New in Theaters:
A Dangerous Method

The history of pairing historical figures in fictional films is a mostly unfortunate one — bold-face names facing off in situations contrived for maximum melodrama. David Cronenberg’s scalpel-sharp rendering of the psychosexual triangle between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sabina Spielrein (a patient, and later therapist in her own right, who fascinated them both) almost falls prey to this failing. But a trio of astonishingly committed performances and a taut screenplay free of hyperbole and overstatement keep this drama relatively free of melodramatic pitfalls, while still relating a fully engaging story of an intellectual love triangle…
A Dangerous Method is now playing in limited release; check it out. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.

New in Theaters:
The Muppets

One of the great things about Jim Henson’s Muppets shows and films was really just how much of the Muppets there were in them. Sure, humans continually popped into frame — whether it was Steve Martin mugging for his ten seconds of screen time or Charles Grodin playing baddie. But mostly Henson stuck to his gloriously personable sock puppet weirdos destroying the set or bringing the house down with a big musical number. So while it’s fantastic to see Jason Segel bringing the guys back to the big screen in proper form, it’s disconcerting to see humans so prominently displayed. Amy Adams certainly does pull off a sweet solo number with admirable flash, but wouldn’t it have been better with a backup chorus led by Rizzo the Rat?…
The Muppets is playing in all theaters in all cities right now. Go see it. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.

New in Theaters:
Happy Feet Two

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the true strangeness of the original Happy Feet. That it came from George Miller might have seemed dissonant, but only if we’d forgotten that he’d already abandoned Mad Max for Babe. The premise was surely odd by design, a curiously colorful animated riot of emperor penguins who created explosive, island-spanning dance numbers set to Prince tunes and some classic American songbook numbers. (Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman dueting on Prince’s “Kiss” and the like.) The film was all excess, from the ADD-soundtrack to the soft-headed rot about “finding your heartsong” to the big-eyed mugging of those adorable penguins. Like a Pixar film with even less sense of shame, Happy Feet went for the brass ring in nearly every scene and then clobbered you over the head with it…
Happy Feet Two is playing everywhere now. You can read my full review at PopMatters.

New on DVD:
The Trip

Not far into Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip you get the sensation that the filmmakers’ driving impulse behind it could well be that they just wanted to have a laugh and maybe get somebody else to pay for it. Perhaps Winterbottom and his leads Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon did just want to have a good time and see if a movie came out of it. As these things go, there’s little chance that that’s how it actually worked out. The most relaxed-looking films are usually the most meticulously plotted. Well-planned or not, The Trip delivers itself to screen with a confidently larkish attitude. That this casual-seeming a work could have turned out to be one of the year’s standout comedies and probably the most purely perfect film Winterbottom has yet made, is one of those gifts that moviegoers so rarely receive…
The Trip is out now on DVD. You can read the full review at PopMatters.

New in Theaters:
Into the Abyss



It’s a jarring sensation at first, the sound and feel of Werner Herzog hovering behind the camera. His icy, sarcastic skepticism and blaringly Teutonic English don’t seem to be the right fit. This appears to be, after all, a very well-intentioned film about a pair of death-penalty cases in Texas. Herzog has long seemed more at home in the company of aberrant outsiders and inhospitable corners of nature whose whole existence seems to shrug laughingly at human endeavor. But here, in the quiet suburban cul-de-sacs, long and empty roads, and matter-of-fact state charnel houses of East Texas, Herzog plugs into a multilayered saga that unfurls some intensely human truths. It could be his masterpiece…


Into the Abyss is playing in limited release now. You can read the full review at Film Journal International.

New in Theaters:
Melancholia

Music from the overture to Wagner’s Tristan und Isoldethunders out of the speakers at the startling prelude to Lars von Trier’s latest attempted outrage. He weaves a glimmering dreamscape of apocalypse as the music ripples and yearns. Lightning flickers from a woman’s fingers, a bride running in a forest is ensnared by dark vines, a woman carrying a child screams in silent slow-motion as her feet sink into quicksand-like grass and at the climax of it all, a planet smashes into Earth like a hammer of the gods. It’s a doomed marriage, writ large…
Melancholia is playing now in limited release. You can read the full review at Film Journal International.