New in Theaters: ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ Takes Aim at the One Percent

In 'The Purge: Anarchy' all crime is legal for one annual twelve-hour free-for-all (Universal Pictures)

In ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ all crime is legal for one annual twelve-hour free-for-all (Universal Pictures)

purge-poster1Just last year, a little sci-fi/horror film called The Purge lit up theaters with its canny blend of exploitation thriller jolts and subversive agitprop. Now comes the inevitable sequel, which ramps up the class-conscious revolutionary rhetoric in an expanded story about a near-future America where one night a year all crime is legal for 12 hours.

The Purge: Anarchy opens this Friday everywhere. My review is at PopMatters:

 In the first film, the ridiculous rationale left open the suggestion that the Purge’s real purpose was even uglier. What if the big night isn’t a means to purge unwanted impulses, but rather, a way to get rid of unwanted people? In Anarchy, the politics read loud and clear. Sergeant and his carload of charges face down everyone from flamethrower-wielding ATV rednecks to storm troopers cruising around in armored big rigs and nihilist skateboard punks with ghostface makeup and machetes…

You can see the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Begin Again’ Sings

Keira Knightley (left), Mark Ruffalo (right), and a passel of ready-for-anything musicians in 'Begin Again' (Weinstein Company)

Keira Knightley (left), Mark Ruffalo (right), and a passel of ready-for-anything musicians in ‘Begin Again’ (Weinstein Company)

When John Carney made the incomparable Dublin street-musical Once, he ginned up magic from the mundane. With the glitzier and slightly more stock Begin Again, he uses the same starry-eyed formula for almost equally wonderful results.

Begin_Again1Begin Again is playing now around the country. My review is at Film Racket:

Nothing in Begin Again, a grin-machine Roman candle of a film, should work. It features more cliches than should be legally allowed. A starry-eyed and uncompromising songwriter. A bum music producer needing one last shot. A rising star who just dumped the songwriter to get busy losing his soul. The comic relief guy. A fractured family that just needs their dad to get his act together. A basket full of dreams. Some beautiful songs that just need to be heard. New. York. City. But writer/director John Carney gets away with it, whipping through the stock situations with a hummingbird-light grace….

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘I Origins’

Michael Pitt and Astrid Berges-Frisbey in 'I Origins' (Fox Searchlight)

Michael Pitt and Astrid Berges-Frisbey in ‘I Origins’ (Fox Searchlight)

I Origins-posterA few years back, Mike Cahill made one of the more ghostly sci-fi movies of recent years with Another Earth. Now he’s back with that film’s enigmatic Brit Marling and Boardwalk Empire‘s Michael Pitt for a globe-spanning story about, well, eyes.

I Origins opens this Friday in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

A haunted-looking Michael Pitt is the main attraction in Mike Cahill’s curious fandango of a science-fantasy story about fate, destiny, genetics and love, and that’s unfortunate. Pitt can usually excel when playing dreamers or tortured types befitting his sensuously languorous mien. But for I Origins, Pitt has to put on a sweater, adjust his glasses, and play a molecular biologist. For the many scenes that call for a sense of true obsession, he can’t quite summon the proper focus, deploying a Johnny Depp-like dourness. Without that, an already disjointed film drifts further apart…

You can see the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Features Yet More Apes

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Caesar leads his primate army in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (Twentieth Century Fox)

dawnplanetapes-posterThe ever-expanding world of sci-fi reboots gets another entry with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which rejiggers themes and even a few climactic scenes from the raggedy 1970s series (Conquest of…Battle for…, etc.) only without much satirical intent. Like 2011′s admittedly lamer Rise of the Planet of the Apes, none of it manages to stand out except, again, for Andy Serkis’ regal, affecting, and soulful performance as the leader of the apes, Caesar.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is now playing pretty much everywhere. My review is at PopMatters:

[The film is] expected to deliver summer action set-pieces, including the battle featuring a rifle-wielding ape cavalry that was promised in its saturation ad campaign. As misunderstandings accumulate and warmongers on both sides get their way, the battle is joined on the crumbled, vine-covered streets of San Francisco. Many, many apes are shot down but curiously, we see just about no humans killed. This may be a nod to a specist ratings board in order to keep a PG-13, but it also points to a general lack of interest in the human characters. Even the heroic humans are pallid and unmemorable, unlike the carefully delineated apes. By the time the apes do gear up for battle, the audience is ready to charge right along with them…

You can see the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Boyhood’ is Magic

Ellar Coltrane in 'Boyhood' (IFC Films)

Ellar Coltrane in ‘Boyhood’ (IFC Films)

boyhood-poster1Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy) spent twelve years shooting a movie about a boy growing up in Texas with divorced parents, filming the actors as they naturally aged. It’s an experiment, yes, following this kid from age six to his first day at college, but one that pays off rich dividends more often than not.

Boyhood opens in limited release this week and should creep into more theaters around the country over the summer. My review is at Film Racket:

Wobbly at times but still magical in an everyday way, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood proves that intimate doesn’t have to equal melodrama and experimental can still be perfectly approachable. The film follows a quiet and daydream-prone boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane, likable if sometimes stiff), growing up in Texas with snarky older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and divorced parents (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke). There’s no story, per se, it’s just his life from about age 7 to 18. The look is straightforward and shorn of obvious directorial flair, the often affectless dialogue even more so. But that deceptively simple framework is rich with accrued detail and even some backhanded insight….

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘The Internet’s Own Boy’ Probes Activist’s Suicide

Aaron Swartz: 'The Internet's Own Boy' (Filmbuff)

Aaron Swartz: ‘The Internet’s Own Boy’ (Filmbuff)

Netzien Aaron Swartz’s suicide was a rallying cry for many in the tightly-wired community of online activists. The story of this 26-year-old’s short, dramatic, impassioned life makes up the new activist documentary The Internet’s Own Boy.

The Internet’s Own Boy is playing now in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Maybe it’s something about Boston. For the second time this summer we’re seeing a documentary hinging on bad behavior in the city’s federal law-enforcement community. Although Joe Berlinger’s Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger paints a damning portrait of prosecutor indiscretion, Brian Knappenberger’s melodramatic, idealistic The Internet’s Own Boyis more troubling. That could be because in Berlinger’s case, it’s hard to get worked up about the mishandling of a case against the screamingly guilty and murderous Bulger, whereas with Knappenberger the victim is a widely beloved 26-year-old Internet activist who hung himself, arguably after being zealously hounded by the government. That the film doesn’t quite prove, or try to prove, that (as one unseen voice has it) “[Swartz] was killed by the government,” it makes for disturbing viewing nonetheless…

You can see the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Whitey’ Gives its Subject Too Much Credit

whitey1

‘Whitey’ Bulger in his younger years (Magnolia Pictures)

whitey-posterJoe Berlinger has worked on some amazing true-crime documentaries over the years, not least the ground-breaking Paradise Lost trilogy. With Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger, though, he (inadvertently or not) buoys the facetious mythology of Southie crime boss ‘Whitey’ Bulger as some noble gangster.

Whitey opens today in limited release and will probably show up on cable later in the year. My review is at Film Racket:

Fortuitously hitting theaters well before Scott Cooper’s fictional (and likely mythological) take on Bulger’s life, Whitey doesn’t try to be the feature-length nonfiction take on the South Boston crime lord. Instead, true-crime documentarian Berlinger zeros in on the sort of thing he normally does best: the trial itself…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: The Non-Musical ‘Jersey Boys’

The 'Jersey Boys' sing, sing, sing (Warner Bros.)

The ‘Jersey Boys’ sing, sing, sing (Warner Bros.)

jerseyboys-poster1If the touring production hasn’t played at a downtown theater near you yet, it soon will. The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys was already one of the most successful of the jukebox musicals that have plagued enriched Broadway over the past few years; and that was before Clint Eastwood (having a week or two off, apparently) decided to make it into a movie. One point for his unaccountably dull and strangely non-musical version: It has Christopher Walken.

Jersey Boys opened wide on Friday. My review is at PopMatters:

When Rob Marshall filmed Chicago, he didn’t try to jam Bob Fosse’s meta-narrative into a standard dramatic structure. Marshall understood that film viewers can accept, just as theatergoers do, that the characters will occasionally start belting out a song with full-band accompaniment against an instantaneously-appearing backdrop; reality be damned. Certainly he tarted up the whole thing with quick edits and spotlight razzle-dazzle, but it stayed true to the original show’s spirit. This is not the case in Jersey Boys

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘Coherence’

Puzzling out the impossible from the improbable in ‘Coherence’ (Oscilloscope)

coherence-posterIn what could have been another apocalypse-is-nigh freakout, James Ward Byrkit’s highly cool Coherence drops a dinner-party full of yuppies into a hard-to-define sci-fi mystery after a comet passes over Earth and starts causing curious anomalies.

Coherence opens in limited release Friday. My review is at Film Journal International:

There are eight people in the dinner party, but the film is focused on Em (Emily Foxler) and her creeping dread. A dancer with a nervous streak, she’s first concerned by her phone’s screen spontaneously cracking as she drives to the dinner party. Once at her friends’ place, there’s a flurry of anxiety over the appearance of Em’s boyfriend drama-magnet ex-girlfriend. When dinner finally starts, Em starts talking about the comet, telling a story about a supposedly similar event in Finland during the 1920s after which people started acting … strange. It turns out somebody else at the table experienced a cracked phone screen too. Then the lights go out. And people start acting … strange …

Here’s the trailer; it actually manages to not give anything away:

New in Theaters: ‘The Rover’

Robert Pattinson in 'The Rover' (A24)

Robert Pattinson in ‘The Rover’ (A24)

therover-posterThe latest movie about what happens after society falls apart is The Rover, a bloody and spare Australian revenge Western set in a burnt-up stretch of the outback where a gun is the law.

The Rover opens in limited release Friday and then goes wider on June 20. My review is at Film Racket:

Most post-apocalyptic vengeance stories like The Rover at least flirt with nihilism. But this is normally just window-dressing there to throw a little grit under the wheels of something all too familiar. What makes David Michod’s hot, percussive, jolting film stand out from the after-the-fall pack is its realization of just how far its protagonists have fallen, even compared to the tattered remnants of civilization around them…

Here’s the trailer: