Film

7 Movies Opening in Theaters This Weekend

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The Village Voice reviews most movies opening in New York. Here’s some you may have missed.

 

Score: A Film Music Documentary

Directed by Matt Schrader

Gravitas Ventures

Opens June 16, Quad Cinema

It’s inevitable that any film attempting to encapsulate even one aspect of the extensive history of cinema will merely graze the tip of the most immense of icebergs. So it is with Matt Schrader’s Score: A Film Music Documentary, which, as a history of music in the movies, hits all the expected high points — silent-era Wurlitzer accompaniments, Max Steiner’s King Kong score, John Williams’s Spielberg and Lucas collaborations — without adding anything fresh to our understanding of the form. Plus, any film-music documentary that traces the art’s lineage back to Beethoven’s revolutionizing of symphonic form without once mentioning Wagner’s arguably even more pertinent use of leitmotifs in his operas isn’t telling the whole story. Nevertheless, Score does offer some insightful material, especially in its second half, which largely focuses on film scoring in the present day. In addition to revealing footage of composers such as John Debney and Joe Kraemer in the process of recording their own music, Schrader includes some frank discussion among composers about the ways that Hollywood’s blockbuster mentality affects their creative processes. And Schrader’s attempt to put Hans Zimmer’s famously bombastic style into musical and historical perspective is compelling and persuasive. Score may be little more than a superficial primer on a dizzyingly expansive subject, but Schrader offers just enough to satisfy both film-music novices and dyed-in-the-wool fanatics. Kenji Fujishima

 

Lost in Paris

Directed by Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel

Oscilloscope

Opens June 16, Landmark Sunshine

Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel’s signature style blends screwball and romantic comedy with playful fantasy, but Lost in Paris lacks the magical elements of their previous features (Iceberg, Rumba, and The Fairy, co-directed with Bruno Romy). Instead of fanciful leaps of logic, their latest revolves around the actions of impulsive characters. Gordon and Abel continue employing clown techniques (exaggerating physical characteristics, heightening everyday absurdities, making the commonplace dangerous) while also adding elements of a mystery to the escapade. Timid Canadian librarian Fiona (Gordon) has long wanted to visit Paris, so she jumps at the chance to help care for her 88-year-old aunt, Martha (Emmanuelle Riva), a feisty former dancer who’s being pressured to leave her apartment for a retirement home. She arrives to find Martha missing, and the sheltered Fiona becomes the most helpless of hapless tourists. (There are some pointed Canadian jokes, including Fiona flying the maple leaf on her backpack and encountering a do-right Mountie.) Fiona soon attracts the cloying attention of Dom (Abel), a buff hobo inordinately proud of his antisocial skills. Gordon and Abel incorporate elements of lighthearted musicals and silent-film comedy (a scene atop the Eiffel Tower evokes the derring-do of Harold Lloyd) and provide themselves plenty of opportunities to stretch their pliant, wiry physicality. Riva is a bubbly delight in one of her final roles, her mischief perfectly at home in Gordon and Abel’s escapist vision of a benign Paris where liberty and idiosyncrasy happily coexist. Serena Donadoni

 

 

 

Lucky

Written and directed by Bari Kang

Lucky Movies

Opens June 16, Village East Cinema

Available on demand

Would you believe that getting involved with underworld cretins makes you likely to wind up in peril? That’s the only idea in the head of Lucky, a dim amalgam of every crime film made over the past half-century. Writer-director-star Bari Kang’s tedious photocopy-of-a-photocopy concerns Lucky (Kang), an undocumented immigrant whose days and nights are spent driving a cab around Manhattan, selling stolen cars with his gambling-addict accomplice, Ricky (Daniel Jordano), and looking out for the sex workers employed by a close acquaintance. His situation is further complicated when a random fare turns out to be drug-dealing bigwig Fernando (Alfredo Diaz), who — in one of many tossed-off plot points — immediately makes Lucky his go-to chauffeur, delivery man, and lackey. Before long, Lucky is striking up a romantic affair with one working girl, caring for absentee Ricky’s wife and kid, and becoming increasingly repulsed by the volatile Fernando, who resembles nothing so much as a lame parodic riff on any number of thuggish Scorsese characters. Compounding the action’s lack of originality are both the amateurishness of every performance and the wobbly-camera aesthetics. Worse, though, is the wholesale absence of any political point of view on its immigrant-horror-story subject matter, leaving the film feeling like the thinnest type of retread. Nick Schager

 

Kill Switch

Directed by Tim Smit

Saban Films and Lions Gate

Opens June 16, Cinema Village

Available on demand

Kill Switch is an ungainly hybrid of two totally disparate mediums that have been Human Centipede-d together: film and first-person-shooter video games. Film is not the front end of this configuration. Dan Stevens is Will Porter, a scientist who works for Alterplex Energy, which has caused an apocalyptic accident with a new, experimental power plant that draws energy from what is clearly a mirror universe — all the signage is backward, for instance — but which his shift supervisor, Bérénice Marlohe (Skyfall), insists on calling an “echo universe.” Transported there to shut down the mirror power plant, Will navigates an urban battlefield populated by environmental terrorists, robotic drones, and corporate security thugs. Most of the film is shot in first person from Will’s perspective, a gimmick that is technically well accomplished by first-time director Tim Smit, a visual effects supervisor. If you enjoy passively watching your buddy play video games and never getting a turn, Kill Switch is the film made for your weird preferences. Astonishingly, the plot and visuals are lifted wholesale from Valve Corporation’s decade-old Half Life 2, one of the most revered and deservedly popular titles in the history of gaming. From the tactical streetwear of the rogue environmentalists to the ominous tower dwarfing an unnamed European city under sci-fi siege, the overall impression is hammered home by the first-person visuals so forcefully that Valve might have grounds to file an intellectual-property lawsuit. Where gaming-inspired Tom Cruise action vehicle Edge of Tomorrow was an elegant inquiry into the passage of time, Kill Switch is an inquiry into how totally bitchin’ Half Life 2 was back in 2004. Chris Packham

 

The Journey

Directed by Nick Hamm

IFC Films

Opens June 16, IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas

Nick Hamm’s The Journey finds unexpected friendship and lasting political peace through an engaging showdown between adversaries who are separated by outlook and cause and yet linked by their shared belief in holding true to convictions. The contentious drama is also a shrewd study in how détente can be reached without anyone saying they’re sorry. Set on a history-changing road trip, The Journey dramatizes a 2006 meeting between U.K. Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall) and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness (Colm Meaney). Screenwriter Colin Bateman takes this actual event and — because he has no clue what truly transpired during the duo’s trip — concocts a make-believe dialogue between the bitter enemies, who are thrust together on a drive from peace talks in Scotland to an airport, where Paisley hopes to catch a flight to a party for his fiftieth wedding anniversary. Along their route, which is steered by Freddie Highmore’s undercover MI6 agent (taking cues from his boss, played by the late John Hurt), the morally righteous Protestant evangelical Paisley and the revolutionary true believer McGuinness articulate their positions on “the Troubles” with determined ferocity. The action’s detours — to a forest, a church, and a gas station — prove contrived and somewhat dully staged. However, the film is buoyed by its sharp, witty lead performances, with Spall’s holier-than-thou imperiousness clashing suitably with Meaney’s more affable obstinacy. Nick Schager

 

Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement, and the Swami Who Started It All

Directed by John Griesser

Abramorama

Opens June 16, Village East Cinema

John Griesser’s film about Srila Prabhupada, founder of the Krishna movement, is not so much a documentary as it is a hagiography. In 1965, the soft-spoken seventy-year-old pharmacist, his children grown, left his wife in India and arrived in New York City, where a cadre of discontented hippies was primed to hear his message of getting high through the Hare Krishna mantra (popularized with the help of celebrities and counterculture leaders such as George Harrison, Allen Ginsberg, and Timothy Leary). The sheet-clad, street-dancing, flowers-in-the-airport crusade spread west from New York, to San Francisco and beyond, and the Krishnas remain a global group. While the film notes that U.S. courts rejected the “cult” label when ruling in cases brought by worried parents of the time, director John Griesser interviews only those still loyal to the Swami and none of the apostates who today describe a decidedly cultlike life of servitude and the loss of human agency. The movie brims with bland platitudes, and somehow the guru’s followers, including Joshua Greene (a/k/a Yogesvara Das), seem unaware that the movement has been reduced to a distant memory. “He understood what could happen if the chanting of ‘Hare Krishna’ made its appearance on a world stage,” Greene says. “It’s a cleansing of the collective consciousness of society that can unleash all kinds of amazing transformations.” Can it? If so, that’s not clear from this film. Daphne Howland

 

F(l)ag Football

Directed by Seth Greenleaf

Abramorama

Opens June 16, Cinépolis Chelsea

The first words we hear in Seth Greenleaf’s F(l)ag Football: “Football is one of those games that teaches you life lessons.” That hoary insight is bookended, at the film’s climax, with a big game with a tight score and beat-the-clock heroics. “To me, sports in our world is the greatest community-builder that we have,” a player opines afterward, just before the credits, after jubilant scenes of the victors celebrating and weepy ones, set to the kind of plaintive minimalist piano plinking you hear on too many movie soundtracks, of the stunned losers. In short, Greenleafs doc achieves what seems to be its creators’ chief goal: It makes a standard-issue sports movie out of the story of the Gay Bowl, the annual tournament of the National Gay Football League, which today has 26 teams in 19 cities. The film offers lively, sometimes moving character sketches and interviews amid its glimpses of practice and games; there’s many spectacular catches and touchdowns, plus some first-rate trash talk. “I play the best when I hear the sideline talking about how much of an asshole I am,” one competitor says. The most affecting passages concern the stories that brought the players to the league — a love of sports often coupled with rejection or misunderstanding from organized sports’ decidedly un-wide world. Also fascinating: the complexities of qualifying for the NGFL. Bylaws state that only 20 percent of a team can be “straight,” a binary and ill-conceived ruling that leaves competitors like Molly, who identifies as transgender, in a gray zone. Her teammates have her back, though: “She will put you on your ass,” one says.Don’t sleep on Molly.” The interview segments tend toward reality TV-style confessionals, the film revealing its subjects through quick bursts of talk rather than observed action. Nothing extraordinary occurs in F(l)ag Football, but that’s the powerful point: Here’s a sports film as familiar (and exciting) as most others. Alan Scherstuhl