In a cinematic turn of events akin to a cicada uprising (especially given our slim pickings in recent months), this week delivers no less than 10 new releases that span a number of genres, topics and stylistic approaches.
Better yet, several are actually (or look) worthwhile, headlined by a trio of smaller, character-driven films: Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre, Xavier Beauvios' Cannes-approved Of Gods and Men and Tom McCarthy's Win Win. (Read my interview with McCarthy here.)
That's supported by a trio of new efforts from directors with accomplished, if increasingly flawed, track records — Julian Schnabel's controversial Miral, David Gordon Green's Your Highness and Joe Wright's Hanna —and a hodgepodge of genre films, from an IMAX documentary about orphaned exotic animals to a remake of a semi-classic ’80s comedy to true-life biopic about a female surfer.
ARTHUR — Back in 1981, when the original Arthur with Dudley Moore hit theaters, the idea of an alcoholic cad of an heir with no ambition must have seemed adorably cute (or maybe it was the diminutive Moore who invested the character with that charmingly destructive lovability). Thirty years ago, Arthur was a spoiled drunk who needed to grow up, but now, in this remake starring Russell Brand, there’s something darker, maybe even edgier in the mix. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) —tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C
BORN TO BE WILD — Morgan Freeman narrates this brief, 3-D IMAX documentary extravaganza from director David Lickley about orphaned orangutans and elephants and the people who rescue and raise them. Tech-geek side note: Several scenes were shot using 4k digital IMAX cameras, which apparently marks their first use in any feature film. (Opens today at AMC and Showcase Springdale.) —Jason Gargano (Rated G.)
HANNA — An abstract interpretation of the Little Red Riding Hood children's horror story, Hanna is a stylized shell. Director Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) has gone astray here — sci-fi action is not a good genre for this promising filmmaker to pursue. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Cole Smithey (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C
JANE EYRE — Early spring is the ideal time for this inspired filmic rendition of Charlotte Bront's classic novel about an orphaned girl who reinvents herself in 19th-century Britain. Director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) vividly portrays the material's bleak social constraints and wistful natural surroundings. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) —CS (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B
MIRAL — Artist-turned-filmmaker Julian Schnabel follows up his Academy-endorsed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly with the story of an orphaned Palestinian schoolgirl (Freida Pinto) who turns into an unlikely activist. Schnabel’s glaring light seeks to expose the complex truth of the Palestinian situation and generally does so, despite having a less-than-compelling center in the undeniably beautiful Pinto. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tts (Rated R.) Grade: B-
THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED — Based on the essay “The Last Hippie” by Dr. Oliver Sacks, The Music Never Stopped offers up a fairly predictable medical melodrama. Producer turned first-time director Jim Kohlberg is unable to wrench much life or visual flair from this medical mystery, although it will elicit some tears from those sensitive to its emotional tugs. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) —Marjorie Baumgarten (Rated PG.) Grade: C
OF GODS AND MEN —Winner of the Grand Prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Xavier Beauvois' impressively restrained humanist drama centers on eight French Trappist monks whose faith is tested when the remote Algerian monastery in which they reside is threatened by a group of ruthless Islamic fundamentalists. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) —JG (Rated R.) Grade: B
SOUL SURFER — Co-writer and director Sean McNamara (Raise Your Voice) has the unfortunate task of following Danny Boyle’s stunning Oscar-nominated adaptation of the true story of hiker Aron Ralston who spent five days trapped in a canyon before finding the necessary intestinal fortitude to amputate his own arm in order to survive. Surfer's protagonist, Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb), has a frighteningly similar story, although hers takes place in the water, the place that seems to be her true home. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) —tts (Rated PG.) Grade: B-
YOUR HIGHNESS — Onetime indie wunderkind David Gordon Green (George Washington, All the Real Girls) continues his movie to more mainstream fare (like his recent Pineapple Express) with this incoherent period comedy starring Natalie Portman, James Franco, Danny McBride, Zooey Deschanel, Toby Jones and Justin Theroux. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) —tts (Rated R.) Grade: D-plus
WIN WIN — Tom McCarthy, the director of The Station Agent and The Visitor, screws with the typical Hollywood game plan in his latest film, tweaking the situation by blurring the genre lines, offering smartly observed humor and real-world economic and family dynamics beyond the cookie-cutter situation comedy mold. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) —tts (Rated R.) Grade: A-