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

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

Not sure what to see this weekend? We don’t blame you! With a slew of anticipated titles hitting the screen today (including “Attack the Block,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” “The Future,” and “The Interrupters”), deciding what’s worth paying top dollar for ain’t easy. To help you out, we’ve compiled all of the reviews published this week on indieWIRE and our Blog Network. Have a look at them below…

“Attack the Block”

indieWIRE: A-
Still, his action-packed plot moves fast and is consistently enjoyable, giving a sense of play to the creature-feature entertainment mold of “Gremlins” and other American monster movies of the 1980s. Executive produced by longtime Cornish collaborator Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”), it benefits from visual polish and an economical pace. In the contrast between the 15-year-old Moses and the middle-class Sam, Cornish tells a survival story about class struggle without turning preachy. By the time it ends, “Attack the Block” has transformed into a parable about how people of varying socio-economic backgrounds can learn to get along, or die trying.

The Playlist: A
“Attack The Block” throbs and grooves to a constant hip hop beat, some of it provided by eclectic pop music choices, and some provided by an excellent score from techno artists Basement Jaxx. Superior to recent scores like the Chemical Brothers’ work on “Hanna” and Justice’s contributions to “Rubber,” the Jaxx don’t shed their pop sensibility in giving the underlying action it’s own frantic, danceable groove. Dynamic and mercurial, the deceptively simple themes work in propelling the action while remaining unobtrusive, to the point where it feels less like the soundtrack to the movie and more like the soundtrack to these characters’ lives. Though the Jaxx haven’t scored before, their work, and the movie as a whole, seems to be the work of several newcomers, but it feels like the results of old pros.

“Cowboys & Aliens”

Leonard Maltin
I look at it this way: if you removed the science-fiction material, you’d be left with a decent Western that covers pretty familiar territory. If you just focused on the fantastic angle, you’d have a fairly typical alien-invasion yarn. Because neither one of the two ingredients is exceptional in itself, the melding of the genres is uninspired.

The Playlist: C+
Almost the entire first third of ‘Cowboys’ is a straight up western. There’s the weird mechanical device on Lonergan’s wrist and a few other assorted hints of things to come, but the western aspect is so well established and engrossing, it’s easy to forget there’s still aliens yet to come. Favreau does the tradition proud. Once the green men do arrive, you’re no longer so sure it really needs them. The momentum slows and Favreau and co. spend much of the rest of the film trying to recapture the drive and consistency of the first act. The thrills still come, but never with the same sense of control.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love.”

indieWIRE: B-
Although Requa and Ficarra have no writing credit this time out (the screenplay was penned by “Cars” writer Dan Fogelman, marking his first foray into live action), the material is certainly familiar from their earlier outings. Just as “Bad Santa” and “Phillip Morris” dismantled conventional notions of suburban domesticity with a ribald sense of play, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” involves a presumably stable family coming apart at the seams. From there, it spins outward with over a half dozen central characters whose mini-stories weave together and break apart, with each developing arc serving a theme about the art of romantic attraction as neat as the period at the end of the movie’s title.

Leonard Maltin
When a movie opens with a woman telling her husband that she wants a divorce after twenty-five years of marriage and it isn’t played for laughs, you know you’re not in for a “typical” Hollywood comedy. Given the current state of comedy, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what we get instead is an odd, meandering, mood-swinging movie called Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Yes, there’s a period at the end of the title, for no apparent reason.)

Caryn James
A huge part of the film’s success is thanks to Dan Fogelman’s glittering script; his screenplays for Pixar films including Cars did not prepare us for this savvy update on rom-coms. With a less sparkling script and less sharp direction, Crazy Stupid Love could easily have been one more tepid romance that is never as good as it should have been (prime example: Friends With Benefits.) Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa – who let Jim Carrey zoom around like Road Runner and smash their earlier film, I Love You Phillip Morris – handle all the moving parts with the ease of professional jugglers.

The Playlist: B+
And that’s the thing – “Crazy Stupid Love” is enjoyable funny. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who wrote “Bad Santa” and Richard Linklater‘s “Bad News Bears,” before helming last year’s uneven “I Love You Phillip Morris,” these filmmakers might not be best in class yet, but they generally know how to make you laugh. Even though their past experience has them firmly entrenched in the R-rated zone so many comedies have happily occupied this summer, ‘Love’ is PG-13, which makes it even more impressive – they milk chuckles without having to resort to played-out raunch tactics or showing off unnecessary flesh. The pair also seem to have a visual eye for theme, directing the “dating world” with cool, blown-out defining colors, while warmer autumnal hues accentuate Cal’s family life.

“El Bulli”

The Playlist: B+
Essentially, the movie is all about preparation; even when the return to Roses finally occurs, many plates are still being created, tweaked, and sent to the king for approval. Some swift editing ensures there’s never a dull moment, but the secret to the flick’s success is the heavy leaning towards the actual work that goes into coming up with each meal. The labor of love is both felt and admired, while the perfected final product (okay, the money shot) of every food is saved until the end in one last, satisfying hurrah.

“Good Neighbors”

The Playlist: D
What happens when you’re faced with the knowledge that you’re neighbor is a serial killer? That’s the question asked in “Good Neighbours” (it’s a Canadian film, hence the spelling), the second collaboration between director Jacob Tierney and actor Jay Baruchel (they teamed on last year’s tepid “The Trotsky”), a whodunit without a mystery and a thriller missing the thrills.

“Life in a Day”

indieWIRE: B
“Life in a Day,” the Sundance-mandated project produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald, attempts to formalize multiple strands of YouTube expression into a single, cogent project. Users were invited to submit footage of their lives shot on July 24, 2010, a day of no particular consequence. Cobbled together from 4,500 hours of video submitted from 192 countries, “Life in a Day” turns July 24 into a moment of extraordinary meaning.

The Playlist: A-
“Life in a Day” is filled with moments that are hilarious (a woman yelling at her husband for being “longwinded” while he quotes Walt Whitman) and gruesome (a cow getting slaughtered, a blood fountaining from its slit throat) and heartbreaking (an upbeat Australian man, frail and in a hospital bed, talking about his heart surgery) – a truly technological, kaleidoscopic look at the lives we live. If there’s one thing you can take away from the film, without being too schmaltzy, is how similar we really all are; it doesn’t matter if you’re a Ukrainian goat herder or a fifteen-year-old American boy shaving for the first time. Without a single stitch of computer generated embroidery or movie star swagger, “Life in a Day,” even while compiled of some occasionally crummy looking footage, is easily one of the more jaw dropping movies in the theaters this summer. Uncannily pieced together by Macdonald, the film is poignant, gorgeous, and totally now.

“Point Blank”

indieWIRE: B-
Every action movie requires momentum and Fred Cavayé‘s “Point Blank” has plenty to spare. The French director’s second feature after “Anything for Her,” Cavayé only sporadically pauses to recharge and enlivens individual scenes with the spastic energy of a theme park ride. An impressive feat that relies on distraction rather than fancy effects, “Point Blank” makes it easy to get swept up and forget that it’s a very sweaty retread that’s been done many times before.

The Playlist: C-
“French thriller” is one of those phrases, like “German chocolate” and “Swedish pop record,” that inspires enthusiastic excitement even when, perhaps, it shouldn’t. Take, for example, this week’s “Point Blank,” directed by Fred Cavayé (whose “Pour Elle” was remade as Paul Haggis’ pitiable “The Next Three Days”), which from the outset seemed to carry with it all the trademarks of a great French thriller – energetic, stylish, edgy. It’s being marketed as the next “Tell No One,” Guillaume Canet‘s massive crossover hit. But unlike that film, “Point Blank” isn’t based on a best selling American novel and also, it’s just not very good.

“The Devil’s Double”

indieWIRE: D
Many of the problems with “The Devil’s Double” stem from the nature of its narrative. Clearly produced for an English-speaking audience, the movie adopts an illogical method in which characters speak English with vaguely defined “foreign” accents. That unfortunate decision only enhances a synthetic quality that dominates each scene. Cooper’s dual role is an equally transparent gimmick: The men look, unsurprisingly, like twins. The contrast provides a constant reminder that Cooper works better with soft-spoken characters and not poorly scripted “SNL” characterizations.

The Playlist: C+
In most respects, “The Devil’s Double” lacks grace or nuance, instead content to rub filth into the audience’s face, whether it be lingering over the spilled intestines of one unlucky partygoer who besmirches Hussein or pooh-poohing his addiction to transvestites. Cooper’s dedication to Hussein’s inherent unlikability only adds to the queasy factor: seeing him grope the breasts of an underaged girl is only augmented by his desperate, sad pleas of, “Beg me to fuck you.” Lee Tamahori has made a smutty exploitation picture. It’s the movie Uday Hussein deserved.

“The Future”

indieWIRE: B+
Miranda July returns to her playfully off-beat universe with her second feature, “The Future,” the writer-director-video artist’s long-awaited follow-up to 2005’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know.” Like that playful study of human behavior, the new work deals with people feeling isolated by the world around them. Simultaneously funny and sad in its evocation of an L.A.-based thirty-something couple worried about the next stages of their lives, “The Future” hits a uniquely somber note that’s more impressive on the level of mood than narrative.

The Playlist: B
The knee-jerk reaction to July, and particularly to “Me And You And Everyone We Know,” is to heap scorn at her characters, overly-poetic loners or disaffected hipsters with no real concerns. “The Future” accentuates that a bit, as July’s Sophie first couches her concerns about Paw-Paw and the world that will greet her return in statements worded as questions, much like a twelve year old hoping against hope that The Answer will come from a fusillade of questions. But July subverts the inner city detachment of her world with a dollop of magical realism – a sudden shift in perspective here, a temporal improbability there.

“The Guard”

indieWIRE: B
Brendan Gleeson soars in “The Guard,” playing a foul-mouthed Irish cop destined to offend everyone in his path, but the depth of the character overwhelms the quality of the movie about him. As the rambunctious Sergeant Gerry Boyle, Gleeson moves through each scene with a stunning duality, making his onscreen persona simultaneously charismatic and disreputable as he delivers an endless stream of risque lines. But the screenplay, by writer-director John Michael McDonagh, gives him too little to say.

Leonard Maltin
This movie made me smile and even laugh out loud. In fact, it gave me more pleasure than any aliens, robots or superheroes have all summer. That’s because it’s doggedly offbeat and completely original. It also provides a showcase for two fine actors, Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.

The Playlist: B
The perverse joke at the heart of “The Guard,” one that “Hot Fuzz” told a few years ago in between its canny genre digressions, is that Boyle is about to experience a genuine full-blown murder mystery. Galway is now ground zero for a massive multimillion dollar drug deal, one that sparks the international attention of the FBI. Enter Wendell Everett, an agent from the Midwest who is paired with Boyle in a teaming that’s oil and vinegar, if vinegar were to suddenly have chemically-volatile properties.

“The Interrupters”

indieWIRE: A-
The majority of “The Interrupters” consists of incessant chatter. Despite a handful of talking heads, James mostly just listens to the dialogue in a classic verité style, as the community activists analyze the “code of the streets” and their best means of changing it for the better. It’s no coincidence that their process of infiltration has a methodological edge. CeaseFire founder Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist with a background fighting the spread of AIDS in Africa, views Chicago street violence as a disease preventable through tactical finesse. “Violence is learned behavior,” he says. “You can judge it, but that’s not what we do in science.” The interrupters try to halt another outbreak as if gunfire were an influenza, but they have to catch the disease first in order to cure it. To quote a veteran of the cause, “You gotta immerse yourself in the bullshit.”

“The Smurfs”

The Playlist: D-
“The Smurfs” is yet another release showcased in 3D, and, in all honesty, it looks quite good. There are several foregrounded visual effects, and your children will try to reach out and grab one of the blue troublemakers. What other value the film holds for children is somewhat of a mystery. As Clumsy Smurf bemoans his place in life, it is suggested he doesn’t need to be defined as such, and he dreams about being a Hero Smurf instead. And then when he tells Grouchy Smurf that his grumpiness need not define him simply because of his name, he replies that is absolutely does. The lessons we impart. [D-]

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