Six Movies Opening This Weekend You Don't Know About But Should
Each week new movies open in New York (and online) by the dozen. The Voice reviews all of 'em. Here are some you might not have heard about that got our critics excited, for better or worse.
Horror-hound Rob Staeger toasts Tommy Wirkola's Nazi/zombie sequel Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead for its laughs and its inventive gore. "Great use of intestines," Staeger writes. The plot:
Herzog, the chief Nazi, is marching his troops toward a village he'd been ordered to exterminate decades before, and it's up to Martin (Vegar Hoel) and a cadre of American zombie-hunting nerds (led by Silicon Valley's Martin Starr) to stop them...even if it means raising an army of undead Russian soldiers.
Chris Packham finds much to admire and marvel at in Gabe Ibáñez's robo-intelligence science-fiction thriller Automata (available on demand), starring Antonio Banderas. He also finds a little too much to cringe at:
Automata has moments of tremendous visual and storytelling elegance, which are punctuated with ham-fisted characterization and thunderingly terrible acting. Like preprogrammed automata, the human villains are unable to overcome the hardwired protocols of silly TV bad guys. This contrasts with the understated presentation of the robots themselves, their flattened affect and subdued gestures somehow inviting empathy.
Chuck Wilson also has mixed feelings about a somewhat promising genre film: found-footage horror flick The Houses That October Built, which only sounds like it has something to do with post-season baseball:
To give his film credibility, and a usefully ghoulish texture, first-time writer-director Bobby Roe, who also co-stars, shot much of the "found footage" at a dozen real-world haunted houses, where the favored prop is, of course, a chainsaw. Roe plays Bobby, the videographer for a group of five friends who are traveling the country in an RV, visiting haunts and searching for clues to the secret location of what is said to be the ultimate in extreme scares. In between tours, these fright junkies -- four men and one woman -- pass the time laughing at jokes only they understand, while a wobbly video cam darts around them like a gnat on speed.
Katherine Vu makes the girl-power ass-kick flick Kite sound perversely enticing -- "The gallons of blood-red corn syrup that get streaked across India Eisley's cherubic face could supply Coney Island with cotton candy for decades" -- but ultimately she's not fully on board:
There's a vague feeling that director Ralph Ziman intended for Sawa to be an empowering female figure. While she does hold her own in a variety of tightly constructed action sequences, her adventures often occur while she's clad in nothing but underwear. Lingering, low-angle shots of her jogging up staircases in schoolgirl skirts or prowling the streets in bodycon obfuscate attempts to make her more than a fantasy object. In a film that pits the heroine directly against the sexualization of young women, the camera's gaze itself feels awfully exploitative.
Inkoo Kang found herself unmoved by Blair Treu's outreach doc/commercial Meet the Mormons:
Instead of explaining what Mormonism is, this slick corporate video for the Church only teaches us to want: On offer is the wholesomeness that comes with family, stability, and physical fitness. It's like selling Scientology by touting that faith's Hollywood connections -- and the fodder it might offer for future memoirs.
Serena Donadoni found that the rom-com #Stuck aces the greatest test any movie could face: Would you enjoy hanging with its characters during a traffic jam? The movie mostly takes place on the freeway after the leads' one-night stand:
Holly and Guy face off within the confines of his Honda Element, their hesitant conversation punctuated by backwards flashbacks of their intoxicating evening. [Director Stuart] Acher starts with their clumsy sexual encounter, made all the more awkward (and voyeuristic) by his use of first-person perspective shots, viewing the action through each character's eyes. (Kathryn Bigelow used this technique to great effect in Strange Days.) In the story's present, Acher's widescreen camera also wanders off to explore the surrounding vehicles, capturing moments of exasperation and humor.
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