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Criticwire Pick: It's a B-/C+ Kind of Weekend

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Indiewire March 2, 2012 at 10:18AM

Every week, we try to highlight a film or two that has been widely praised by members of our Criticwire network. But sometimes there’s just no clear pick. Despite the different releases and production schedules of the films released in theaters this weekend, the consensus from our Criticwire members this week is that the newest films in theaters are mediocre, polarizing or both. The averages this week all hover in the B-/C+ range. (The only exception is Don Argott and Demian Fenton's rock doc "Last Days Here," although to date it has only received two grades.)
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Every week, we try to highlight a film or two that has been widely praised by members of our Criticwire network. But sometimes there’s just no clear pick. Despite the different releases and production schedules of the films released in theaters this weekend, the consensus from our Criticwire members this week is that the newest films in theaters are mediocre, polarizing or both. The averages this week all hover in the B-/C+ range. (The only exception is Don Argott and Demian Fenton's rock doc "Last Days Here," although to date it has only received two grades.)

A still from Justin Kurzel's "The Snowtown Murders"
A still from Justin Kurzel's "The Snowtown Murders"

One film that did receive a significant range of grades from Criticwire members: Director Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of one of the most notable criminal stories in Australia’s history. Whether “The Snowtown Murders” gets categorized primarily as a serial killer movie or an Australian film (many are noting the similarities between it and 2010’s “Animal Kingdom”), critics are acknowledging that the film is incredibly unnerving.

Michael Nordine’s issues with the film stem from its unwillingness to explore certain psychological aspects of the true story. “The problem with 'Snowtown' [the film's former title] isn’t just the descent into excess that typifies its second half," he writes. "Much more problematic is the absence of any insight or even speculation as to why it occurs."

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Chase Whale praises both the director and Daniel Henshall’s supporting role as the real-life Jamie Bunting. “Kurzell understands the difficult subject matter, and tells the story in a brave and daring manner," Whale writes. "It's not an easy one to make; what started as a story of justice ended up being a story of self-righteousness. Henshall's take on Bunting is nothing short of creepy brilliance.”

One of the other releases widely seen by critics is a vestige of the beginning of the decade. In the over two years since its premiere at Sundance 2010, "Boy" has had the chance to accrue reviews on both sides of the ledger. Eric Kohn's review for Indiewire praises the film for "applying emotional resonance to broad comedy. The result is an alternately zany, sentimental, and remarkably insightful look at the quirks of a child's mind...Like the British director Shane Meadows, Waititi demonstrates a keen ability to tap into the whims of the adolescent male mind and take them at face value."

But Variety’s Peter Debruge argues that the minimalist elements do little to earn audience goodwill, explaining that "characters come first in Waititi's stylized preadolescent flashback -- which is a nice way of saying that the writer-director...hasn't bothered to invent much of a plot...The material is clearly quite personal for the helmer, though it doesn't feel particularly original, more like the poor cousin of 'Son of Rambow' or 'Nacho Libre,' with lo-fi production values to match."

Also showing in selected areas, after being available through iTunes since shortly after its Sundance premiere, "Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie," the full-length offering from comic duo Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Opening to both belly laughs and disapproving groans, the film was one of the rare 2012 Park City debuts to run the gamut of grades from A to F.

A full list of reviews and scores are available on its Indiewire film page.

Criticwire: Films Opening This Week
NOTE: The averages listed here are current as of the publishing of this article. They are subject to change as new grades come in and will be updated in next week's edition of this article.

The Snowtown Murders (Film Page)
Average Criticwire rating: B-

Boy (Film Page)
Average Criticwire rating: B-

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (Film Page)
Average Criticwire rating: C+

Being Flynn (Film Page)
Average Criticwire rating: B-

Last Days Here (Film Page)
Average Criticwire rating: B+

Black Butterflies (Film Page)
Average Criticwire rating: N/A

For more information about this week’s releases and those scheduled for the weeks to come, be sure to check out the Coming Soon section.