Each week new movies open in New York (and online) by the dozen. The Voice reviews all of ’em. Here’s some you might not have heard about that got our critics excited, for better or worse — click on the movie title to read the full review.
Rob Staeger found himself pleased with horror-anthology sequel The ABCs of Death 2, calling the letter-by-letter selection of 26 deadly shorts a “mixed bag that contains some really choice severed heads.” Staeger adds:
A few imaginative highlights: Chris Nash’s tale of a woman who delays her pregnancy until her fetus is in its tweens; Steven Kostanski’s ’80s toy commercial gone awry; and Hajime Ohata’s glimpse into the legal system after the zombie apocalypse is over.
This week’s least amused but most amusing critic is Chris Packham, who looked deep within the soul of writer-director Ricky Blitt’s Jon Cryer-has-bad-dates comedy Hit by Lightning and found it wanting:
Through an internet dating service, Ricky Miller (Jon Cryer), a middle-aged human cringe who manages a chain restaurant, meets Danita (Stephanie Szostak), the embodiment of a moronic, misogynist stereotype — “You’re, like, Maxim-hot and you don’t even know it,” says Ricky. She can cite Steve Buscemi films Reservoir Dogs and Fargo, which is supposedly remarkable, making her the dream girlfriend of frat dudes from 1996 and also probably Kevin Smith and definitely Ricky. “Put on ESPN and text me when you hear the hockey scores,” she tells him, a line of stupid “cool girl” dialogue that’s punctuated by the sound of Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn smashing her forehead against a theater seatback somewhere.
And it goes on like that.
Daphne Howland makes Carlos Agulló and Mandy Jacobson’s doc Plot for Peace sound like a can’t-miss thriller about a Master-of-the-Universe type manipulating global capitalism for the greater good, for once:
A shadowy figure with a habit of making deals to line his own pockets inserts himself into global politics, helping to end wars and topple South Africa’s apartheid system. It sounds like the premise to a television show like, say, The Blacklist, but the documentary Plot for Peace reveals how real that kind of intrigue can be. French commodity trader Jean-Yves Ollivier in the mid 1980s had the francs and the chutzpah to leverage his business acumen and high-level African contacts to meddle in the Cold War-fueled war in Angola and, ultimately, in South Africa’s bleak politics.
Just weeks after creepy-doll movie Annabelle comes creepy doll doc Magical Universe, Jeremy Workman’s study of Al Carbee, a photographer whose subject has long been Barbie dolls. (At one point he arranges them as “an intergalactic-council meeting to discuss the direction of a new shared society.”) Reviewer Abby Garnett demonstrates that the rather flip reaction I just exemplified — that this must be creepy — is entirely unwarranted:
Carbee’s obsession with Barbie — that totem of outrageous American female beauty standards — not to mention his references to a mysterious planet called Epicuma, might sound warning bells to anyone who’s seen a true-crime show. But as Workman delves into Carbee’s life and art, it becomes clear that Carbee is less interested in the dolls’ bodies than in creating a social utopia for his “Bahbees,” whom he photographs as astronauts, movie stars, and, tellingly, photographers.
Yours truly reviewed/mostly enjoyed True Son, a political-campaign doc about a 22-year-old’s race to win a city council seat representing the poorest district of Stockton, California. The entrenched powers that be do their thing, but the hardworking and charismatic Michael Tubbs proves adept at everything a candidate should — except fundraising. (At least until Oprah and MC Hammer pitch in to help.) Still, it’s no Street Fight:
The most exciting scenes show smart, charismatic Tubbs cleaning his opponent’s clock in a televised debate. Tubbs and his campaign manager clash some over the best use of their time and Tubbs’s reluctance to ask strangers for money, but we only see this conflict in talking-head interviews — with sharper on-the-ground footage, True Son might have been as sharp a doc as it is inspiring a story.
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