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What to See, What to Skip: New Reviews this Week

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Indiewire January 13, 2012 at 10:11AM

Who said January has nothing to offer in the new releases category? If you’re looking for a film about gospel singing goodness, a film where Giovanni Ribisi and Ben Foster continue their slow morph into becoming the same person, or a film that will destroy any nostalgic love that you had towards Fruity Pebbles, this weekend is filled with antidotes to the pre-Oscar doldrums. Just be warned that the latter is probably better than most others.
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IFC Films "Albatross"

Who said January has nothing to offer in the new releases category? If you’re looking for a film about gospel singing goodness, a film where Giovanni Ribisi and Ben Foster continue their slow morph into becoming the same person, or a film that will destroy any nostalgic love that you had towards Fruity Pebbles, this weekend is filled with antidotes to the pre-Oscar doldrums. Just be warned that the latter is probably better than most others.

Below is a handy summary of reviews of all of these new films (both brand new releases and theater expansions), direct from Indiewire and across our network of blogs:


“Albatross”

The Playlist: C-
Jessica Brown Findlay imbues “Albatross” with an impressive freshness that no other elements of the film can equal. After a promising beginning, the film’s conclusion is both a thematic and tonal misstep.


"Contraband"

Leonard Maltin

I never saw the 2008 Icelandic film on which it’s based, but I presume it must have been better than this, to persuade savvy producers that it was worth remaking in English. Baltasar Kormákur, who starred in the original, directed this adaptation.

The Playlist: C-
Despite being helmed by the star and producer of the Icelandic crime thriller it’s based on, “Contraband” fulfills every requirement in the American Crime Blockbuster curriculum. Ultimately, the action wins out over the human element, both in emotional impact and screen time.

"Joyful Noise"

Leonard Maltin

Writer-director Todd Graff, whose mother (we learn in the closing credits) led a Hadassah choir for many years, has concocted a script that’s long and needlessly busy. He even incorporates a needless subplot about two choir members having sex that earns the otherwise squeaky-clean movie a PG-13 rating.

The Playlist: D
Juggling the convoluted and the convenient, this is a movie about a choir that never really shows that choir in action, leaving trite caricatures to fill in the spaces of genuine uplift and artistic competence.

“Loosies”

The Playlist: C+
Filled with barely sensical pieces that stretch common logic (not the least of which is that someone could consider pickpocketing a dependable modern criminal enterprise), the action is devoid of any real stakes. Most of the characters are bland, wasting some lovely images of New York City that are forced to stand on their own.

“Sing Your Song”

The Playlist: B
It’s an inspiring, straightforward look at a courageous artistic figure, one that benefits greatly from allowing Belafonte to reevaluate and reconsider his choices on stage and in the political realm.

"The Divide"

Indiewire: B+

But even when "The Divide" faceplants with its performances and dialogue, it maintains a stark outlook that elevates the material from its shortcomings. Gens' dystopian narrative begins with absolute mayhem and never slows down; the end of the world marks the beginning of a far scarier one.

The Playlist: D
The apocalyptic theme that ran through so many of 2011’s more successful outputs does not find a welcome home here. The characters are reprehensible, but rather than revel in it, the execution of the central action is dangerously self-serious.

“The Iron Lady”

Leonard Maltin
A stellar cast, headlined by the incomparable Streep, overcomes a pedantic and almost mean-spirited choice to frame the biopic through the prism of a weak and decrepit present-day Thatcher.

The Playlist: D
Regardless of any individual moviegoer’s opinion of the former Prime Minister’s policy decisions, a woman who held so much power in her time as a world leader deserves better than supernatural script contrivances and a thoughtless, heartless structure.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin”

Indiewire: A
The non-linear construction of the plot only serves to unnerve the viewer in the most artful of ways. With a style and subject matter that could easily lend itself to something erratic, the performances and productions contribute to an impeccable, tight final product.

The Playlist: A
Tilda Swinton superbly angers a story of grief, frustration and remembrance. It walks the line of thriller and drama without overly indulging in either, an effort aided by wonderful visual touches and an eerie, urban-collage sound design.

This article is related to: Reviews, What to See, What to Skip