Movie reviews: 'Blood Brother' touching, 'Perfect Man' not so



Pittsburgh Filmmakers is bringing back two movies that had single showings during the Three Rivers Film Festival in November. "Blood Brother" returns to the Regent Square Theater and "A Perfect Man" to the Harris Theater, Downtown.

'Blood Brother' 3.5stars

A lot of filmmakers say they're going to submit their movies to the Sundance Film Festival -- and many of them actually do.

A year ago, the festival received 12,146 submissions, including 4,044 feature-length films, with slightly more than half from the United States. In January, 16 American documentaries made their world premieres in Park City, Utah, but only one captured both the grand jury prize and the audience award for U.S. documentaries.

It was "Blood Brother," by a team of Pittsburghers, which finally gets a weeklong run at the Regent Square Theater after one showing during the Three Rivers Film Festival and some special thank-you and preview screenings.

It is the moving story of Rocky Braat, a onetime resident of Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio, and Pittsburgh. Drifting through India, he landed at an orphanage for children with HIV and AIDS and realized, "I can't take any of them out of that situation, but I can put myself into it. Then, I made a decision, man, I need to move there."

And, despite a promising career as a graphic designer and photographer and a onetime insistence that he didn't even like kids, he moved there. Rocky -- whose nickname came courtesy of his grandfather -- finds and forges another family there and finds meaning, purpose and love.

The movie makes you care about him and the children who clearly adore him. He's father, brother, uncle, friend, playmate, teacher and unofficial nurse or doctor at times, as when he removes a pearl lost deep in a girl's ear or cuts away a ring stuck on a boy's finger. He is also a mourner when a child dies.

One of the indelible passages of the documentary is about an HIV-infected boy named Surya. He was feverish, his skin bubbled and peeled away, he developed TB and infections in his eyes that temporarily sealed them closed, and his body quit passing urine. He was so sick that he was expected to die, just like every other patient in the Indian hospital ward.

Rocky changed the gauze doubling as a cold compress over the orphan's eyes, cleaned and oiled his wounds three times a day, slept on the floor by his bed and eventually helped him to walk across the room and bend his knees in what could be seen as rudimentary physical therapy.

Once confined to the hospital for four months, Surya recovered and made his first trip to the States in late summer. The 12-year-old visited Disneyland, went bowling in Pittsburgh where he stayed with director Steve Hoover, hung out at the Downtown offices of Animal Inc. (a production and visual effects studio that produced the movie) and posed for photos at the Hollywood Theater, where "Blood Brother" had a special showing.

The filmmaking team of "Blood Brother" included Mr. Hoover, Rocky's best friend and former roommate, along with producer and pal Danny Yourd. "Blood Brother" is inspiring, personal filmmaking at its best, and their involvement didn't end with the movie.

They set up the 501(c)3 accredited nonprofit organization LIGHT to directly help and support Mr. Braat, the children and other orphanages, and they're selling a handsome book, "I Was Always Beautiful," with Mr. Braat's personal journal entries and photos.

For details and other ways to help, see www.bloodbrotherfilm.com and look for the "How to Help" tab on the right.

No MPAA rating but PG-13 in nature. Plays today through Thursday (no showing Saturday) at Regent Square Theater.

'A Perfect Man' 2stars

When Nina (Jeanne Tripplehorn) catches her husband, James (Liev Schreiber), cheating -- again -- she tells herself and a friend, "You just have to deal with it, you know. You're not gonna be some pre-liberation model wife circa 1954" who gets into a tizzy because of an affair.

But that night, during the couple's ninth anniversary party, she brings the bash to a halt when she announces this will be their last such celebration. She suggests a toast, "To all the women from New York to Amsterdam who have selflessly lent their bodies to the maintenance of this marriage."

Talk about a buzzkill.

"A Perfect Man," set in Amsterdam where the transplanted Americans work as an architect (him) and a book editor (her), follows the couple as they grapple with the separation, temptations all around and attempts to learn what the other is thinking. Amsterdam provides a fresh scenic backdrop, the leads make a handsome match, and the always welcome Louise Fletcher shows up as his oft-married mother, but the movie is a tepid examination of infidelity and destructive patterns.

An observant friend of Nina's talks about the couple's game-playing and how it's an attempt to see the familiar as new. "A Perfect Man" is not only too familiar but has as much depth as a tweet.

R for language, some sexual content and brief drug use. Opens today at the Harris Theater, Downtown.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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