Attack the Block
See review this issue. Lloyd Cinemas.
I doubt this is much of a shock, but Colombiana sucks. To be fair, it sucks the same way a Jason Statham movie sucks. So if you find yourself cheering when a burly bald man strangles another man with an oily T-shirt, why not a hot chick murdering dirtbags with a toothbrush? JAMIE S. RICH Cornelius Stadium Cinemas.
Conan the Barbarian
If you're going to make a shitty remake of Conan the Barbarian, you might as well hire a guy who has a long, rich history of shitty remakes. The newest film to be based on Robert E. Howard's muscle-bound Cimmerian thug is directed by Marcus Nispel, the German director whose résumé also includes recent shitty versions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and Frankenstein. Here, Nispel has made a meandering, noisy, predictable fantasy movie that wants to possess both the brutal viciousness of the original Conan stories and the plucky, lighthearted air of a Cher video. (Oh, Nispel also directed a few Cher videos, none of which are the Cher videos you remember.) NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Bernardo Bertolucci's 1970 drama. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.
The Debt opens in 1997, as Israeli journalist Sarah Gold (Romi Aboulafia) debuts a book chronicling the heroic 1966 capture of Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) by three young Mossad agents. Two of them are her parents: Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren) and Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson). The third, David Peretz (Ciarán Hinds), has just stepped in front of an oncoming truck. As it quickly becomes apparent, there's a secret lurking behind the incident, for which all three agents have been treated as national heroes. In its longest and best chunk, The Debt jumps back to tell the true story of what happened, as the agents hole up in an East Berlin apartment practicing combat moves and love triangulations, awaiting their cues to strike. (The younger versions of the characters are played by Jessica Chastain as Rachel, Marton Csokas as Stephan, and Sam Worthington as David.) The Debt has plenty of riveting, pulse-quickening scenes, and it's worth watching for its entertainment value alone, but like its bungling protagonists, it stops short of being truly heroic. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark has Guillermo del Toro's fingerprints all over it. But those brilliant fingers were in a dozen other pies when he was originally slated to helm Dark, so he handed the directing duties over to first-timer Troy Nixey. And boy, does it have elements right out of The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth: the exploration of a creepy new home, spooky set pieces, a child in a supernatural thrall, neglectful parents. While Dark never hits the highs of a true del Toro picture, it's a pretty decent facsimile. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
"Maybe it was a pervert or a deformed kid or something." Hollywood Theatre.
Filmusik: Starman—Attack of the Evil Brain from Outer Space
A screening of the Japanese flick Starman—Attack of the Evil Brain from Outer Space, accompanied by live electronic music from Heather Perkins. Hollywood Theatre.
A screening of 1927's Underworld, with live music from Jazz West Multiverse. Hollywood Theatre.
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
See review this issue. Cinema 21.
A new Irish film directed by John Michael McDonagh. Brendan Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a cop drifting along the surface of small-town crime fighting, lifting drugs from crime scenes and generally pursuing incompetence as the most convenient course of action. Cue the entrance of a relentlessly competent FBI agent (Don Cheadle) who provides an odd-couple foil for the provincial, kinda-racist Gerry. The plot lands somewhere between Hot Fuzz and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call—New Orleans, but like those films, The Guard is defined by a sense of humor that's all its own. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
The directorial debut of Vera Farmiga, Higher Ground is based on the memoir This Dark World: A Story of Faith Found and Lost by Caroline Briggs. Farmiga stars as protagonist Corinne, a bookish girl who shotgun marries her high school boyfriend. The young couple becomes consumed in the hippie Christian community, eating carob brownies at Bible study groups. The prairie-bloused Corinne quietly struggles at turns with the church's institutional patrimony, the loss of her closest friend, marital strain, and doubts of faith. This subject matter is thoughtful and sensitive, and were it not for the exceptional performances Farmiga has teased from herself and the rest of the cast, it would teeter on boring. But she's created some of the warmest and most sincere depictions of the female experience to have flickered across an American screen in some time. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
A three-part, four-hour-long documentary about Boyd Rice, "The Godfather of Noise Music." Clinton Street Theater.
Kung Fu Theater: Snake in the Monkey's Shadow
The 1979 kung fu flick—presented as a 35mm print from Quentin Tarantino's personal collection. Hollywood Theatre.
The Last Circus
Fellini meets Zack Snyder in this weird-ass clown movie from Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia. In 1937, a circus clown is conscripted into the Spanish Civil War, where he mows down an entire platoon clad in a baby-doll dress and blonde ringlet wig. Thirty-six years later, Javier (Carlos Areces), his pudgy nebbish son, joins a circus as a sad clown, foil to a violent alpha clown named Sergio (Antonio de la Torre), who beats his acrobat girlfriend (Carolina Bang) and drunkenly rules the big top. The Last Circus is a stylish and baroque glut of violence and sex, filled with strange and memorable moments (clowns with machine guns!), but it lacks a certain emotional anchor—it's far too concerned with melodrama and meandering revenge. But for the love of all things fucked up, you should probably still go see this thing. COURTNEY FERGUSON Hollywood Theatre.
The Names of Love
A French romcom about a flighty young woman—so flighty she occasionally forgets to put on clothes! Imagine that!—who wages a one-woman war against "facism" by sleeping with, and then converting, right-wing politicians. It's a rare film that manages to be at once exhaustingly precious and irritatingly strident, but The Names of Love pulls it off. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Fast paced and crisply edited, the French thriller Point Blank's remarkably boilerplate in a lot of ways—a (pregnant) damsel in distress! An ordinary man forced into extraordinary circumstances! A tough-as-nails-but-well-meaning cop who might be an ally to our troubled hero!—but director Fred Cavayé doesn't waste much time in turning those clichés on their head, or, barring that, at least milking them for all they're worth. This is the increasingly rare kind of thriller that realizes its chief priority should be, y'know, thrills. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
The River Why
An extremely boring film adaptation of a 1983 novel with the same title. It's got the kid who played Matt Saracen on Friday Nights Lights as Gus, a young adult who ditches the pressures of his fishing-obsessed family by... going fishing. (Dude is a shitty escapist.) The movie is set in Oregon, so that was pretty and fun to see, but it sucked otherwise. The plot was like this: FISHING FISHING William Hurt in a bow tie, FISHING, love interest who also FISHES, dead guy, MORE FUCKING FISHING. I drank a lot to try to make this movie more fun and then fell asleep before it was over. William Hurt and Zach Gilford in attendance on Friday, September 9. ELINOR JONES Hollywood Theatre.
Over the angry, desperate whine of open-throttled Formula One engines, Senna blisters with a jarring intensity. Asif Kapadia's documentary follows the career of determined F1 racer Ayrton Senna—a little-known figure here, given America's general preference for hillbilly-pandering NASCAR, but a national hero in his native Brazil. Senna's career was, to say the least, impressive: After starting off as a speed-obsessed rich kid zipping around goofy little racetracks on goofy little karts, Senna's skill eventually landed him a spot on the McLaren Formula One team, where he'd go on to win three F1 World Championships by the time he was 31. Years later, any look at Senna's career is one that can't help but include highs, lows, and a dark sense of foreboding—but where Kapadia's Senna succeeds is in how immediately visceral it makes these proceedings. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
See review this issue. Various Theaters.