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

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

While “Captain America” is set to duke it out with “Harry Potter” this weekend in the multiplexes, the high-profile Sundance sensation “Another Earth” (starring buzzed about newcomer Brit Marling), the SXSW winner “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” and the Holocaust drama “Sarah’s Key” will be vying to make a dent at the indie box-office. Want to know what’s worth seeing? Check out all the reviews published this week on indieWIRE and our Blog Network below.

“Another Earth”

indieWIRE – B
As a low budget sci-fi production, “Another Earth” makes the last major achievement of that genre on a small scale, Duncan Jones’s “Moon, look like a studio product by comparison. Shot on digital video and noticeably rough around the edges, Cahill has a vision that outweighs his resources. However, with a premise that defies the laws of physics and themes that are more metaphysical than cosmological, “Another Earth” is not exclusively intended for space junkies. Even the amateur, on-the-nose pontifications can turn legitimately compelling within the context of single scene, and the compelling final shot smartly introduces a new element that redefines everything preceding it. It turns out that the real point of “Another Earth” is to investigate the meaning of this one.

“The Myth of the American Sleepover”

indieWIRE – A-
Taking place over the course of a single night in suburban Michigan, “The Myth of the American Sleepover” focuses on several horny youths struggling through moments of romantic despair. There are actually two sleepovers in question: A school-mandated freshman orientation sleepover taking place in the high school gym and a naughtier house party hosted by a girl none of the young protagonists know too well. The settings are merely backdrops that present a handful of teens whose experiences continuously weave together and break apart.

Following multiple characters through the evening and into early morning, “Myth” demands comparisons to “American Graffiti” and “Dazed and Confused,” of course, but this is no era-defining nostalgia piece of the same ilk. As far as I can tell it’s not intended to be overtly retro, though I cannot recall a cell phone or computer visible throughout the film. Boys look attentively at porno mags as though the Internet doesn’t exist yet, and phone numbers are written in ink onto arms rather than digitally into address book apps. It feels current yet timeless, and that’s very likely the intention. The title, as well as one conversation in the film, do point to an idea of general memory and sentimentalization of childhood, particularly the formative ages. We all miss the playgrounds and the slumber parties, regretting what could have been or romanticizing what was, even when we’re still in the early years.

The Playlist – B+
When you’re a teenager, the last days of summer take on a kind of sanctified status – responsibilities loom ahead and the dog days are behind you. David Robert Mitchell’s tender, observant debut feature “The Myth Of The American Sleepover” follows several young souls in a listless suburban town that seems to stretch on for miles and miles of pale blue roads and identical picket fence houses. Over the course of a single night, a substantial (and almost uniformly Caucasian) cast of non-professional actors spills out across town to a host of sleepovers, hangouts by the lake and whatever soul searching they manage to salvage.

“Sarah’s Key”

indieWIRE – C
The time-hopping structure may function better in novel form, but “Sarah’s Key” relies on a cross-cutting strategy that overstates its purpose. The zero-sum result is neither the journalistic investigation nor Sarah’s dramatic escape commands the weight it needs. “Each generation needs its movie,” Paquet-Brenner recently told the New York Times, but “Sarah’s Key” fails to unlock the secret of what that movie might be. The search continues.

Leonard Maltin
Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner adapted the novel, in collaboration with Serge Joncour, and made a crucial decision not to sentimentalize the material. It’s precisely because the parallel stories—modern-day and wartime—unfold in straightforward, even understated, fashion that the movie works so well. It’s left to us in the audience to respond in our own way, and I’m sure I’m not the only one whose emotions will be stirred.

“Sarah’s Key” goes out of its way to bring the emotional significance of the Holocaust into the 21st Century. The result is a narrative that seems to lack confidence in itself, driving its point home over and over again and thereby counteracting any poignant moments it may have created in its opening sequences. Yet it does raise an important question. How much do we need writers and filmmakers to hold our hand in order for us to relate to this increasingly distant tragedy?

“Friends with Benefits”

Leonard Maltin
But guess what? Friends with Benefits really is a Hollywood romantic comedy, protests notwithstanding. It’s a little brighter than most, and a lot franker about sex, both visually and verbally, but it still follows a familiar pattern, so why try to deny it?

The Playlist – C+
Yes, there is another movie that “Friends with Benefits,” the new R-rated rom-com starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, closely resembles. As seemingly endless articles, rants, and cleverly edited YouTube videos can attest, both the plot (about a pair of young, emotionally distant urban professionals looking for physical satisfaction over romantic completion) is strikingly similar to Ivan Reitman‘s lame duck comedy “No Strings Attached” (which opened earlier this year and, like ‘Friends,’ even sports a “Black Swan” ballerina in Natalie Portman). But in a weird way “Friends with Benefits” is reminiscent of another, entirely different movie – Wes Craven‘s “Scream.”

“Captain America: The First Avenger”

Caryn James
The least you can expect from a superhero is that he’ll be colorful and more dynamic than real life – it’s pretty much the job requirement – but if there is a more homogenized, blander hero than the new Captain America, I haven’t encountered him.

The Playlist – B
Well-paced, classical in nature, and featuring a completely different setting—the 1940s during WWII which makes it a big tonal departure from other Marvel Films—“Captain America: The First Avenger,” is a relatively muscular and sturdy super-hero tale which is sometimes facile, but effective enough to meet most of its goals and aims.

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