Scattershot and comically unbalanced, 'Cirque du Freak' is a wannabe fantasy horror film that feels like it was shot underwater. Teenage best friends Steve (Josh Hutcherson) and Darren (Chris Massoglia) buy their way into a troop of freaks performing one show at their local small-town theater. 'Cirque du Freak' is an obvious grab at the current vampire-crazed teen audience spawned by the Twilight franchise. Grade: C-.
Further evidence that Henry Jaglom's filmmaking career is on its last gasp, 'Irene in Time' is an all too prosaic story about Irene (Tanna Frederick), an emotional basket case attempting to resolve burning questions about her abandoning father so that she might be able to sustain a romantic relationship of her own. Grade: C-.
In fulfilling its blatantly exploitative title, director Cyrus Nowrasteh crafts a prosaic telling of the brutal 1986 murder of an Iranian family woman, as orchestrated by her own husband in the interest of avoiding divorce payments and running off with a teenaged girl. Grade: C-.
Winner of the 2008 Oscar for Best Foreign Picture, 'Departures' is director Yojiro Takita's emotionally rich story about a world-class cellist who moves with his wife to his northern Japanese hometown when the symphony he plays for goes bankrupt. It's a brilliantly written and performed story that transcends its themes of ritualized catharsis to bring the audience to a fresh understanding of man's need to make peace with the deceased. Grade: A.
Director Davis Guggenheim ('An Inconvenient Truth') brings together Rock music legends Jimmy Page and U2's The Edge with The White Stripes' Jack White for an eventful behind-the-scenes look at how these great musicians communicate with each other and create music. Impromptu jam sessions and individual strolls down memory lane reveal the guitarists' childlike passion for their chosen instrument and their sources of inspiration from divergent musical influences. Grade: B-.
Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne craft an evocative story about Lorna, a young Albanian woman (played flawlessly in a break-out performance by Kosovo-born Arta Dobroshi) in cahoots with Fabio, a Belgian mobster, to make money so she can open a snack bar with her boyfriend. If the plot sounds convoluted, it doesn't impede an inevitable flood of surprising physical and emotional responses from the poker-faced Lorna. Grade: A-.
High on concept, low on execution, writer/director Sophie Barthes' gray comedy of postmodern, existential panic never finds its balance before falling off the same kind of narrative that 'Being John Malkovich' danced effortlessly on. You might get a chuckle from the idea of the movie, but you'll never get to laugh. Grade: C-.
As prolific as writer/director Mike Judge has been throughout a stellar career that includes such television staples as 'Beavis and Butt-Head' and 'King of the Hill' and cult films as 'Office Space' and 'Idiocracy,' it's to his detriment (and ours) that he hasn't done more feature films. The tone of 'Extract' is spot-on, but unfortunately Judge never manages to bring the humor to a boil. Grade: B-.
Ang Lee's clumsy adaptation of Elliot Tibers and Tom Monte's book 'Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Lift' can't decide if it wants to be a comedy, a drama or merely a slice-of-life reflection on a small-town community transformed by a cultural happening in 1969. There are flashes of inspiration here, but nothing to sustain a feature film's worth of narrative import. Grade: C.