HEADLINES

5/28/2004 -- The Earth gets a lot cooler — and the cheesy dialogue a lot thicker — in Roland Emmerich's latest disaster epic, The Day After Tomorrow.

5/25/2004 -- After two days of technical problems that were out of our control, we're back with two new DVD reviews: the simple yet beautiful Never Cry Wolf, and the terrible and sloppy, Windtalkers.

5/16/2004 -- Okay, after a brief break, we're back. And boy do we have some updates for you! First, a slew of DVD reviews: The crazy and fun Looney Tunes: Back in Action; a look at the John Wayne classic, The Quiet Man; the not-so great Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!; the dark yet powerfully acted The Shape of Things; the ďunfunnyĒ Calendar Girls; and the VERY unfunny Duplex. On the film side, we offer two drastically different movies: the dark and unique The Saddest Music in the World, and the bubbly yet dull New York Minute. Finally, we feature a terrific Q&A; with documentary filmmaker Shola Lynch regarding her film, Chisholm '72.

5/3/2004 -- Two new film reviews join the ranks: 13 Going on 30 and Mean Girls. On the DVD side, we have a look at the dark drama, 21 Grams. Then, the charming Darisa Diaz gives us a comparison between the 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it's 2003 remake.

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DVD REVIEW
DVD Rating:
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Movie Rating:
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Pieces of April
Star(s): Katie Holmes, Derek Luke, Oliver Platt, Alison Pill, John Gallagher, Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Alice Drummond
Director: Peter Hedges
Writer(s): Peter Hedges
Company: Universal Pictures

Pieces of April Image by Darisa Diaz

In Pieces of April, a pierced Katie Holmes donning red-streaked raven hair is our proverbial black sheep, April Burns, anxious about having her family over for Thanksgiving dinner at her tiny New York City apartment. A stubborn April plans on cooking an entire meal herself despite her obvious lack of cooking skills. In a rage, she attempts to mash uncooked potatoes. There is an eerie silence of apprehension when April begins to prepare the meal only to discover that her oven is broken.

While April is at home trying to prepare her Thanksgiving feast, her family is on the road to reach Aprilís home in time for dinner. Oliver Platt is Aprilís father, Jim, a stunningly subdued optimist who seems to be forcing his enthusiasm for the familyís benefit. Alison Pill is literally a pill as Beth, Aprilís overachieving little sister. Tim (John Gallagher, Jr.), Aprilís younger brother, is a budding photographer who tries to help his father lighten the mood. A pessimistic Patricia Clarkson is ironically Joy, angry, mysterious mother to April.

Though, Pieces of April shares similar storytelling techniques with 21 Grams, where the jarring scene transition of 21 Grams offer confusion, Pieces of April offers cunning insight. Each scene is anything but haphazard as family secrets are uncovered for increasingly curious spectators. It is a low budget affair with flair that proves that first-rate exceptional films donít need flashy special effects to prove their point.

As the camera flies back and forth between Aprilís struggles and the familyís journey to New York City, the dialogue slowly but surely helps us piece together the story behind the tension that has fractured this family. We are onlookers forced to grasp at puzzle pieces to gain access to family secrets before the imminent Thanksgiving meal. Each piece is as intricate, at times painful, funny, subtle and delicious, as any number of neuroses found at any family activity during the holidays.

As everything pieces together, April is forced to wander her building begging for oven use as she tries desperately to get her turkey cooked in time for dinner. Though her travails through her apartment complex offer most of the hilarity in the film, we quickly become privy to the knowledge that Aprilís anxiety to get the job done is fueled by her familyís belief that she is the family failure.

Meanwhile, Bobby (Derek Luke), Aprilís live-in boyfriend, is in search of a good suit to wear for his first meeting with Aprilís family. Like Aprilís experience with the oven, there are pitfalls at every turn set up to make him fail. Bobby, however, is an eternal optimist like Aprilís father and he faces all adversity with a smile. He wants to do his best to make sure dinner is perfect because he knows how much it means to April.

Pieces of April is surprisingly hilarious and poignant. A spiritual experience at Krispy Kreme juxtaposes a proper burial for unsuspecting road kill. The most interesting set of neighbors this side of the Lower East Side which includes Sean Hayes as creepy 5th floor Wayne, alternate between lending April a hand and holding her turkey hostage with minutes on the clock.

Pieces of April is a refreshing independent film that successfully showcases a family drama while inviting us to share in the altruistic aspects and anxiety that help construct Thanksgiving togetherness. Family drama devolves painfully but sensationally before our eyes, instigating our pity and awe as a familyís final Thanksgiving together comes to fore against all odds. Its everyman sort of family dysfunction is honest and moving as we witness a familyís journey back to each other.

The DVD gives the viewer a choice between full-screen or widescreen anamorphic formats. Yay! Besides the standard commentary by writer-director Peter Hedges, the DVD includes one in-depth featurette, ďAll the Pieces Together,Ē where the director and actors come together to reflect on the story and their roles. In addition to the hysterical trailers for Pieces of April, trailers for other MGM independent films abound.

Darisa Diaz is a native New Yorker with an obsession for film who will watch anything (bad or good) for the sheer thrill of being entertained. She currently works as a freelancer writer and juggles various "admin" jobs to pay the bills. She has also labored long hours at CosmoGIRL! and Seventeen magazine.

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