Directed by Neil Jordan
Jordan is a master in eclecticism, but not subtlety, and he proves such once again with this revisionist fairytale about a fisherman (Colin Farrell) who catches a coy woman in his net. More precious than charming, this exercise in atonality and style is undoubtedly the work of Jordan: a director who knows better than to buy into the misogynistic myth of sea undines, but not cunning enough to salvage his risible screenplay.
Directed by Nicole Holofcener
Opening with a mammogram montage—disembodied tits plopping down onto radiology equipment one after another, to perky music—Holofcener’s latest considers youth and beauty, and its looming opposite. Catherine Keener stars as a midlife grave-robber: with her husband (Oliver Platt, whose giggles over Howard Stern highlight a telegraphed, vaguely drawn portrait of maleness), she buys up the furniture of the recently deceased to stock her chichi design store; residents of lower Fifth by Washington Square, they’ve also prepurchased the adjoining apartment from inappropriate henna-rinsed Ann Guilbert, whose granddaughters are thin-skinned Rebecca Hall and tan, brittle Amanda Peet. Like a female Noah Baumbach, Holofcener addresses the gender-specific problems of privileged, often unpleasant white people in rip-the-band-aid-off dialogue (in one already semi-infamous scene, Keener’s teen daughter thwarts her attempts to give a homeless man a twenty: “You don’t give me twenty dollars!”), resonant to the extent that the anxieties feel universal. That resonance—which wafts through the movie in autumnal currents—is dampened somewhat by canned devices—a guilt-ridden Keener breaks down while volunteering with buck-up retarded kids—and a tone-deaf fashion-porn ending.
Directed by Lee Yong-ju
Lee cut his teeth as an assistant director on Bong Joon-Ho’s Memories of Murder, but his directorial debut shows he learned little from the Korean master: rather than reinvent a genre, Lee cranks out a formulaic blend of two—K-Horror and police procedural—that’s efficient in its jolts but less than convincing in its assault on religious devotions, from superstitious shamanist rituals to Christian fanaticism. (The Korean title transliterates as Hell of the Non-Believers.) Be sure to bring the outrage towards Organized Religion that you cultivated as an adolescent; you’ll be rolling your eyes without it.
Sentimental Engine Slayer
Directed by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
“El Paso” is credited alongside the actors during the end credits, because this aggressively artsy fever dream is as much a portrait of a place as it is of a person. As unstable as its baby-faced hero (34-year-old Mars Volta guitarist Lopez), the movie is a hallucinatory, logic-less tour through desert roads and houseparties that charts the insecure and frequently violent fantasies of the possibly homosexual virgin: sex, sex, humiliation, retributive violence, and sex. Though essentially about (maybe?) getting a kid laid, it’s less Superbad than a Mexican-American variation of Loren Cass, with sex replacing race-violence; or, it’s like Donnie Darko without wormholes or rabbitmen.
Directed by Fatih Akin
The latest feature from Turko-German director Akin (Head On) is an over-the-top but ultimately charming postmodern farce about a struggling restaurant owner, his cook, his girlfriend, and his jailbird brother (the always welcome Moritz Bleibtreu). Shedding the self-seriousness of his previous films, but retaining his focus on immigrant life in Germany, Akin gives us the kind of intelligent but unpretentious comedy about adults the Hollywood of Hot Tub Time Machine no longer seems capable of.
Directed by Jacob Tierney
Initially awkward, as teen agitator Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel) baits his beleaguered factory-owning daddy into sending him to—gasp!—public school. But despite a superfluous hook—Leon believes himself the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky (nee Bronstein), and courts/stalks an older coed accordingly—cheeky Montrealer writer-director Tierney is genuinely, cornily enthused about youthful optimism and civil disobedience. As Leon organizes the student body against the breakfast-clubby draconian contempt of Principal Berkhoff (Colm Feore, whose resemblance to Lenin does not go unremarked-upon, though the framed photo of a Doberman he keeps on his desk does), class walkouts are staged as slo-mo power-walks, scored to righteous music. Detonating F-bombs left and right, and almost completely Che-free, this teen movie has an uncommon respect for the intelligence of its audience, dropping inside references for
inside references for Canadians and intellectuals—Terry Eagleton, Phil Gourevitch. Hanoi Jane and Ken Loach and Battleship Potemkin, twice—alongside snappy teens musing “Is that a better band name or album name?”, while being surprisingly practical-minded about processes and principles of social action.