"Killer Elite," "Red State," "Household X," More

The Daily

Not even Moneyball could beat The Lion King 3D at the box office this weekend, as Anthony D'Alessandro reports, but it's for Moneyball that we've got a roundup rolling on and on beyond all reason. IndieWIRE's Peter Knegt notes that "the specialty box office had a clear winner in Weekend," and we've got a roundup on that one as well.

Killer Elite


"Wholly unrelated to the 1975 Sam Peckinpah film of the same name, Killer Elite is distinguished by one no-mercy, eye-gouging, testicle-punching brawl, and one whoppingly indifferent screenplay," writes Nick Pinkerton in the Voice. A quick sketch from Time Out Chicago's AA Dowd: Jason Statham "plays an ex-special-ops agent yanked out of retirement when someone kidnaps his mentor (Robert De Niro, in the Liam Neeson role). The guilty party, a deposed dictator with a chip on his shoulder, wants our erstwhile Transporter to knock off a trio of British mercenaries. 'I'm done with killing,' Statham insists, but before long he's working his way down the execution list. A mustachioed Clive Owen, in the single dullest performance of his career, runs interference."

More from Paul Constant (Stranger), Manohla Dargis (NYT), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 3/4), David Fear (Time Out New York, 2/5), Rob Humanick (Slant, 2.5/4), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 2/5), Peter Martin (Twitch), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Nathan Rabin (AV Club, D+), Matt Singer (IFC), Drew Taylor (Playlist, C+) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 5.5/10). Kaleem Aftab profiles Owen for the Independent.

Now then, about that Peckinpah, the one featuring Robert Duvall and James Caan: "It's a movie that exudes an air of such nonchalance toward generating any tension, momentum, or nuance that it's amazing the film even opened to strong theatrical business in late 1975 before, more predictably, sinking like a stone." Nick Schager at GreenCine Daily: "In virtually every respect, The Killer Elite doesn't work the way a prototypical actioner should, sabotaging its own thrills and character development with almost pathological doggedness. And yet primarily because of its myriad flaws, it's a surprisingly fascinating entry in the Peckinpah oeuvre, as it represents — in a manner similar to the grungy, gnarly, dryly sardonic Alfredo Garcia — a piercing reflection of its maker's devolution into devil-may-care apathy."

Red State


Red State opens in the UK on Friday, so Alex Godfrey meets Kevin Smith for the Guardian. In the New York Times, AO Scott writes: "His forays into conventional genres — Chasing Amy, Jersey Girl, the dispiritingly well-titled Cop Out — are rarely as interesting as his more free-form exercises in animus and provocation. Clerks 2 and Dogma, for instance, may not satisfy any cinephile standards of aesthetic distinction, but those are precisely the wrong standards to apply. The movies are full of rage, life and humor, and to find fault with their sloppy editing or awkward performances is to miss the point. There is no danger of that with Red State, an ideological horror-action movie with abundant bloodshed and some crisply edited flurries of gunplay. It gives a gruesome literalness to the tired idea of a culture war, turning bellicose rhetoric into actual murder."

For Alison Willmore, writing in Movieline, it's "a slog, a goading, ham-handed affair that's excruciatingly convinced of its own cultural relevance. There's the Westboro Baptist Church-inspired religious cult who don't just preach that God hates sinners, they've taken it on themselves to kill those sinners themselves. Their leader, Abin Cooper (a laudable Michael Parks), stops the film dead for an ominous sermon that creeps closer to camp as it drags on, as his flock, including his daughter Sara (Melissa Leo), beams beatifically at his harangue of hate. The zealots lure a trio of horny high school boys (Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun and Kyle Gallner) who think they're meeting an older woman for a hookup into their compound. The local sheriff (Stephen Root) is closeted and considers covering up for Cooper in exchange for the keeping of his secret, while the theoretically solid ATF forces that arrive halfway through, led by John Goodman as Joseph Keenan, turn out to be just as nuts as the religious radicals — 'Fuck people like this, they're animals,' sneers one…. Smith isn't up to doing anything other than setting up caricatures and then knocking them down."

In another piece for the AV Club, Alison notes that around 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christian. "If faith is still such an important part of American life, why is it met with such a lack of empathy in so many indies that theoretically go in search of a more sincere, less 'Hollywood' version of characters and stories?"

BRIEFLY


"Toast, director SJ Clarkson's sepia-toned adaptation of food writer Nigel Slater's memoir about growing up in the culinary-poor English midlands of the 1960s is an agreeable enough affair," finds Andrew Schenker in Slant. "Agreeable, that is, in everything but its treatment of Helena Bonham Carter's monstrous embodiment of lower-class pettiness, Joan Potter." She "becomes her stepson's chief antagonist" and casts "a pall over not only Nigel's life, but the film itself." More from Sam Adams (Time Out New York, 2/5), Stephen Holden (NYT), Nick Pinkerton (Voice) and Gabe Toro (Playlist, D+).

Machine Gun Preacher


The Guardian's Catherine Shoard caught Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher in Toronto: "Starring Gerard Butler — who also, significantly, executive produces — it's the real-life tale of Sam Childers, a burly ex-con builder who finds Jesus after a close encounter with a stabbed alcoholic and a sudden hurricane (the plot is nothing if not eventful). Childers then travels to Sudan where he builds an orphanage for the victims of the long-running civil war. The twist is that he isn't your average teary missionary, he's a lock-and-load crusader, blasting baddies into the sky with one hand (the locals brand him an African Rambo), escorting scores of cute kids to safety with the other. No wonder Butler fancied taking this on: it's a terrific fit for his own brand of soulful aggression — half saint, half psychopath." More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), David Fear (Time Out New York, 2/5), Ed Gonzalez (Slant, 2/4), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Tasha Robinson (AV Club, B), AO Scott (NYT), Gabe Toro (Playlist, D) and Alison Willmore (Movieline, 5/10). Tasha Robinson interviews Butler for the AV Club.

Dolpin Tale


"A smart, sweet and even — dare I say it? — inspiring kid-engineered story of real-life courage and ingenuity, Dolphin Tale is also about as WYSIWYG a film as you'll see this year, provided you've seen the trailer, which has been pretty hard to avoid." Glenn Kenny at MSN Movies: "That is, Dolphin Tale really is the finest dolphin-loses-its-tail-and-gets-a-prosthetic-one-that-helps-it-swim-properly-and-makes-said-dolphin-and-the-humans-around-her (for the dolphin in question is indeed a she)-much-much-happier movie that you're likely to see this, or any other, year." The Boston Globe's Ty Burr: "It features such name players as Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Harry Connick Jr, but the breakout star of Dolphin Tale is Winter, the dolphin whose real-life story the movie tells." More from Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 3/4), Aaron Hillis (Voice), Peter Martin (Twitch), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Mary Pols (Time), Nathan Rabin (AV Club, C+), Nick Schager (Slant, 2.5/4), Drew Taylor (Playlist, C), Alison Willmore (TONY, 3/5) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 7.5/10).

"Imagine A Civil Action starring Ryan Gosling's inspiring teacher/drug-addict from Half Nelson and you'll get the basic idea behind Puncture, a typically improbable David & Goliath courtroom drama with a small lawyer battling the corporate medical establishment." Vadim Rizov for Box Office: "Holding it together is an amusingly twitchy Chris Evans as Mike Weiss, a brilliant Houston attorney who finds exploitable legal loopholes and rehearses closing statements during serious crack binges with interchangeable cracked-out women in hotel rooms." Ultimately, though, "Puncture is rarely more convincing than the usual legal saga." More from Robert Abele (Los Angeles Times), David Fear (Time Out New York, 3/5), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Tasha Robinson (AV Club, C+) and Gabe Toro (Playlist, C+).

On Friday, Movieline's ST VanAirsdale collected the "9 Most Scathing Critical Responses" to the Taylor Lautner action thriller Abduction, and while that's probably all we really need, there is more from Logan Hill (New York), Stephen Holden (NYT), R Kurt Osenlund (Slant), Nathan Rabin (AV Club, C-) and Alison Willmore (Movieline, 5.5/10).

REVIVALS


"You cannot count the pleasures of Vittorio De Sica's Marriage, Italian Style on one hand alone," argues Steve Macfarlane in the L. "For starters, there's Sophia Loren at the peak of her prowess, an airheaded, indignant Marcello Mastroianni, a lush score by Armando Trovajoli, and of course that redolent 'Scope cinematography that comes with any jet-setting Carlo Ponti production of the early 60s."

Marriage, Italian Style


More from Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York, 3/5) and a roundup from Alt Screen. Film Forum is screening Marriage with Fellini's hour-long The Temptation of Dr Antonio, his "first color film," notes Macfarlane, "the 'half' precipitating , made for the Boccaccio '70 omnibus film in 1962." Kino, which has released Marriage and De Sica's Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963) on Blu-ray will follow up on October 11 with Blu-ray releases of Boccaccio '70 and Mario Monicelli's Casanova '70 (1965).

Brian Darr rounds up a mass of screenings in the San Francisco Bay Area, while the Reader's JR Jones covers Chicago. Criterion's "Friday Repertory Roundup" spans the globe.

IN JAPAN


"The recent spate of Japanese family dramas by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Hirokazu Koreeda, Shinya Tsukamoto, Yuya Ishii and other indie directors has produced much outstanding work, but the on-screen alienation can be depressing, to be honest," writes Mark Schilling in the Japan Times. "The housewives (almost never career women) in these films live especially joyless lives, expected as they are to sacrifice themselves for family units (hard to call them 'members') who barely acknowledge their existence. So it was with the expectation of another downer that I watched Koki Yoshida's Kazoku X (Household X), a first feature selected for the Forum section of this year's Berlin Film Festival. Influenced by the observational, documentary methods of Nobuhiro Suwa (Yoshida was both Suwa's student and assistant director), the film focuses on what must be the ultimate dysfunctional Japanese family…. But the film held my attention to the end, despite its by-now overfamiliar indie techniques, from the barely-there dialogue and extreme closeups with a jittery handheld camera to the absence of background music, back story or any of the other usual devices for building empathy and sustaining interest."

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