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Burn Movie Review

Sizzlingly Odd
In his debut feature, writer/director Mike Gan has created a small film that, if there's justice, will attain a cult-like status. "Burn" takes place in the course of one evening and entirely within the confines of a rural, out-of-the-way gas station shop.
It's the kind of place that loners might wander into for a hot cup of coffee at 3am. Obviously this is not a big budget film, but Gan squeezes an awful lot of goodness out of it. Maybe we should call it badness.

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Luce Movie Review

Could Be Tighter

Julius Onah's "Luce" seems like it should be a very good, and possibly great, movie. Its lead characters are portrayed by Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, and Tim Roth, three excellent actors. It's only Onah's second time directing a feature, but it isn't poorly directed. He also wrote it, but I didn't have a problem with the writing.

My primary issue with "Luce" is that it didn't ring true to me. I never quite bought into the story that revolved around the title character, portrayed by Kelvin Harrison Jr. I don't think he did a poor job, either, but the way all the pieces failed to mesh properly reminded me of a jigsaw puzzle missing a third of its pieces. The sum is most definitely less than its parts. Despite everything I've said, I still think it's worth seeing.


Luce is a 17-year-old former child soldier from Eritrea who was adopted ten years earlier by Peter (Roth) and Amy Edgar (Watts). He is the ideal person and son, almost to the point of being ridiculous. Luce is good-looking, the class valedictorian, captain of the high school track team, a loving boyfriend and incredibly polite to everyone. He is a prince living in a fairy tale. His parents marvel at his perfection.

This utopia is interrupted when Luce's history teacher, Harriet Wilson (Spencer) reads a paper Luce has submitted in response to an assignment. The students have been asked to write essays in the voice of someone of note. He has selected Frantz Fanon, a political philosopher who maintained that violence is sometimes politically justified; in my opinion, not a particularly jarring thought.

What is jarring is Ms. Wilson's reaction. She breaks into Luce's locker and discovers fireworks. Since students often share things in lockers, it doesn't prove anything, not to mention that it's not a big deal, especially compared to her insane overreaction to Luce's paper.

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This sets in motion a series of clashes between Harriet, Luce, Luce's parents and the principal (Norbert Leo Butz). By now I'm beginning to wonder what the point of all of this is. Other bizarre things start to happen, including Harriet's mentally ill sister (Marsha Stephanie Blake), coming to high school and then stripping and screaming. Why? Who knows?

Hey! I think have figured out why I didn't love "Luce" as much as I thought I should have. It's just not believable to me. At its conclusion, most of it is explained away, but even the explanation feels artificial. Maybe my problem is simply about the story, and story is important in film or any other similar art form. Again, I somewhat enjoyed "Luce," but now I'm wondering why.


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