By Indiewire | Indiewire June 3, 2011 at 4:20AM
From the quirky indie romance "Beginners," to hopeful summer blockbuster "X-Men: First Class," a slew of new releases are vying for your top dollar this weekend. Need help in deciding what to catch? Below, check out new reviews posted this week on indieWIRE and our blog network.
"Beautiful Boy" - B
"Still, despite routinely overstating the scenario with rampant scenes of tantrums and sobs, the majority of 'Beautiful Boy' is made bearable by its two solid performances. Sheen, burying his British acting credentials with a surprisingly decent American accent, ably wields a tough guy facade while hinting at the frustrations beneath the surface. Bello inhabits the opposite persona, exuding overt fragility and eventually building the strength to face the world again. Watching them act circles around each other provides 'Beautiful Boy' with its chief appeal."
"Beginners" - A-
"The core appeal of 'Beginners' arises from an enjoyable survey of witty and sad moments, all held together by Oliver’s endearing nature. The movie is quite obviously a personal project for Mills, whose own father came out at the same as Hal."
"Film Socialisme" - A-
"I have seen it twice in full and examined individual scenes on DVD. Each encounter has been distinctly paradoxical: There’s a freshness to its inertia, the feeling that Godard’s ideological and formalist tendencies insist on scrutiny while continually rejecting any semblance of a solution. And for this 'Breathless' fanatic, that’s oddly comforting: There’s something comforting and even serene about the unending challenges of appreciating Godard in all his mysterious glory."
"Submarine" - B+
"Equally intent on landing a girlfriend and saving his parents’ marriage, Oliver lives in a frantic universe built from his constant phobias. That’s hardly a groundbreaking achievement for the coming-of-age genre, but Ayoade’s bittersweet tale is consistently endearing and distracts from its derivative core."
The Playlist Reviews
“Beautiful Boy” - C-
"Director Shawn Ku does a disservice to the tragedy of his concept, fracturing the narrative, turning each isolated moment into it’s own episode of grief. We only feel the incidence, we don’t feel the moments of lived-in grief, the moments where this story would coalesce through actual human behavior."
"Mr. Nice" - B
"Few opportunities have been taken to redefine the drug dealer as someone with a job, someone who isn’t desperately obsessed with his rise and fall, or the media circus that may relate to his surroundings. Then again, the argument could be that there haven’t been any on-screen kingpins quite like Howard Marks, the renaissance man at the heart of 'Mr. Nice.'"
"Beginners" - A
"Touching, heartfelt, melancholy and suffused with a gentle humanity (pick your soulful cliché if you must), with his sophomore drama, 'Beginners,' filmmaker Mike Mills demonstrates once more that he’s acutely attuned to the bittersweet and funny frequency broadcast from the pain of love and life."
"Turkey Bowl" - B+
"Using money won from a reality-TV show and casting his friends (even keeping their names), an audience member is likely to think the worst of this no-budget scenario. Fortunately, this isn’t a bunch of non-actors sitting in an apartment talking or playing with Chat Roulette or slinkies; it’s a group of chaps brought together to play a traditional game of football, one that slowly bleeds out their subtle insecurities and frustrations with one another."
"Rejoice and Shout” - C
"'Rejoice and Shout' is by no means offensive, but it certainly bites off more than it can chew. Tracking its origin back to the songs of plantation workers all the way up to its present incarnations, the project could’ve struck stronger chords if its scope was a bit narrower."
"Submarine" - B+
"Using handheld cameras, natural light and some amazing jump cuts gives the film a vibrant energy and visual style that recall the French New Wave and the British cinema of Lindsay Anderson."
“Film Socialisme” - No Grade
"A completely obfuscating, obstinate, provocative and ultimately pointless exercise in we don’t even know what, 'Film Socialisme' is only for the most die-hard Godard devotees."
“X-Men: First Class” - B+
"For all its many little foibles, 'X-Men: First Class,' is surprisingly well-handled and directed; surging forth with the drama and intensity of a global-looming threat."
"Super 8" - A
"Set in the summer of ’79 in small town America, 'Super 8' is affluent in nostalgia, but that also comes from the heavy influence of Spielberg’s work from the late ‘70s and ‘80s. And while yes, he is a producer on the film, he’s also the helmer behind movies that inspired generations—including Abrams, as shades of 'E.T.' 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' and 'Jurassic Park' can all be felt here."
“Good Neighbours” - D
"As the running time rolls on, the film becomes less of a 'whosgunnagetit' into 'whenaretheygunnafinallygettoit.' Shot and set in Montreal, we wish we could say the surroundings gave the film a distinctive flavor, but sadly, they don’t."
Leonard Maltin Reviews
"X-Men: First Class"
"'X-Men: First Class' is nothing if not ambitious, attempting to weave its fantastic, comic-book characters into the realm of real life, opening in Poland during World War Two and winding up in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. I’m not entirely comfortable with the melding of these two worlds."
"His leading actors hit just the right notes in this likable, low-key comedy that’s naturally funny without stressing gags or set-pieces. It has all the earmarks of a sleeper, and I hope it finds the audience it deserves."
"Rejoice and Shout"
"'Rejoice and Shout' is both a historical document and a celebration. Director Don McGlynn and producer Joe Lauro have spent most of their professional lives unearthing rare music footage, and this film has given them a perfect vehicle to express their knowledge and enthusiasm."
"Cameraman: The Life And Work Of Jack Cardiff"
"After years of DVD special features, even dedicated buffs may be somewhat blasé about a film that takes us behind the scenes to explore one man’s career…but this is no ordinary documentary, and its subject is no ordinary filmmaker."
"I almost want to call 'Submarine' the 'TRON: Legacy' of the coming of age genre for all that it evokes. That’s unfair, of course, for a movie that many people—including me—love very much in spite of their recognition of comparable precursors. I also think it’s fitting for movies like this to include much allusion to its ancestors. Don’t teens tend to like stuff that can be connected to other things they like? Isn’t that how we make our first friends and crushes, because of like-minded interests?"
"Yet if a happy-go-lucky drug-trafficker biopic was going to get made, it would be the story of Howard Marks. This is not to say that the new film, 'Mr. Nice,' is an entirely rosy depiction of a genuinely rocky life. Simply put, both Marks and his herb of choice fall into the most light-hearted corner of the industry and the movie does a wonderful job of emphasizing that sense of emotional buoyancy."
[Compiled by Michelle Koh]