This week’s new movies feature a pile of limited release you’ll want to keep an eye out for.  The rest as always is a mixed bag:

  • The Guard (****). The Guard is a funny, dark, Irish twist on the cop-buddy movie. Brendan Gleeson supplies the Irish piss and vinegar as a slightly cracked small-town cop with a thing for prostitutes and Don Cheadle brings the American cool as an FBI agent in Ireland investigating a drug-smuggling ring. Sparks fly when the two reluctantly team up. Plenty of character, lots of laughs and another fantastic performance from Gleeson elevate this debut from John Michael McDonagh, brother of Martin McDonagh (In Bruges). The plot really comes secondary to the terrific characters, milieu and sharp dialogue.  (Limited)
  • Point Blank (****). A lean, efficient, frequently surprising French thriller about a man forced to do the bidding of a group of criminals on the run when they kidnap his pregnant wife. Can he navigate the treacherous waters between the malicious thugs and the over-zleaous Parisian police force in order to save his wife? Point Blank starts off running and never really stops, pausing only long enough to catch its breath before charging off again in a new direction. It relies a bit too much perhaps on exposition to set the scene, but that allows the movie to get in and out in an efficient 85 minutes. A fantastic light summer entertainment that is sure to be ruined by an American remake. (NY, LA)

  • Attack the Block (*** 1/2). I didn’t expect much from this low-budget tale of an unlikely group of survivors teaming up to fight off an alien invasion in a rough London neighborhood, but it finally clicked and worked really well. The mix of sci-fi thrills, low budget action and humor fondly recall John Carpenter’s heyday. (Review) (Limited)
  • The Devil’s Double (** 1/2). Lee Tamahori directs this story inspired by the real life of Iraqi army lieutenant Latif Yahia who was recruited (partly against his will) to be the body double of Saddam Hussein’s batshit crazy son Uday. Living in luxury with your pick of cars and women seems appealing at first, but as the psychotic Uday descends further and further into dangerous degeneracy, Latif is threatened not only by forces who would want to assassinate the dictator’s son, but also Uday himself. And it’s not just Latif who is in danger, but his entire family. There’s plenty of promise here and Dominic Cooper does a nice job as both characters. He overdoes it a bit as Uday (blame Tamahori for that) but it’s balanced by his more measured and thoughtful portrayal of Latif. Alas, The Devil’s Double never amounts to anything interesting. It comes off like a cheap version of the irritating Scarface, only lacking Brian De Palma’s flair and command of cinema. (Limited)
  • The Future. Miranda July’s first feature since the 2005 indie success You and Me and Everyone We Know sounds awfully precious on paper – a 30-something couple’s lives are upended when they decide to adopt a cat – but July seems to have  a knack for spinning gold out of this kind of twee material. Reviews out of Sundance were mostly kind.  (Limited)
  • Life in a Day. The pitch: submit to YouTube a video of your life on July 24, 2010. Thousands made submissions and now the clips have been put together by Kevin Macdonald as Life in a Day, a documentary about a single day on planet Earth. (Limited)
  • Cowboys & Aliens. The title pretty much tells you all you need to know about this western/sci-fi mash-up, doesn’t it? As a non-sequel, non-superhero movie, I’m rooting for this one to be good and do well, but critics have not been kind. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford star. Jon Favreau directs. (Wide)
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love. Steve Carell thought he had the perfect life until his wife (Julianne Moore) cheated on him and then divorced him. Ill-equipped to navigate the world of singles, he teams up with handsome player Ryan Gosling to show him the ropes. (Wide)
  • The Smurfs. Go Smurf yourself. (Wide)
  • All In. A documentary look at the current Poker phenomenon, what accounts for its popularity, who plays it and why. Here are my answers: 1) it seems like a way to get rich without having a real job. 2) scumbags who want to get rich without without having a real job. 3) because they’re scumbags. (Limited)
  • Assassination Games. I didn’t know Jean Claude Van Damme was still making movies and I have no idea how this one didn’t go straight to video, but here you go. (Limited)
  • Good Neighbors. Official blurb: “Neighbors Spencer (Scott Speedman) and Louise (Emily Hampshire) have bonded over their fascination with a recent string of murders terrorizing their community. When a new tenant named Victor (Jay Baruchel) arrives in the building, all three quickly hit it off. But as they soon discover, each of them has their own dark secret. As the violence outside mounts, the city retreats indoors for safety. But the more time these three spend together in their apartment building, the clearer it becomes that what they once thought of as a safe haven is as dangerous as any outside terrors they could imagine. Smart dialogue, strong performances and jarring thrills give this film all the elements of a great mystery.” (NY, LA)
  • El Bulli: Cooking in Progress. Chef Ferran Adria is considered the father of molecular gastronomy, a modernist style of cooking that blends science and the culinary arts – these are the folks you see on cooking programs fiddling around with liquid nitrogen and flavor foams and savory ice cream and they think they’re pretty neat when all you really want is a goddamn New York steak perfectly cooked and a nice glass of wine. Anyway, Adria’s restaurant outside of Barcelona, El Bulli, is only open 6 months out of the year and you’ll never get to eat there because they only seat 50 per dinner yet get 2 million reservation requests a year. This stuff is cool in a Dr. Wizard/George Jetson kind of way and the experimentation has valid real world applications, but have our lives become so complex that we can’t enjoy the simple pleasures of a classic meal well prepared? It’s a bunch of foodie bullshit if you ask me. Anyway, if all of the roughly 1,990,000 people who don’t get into El Bulli each year go see this documentary, it’ll be a big hit. (NY)
  • Golf in the Kingdom. A journey of inner discovery through the game of golf. Key word here: game. It’s a goddamn game. It is not the key to life’s mysteries. You’re hitting a ball around with a stick. (NY)
  • The Interrupters. Hoop Dreams not even being nominated for an Oscar is one of the great examples of why The Academy is almost entirely full of shit. They tried to make up for it by giving it an editing nomination (which it lost), but it still left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. Anyway, 17 years later, Steve James returns with this documentary about CeaseFire, a group of Chicago neighborhood activists working to stamp out violent crime. (NY)

2 Responses to “Weekend Forecast: Cowboys, Aliens, Smurfs, Cops, Robbers, Drug Dealers and More Aliens”

  1. Cowboys & Aliens is also the kind of film that appeals to nerds and others who liked films of the type of Sucker Punch. So I’m not too surprised critics aren’t being kind to it.

  2. I don’t know. Critics tumble for some nerdy movies that are good. I have a feeling this one just doesn’t get it done.

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