As we transition into the unofficial start of autumn, the films take on a similarly seasonal tone, ranging from somber to bleak. Larceny, inebriation, lechery, and gore pepper this weekend’s releases, creating a veritable smorgasbord of tributes to deadly sinning. There’s also the odd comedy, sure, but even they seem to have dipped into the dark debauchery bucket for inspiration. But don’t fret too much, friends: if you’re starting to feel SADD, there’s always the IMAX/3D rerelease of your favorite childhood action flick to patron. Enjoy!
“The Words,” written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, gets our vote this week for Best Use of Convoluted Formatting. Novelist Clay (Dennis Quaid) has written a book. As he reads passages aloud, the film flashes to a depiction of that novel: Rory (Bradley Cooper), himself an aspiring writer, has received acclaim for publishing a manuscript he didn’t compose. As the fame and fortune build, an elderly gentleman (Jeremy Irons) comes a-calling, explaining that he both lived and wrote the story that Rory’s taking credit for. So then the film tells his story – an American soldier falls in love with a French girl – in flashback. And then we’re back in Clay and Rory’s presents, dealing with the consequences of plagiarism and overblown ambition. If you’re still with us, Zoe Saldana and Olivia Wilde co-star. Our review credits the writing team with keeping this complex story structure coherent, but says, “even with a litany of great performances, many of which elevate characters that definitely need but are undeserving of the actors’ remarkable efforts, Klugman and Sternthal create a narrative tapestry without successfully binding it to an emotional one.” Metacritic: 40 Rotten Tomatoes: 16%
“The Inbetweeners,” from Ben Palmer, is a big-screen version of the UK television program (and now MTV spinoff) about four typically obnoxious, hormone-racked, irreverent high school boys. In case you’ve been fiending for an “American Pie” reboot. Simon (Joe Thomas), Will (Simon Bird), Jay (James Buckley), and Neil (Blake Harrison) are celebrating their high school graduation with a decadent romp through Spain. Their single-minded agenda: get drunk and sleep with as many women as possible. Conveniently, they meet up with a foursome of traveling females who are, with equal handiness, perfectly matched to each of the protagonists. Which just goes to show one only needs travel to Europe to find a soul mate. Our review acknowledges the comic talents of the male leads but declares, “here’s the same slop you’ve seen before, only with brand new accents. Also, more pooping.” MC: 42 RT: 58%
Hallelujah! Thanks to the Leslye Headland-written and -directed “Bachelorette,” we finally get to see what those guys from “The Hangover” were doing when were actually drunk/drugged. If they had been women and had a plan, that is. Three bridesmaids (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher) accidentally rip their friend’s (Rebel Wilson) wedding dress on the eve of her nuptials. Bummer. Determined not to ruin the special day, the trio spends the rest of the night on a frenzied quest to get the gown repaired, fueled only by cocaine, profanity, and sexual innuendo. Awesome! James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheim, and Hayes MacArthur co-star as members of the concurrent bachelor party. Our review praises the female performers, particularly “scene stealer” Wilson, but admits the movie “does suffer from some pacing and tonal issues,” deducing, “with a little more finesse, ‘Bachelorette’ could be the raucous female-led comedy it strives to be.” MC: 49 RT: 48%
Paco Plaza’s “[REC]3 Genésis,” the third installment of the Spanish zombie series, runs a parallel narrative to its predecessors and forgoes their found-footage technique for a more traditional format. Cue sigh of relief. When zombies invade their wedding, newlyweds Clara (Leticia Dolera) and Koldo (Diego Martin) are separated, so spend the next 70 minutes trying to reunite. And survive. Lots of wedding guests die, but hey – that means fewer thank you cards. Plus side! Our review admires the character portraits and “the emotional soundness of the romantic comedy at the heart of ‘[REC]3,’“ calling the film “genuinely fresh and new, a bold and brazen comment on the found-footage genre and a supremely entertaining horror comedy.” MC: 41 RT: 41%
Also hitting select theaters this weekend is “Hello I Must Be Going,” from director Todd Louiso. Fresh out of a marriage, 35-year-old Amy (Melanie Lynskey) moves in with her parents (John Rubenstein and Blythe Danner) to cope with the heartbreak and paperwork of her impending divorce. The situation is far less than ideal, but takes an interesting turn when Amy takes 19-year-old Jeremy (Christopher Abbott) as her rebound lover. Even more interesting: Jeremy’s the son of one of her father’s clients. Our review commends the performances and concludes, “warm and funny, real and raw, ‘Hello I Must Be Going’ deserves a hearty welcome from moviegoers looking for an honest and frank comedy that never forgets to help us care about its characters.” MC: 58 RT: 67%
Ira Sachs’ “Keep the Lights On” follows a relationship from its inception, culminating at the moment the two partners must decide whether or not to keep trying to make it work. Erik (Thure Lindhart) inadvertently meets Paul (Zachary Booth) while looking for a quick hook up, and the sparks between them fly immediately. As their relationship grows, the issues between them grow understandably more intense, until 10 years have passed and the couple may not be all that they once were. Our review calls the film “especially accomplished,” noting, “Sachs pulls no punches and, with the exception of one weak scene, never over-emphasizes a single moment as the definitive make-or-break point for his main couple. Every moment is poignant and significant in some way, even the small ones.” MC: 82 RT: 86%
The documentary “Beauty is Embarrassing” relates the story of multimedia artist Wayne White. Though best known for his work as a designer and puppeteer on “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” in the late 1980s, White’s career had a second renaissance several years ago, when he left entertainment for the fine art circle. The film alternates between scenes of the artist working in the present (highlight alert: he builds a puppet of Lyndon Johnson) and stories of and reflections on his past. Our review says, “director Neil Berkeley has created a loving portrait of this man, and while the end is a joyous romp through his life, you kind of wonder what the end message is. We love the guy, you don’t have to keep convincing us. But if it lacks a specific call to action or neat wrap up at the end, the film is still an inspiring look at an artist who lives beauty to the fullest, even if it is embarrassing.” MC: no score yet RT: 100%
“Girl Model,” directed by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, follows a modeling scout as she combs Siberia for new talent that she hopes will translate to the Japanese market. This scenario is undoubtedly bleak (the drab, austere setting alone is plenty harsh), but it also has tinges of hope: working abroad may provide financial and physical independence for the young Russian girls, opportunities that would be unavailable to them in their hometowns. The scout, also named Ashley, is a former model, and her prominent role in the documentary offers a unique perspective on the meat market nature of the work it’s detailing. Our review asserts, “Ashley is among the more interesting characters to emerge in recent documentary cinema,” and calls the film “inevitable and bleak” and an “eye-opener.” MC: 68 RT: 89%
Also opening this weekend:
When his family suddenly disappears, Henry Cavill and his father, Bruce Willis, have to face the “Cold Light of Day,” in which the pair is running from both Israeli intelligence agents and the CIA headed by Sigourney Weaver. MC: no score yet RT: 8%
“Branded” takes places in a dystopian society where conglomerates have absolute power, and keep the world’s population submissive and unaware through a mind invasion conspiracy. But fear not: Ed Stoppard is here to save the world from corporate mental branding! Jeffrey Tambor, Leelee Sobieski, and Max Von Sydow also star. MC: n/a RT: no reviews yet
“The Eye of the Storm,” in which Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis grudgingly return to their childhood home in Sydney to cement their inheritances before the imminent death of their mother, Charlotte Rampling. MC: 55 RT: 64%
And, finally, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is being rereleased in IMAX. Relive the adventure, intrigue, romance, and snakes as Indy tries to secure the Ark of the Covenant before it falls into the hands of the Nazis, who believe the relic will render them invincible. MC: 90 (original release) RT: 94%
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