Another Memorial Day weekend come and gone, and here we are: summer has begun. Temperatures are rising all over the place, and you might have trouble finding comfort, let alone sleep, with all the humidity. You could make like the olden days and take to the air-conditioned cinema houses to beat the heat. With fairy tales, horror flicks, historical epics and more, there’s plenty of material to keep you in that ice-cold seat, eyes glued to the screen. Take note, however: the gore/scare factor is high this week; these movies probably won’t help you sleep at night.
The second Snow White flick of the year hits theaters this weekend, offering a much darker, gothic take on the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale than its predecessor. Rupert Sanders helms “Snow White and the Huntsman,” in which the titular Snow White (Kristen Stewart) and Hunky Hunter (Chris Hemsworth) join forces to escape the dark plans of the Evil Queen (Charlize Theron). Corralling allied forces in the Dark Woods, the protagonists receive assistance from eight dwarves (see, this movie is different!), played by a number of recognizable faces, including Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, and Ray Winstone. There are some new obstacles and characters here that neither the Brothers Grimm nor Walt Disney ever portrayed, but they mostly provide one-off filler sequences rather than interesting backstory or an opportunity to flesh out the main characters. Our review says the film “is often a visually gorgeous movie, at times genuinely jaw-dropping” but admits “there's nothing the least bit funny or exciting or poppy. It's a movie made for children that is often shockingly dark and violent, but at the same time probably too frivolous for adults.” Rotten Tomatoes: 49% Metacritic: 57
Dean Wright’s “For Greater Glory” is a primer on the relations between the government and the Catholic priesthood during the Cristero War in Mexico during the 1920s. Andy Garcia plays a retired general, an atheist who backs the Church on behalf of his extremely devout wife. Though the religious rebels are greatly outnumbered, a partnership with an American diplomat (Bruce Greenwood) seeking a peaceful end to the conflict, allows the war to rage on. Peter O’Toole co-stars as an unwaveringly good-hearted priest. The director is a visual effects veteran, and was the supervisor on Peter Jackson's "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King." Perhaps unsurprisingly, the effects may be the movie's only saving grace: sophisticated and nuanced, this film is not. The pace is slow at best, the tone dully educational, the violence unhesitatingly rampant and gory. Finally, the characters are cardboard cutouts rather than three-dimensional representations of humans, showing all the complication and depth of Snidely Whiplash. RT: 17% MC: 33
An unnamed businessman finds a “Hide Away” from the realities of grief on a newly bought boat in this weekend’s slice of life indie. Once upon the briny deep (well, docked at its edge anyway), the man, played by Josh Lucas, drinks a lot, has a few almost one night stands, and possibly goes a little crazy from all the alone time. But the dreams of a family long gone remain. James Cromwell, Casey LaBow, and Ayelet Zurer co-star. Our review calls the Chris Eyre-directed film “a truly lousy movie” that “often gets bogged down in either focusing on the daily minutiae of…life, or taking lingering looks at the wintery Michigan locations,” but acknowledges, “Lucas gives a fine performance amidst all the sappy nonsense.” RT: no score yet MC: 40
The gore-tastic “Piranha 3DD,” from director John Gulager, takes place at a sleazy water park that features stripper lifeguards and an adult section, not unlike your local video store (before it closed three years ago). Oh, and genetically altered fish with massive teeth that like to eat people. A budding oceanographer (Danielle Panabaker) alerts the park’s owner (David Koechner) to the danger, but he doesn’t listen, and the fishies are swimming with the kiddies before long. Chris Zylka and Matt Bush co-star, while Gary Busey, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Scheer, Ving Rhames, and David Hasselhoff make cameos. Our review says, “the picture builds to another massacre much like the original, but it's a soggy, poorly paced conclusion that feels like a precursor to an onslaught that never comes. If the first film's slaughter was a waterfall, this one is a broken backyard hose, flailing desperately before being put out of its misery.” RT: 14% MC: 40
“High School,” written and co-directed by John Stalberg, has quite the punny title. After a spelling bee champ (Julia Ling) is caught smoking marijuana, the principal of her HIGH SCHOOL (Michael Chiklis) issues an order for mandatory drug tests for all students. But in a crazy twist of fate, the sure-to-be-named valedictorian, Henry (Matt Bush), just smoked weed for the first time yesterday! To make sure the honor isn’t revoked, and that he'll still get to go to college, Henry – with help from a stoner friend (Sean Marquette) and his dealer (Adrien Brody) – replaces bake sale brownies with special brownies. The result: an entirely HIGH SCHOOL. Bam. Our review says the film is “as over-complex as it is under-thought, very much like listening to a moderately smart person continue to talk and toke. For the undiscerning pot movie connoisseur, however, it’ll probably do. RT: 36% MC: 31
Also hitting theaters this weekend is the French, Oscar-nominated (for Best Animated Feature) flick, “A Cat in Paris,” co-directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol. For its American release, two years following release in France, the film has been redubbed with the voices of American stars speaking in English. The star is an exceptionally intelligent cat, Dino: pet to the young girl Zoé by day and sidekick to the jewel thief Nico (Steven Blum) by night. Zoé needs the animal’s friendship, as crime boss Victor Costa (JD Blanc) killed her policeman father, and her mother (Marcia Gay Harden), the Paris police superintendent, tracks the murderer still. Anjelica Huston co-stars as Zoé’s nanny. Our review says though it starts out as a visual wonder, by the the end it "becomes a cool-looking movie that tugs on your heartstrings in a very real way. RT: 80% MC: 60
The horrors of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are given new agency and its victims clearer faces in this week’s “5 Broken Cameras.” The title refers to the number of cameras broken over the course of shooting: more than one time during the film, the cameras are hit by bullets and explode. Directed by Palestinian Emad Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi, the documentary centers on Burnat’s family and friends in the town of Bil’in, in the central West Bank; the focus hones in on peaceful protests staged by Palestinian locals against the West Bank Barrier, and Israeli settlers on the other side. The directorial partnership, spanning the Barrier's chasm, is of course significant, but still only part of the film’s uniqueness: shot over four years, we see Burnat’s children grow during a conflict that remains utterly stagnant, providing a disillusioned and hopeless portrait. This combination of personal and political creates an unusual take on a very familiar topic, and “5 Broken Cameras” offers a very humanistic view to a too often distant conflict. RT: 90% MC: no score yet