Reviews in Short: April 2014

Klown

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This Danish road-trip comedy recalls old-fashioned American slapstick, the type of goofiness we used to get from Laurel and Hardy – but with one big difference:  The sight gags, often hilarious, are also rated X.  Danish TV comics Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen star as oil-and-water pals who embark on a male-bonding wilderness trip that goes awry thanks to their own ineptitude and a 12-year-old boy who tags along for the ride.  Release:  2010  Grade:  B

 

*****

 

Stained

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Canadian actress Tinsel Korey plays a troubled bookseller going through hell at work and at home – but who, or what, is responsible for that hell?  Stained tested my tolerance for the it was only a dream school of filmmaking, in which the viewer is never quite sure if what he sees happening is, in fact, really happening, and it doesn’t help that the first half of this psychological horror-show is slow.  On the plus side, Korey is good as a woman who doesnt handle stress particularly well.   Release: 2010  Grade:  B-

 

*****

 

The Woman

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Well, The Woman ain’t boring.   I’m not entirely sure what the movie is black comedy, feminist revenge flick, unpleasant gorefest – because it’s a tonal mess, but it ain’t boring.  Sean Bridgers plays Henry Higgins from Hell, a country lawyer named Cleek who keeps his family in check with a mix of condescension, threats, and old-fashioned whuppings.  One fateful day Cleek spots a primitive woman in the wilds of Massachusetts (yes, apparently there are wilds in Massachusetts), decides to take her home with him, and then … I can’t explain it.  But it ain’t boring.  Release:  2011  Grade:  B

 

*****


Passion

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Thirty years ago, Brian De Palma was king of the erotic thriller.  Today … not so much.  It’s a shame because Passion is certainly watchable and bears De Palma’s distinctive visuals and soundtrack.  But the story, in which a corporate cat-fight between executive Rachel McAdams and subordinate Noomi Rapace turns deadly, is confusing and illogical.  In De Palma movies of yore such narrative lapses were both minor and overshadowed by the man’s dazzling direction.  Not anymore.  Release:  2012  Grade:  C+

 

*****

 

Short Term 12

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Looking for something that all of the critics love?  Short Term 12 has a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and for good reason.  This little film about a handful of young counselors at a home for at-risk teens worried me at first, because it initially carries a whiff of Afterschool SpecialUh-oh, I thought, it’s one of those earnest “good for you” movies.  But I was wrong. Unlike just about every other Hollywood release, Short Term 12 is neither cynical and snarky nor sappy and stupid.  It’s smart and moving.  And lead actress Brie Larson is a real standout.  Release:  2013  Grade: A-

 

*****

 

                         20 Feet from Stardom

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Stardom puts the spotlight on vocalists who came close to the music-industry brass ring but, either through hard luck or, in some cases, because they didn’t really want it, missed out on solo stardom.  There is a lot of great music in this Oscar-winning tribute to backup singers – but not, really, all that much drama.  Release:  2013  Grade:  B-

 

*****

 

Jailbait

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A quote in the ads for this film informs us that Jailbait is in the vein of Orange Is the New Black.  Uh, no, it isn’t.  Itin the vein of trashy 70s women-in-prison flicks like The Big Doll House.  Mostly its just writer-director Jared Cohn filming his girlfriend, actress Sara Malakul Lane, in one degrading nude scene after another. Lane, who was about 30 when this was shot, plays a juvenile sent to a detention center for young girls, which of course entails rape, shower scenes, more rape, and lesbian sex.  Lane does look good naked (she also looks 30),  but unlike those 70s B-movies, this jail drama is a bore.  Release:  2013  Grade:  D

 

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