Reviews in Short: February 2013



Art School Confidential     Quirkiness has done well for Terry Zwigoff, the creator of off-the-wall gems like Ghost World and Crumb.  Zwigoff’s Art School is certainly peculiar, blending youth romance with satire about what constitutes “art.”  And oh, yes:  There is a subplot about a vicious serial killer terrorizing the school campus.  Hey, I did mention that Zwigoff is into quirky.  But despite funny supporting work from John Malkovich and Jim Broadbent, this time Zwigoff falls flat.  Art School is often slow and it’s hampered by a dullish Max Minghella as the young hero.  Release:  2006  Grade:  C






Safety Not Guaranteed tries hard to be a lovable fantasy-romance, but male lead Mark Duplass, as an eccentric who claims to know the secret of time travel, comes off stiff and childish.  There are also some jarring shifts in tone — it’s difficult to sustain whimsy when your quirky comedy suddenly morphs into an armed-heist thriller — but doe-eyed Aubrey Plaza is disarming as a kooky “emo girl,” a magazine intern sent to investigate oddball Duplass.  Release:  2012  Grade:  C+





House at the End of the Street     Until it gets stupid, stupider, and stupidest in its last act, during which every horror-flick cliché ever clichéd comes into play, House is a decent enough thriller.  But not even Jennifer Lawrence — smack in the midst of Major Movie-Star Momentum — can rescue that silly third act.  Lawrence, playing a typical teen who moves with her mom to a house with some atypical neighbors, at least doesn’t embarrass herself.  Release:  2012  Grade:  C






The Aztec Box    What hath the Blair Witch wrought?  Aztec is yet another low-budget, found-footage horror flick, this time involving the unearthing of a cursed Mexican artifact.  I say “low-budget,” but that’s not really the problem here.  The problem is a run-time that’s about 20 minutes too long, much of it inane home-movie footage that really should have remained lost.  Release:  2013  Grade:  D






The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara    You might not agree with all of McNamara’s “lessons,” but this mix of archival footage and interviews with the former Secretary of Defense could be one of the best films about war — and the all-too-human leaders who wage them — ever made.  McNamara is alternately brash and humble as he chronicles his uniquely American life, culminating with his years as advisor to two presidents during the hellish Vietnam War.  Release:  2003  Grade:  A


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