Now Playing: ‘The East’

Brit Marling and Alexander Skarsgard in 'The East'
Brit Marling and Alexander Skarsgard in ‘The East’

theeast-posterIn the new eco-spy-thriller The East, a private investigator is sent to infiltrate an anarchist cell. It’s a smart piece of work with impressive performances all around (Alexander Skarsgard, Patricia Clarkson in particular), but a slightly disappointing effort from director Zal Batmanglij, who wowed with last year’s astounding debut Sound of My Voice.

The East opened last Friday in limited release and will be expanding around the country over the summer.

My review is at Film Racket; here’s part of it:

Batmanglij’s co-writer Brit Marling plays Jane, a former FBI agent hired by a private intelligence firm as an investigator. Her first assignment is to infiltrate The East, an underground environmental activist cell that’s been targeting corporate executives they accuse of spreading pollution and disease. Jane dyes her hair blonde, gets tossed a pair of Birkenstocks by her new boss Sharon (an even flintier than usual Patricia Clarkson), and heads out to gather intelligence on The East for the firm’s corporate clients. A few nights of eating out of dumpsters and hopping freight trains later, she’s face to face with The East. They turn out to be little like the expected ranting radicals…

You can watch the trailer here:

New on DVD: ‘Identity Thief’

Melissa McCarthy and her terrifying hair in ‘Identity Thief’

identity-thief-dvd-cover-45Seth Gordon’s Identity Thief hit theaters back in February with low expectations that were easily improved upon. In short, it’s a better-than-it-could-be comedy that’s funny enough but could have easily stood to be 10-15 minutes shorter, no matter how much one appreciates the shared genius of Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.

It’s available today on Blu-ray and DVD.

My full review ran at Film Journal International, here’s part of it:

Jason Bateman (who also has a producing credit) plays Sandy Patterson, a milquetoast mid-level worker at a Denver financial firm. He discovers that his identity has been stolen by a Florida woman who’s been maxing out his credit cards and even got arrested (as him). In one of those only-in-the-movies wrinkles, he decides to drive to Florida and bring the woman back to clear his name. The problem is that when he gets down there, Diana (Melissa McCarthy) has no intention of helping him out. She’d rather punch him in the throat and make a wheezing run for it…

You can watch the trailer here:


New in Theaters: ‘Shadow Dancer’

Clive Owen as an MI6 agent trying to use an IRA operative to spy on her own family in ‘Shadow Dancer’

shadow-dancer-posterClive Owen continues to frustrate with his choosing of roles in films that no amount of his innate greatness can save. Case in point is the glum Shadow Dancer, which opened yesterday in limited release. Though it boasts Owen, a solid supporting cast, nail-biter premise, and crackerjack director (of documentaries, at least) James Marsh, the film barely registers a heartbeat.

My full review ran at Film Racket, here’s part of it:

The pregnant pause is one of the more useful items in a director’s toolbox for heightening drama and tension. One can’t have just nonstop chatter and explosions, after all, no matter what the oeuvre of Michael Bay might argue to the contrary. But like any tool, it can be overused. Case in point: Shadow Dancer, a smartly cast but drearily inactive IRA thriller that tries to be all pregnant pause. This constant sidestepping manner means that by the time the credits roll, viewers understand as little about the characters on screen, and the morality of their actions, as they did when the film began…

You can watch the trailer here: