"[T]he film biz in post-imperial, post-Tony Blair Britain is riding a hot streak, cranking out splashy, stylish, audience-friendly flicks that bear no resemblance to the fusty, fussy, Jane Austen-in-lingerie stereotypes of yore," argues Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "Taken together, the three new movies reaching the American colonies this week - An Education, a study of teen girlhood in pre-swinging London; Bronson, the operatic, quasi-true story of 'Britain's most violent prisoner'; and The Damned United, about the legendary flameout of a 70s celebrity soccer coach - seem to recall, almost deliberately, the glory days of British cinema."
"As you may have heard, a star is born in An Education," writes IFC guest critic Rob Nelson. "As Jenny, an early 60s suburban London teen who considers giving up Oxford for a man almost twice her age, Carey Mulligan is a stunner - quick-witted and graceful in the old school rom-com tradition. The movie, too, is a snappy throwback to earlier charms - part of the current pre-sexual revolution revival, along with Mad Men and the Beatles reissues (the first half of them, anyway). Pleasingly conventional, An Education teaches us again that there's almost nothing harder to resist in movies than a girl's makeover, particularly when the change is philosophical as well as cosmetic."
More from Bob Cashill (Popdose), Richard Corliss (Time), David Edelstein (New York), Scott Foundas (Voice), Ambrose Heron (Film Detail), Karina Longworth (SpoutBlog), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Nathan Rabin (AV Club), AO Scott (New York Times), Sarah Silver (Reverse Shot), Dana Stevens (Slate), Henry Stewart (L), Ryan Stewart (Slant), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York), Armond White (New York Press) and Stephanie Zacharek (Salon). Earlier: Reviews from Sundance.
Interviews with director Lone Scherfig: Darrell Hartman (Interview) and Adam Keleman (Slant). For IFC, Erica Abeel talks with Nick Hornby, who wrote the screenplay based on the memoir by Lynn Barber - whom Ella Taylor meets in the LA Weekly. Interviews with Mulligan: Peter Knegt (indieWIRE) and Rachel Syme (Daily Beast); at In Contention, Guy Lodge is glad to hear about this: "The Royal Court's sell-out 2007 production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, which transferred to Broadway last year, is heading for the big screen," reports Adam Dawtrey in the Guardian. "Kristin Scott Thomas, Mackenzie Crook and Carey Mulligan will reprise their stage roles in the movie version, while former Royal Court artistic director Ian Rickson - the production was his last in the job - will direct."
"A 'true' Clockwork Orange fictionalized with copious Kubrick-isms, Bronson is a fast, ferocious, wickedly funny portrait of one man's acceptance of his bone-deep animalism," writes Nick Schager in Slant. Noel Murray at the AV Club: "From an opening sequence that has a naked, greased-up Tom Hardy (as [Michael Gordon] Peterson) punching at a cage in slow-motion while The Walker Brothers' art-pop classic 'The Electrician' blares on the soundtrack, Bronson makes kicking ass - and waiting to kick ass - into an aesthetic all its own."
More from Gary Dretzka (Movie City News), J Hoberman (Voice), Nicolas Rapold (L), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), AO Scott (NYT), Justin Stewart (RS) and Armond White (NYP). Earlier: Reviews from Sundance. Interviews with director Nicolas Winding Refn: Nick Dawson (Filmmaker) and Darrell Hartman (Interview). David Fear talks with Hardy for Time Out New York. And Refn's Pusher trilogy is the latest addition to Scott Tobias's "New Cult Canon" at the AV Club.
"The Damned United is the rare sports movie that deals with - indeed positively relishes - humiliation and disappointment," writes AO Scott in the NYT. "Its real-life protagonist, the soccer coach Brian Clough (who died in 2004), was, over his long career, a winner with an extraordinary record of accomplishment. But the film, directed by Tom Hooper from Peter Morgan's script (based on a novel by David Peace), is much more interested in the dramatic flameout that disrupted and almost ended his rise to football glory."
More from David Edelstein (New York), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Nick Schager (Slant), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and Chuck Wilson (Voice). Earlier: Reviews from the UK run in March. Stephen Saito talks with Michael Sheen for IFC.
"A stunning, strangely liminal movie in form and content, Margot Benacerraf's Araya (1959) takes its name from the place where it was shot - a Caribbean peninsula in northern Venezuela where for centuries a closed economy has been supported by the sea," writes Amy Taubin for Artforum. "Araya is what is often termed a poetic documentary. It depicts the daily labors of the salt gatherers and fishermen in ethnographic detail, but it also employs expressive sound and image elements that exceed or violate the codes of documentary realism.... Despite the dated voice-over prose and the questionable mini-fictions, Araya remains a powerful and suggestive hybrid."
"I can compare the film only to Luchino Visconti's great La Terra Trema for its combination of extraordinary beauty, outraged social conscience and almost mythic grandeur - with the exception that Araya is about a reality even more harsh, more pitiless and more doomed." Stuart Klawans in the Nation: "The experience was stunning in 1959. It's every bit as stunning today."
More from David Fear (TONY), Mike Hale (NYT), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant), Benjamin Mercer (L), Howie Mavshovitz (NPR), Kristi Mitsuda (indieWIRE), Noel Murray (AV Club), Andrew Schenker (Voice) and James van Maanen. Earlier: Daniel Kasman from Berlin. Online listening tip. Benacerraf is a guest on the Leonard Lopate Show.
"Amplifying the legacy of architectural photographer Julius Shulman in the context of his vital twilight years, Eric Bricker's art-doc Visual Acoustics gives a convincing, contagious taste of its protagonist's playful optimism," writes Bill Weber in Slant.
"Shulman made modernism not only palatable but chic," writes Michael Wang for Artforum. "Breaking with the tradition of presenting the building as an isolated object, Shulman highlighted the building's relationship to its site and, most important, populated his photographs with fashionable inhabitants. Shulman's modernism was, to take a cue from Columbia University's Kazys Varnelis summation of Southern California modernism, 'less... a societal utopia, and more... a personal utopia.'"
More from Benjamin Sutton (L), Ella Taylor (Voice), Keith Uhlich (TONY) and Andy Webster (NYT). IndieWIRE interviews Bricker.
"The anti-globalist performance guys who call themselves the Yes Men are masters of forging corporate rhetoric and media protocols," writes J Hoberman in the Voice, and The Yes Men Fix the World "is about the beauty of the riff." More from David Edelstein (New York), Steve Erickson (Gay City News), Stephen Garrett (TONY), Stephen Holden (NYT), Mimi Luse (L), Rob Nelson (IFC), Nathan Rabin (AV Club), Bill Weber (Slant) and James van Maanen.
Ed Halter in Artforum on The Heretics, "Joan Braderman's info-packed documentary on the groundbreaking feminist art magazine Heresies. The film contextualizes the hurdles faced at the dawn of second-wave feminism." At MoMA through Thursday. Melissa Anderson in the Voice: "For a movement that was 'fundamentally leaderless,' Braderman's film gives its participants an opportunity to rightfully claim: 'We thought we could change things - and, in fact, we did.'" More from Aaron Cutler (Slant) and Rachel Saltz (NYT).
"Good Hair is a slipshod doc about a fascinating subject: the loaded history and current complications of African-American hairstyling," writes Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York. "It's a mockumentary by accident because [Chris] Rock pretends to explore the cultural phenomenon of how black women truly feel about their hair," writes Armond White in the New York Press. "Yet he relentlessly falls back on easy jokes and juvenile asides that mock the subject." More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Chris Barsanti (Filmcritic.com), Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Matthew Connolly (Slant), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Nathan Rabin (AV Club) and Stephanie Zacharek (Salon). Aaron Hillis talks with Rock for IFC.
And Aaron Hillis again, this time in the Voice on Trucker: "After undervalued supporting turns in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, North Country, and Gone Baby Gone, dainty girl-next-door type Michelle Monaghan finally, and deservedly, snags a star vehicle to show off her chops." More from Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), Stephen Holden (NYT), Scott Marks, Joshua Rothkopf (TONY) and Andrew Schenker (Slant). Bilge Ebiri talks with Monaghan for Vulture; Caroline Bankoff for Interview.
"Given that they premiered alongside each other at Sundance, Jay DiPietro's temporally scrambled romance Peter and Vandy is doomed to languish in the shadow of (500) Days of Summer, like a younger sibling whose teachers constantly remind him what a good student his brother was. But DiPietro's variation on a similar theme doesn't entirely suffer in comparison." Writes Sam Adams at the AV Club. More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Aaron Hillis (Voice), Karina Longworth (TONY), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant) and Kristi Mitsuda (RS). James van Maanen talks with DiPietro, Jason Ritter and Jess Weixler.
Roger Ebert: "Free Style is remorselessly formulaic, with every character and plot point playing its assigned role. That it works is primarily because of the charisma of Corbin Bleu (did his parents meet in a French restaurant?) and Sandra Echeverria; they play a boy who likes to ride motorcycles and a girl who likes to ride horses." More from Mike Hale (NYT), Vadim Rizov (Voice), Nick Schager (Slant), Drew Toal (TONY) and Scott Tobias (AV Club).
Neil Genzlinger in the NYT: "One critic labeled No. 1 a 'dreary erotic roundelay.' Another described No. 2 as having 'a plot of stunning imbecility.' Must we even bother with Eating Out 3: All You Can Eat?" If so, there's more from Diego Costa in Slant and Andrew Schenker in the Voice.
Once again, Neil Genzlinger: "Adventures of Power is sprinkled with moderately amusing comic moments, but basically your enjoyment of this film will be proportional to your tolerance for the one-joke phenomenon of air drumming." More from Michelle Orange (Voice), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY) and Andrew Schenker (Slant).
St Trinian's is "a stunningly witless revival of the infamous British film series about a girls’ boarding school," notes Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT. More from Stephen Garrett (TONY), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant), Ella Taylor (Voice) and Sam Weisberg (L).
More from Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), Jonathan Kiefer (Faster Times), Peter Martin (Cinematical), Mary Pols (Time), Nick Schager (Slant), AO Scott (NYT), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and Stephanie Zacharek (Salon). Cinematical's Erik Davis interviews director Peter Billingsley.
"Two years ago a man named Oren Peli decided to make a movie," begins Peter Hall, introducing his interview with the writer-director at Cinematical (Jason Guerrasio talks with him, too, for Filmmaker). "He didn't know exactly how, but he knew he had a good premise, and he knew he had some helpful friends, so he spent roughly $15,000, hired a few actors and then spent a mere seven days filming in his own home. What came out of that was Paranormal Activity, a haunted-house labor of love that barely made its way around the festival circuit before being purchased by DreamWorks (only after Steven Spielberg reportedly experienced some paranormal activity of his own after watching a DVD of the film by himself).... Now after an unprecedented launch campaign in which fans literally got to demand that the film play near them, Paramount is ready to roll out Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity nationwide, a film I feel safe calling the scariest I've seen in years."
At PopMatters, Stephen Graham Jones on "Paranormal Activity and the Pinocchio Complex"; more from Ben Kenigsberg (TONY), Rob Nelson (IFC), Nathan Rabin (AV Club) and AO Scott (NYT).
Finally, I should mention that a three-week-long Elia Kazan retrospective begins at New York's Film Forum today, if only because Matt Zoller Seitz's got a terrific video essay on On the Waterfront at the L Magazine.