This week’s new releases are a curious hodgepodge ranging from a big-budget studio retread (Fast & Furious) to an experimental feature by a 79-year-old enfant terrible (Pere Portabella's The Silence Before Bach, which opened in New York City more than a year ago). Lodged in-between is a pair of movies that debuted to mixed responses at the Sundance Film Festival (Sunshine Cleaning in 2008, Adventureland earlier this year), both of which feature strong casts and capable directors.
On the local front, Raw Stock: Celebrating Cinema in Color hits the Cincinnati Museum Center Friday-Sunday. The three-day film festival showcases the work of African-American filmmakers — of local vintage and beyond, of various styles and voices — whose work investigates issues of race, diversity and inclusion. Friday kicks off with a 7 p.m. screening of Race, a documentary about the division of the world’s people into distinct groups, and culminates with Black Is … Black Ain’t, Marlon Riggs’ powerful, thought-provoking documentary about homophobia in the black community.
Saturday features five films (from 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.), including Julie Dash’s Daughter’s of the Dust and the acclaimed PBS documentary Midnight Ramble, which looks at “race movies” from 1910 through 1950. Two films close the festival on Sunday: Daniel J. Pico’s Soldier, a “gripping narrative told entirely in performance poetry and Gaelic verse by Vietnam veteran Jason Wittman,” and Ethnic Notions, another powerful Riggs’ documentary that takes on deep-rooted stereotypes.
All screenings, which include post-screening discusses, take place at the Museum Center’s Reakirt Auditorium. Single tickets are $10 per film; $5 for students and seniors. A festival pass, good for all films and festivities, is $75. For more information, call 513-287-7001.
ADVENTURELAND — Writer/director Greg Mattola follows his surprise hit Superbad and indie favorite The Daytrippers with this coming-of-age comedy inspired by his own personal reminiscence from the summer of 1987. Stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated R.) Grade: B
FAST & FURIOUS — Things come full circle in the fourth installment of this popular car-centric action series: All four of the original film’s central actors (Jordana Brewster, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Paul Walker) return — a sign of the quartet’s desperate need for a successful project and Universal Pictures’ naked attempt at box-office déja vu. Justin Lin, director of the third installment, is also back, and with one goal in mind: To induce a boner from car geeks the world over. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.
SUNSHINE CLEANERS — Amy Adams and Emily Blunt play sisters who, stuck in dead-end jobs, decide to start a business cleaning up blood- and grime-laden crime scenes. Christine Jeffs, whose 2003 Sylvia Plath biopic had its moments, directs a script by Megan Holley set in the modern-day American Southwest. The impressive cast also includes Steve Zahn, Alan Arkin as the duo’s crusty dad and Clifton Collins Jr. as a reserved shopkeeper who tells the sisters how to get rid of body parts. Sunshine Cleaners garnered a mixed response upon its debut at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival — likely one of multiple reasons this indie effort has taken so long to reach the marketplace, and without so much as an advanced screening. That said, I’d watch the irresistible Adams do just about anything, including scoop up brain fragments. (Opens Friday at Esquire Theatre and Kenwood Towne Centre.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon.
THE SILENCE BEFORE BACH — Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman calls 79-year-old Spanish director Pere Portabella’s latest effort a “high-toned experimental feature that eschews narrative and ponders the social history of music. … The Silence Before Bach is not only very civilized — this cool, deliberate film suggests that Bach’s music is the quintessence of European civilization.” Count me intrigued. (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — JG (Not Rated.) Review coming soon.