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by Aaron Bogert
February 10, 2012 8:32 AM
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What to See, What to Skip: New Reviews This Week

This week holds a large amount of audience friendly wide releases in kiddie flick "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," Valentine's tearjerker "The Vow," and Denzel Washington's latest action film "Safe House."  If you're in the mood for something a little more serious minded, and perhaps a little more bleak, then there are a number of smaller films opening as well with Agnieszka Holland's Holocaust film "In Darkness," Bela Tarr's final film "The Turin Horse" and "Rampart," starring Woody Harrelson in a much buzzed about performance.

Check out all the reviews published on the Indiewire network in the past week so you can know what to avoid and what not to miss.

"Chico & Rita"

Indiewire: B+
The lush animated environment sustains each standard twist, resulting in the rare case of a movie that yearns for a time when a swooning period piece felt fresh.

The Playlist: C+
So in the end, this is a mere trifle of a movie, sugary and enjoyable to be sure, and we recommend it overall as such.

"In Darkness"

Indiewire: B-
Over time, Holland's approach pushes beyond despair and turns into a pure exercise in grim atmosphere, shifting from a story of staying alive to a closeup of a private hell.

Leonard Maltin
Working from a script by David F. Shamoon (based on a book about the real-life incident by Robert Marshall), director Agnieszka Holland builds a tremendous amount of suspense in the dim, confined space of the sewer tunnels, with periodic side trips to the world above-ground.

The Playlist: A-
"In Darkness" doesn't let those on screen fall into easy divisions of savior and saved -- it allows its Jewish characters to be complex and imperfect, and clears plenty of space for its protagonist to grow and change without shunting aside the sometime terrible costs of his actions.

Women and Hollywood
Exquisitely visual, this film is not easy to watch, but impossible to forget.

"The Dish and the Spoon"

Indiewire: B-
Gerwig, whose star was born at SXSW in micro-budget efforts like "Hannah Takes the Stairs," can pull off this sort of awkward, self-deprecating performance in her sleep. Alexander, a petite, withdrawn performer, makes the ideal complement to her intensely physical style.

The Playlist: C-
"The Dish and The Spoon" wraps up calmly once Gerwig's character loses steam shortly after the brush with Hendricks. Ultimately the film is quite uneven; the craziness of its protagonist has a decent energy which is occasionally squandered when the narrative decides to meander.

"Journey 2: The Mysterious Island"

Leonard Maltin
The visual effects are as artificial as the genially preposterous story, but the movie is all in fun, and painless for grownups.

The Playlist: D
The many shortcomings of 'Journey 2,' including its lack of chutzpah and sense of fun, are all secondary after its lack of anything truly spectacular, or even just exciting to look at.

"Rampart"

Indiewire: A-
Harrelson's character is never sympathetic, but Moverman's screenplay makes it clear that the man has deep convictions about his behavior.

Leonard Maltin
Harrelson adds another solid performance to his ever-growing rogues’ gallery, but there isn’t much nuance to this character.

The Playlist: A-
Though the film is gritty, Moverman still demands a degree of accomplishment in the shooting style, not just content with lazily going the hand-held route. The film finds the director beautifully lensing even the most seemingly innocuous of scenes.

"Return"

The Playlist: B
"Return" is most intriguing in how it deals, in small ways, with how Kelli's gender shapes her experiences coming home, expressed mainly through her own expectations of herself.

"Safe House"

The Playlist: C+
Yet, while engaging and energetic, the easily identifiable “Safe House” tropes do not make for the most surprising experience and lord knows if you’re looking for something substantive, the picture, on an emotional, humanistic and or political level, has almost nothing to say.

Shadow and Act
So yes, it’s utterly predictable stuff, in case you haven’t already figured that out by now.  And that’s actually really unfortunate because the rest of the film is solid!

"The Turin Horse"

The Playlist: A-
Tarr's final film is ultimately an extension of his decision to give up, and keeping with that, the movie closes without even a grain of optimism. Despite its descent from bad to worse, it thankfully never feels repetitive.

"The Vow"

Leonard Maltin
All that’s left is for us to admire the two good-looking actors, which is better than nothing—but not enough to validate this mediocre picture.

The Playlist: C
Overall, “The Vow” isn’t a failure because it will appeal to women who adore these types of movies, particularly those who drag their significant others to it as a Valentine’s Day date/punishment for being forced to watch the Super Bowl.

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