The week that follows the Fourth of July is supposed to be calmer, in terms of movie openings, as the studios wait out whatever massive Will Smith movie is stomping through the box-office. That’s the theory, anyway; this year’s big dog turned out to be the “Twilight” movie, so an animated Steve Carell comedy seems like savvy counterprogramming. Read on and see …
“Act of Dishonour“: Nelofer Pazira makes her feature directorial debut with a film that’s just as calculated and hectoringly on-message as her documentary “Audition“, purporting to explore the Afghani cultural pressures that lead to honor killings but really just giving Westerners the chance to feel superior to a backward culture. Samira Makhmalbaf made a much better version of this film seven years ago; it’s called “At Five in the Afternoon”, and you can still find it on DVD.
“Despicable Me“: Some delightful voice work from Steve Carell, and the weirdly enchanting dynamic that develops between his supervillain character and the three little girls he adopts in a bid to steal the moon (it’s a long story), goes a long way to redeem an otherwise derivative CG comedy. Note to Universal’s marketing department: Those minions are not nearly as endearing as you think they are.
“The Girl Who Played with Fire”: Blomkvist and Salander are back for another round of crime-fighting in the second adaptation of the truncated Stieg Larsson series. Susan suggests you rent the first one beforehand; Jason doesn’t think much of it at all.
“Les Herbes Folles”: I think Alain Resnais wants us to see his visually splendid but emotionally incomprehensible tale of co-dependent stalkers as a frothy romantic farce. Instead, it feels like a shellacked pastry — lovely on the outside, but sour and indigestible within. (Except for Mathieu Amalric, who’s quietly wonderful as a frustrated police officer caught up in the madness.) Rad is kinder to it than I would have been; Jason, kinder still.
“The Kids Are All Right”: My trip to New York meant missing the press screenings of Lisa Chodolenko’s latest, which examines the tensions that erupt between a long-term lesbian couple (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) when their children decide to seek out their biological father. Susan and Jason were less than whelmed, but I’m hoping they were just having an off day; Chodolenko’s previous films, “High Art” and “Laurel Canyon”, are enough for me to give her the benefit of the doubt.
“A Place Called Los Pereyra“: Andres Livov-Macklin’s direct-cinema documentary plops us down in a remote Argentine village and watches the interaction of its impoverished residents and the medical students making an annual visit from Buenos Aires. Simple, uncomplicated, and compelling; it’s only playing at the Royal for the weekend, so catch it quickly.
“Predators“: The dreadlocked space hunters are back … and this time they’re chasing an Oscar winner. (That makes it sort of personal, right?) Adrien Brody, Alice Braga and Danny Trejo are among the tough humans forced to face off against an invisible enemy in Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal’s good-enough reboot of the Fox sci-fi property.
“Red Alert: The War Within“: Anath Narayan Mahadevan’s thriller about a lowly cook swept up in India’s Naxalite guerilla movement might have been better before it was cut by 20 minutes and dubbed into heavily accented English. But it’s also possible that it’s just as terrible in its original version. It’s pretty bad, is what I’m saying.
And there we are …