The local cinematic universe gets a much-needed shot of adrenaline this week. Even the Hollywood studio efforts look palatable.
Sony Pictures Classics, perhaps the last of the big independently minded distributors that is still a vital entity, continues its recent string of worthwhile offerings (like An Education, Broken Embraces, Coco Before Chanel, The White Ribbon and The Last Station) with a pair of anticipated releases: Atom Egoyan’s Chloe and Jacques Audiard’s acclaimed French crime epic, A Prophet.
Then there’s the latest from writer/director Noah Baumbach, Greenberg, another lo-fi, emotionally awkward ode to the burgeoning Mumblecore movement made palatable by the ever-intriguing presence of that genre’s actress du jour, Greta Gerwig. It seems her naturalistic approach has rubbed off on co-star Ben Stiller, who gives his best performance in at least a decade. (Read tt stern-enzi’s review here.)
Finally, I’m uncommonly geeked for Hot Tub Time Machine, whose genius premise involves a hot tub filled with a yellow energy drink that transport its inhabitants back to the 1980s. As a perpetually nostalgic child of that glorious era — I recently completed my vintage collection of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! comics — one word comes immediately to mind: Yes!
CHLOE — You couldn't hope for a higher caliber sexploitation movie than Chloe, even if the sex thriller falls flatter than a day-old quiche. Atom Egoyan rekindles his lurking soft-core desires with a tawdry script by Eric Cressida Wilson, whose 2002 film Secretary transcended a cultural movement of sexual identity. Stars Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried and Liam Neeson. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at AMC and Esquire Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Rated R.) Grade: C
GREENBERG — Writer-director Noah Baumbach returns to the uncomfortable emotional territory of his recent fare The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding. Stars Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans and Jennifer Jason Leigh. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated R.) Grade: A-
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE — Four pals discover a time machine in their hot tub and use it to revisit the 1980s, when life was simpler and hair was worse. This so-absurd-it-could-be-brilliant comedy stars John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson. Do you think when Cusack goes back he becomes Lloyd Dobler or Lane Meyer? Cusack buddy Steve Pink directs. (Opens wide today.) — Rodger Pille (Rated R.) Review coming soon
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON — Based on Cressida Cowell’s book, the 3-D-fortified Dragon follows a young Viking named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) who tries to change his history of wimpy incompetence by bringing down one of his town’s marauding dragons with his new invention, only to find he’s more interested in befriending the creature than slaying it. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated PG.) Grade: B-
A PROPHET — Unrelentingly intense from start to finish, Jacques Audiard’s bold examination of the modern-day French prison system hinges on its central character’s transformation from an ignorant submissive criminal into an intelligent dominant force. For much of the story impressive newcomer Tahar Rahim plays petty Arab criminal Malik El Djebena with such thin-skinned transparency that it’s agonizing to watch. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — CS (Rated R.) Grade: A
THAT EVENING SUN — Hal Hoolbrook stars as Abner Meecham, an elderly Tennessee farmer relegated to a nursing home by his well-meaning but emotionally clueless son (Walt Goggins), in this drama from writer/director Scott Teems. Mia Wasikowska, Barry Corbin, Ray McKinnon and Carrie Preston. (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon