With what is likely to be the summer’s biggest box-office splash (Michael Bay’s latest Transformers outing), high-profile drama (Michael Mann’s Johnny Depp-led Public Enemies) and satirical (and likely controversial) comedy (Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno) looming in the near future, we actually have a solid collection of new releases this week, led by a pair of art-house gems and what looks to be a surprisingly effective romantic comedy.
Meanwhile, Jack Black’s latest, Year One, doesn’t look destined to reverse his recent slide into one-note mediocrity. Yes, it’s been diminishing returns ever since his refreshingly madcap breakthrough performance in 2000’s High Fidelity (though I admit that Richard Linklater’s School of Rock utilized his skills to maximum effect, and I didn’t mind his manic presence in Peter Jackson’s otherwise overripe King Kong remake). Side note: Does anyone remember his tiny, wild-eyed performance in Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts, a criminally under-seen political satire from 1992?
Tangentially, onetime Black costar Steve Zahn — they headlined the abominable Saving Silverman back in 2001 — is also in a new movie this week, an obtuse little drama that would seem perfect for his oddball charms. Alas, Management only manages mediocrity.
EVERY LITTLE STEP — Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern’s superb, inspiring and light-on-its-feet documentary conveys not only the sense of mission that led choreographer/director Michael Bennett to first create A Chorus Line in 1975 but also why it has endured. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — Steven Rosen (Rated PG-13.) Grade: A
GOODBYE SOLO — As William, a taciturn senior who seems to be planning for his final days, veteran actor and former Elvis Presley driver Red West takes center stage in Goodbye Solo, the third feature co-written and directed by Ramin Bahrani, who, at 34, has quietly emerged as one of the major figures in the American independent film scene. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens Friday at Esquire Theatre.) — Scott Foundas (Rated R.) Grade: A
MANAGEMENT — Writer/director Stephen Belber’s off-kilter comedy feels uncommonly slight, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise — it’s based on his own one-act play. Steve Zahn is Mike, a sweet-natured but socially stunted night manager at his parents’ motel in suburban Arizona. Things change when he eyes Sue (Jennifer Aniston), a tightly wound traveling saleswoman who’s stunted in her own way. The two lost souls unexpectedly bond via a series of awkward encounters — all which stretch believability — culminating in a round of sex in the motel’s laundry room. And that’s just the beginning of Management’s farfetched plot turns. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Grade: C
THE PROPOSAL — The filmmakers behind this romantic comedy didn't even try to find a new premise; they found something that had worked before and changed a few of the other details. The fact that it actually worked again says everything about the virtues of simple execution. Stars Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B
YEAR ONE — Director Harold Ramis presents gags wrapped around biblical stories that should be funny, but there’s no point. If Year One, which stars Jack Black and Michael Cera, truly documented our first year upright, then six months in we might have been extinct and I can’t say anyone who sits through this movie would argue with that. (Opens wide today.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D-