By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire August 26, 2011 at 6:04AM
If you're on the East Coast, it may not be the best weekend to make a trip to the cinema, but everyone else can surely take their pick from this week's slate of releases. Our reviewers saw no overwhelming successes among this weekend's headlining films, but it seems there's one little doc that could lead the pack. Check out the reviews published this week on indieWIRE and our blog network.
The Playlist: B-
This writer has not read the source material nor seen the 1947 adaptation, and while Joffe has supposedly offended some sensibilities by shifting the timeline from the 1930s to the 1960s, it certainly didn’t impact our viewing.
The Playlist: D
Time and time again, the movie recalled “Hanna,” a similar movie from earlier this year about a little girl seeking violent retribution. But “Hanna” was directed artfully, with an eye towards the surreal. In its cubist abstraction and thematic conviction, “Hanna” became something special, unburdened by the mundane, often times laughable procedural elements that weigh “Colombiana” down so heavily (at one point the lead investigator gets shut out of a CIA database for looking up a flower, and many of his computer programs look ripped out of “Enemy of the State,” complete with overactive “zooming” graphics).
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"
A few years ago, Del Toro produced “The Orphanage,” a leaner, smarter throwback to scarier cinema that predominantly relied on the impact of unknown things lurking just outside the frame. “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” lifts its spell whenever it turns on the lights.
The Playlist: C
Holmes is fine in the film as the de facto stepmother that eventually forms a bond with Sally but Pearce’s character is completely useless. The filmmakers have admitted as much but it makes you wonder why an actor of his caliber signed onto the role in the first place.
"The Family Tree"
The Playlist: D
“The Family Tree”—a movie that seems destined for home video obscurity even as it hits a handful of cinema screens this week—sets out to answer the question: just how many cloyingly idiosyncratic “quirks,” the kind that aim for “American Beauty” profundity but mostly come across as “Desperate Housewives” contrivances, can be stuffed, Thanksgiving-turkey-style, into one independent suburban family comedy?
Her movie works decently enough as an open book, with Corinne’s commitment to her Christian world always in question. It begins with her adult baptism, a seeming act of conviction that starts to unravel over the course of the next two hours. In the final shot, she’s attentive to the nature of her religion and noticeably conflicted about it.
The Playlist: D+
Drenched with an overbearing warm visual tone (in fact, the “Young Corinne” section might be the warmest-toned movie this writer has ever seen), the look of “Higher Ground” more than hints at the lack of bite the flick actually has.
"Our Idiot Brother"
Hiding behind a shaggy beard and a stoner grin, Paul Rudd plays an amusingly oblivious shlub in “Our Idiot Brother,” but the movie can’t keep up with his comic inspiration.
The Playlist: B-
Because while “Our Idiot Brother” is flawed, it’s also easily and effortlessly entertaining. Ensemble casts don’t get much better than this, and they often elevate the film; a lesser cast would’ve made its weaknesses all the more apparent.
"Swinging With The Finkels"
The Playlist: F
"There’s no way around this, there’s no kind way to preface this, there’s no purpose to side-step it: “Swinging With The Finkels” is one of the worst, cheapest, dumbest and most dishonest films of the year."
"General Orders No. 9"
The Playlist: A
"The American South is rarely looked at this respectfully, it’s often subjected to guileless, condescending jokes rather than being appreciated for its environment or art. But Persons finds that and more, showcasing the pulchritudinous and ever-changing terrain so emotionally that it’s tough to not be moved by nearly every frame."