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Out This Week: From Joe Strummer to Hobbits, 5 Reviews of New Releases

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire December 13, 2012 at 1:7PM

This weekly column is intended to provide reviews of nearly every release, including films on VOD (and occasionally certain studio films). Specifics release dates and locations follow each review.
4

This weekly column is intended to provide reviews of nearly every release, including films on VOD (and occasionally certain studio films). Specifics release dates and locations follow each review.

Music Box Films "Any Day Now."
REVIEWS THIS WEEK

"Any Day Now"

"Let Fury Have the Hour"

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

"Save the Date"

"Trashed"

***


"Any Day Now"

"Any Day Now" is built on two certainties: Rudy Donatello (Alan Cumming) and Paul Fleiger (Garret Dillahunt) never question their ability to care for Marco (Isaac Leyva), a teenager with Down syndrome, setting the stage for director/co-writer Travis Fine's point that gay couples make for excellent adoptive parents. Aspiring singer Rudy is performing in a low-rent Los Angeles drag show in 1979 when he meets Paul, an uptight and closeted assistant district attorney. That same night, Rudy encounters Marco, left alone by his junkie single mother. Rudy takes in Marco and within a week, they've moved in with Paul. Their instant family is happy, secure and committed, an oasis of loving tolerance in a desert of homophobia and institutional biases. Despite its morality tale formula, "Any Day Now" is heartfelt and engaging, with the fiery Cumming and cool Dillahunt transforming gay stereotypes into multifaceted men. A naturalistic 1970s style helps ground Fine's fable, but it's his use of music that provides emotional heft. Alan Cumming transforms Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" into a searing lament for a son he never imagined having, and then couldn't imagine living without. Criticwire grade: B [Serena Donadoni]

Opens Friday in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Expands to other cities in December and January. Released by Music Box Films. Watch the trailer below:

"Let Fury Have the Hour"

Opening with an impressively thorough archival footage-laden discussion of the damages of the Reagan-Thatcher years (chiefly, a cruel insistence on the individual fending for him or herself), "Let Fury Have the Hour" considers the role of the artist in crafting a "creative response" to repressive political circumstances. The doc focuses largely on musicians (Billy Bragg and Chuck D. are among the talking heads) but confirms the ability of all forms of art to open minds and challenge assumptions. Smartly, it also understands that art is not activism and that, while a rousing tune or a provocative poem can stir minds, it takes real groundwork to effect change. Director Antonino D'Ambrosio lets his coterie of creative subjects tell their stories, complementing the discussion with skillfully crafted split screen assemblages of found footage. While periodically rousing, though, the film too often succumbs to a simplistic "punk rock, fuck yeah" sentiment (both literally and figuratively) which threatens to dull understanding of both musical and political complexities. Criticwire grade: B- [Andrew Schenker]

Opens Friday in New York. Available on VOD in February. Released by CAVU Pictures/SnagFilms. Watch the trailer below:
 


"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

More than a decade has passed since Peter Jackson and company first ventured to Middle Earth with "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." At this point, audiences pretty much know what to expect from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," despite the title's insistence to the contrary. That's hardly a knock on Jackson's fourth installment in the franchise, a prequel that takes place 60 years before the earlier movies' events but basically resurrects the same world of limber and furry-footed humanoids, fire-breathing dragons and deadly Orcs. Plot comes secondary to the care involved in bringing Middle Earth back to life. While Jackson hasn't delivered a hit on par with his "Lord of the Rings" movies, "The Hobbit" proves he can still do justice to the tricky blend of fantasy and action that made the earlier entries such enjoyable works of popular entertainment. Criticwire grade: B [Eric Kohn]

Read the full review here. Opens Friday nationwide. Released by Warner Bros. Watch the trailer below:

"Save the Date"

You've heard this one before: A romantically confused young woman evades pressure to get married by turning hopelessly single, only to rebound with a new lover and a fresh set of constraints. Director Michael Mohan fails to rejuvenate these clichés, but fortunately doesn't overstate them, either (I'm looking at you, "Lola Versus"). Much of that is due to an unsurprisingly charming turn by leading woman Lizzy Caplan as the quirky Sarah, who dumps rocker boyfriend Kevin (Geoffrey Arend) after a public proposal gone wrong. Working at the local bookstore, she falls for regular customer Jonathan (Mark Webber), a similarly mopey and apparently gentle man fresh out of a long-term relationship of his own. While not as continually funny and chaotic at Mohan's memorable black-and-white debut "One Too Many Mornings," the filmmaker's sophomore effort is simply inoffensively mediocre. (Now that Mohan has proven he can make a functional movie along these basic lines, one hopes he won't try to take the same cookie cutter approach to the studio level.) As the drama piles up, Caplan's mounting frustrations single-handedly carry the movie, while the domestic subplot involving Sarah's sister Beth (Alison Brie) provides a reminder that no matter how much Mohan's script tries to restrain the drama, this is still a pretty familiar journey that's easier to pity than hate -- much like Caplan's character. Criticwire grade: C+ [Eric Kohn]

Opens Friday in New York. Also available on VOD. Released by IFC Films. Watch the trailer below:

"Trashed"

Documentaries about the environment and pollution have been rampant in the past few years in response to the uprising of "going green." Could Jeremy Irons break the pattern? Not quite. In Candida Brady's documentary, "Trashed," Irons plays an intrepid reporter traveling everywhere from Vietnam to Lebanon to Iceland to uncover global failures in waste removal and how people are poorly affected by their litter-filled environments. Irons, who also executive produced, is obviously very passionate about the cause and therefore makes an effective tour guide. Brady does a fine job of keeping our interest by exposing terrible atrocities, including a massive mountain of garbage just outside Beirut -- but the serious nature of the material is often marred by a dry tone and insubstantial arguments (while compelling to watch, a segment set in Vietnam about the birth defects caused by Agent Orange doesn't quite gel with the film's overall thesis of health problems caused by litter). As a showcasing of Irons' activism, the doc works wonders, but that's hardly enough to bolster its message. Criticwire grade: B- [Caitlin Hughes]

Opens in several cities on Friday. Released by Blenheim Films. Watch the trailer below:

This article is related to: Reviews, Out This Week, Save the Date, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Trashed, Let Fury Have the Hour, Any Day Now