Opens Fri July 20
There are 40 million sheep in New Zealand, and four million people. These are not good odds.
Horror comedy Black Sheep begins with a young boy killing his little brothers' pet sheep and wearing its wooly, bloody pelt. By the time the film wraps up, its protagonists (well-meaning Kiwis, for the most part) have waded through rotting medical waste, been attacked by half-aborted sheep fetuses, blown the brains out of more than a few lambs, and sprouted hooves and wool of their own (don't ask). Meanwhile, the film's antagonists (fluffy, cute, vicious, bloodthirsty sheep) have gnawed through necks, torn out ropy intestines, bitten off limbs, broken through doors, and learned what "animal husbandry" means to lonely, rural New Zealanders.
Black Sheep is unashamedly goofy and light, with a far greater emphasis on jokes than frights—that said, Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop goes all out, producing enough graphic, squirting, and stretching gore (both sheep and human) to remind one of Jackson's Dead Alive. The gruesome gore is pretty entertaining, as are a few clever lines of dialogue. But mostly, it's the simple sight of murderous sheep—whether they're grazing ominously or swarming en masse over New Zealand's once-green, now-crimson farmland—that makes Black Sheep so much fun. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Opens Fri July 20
André (Jamel Debbouze) is a fuck-up, a compulsive gambler who's so deep in debt that one day he decides to throw himself in a river. His incompetence, though, is such that he can't even kill himself properly: Instead, he winds up saving a fellow jumper, a tall, beautiful blonde named Angela (Rie Rasmussen).
Angela becomes André's unexpected ally, blithely trading her body for cash and influence if it will help André settle his debts. Angela is, of course, an angel, and the first half of Luc Besson's latest film gleefully explores the idea of a promiscuous, chain-smoking guardian angel who specializes in kicking ass and taking names.
But once André realizes that money and influence are nothing without self-respect, the film takes an utterly bizarre turn. More bizarre than an angel who fucks in club bathrooms for cash? Yes: Turns out Angela's practically a walking self-help book, and that her ultimate objective is to help André learn to love himself.
In the "self-actualization" genre, Angel-A is an unusual entry. It's disappointing, though, that instead of its initial inclinations—as an unusual gangster comedy, or even an improbable romance—Besson instead crams all of the film's odd angles and unusual shapes into such a tidy, formulaic package. ALISON HALLETT
Opens Fri July 20
Whatever else you might say about Joshua—Hollywood's latest "baby sociopath" horror film—it at least appears that director George Ratliff has done his homework. Over the course of its surprisingly draining hour and 45, he's careful to pack in every overly familiar staple of the kiddie psycho sub-genre. This kid's got it all: preternatural intelligence, an obsessively groomed appearance, classical piano training, a penchant for hiding in darkened doorways and waiting for somebody—anybody—to scare the shit out of. Hell, he even calls his parents (Vera Farmiga and Sam "Even I Can't Save This Thing" Rockwell) "Mommy" and "Daddy" in a creepy kid voice. (Just once I'd like to see a snotty, Kool-Aid-stained, thoroughly unsuccessful toddler sociopath in a movie... but I digress.)
Add to that the "more cowbell!" ap-proach of the relentless dissonant piano plinking that accents every scene change, every close-up of Junior, basically every step the kid takes, and by the half-hour mark it's not the suspense that was killing me—it was the struggle for anything that resembled it. By the time the third act drops with some genuinely creepy stuff, it's too little too late—and to top it all off? The film ends with the kinder-creep singing a song penned by DAVE MATTHEWS. On second thought, maybe it was a little scary. ZAC PENNINGTON