This week, everything from a beefed up barbarian to a faux-British Anne Hathaway hit your screens today. Not sure of what’s worth your hard earned money? Check out the reviews published this week on indieWIRE and our blog network to get a better idea.
“5 Days of War”
The Playlist: B
“5 Days Of War,” often viscerally violent, remains an intriguing sampling of nationalist cinema, financed in part by a Georgian government fund. It takes great pains to portray the people of Georgia as a nation of proud citizens with traditions and a culture worth protecting, many of whom refuse to flee even after the sight of tanks on the horizon.
Well cast and undeniably attuned to the nuances of human behavior, “Amigo” nevertheless suffers from simple dramatic shorthand, most evidently during an on-the-nose shootout between Americans and insurgents intercut with a cock fight. The animalistic forces driving acts of violence speak for themselves, but Sayles turns up the volume. In doing so, he leaves his mark, arguing time and again that human behavior is fated to repeat itself—and so, by extension, must his movies.
I have enormous respect for John Sayles, and look forward to reading his new novel, but Amigo is not one of his stronger films. He has allowed his agenda to overtake his normally astute sense of storytelling.
The Playlist: B
John Sayles continues to inspire with his dedication to independent filmmaking, even if his audiences, at least these days, continue to get smaller (did anyone see “Honeydripper”?). But as his films face smaller distribution and almost non-existent promotion, it’s easy to forget his original voice and what a gifted filmmaker he is.
“Conan the Barbarian”
Given that I had no expectations for this picture I thought it wasn’t bad: it’s elaborate, well-mounted, and never dull.
The Playlist: F
There have been plenty of bad movies this year, but at least you feel that people were trying with, say, “Battle: Los Angeles” or “Sucker Punch”—they didn’t actually set out to make a bad movie. “Conan The Barbarian” just comes across as half-assed; a quick, cheap, cash-grab with nothing but contempt for its audience, something that would look shoddy even if it were the direct-to-DVD movie it so often resembles.
The Playlist: C
We had a fairly good time with “Fright Night.” We laughed a bit, we jumped a bit, we were invested enough in the characters that we didn’t want them to die. So to a degree, all involved can be happy enough with the job that they’ve done.
Féret’s screenplay fleshes out Nannerl’s personality with her routine attempts to change that dynamic. Banned from Wolfgang’s composition classes, she eavesdrops from another room. When a friend asks Nannerl to deliver a letter to a young royal banned from coming close to unmarried women, she must dress as a boy, and takes the opportunity to step into her brother’s shoes. “Pity the poor artist not driven by passion,” someone tells her, and Nannerl repeatedly shows that, at least in that regard, she’s rich indeed.
Anne Hathaway’s faux British accent might be the first obvious conceit in “One Day,” but not its most cumbersome. That distinction belongs to the eponymous structure, a claustrophobic device that follows a pair of best friends over the course of a 22-year period, but only on many versions of July 15th.
What ought to be a touching story of two star-crossed friends and would-be lovers is instead a tough slog. And don’t ask me about Hathaway’s on-again, off-again British accent.
The Playlist: C-
While shot well by DoP Benoît Delhomme, giving England’s dour gray skies a breather, the music to “One Day” on the other hand is poorly handled. Rachel Portman’s plaintive score is pretty and lugubrious, but largely acts as a lubricant for scenes that are emotionally not quite there.
“The Last Circus”
The Playlist: B
The movie never sits still long enough to create its own silly-gory groove, and everything is so over the top with extreme violence playfully mixed with equally extreme sex and terrorism portrayed as one part of a very loud, very political three-ring circus, that it’s hard to ever get a handle on anything that’s tangibly relatable.
“The Tiniest Place”
Like the construction of the movie, the forest appears relatively simple but actually holds a dark secret, littered with undiscovered corpses and other wartime detritus. In this regard, “The Tiniest Place” calls to mind Patricio Guzmán’s brilliant “Nostalgia for the Light,” which focuses on the remnants of Chilean atrocities strewn about the Atacama Desert.