Among the many new releases this week, the Edgar Allen Poe-inspired “The Raven” and NC-17 French exploration of female sexuality “Elles” have the steepest climb in the eyes of the critics, sitting at 19% and 25% on the Tomatometer, respectively. “The Raven,” starring John Cusack, Alice Eve and Luke Evans, should still attract crowds, as will rom-com “The Five-Year Engagement,” which is earning good-but-not-great reviews (60% Fresh) and has the stamp of “Bridesmaids” producer Judd Apatow.
Indie flick “sound of my voice,” the debut from Zal Batmanglij (which helped jump-start producer-writer-actress Brit Marling‘s career when it debuted at Sundance 2011), and Norway import “Headhunters” both deliver – the first a suspenseful cult-drama at 87% Fresh and the second a 92% Fresh comedy-thriller with comely cast (including “Games of Thrones”‘s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and icy cinematopgraphy. Also fresh is Aardman’s stop-motion animation, “The Pirates: Band of Misfits” (87%), while the verdict is still out on Taiwanese war epic “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale.”
“sound of my voice” Fox Searchlight, US | Dir: Zal Batmanglij; Cast: Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, Brit Marling | Erica Abeel says: “A riveting, deftly crafted sci-fi thriller that plays mind games with the viewer,” while Karina Longworth says; “The bland, jittery visual “realism” can’t counteract overheated performances of tin-eared dialogue, which strain for pulp but often land at soap.”
“The Five-Year Engagement” Universal, US | Dir: Nicholas Stoller; Cast: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie | Variety says: “While Segel and Blunt make likable enough leads, the strain is visible as the filmmakers try to make comedic hay out of disconnected segments, contrived situations and tangential characters.”
“The Raven” Rogue Pictures, US/SP/HUNGARY | Dir: James McTeigue; Cast: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson | It Does Not Live Up to Its Literary Promise | Roger Ebert says: “‘The Raven'” a feverish costume thriller, attempts to explain Poe’s death by cobbling together spare parts from thrillers about serial killers.”
“Headhunters” Magnolia, NOR/GER | Dir: Morten Tyldum; Cast: Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau | MaryAnn Johanson calls it, “[A] hilarious satire on male inadequacy disguised as an outrageously violent crime thriller. It’s all the d*ck-measuring and overcompensating elevated out of the subtext to actively fuel the humor and the suspense…”
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” Columbia, UK/US | Dir: Peter Lord; Cast (Voice): Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, Selma Hayek | Linda Barnard says: “Purists can rest easy. This marriage doesn’t scupper Aardman’s classic clay-based animated heritage and the script is still filled with the kind of dry laughs only the Brits can conjure up, with many of the jokes of the visual variety.” | Immersed in Movies: Lord Talks.
“Elles” Kino Lorber, FR | Dir: Malgoska Szumowska; Cast: Juliette Binoche, Anaïs Demoustier, Joanna Kulig, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing | Jon Frosch says: “Szumowska seems intent on drowning her film and her leading lady in campy erotic imagery,” while Alison Willmore says: “Elles is racy and often sexy, but underneath that simmers an old-school feminist anger.” | Matt Mueller talks to Binoche.
“Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale” Well Go, Taiwan | Dir: Te-Sheng Wei; Cast: Masanobu Ando, Umin Boya | Slant says: “It may not reach the lofty ideological heights it’s reaching for or even work as much more than a (self-)righteous actioner, but there’s something to be said about a two-and-a-half-hour epic that manages to make each of its countless decapitation scenes feel earned, even called for, in the moment.”