flipping burgers to his climb back to the top - Rowe casts a loving, often indulgent gaze upon Liebrandt's quirky persona and quirkier palette. It's no Top Chef, and I mean that as a compliment. Instead, it's curious, classy and organic. -JS

3 p.m. at Regal Winter Park - Kinyarwanda (4 Stars) Alrick Brown's Kinyarwanda is hot off a win at Sundance, and I can't blame the festival. It's a sober, complex labyrinthine story of the Rwandan genocide that occasionally suffers from film-schoolish flaws, but more often than not floors you with its sincerity and humanity. -Rob Boylan

5:15 p.m. at Regal Winter Park - Wuss (3 Stars) Mitch (Nate Rubin) is getting 
bullied at school. The problem is, Mitch is now in his 20s, a teacher at his old high school and a target for both his students and peers to pick on. Clay Liford's first feature manages a darkly comic tone throughout the first hour's confrontations, for which Rubin is an ideal wimp, but that uneasy tone prevents later consequences for his character's retaliation from carrying any necessary weight. 
-William Goss

6 p.m. at Enzian Theater - Windfall (2 Stars) An upstate New York town, largely populated by farmers and NYC expats who've left behind urban living for rural charms, is targeted by a green-energy company that offers residents cash in exchange for the right to build windmills on their property. Some of the town's established residents take the bait, until a handful of NIMBY neighbors start looking into what, exactly, goes into making a wind farm. When they discover that 150-foot-wide wind turbines mean noise, construction and disruption of the pastoral lifestyles to which they've grown accustomed, grassroots we're-not-gonna-take-it activism ensues. It's an informative, if not exactly riveting, bit of 
storytelling. -Erin Sullivan

6:30 p.m. at Regal Winter Park - Norman (3 Stars) What begins as a clever, quippy take on the "troubled teen" genre dissolves into melodrama. Missing the sweet spot by this much, director Jonathan Segal nevertheless displays a sure hand, especially with his actors, who are exemplary. Richard Jenkins anchors the film as the cancer-ridden father of Dan Byrd (Norman), the titular hero, with fine turns by Adam Goldberg and the beautiful Emily VanCamp (TV's Brothers and Sisters). When Norman, unable to deal with his father's prognosis, lies and says that he's dying of cancer, too, the school that he resented now rallies around him. The script is all over the place and never really sells Norman's outcast status, but Byrd, who recently starred as Emma Stone's BFF in Easy A, is worth watching. He has a genuine ease in front of the camera. -JS

7:30 p.m. at Regal Winter Park - Without (4 Stars) One of the great surprises of this year's festival crop, director Mark Jackson's stunning debut feature stars gutsy newcomer Joslyn Jensen as a girl who takes on the mentally challenging task of caring for a vegetative, elderly invalid on a woodsy Washington state island without cell-phone reception or the Internet. What starts as amusing boredom eventually turns sour as her sturdy demeanor crumbles with each strange, passing night. -JS

9 p.m. at Enzian Theater - Bobby Fischer Against the World (4 Stars) We all know that chess master Bobby Fischer became a recluse shortly after his epic, politically charged win against the Russian champion in 1972. But who knew just how weird, how utterly unlikable he became? Proving that some geniuses are best left undisturbed, director Liz Garbus overturns Fischer's social stone and examines him from all angles - his sad childhood, his embattled playing career, his seclusion as a Jew-hating, 9/11-celebrating asshole - to present a man of brilliance and insanity in equal parts. -JS

9 p.m. at Regal Winter Park - 13 Assassins (4 Stars) Takashi Miike's grand tribute to Seven Samurai gets off to a slow start, as conflicted samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho) learns of the wicked deeds committed by Lord Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki) and enlists 12 other men to help take him out. All hell breaks loose in the film's last 40 minutes, as the squad employs everything from blades to bulls in their climactic ambush, with Miike bolstering the considerable bloodshed with the righteous fury of our heroes. -WG

9:30 p.m. at Regal Winter Park - The Happy Poet (4 Stars) When asking for a business loan, there are a couple of phrases you want to avoid, like "health food" and "masters degree in creative writing." But that's what Bill (star Paul Gordon, also the writer-director) brings to the bank's table, so he walks away with a very small loan to open a health-food stand, where he's so passive that he can hardly bring himself to ask for money in exchange for his food. Things change when his weed-selling friend teaches him a thing or two about entrepreneurship. With its deadpan charm, The Happy Poet paces itself laboriously but rewardingly. It wraps up too neatly – almost ironically so – but the film, like Bill's food stand, is easy to root for. -JS

11:59 p.m. at Regal Winter Park - Mutant Girls Squad Not reviewed.


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