By Aaron Bogert | Indiewire February 17, 2012 at 11:09AM
This week sees the opening of what are probably two of the lesser known Oscar nominees: Michael R. Roskam's "Bullhead" (nominated for Best Foreign Language Film); and Daniel Lindsay & T.J. Martin's "Undefeated" (nominated for Best Documentary Feature). In addition, two films that occupy completely opposite ends of the spectrum are also opening: Markus Schleinzer's portrayal of a pedophile "Michael"; and the latest Studio Ghibli's film "The Secret World of Arrietty." Check below for reviews from the Indiewire network for this week's new releases.
There is no question of its potency or originality; this is no ordinary crime yarn.
The Playlist: B-
Michael R. Roskam has made a striking debut picture, with inky blacks and captivating shadows capturing a number of indistinguishable downtrodden farms.
"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance"
The Playlist: B+
With minimal screentime wasted, Neveldine and Taylor manage to achieve a sleek b-movie action-horror mashup where most Hollywood hacks would need a trilogy.
Despite its subversive edge, "Michael" successfully drains the shock out of a frightening premise and instead delivers a keen observational thriller.
The Playlist: C+
"Michael" doesn't find any deeper understanding of its subject, just offers him up in all of his clammy reality, proving that even awful situations can be made banal
"The Secret World of Arrietty"
I think this benign adaptation will appeal most to young children, so long as they aren’t hyperactive or steeped in high-energy video games.
The Playlist: A
"The Secret World of Arrietty" might not be given as much love or attention as the more high profile Studio Ghibli titles (like the ones actually directed by Miyazaki), but it doesn't mean that it isn't just as good.
The Playlist: D-
But make no mistake, “Thin Ice” is nothing if not consistently lousy.
"This Means War"
Whatever the reason - and we can’t ignore the abysmal, cobbled-together script - This Means War is a mess of an action romance.
Moviegoers crave light entertainment, especially with a romantic angle, and This Means War may be just good enough to please its target audience…at least until something better comes along.
The Playlist: D+
A rom-com about love without a single character worth liking, an action flick burdened with intermittent bombast, "This Means War" wouldn’t be quite so trying if anybody involved had tried a little harder.
The Playlist: B
It doesn’t feel real simply because it’s non-fiction, but because the directors refrain from glorifying their subjects. We’re there for their triumphs but also for their mistakes, and therefore, we can meet them on a human and emotional level
It’s just hard not to come down on it at this point in the game or from this vantage point from the sidelines. I’ll just say it, “Undefeated” is extremely overrated.