Steven Soderbergh’s pharma-thriller “Side Effects” hits theaters this weekend, starring Rooney Mara as a woman suffering a deleterious breakdown after her husband’s release from prison. Critics are praising Soderbergh’s film, his last big-screen entry before a self-imposed retirement from cinema. In limited release, the Taviani brothers’ Italian Oscar entry, “Caesar Must Die,” is a dreamlike docudrama on inmates at Rome’s maximum-security Rebibbia prison. Cate Shortland’s “Lore” is a subtle exploration of a young woman who must care for her siblings in the wake of her parents’ arrest for Nazi war crimes. The poorly reviewed “Identity Thief,” starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, can be skipped.
Side Effects Dir. Steven Soderbergh, USA | Open Road Films | Cast: Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta Jones | 84% Fresh | New York Times: “While the plot may be predictable (and more than a little preposterous) in retrospect, Mr. Soderbergh handles it brilliantly, serving notice once again that he is a crackerjack genre technician.” | Soderbergh Q&A at Film Society of Lincoln Center
Lore Dir. Cate Shortland, Germany | Music Box Films | Cast: Saskia Rosendahl, Ursina Lardi, Kai-Peter Malina | 86% Fresh | A.V. Club: “If nothing else, Shortland gives Rosendahl a star-making platform on par with Cornish’s in “Somersault”: She’s a magnetic screen presence who subtly conveys not only the struggle and guilt inherent to her situation, but also a residue of hate that’s carried over from her parents. The actor, like her character, shoulders a heavy burden.”
Caesar Must Die Dirs. Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, Italy | Adopt Films | 90% Fresh | Portland Oregonian: “For a movie with such a brisk pace — it clocks in at just 76 minutes — Caesar Must Die has surprising depth, particularly when it comes to the strong performances by the actors, many of them Mafiosi serving time for drug trafficking and murder.” | Our review
Porfirio, Dir. Alejandro Landes, Colombia | Karma Films | Cast: Porfirio Ramirez, Jarlinsson Ramirez, Yor Jasbleidy Santos | 60% Fresh | Village Voice: “Landes’s tone is never salacious or exploitative, nor for that matter pandering or sentimental. This is a sui generis work—warm, sporadically funny, deeply human, and altogether beguiling.”
Identity Thief Dir. Seth Gordon, USA | Universal Pictures | Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Bateman, John Cho, Amadna Peet | 24% Rotten | Los Angeles Times: “The heart of this film is on the road with Bateman and McCarthy. If not for their brilliance, Identity Thief would be running on empty.”