Blancanieves – Snow White en español, re-telling of a Grimm Fairy Tale in beautiful black and white photography by Kiko de la Rica and scored by Alfonso de Vilallonga. It was last year’s entry for the Foreign Film Oscar from Spain, but it will no doubt be called this year’s The Artist. Set in 1920s Spain, a young girl grows up with just a Father and learns his craft as a bullfighter. Hated and driven out by her evil stepmother, she joins a troop of traveling dwarves and becomes the most famous bullfighter in Spain. Performances from Ángela Molina, Maribel Verdu, and Daniel Giménez Cacho. Written and directed by Pablo Berger, Cohen Media Group is giving this a limited release.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation – Trying to recapture the spirit of the animated series that we all fell in love with so many years ago, G.I. Joe introduces two new actors to the franchise, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Roadblock and Bruce Willis as General Joe. They really could have done worse. Cobra is back and they have taken over the government, now the Joes have it coming at from all sides. Don’t worry, in the end might makes right and the world is safe for another day. It would be news if it wasn’t. Co-starring Channing Tatum, Adrianne Palicki, and Jonathan Pryce. Script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and directed by Jon Chu. Out in wide release this Thursday from Paramount and MGM Studios.
The Host – For Twilight fans, Stephanie Meyer is back! Instead of vampires and werewolves, the world has been inhabited by an alien race that lives inside our bodies. You can tell who is a human and who isn’t by how their eyes reflect light (Meyer really has a thing for the eyes), but these aliens are having a problem adapting to the emotions that humans harbor. Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) joins a small but effective human resistance and of course she manages to fall in love while trying to save mankind. Supporting performances from Max Irons, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, and Jake Able. Written for the screen and directed by Andrew Niccol, Open Road Films gives this a nice wide release this Friday.
Mental – The writer/director and star of the excellent Muriel’s Wedding re-team to make another Australian suburban comedy. The Moochmore’s have a problem, Dad is having an affair and that has driven Mom off her rocker. Her daughters, all five of them, have some form of mental issues as well, and dear old Dad has no idea how to cope with any of this nonsense, so he picks up a hitchhiker and hires her to be the Nanny. Not a great idea, and it all goes batty from there. Manic, vibrant, insane, and just all around silly, here is the kind of fun those gross-out comedies wish they were having. Starring Toni Collette, Liev Schreiber, Anthony LaPaglia, Kerry Fox, Rebecca Gibney, and Caroline Goodall. Written and directed by P.J. Hogan and in limited released through Universal Pictures.
The Place Beyond the Pines – Here is another re-teaming for the week: the writer/director and star of Blue Valentine join forces once more for another look at the dark undercurrents that shape our lives. Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt motorcyclist who robs a bank to provide for his child. Avery (Bradley Cooper) is a cop investigating the robbery. Their lives twist and tangle in very unpleasant ways, and for them to hurt the other, they will hurt themselves. The actions that they take today will have lasting and damaging effects on the lives of their children’s tomorrow. Tread lightly boys. Supporting performances from Ray Liotta, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, and Ben Mendlesohn. Written Derek Cianfrance and Ben Coccio and directed by Cianfrance and out in limited release from Focus Features.
Renoir – In 1915 the great impressionistic painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet) was 74 and in declining health. Living on the French Riviera, he sought a new model, a young girl to bring life back into his paintings. Enter the beautiful and captivating, Andrée (Christa Theret), who would be Renoir’s last model. Then the son, Jean (Vincent Rottiers), returns home and he has not yet given up on the war. Jean has another passion in his life, cinema, and Andrée finds him all the more captivating. Andrée enters both of their lives and drives a wedge between them. Life, love, art, war, all are synonyms for French. A lush and beautiful film from Gilles Bourdos and out in limited release from Samuel Goldwyn Films. My review.
Room 237 – What does a movie mean to you? For some, it is a piece of entertainment. For others, it is a way to understand and connect with the human condition. For a few, it is a puzzle box that must be unlocked. In 1980, Stanley Kubrick gave us The Shining, a horror film unlike any other. For the past thirty years, some have grappled with it in ways that border on and slip into obsession. Here we have a group of Shining devotees who have studied the film front to back, inside and out, and claim to have unlocked the dark secrets and hidden messages that Kubrick stuck in there. They are conspiracy theorists of cinema. Any of us who love a particular film to this level will recognize how we can take understanding to bizarre and deranged areas. Directed by Rodney Ascher and out in limited release from IFC Midnight Films. Review
Temptation – Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is working as a marriage counselor when in walks Mr. Right, Harley (Robbie Jones). Harley is good-looking, caring, compassionate, emotional, and most importantly, extremely wealthy and successful. Judith has been married to Brice (Lance Gross) for sixteen years, and their marriage isn’t going south, but it is going in separate directions. Harley represents what could be, and Brice represents what has been. To whom do pledge your allegiance? What’s a girl to do? How fitting that this movie comes out on Good Friday. Quite the departure for writer/producer/director Tyler Perry, Lionsgate gives this a wide release.
Welcome to the Punch – Max (James McAvoy) is a London Detective who has been hunting Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong) all his career. You could say he is a modern-day Captain Ahab, or you could say that he needs a hobby. Either way, it’s going to have to wait just a little bit longer, because a special turn of events have brought Sternwood out of hiding and back to London for one last job. Here is Max’s chance to finally catch the White Whale and close a major chapter of his past. Also stars Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey, Peter Mullan, and Elyes Gable. Written and directed by Eran Creevy and out in limited release from IFC Films.
Wrong – Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) wakes up one fateful morning and finds that his beloved pooch, Paul, has gone missing. Nothing else in his life is worthwhile, and Dolph goes on a physical and metaphysical journey to recover and reunite with Paul. This journey will take him into a world of bizarre characters, there is the promiscuous pizza-delivery girl (Alexis Dziena), a pet detective (Steve Little), and an acid scarred guru (William Fichtner). Not your usual fare by a long shot. This one was written and directed by Quentin Dupieux and is getting a limited release from Drafthouse Films this Friday, but is already available via VOD. Indulge yourself.