"The sleeper hit of the 2010 film-festival and indie-awards circuit, Mike Ott's moody micro-budget Littlerock patiently observes the California road trip of college-aged Japanese siblings Atsuko (Atsuko Okatsuka, also the film's co-writer) and Rintaro (Rintaro Sawamoto)." Karina Longworth in the Voice: "En route to Manzanar (the filmmakers leave viewers to draw on their own knowledge, if any, of what that destination portends until the film's very end), their car breaks down in the tiny desert town of Littlerock, where they soon fall in with a local crowd of young layabouts."
"Amid the keggers and daytime bike rides is plenty of drug use, an overdue loan, and a menacing alpha-male bigot (Ryan Dillon)," notes Bill Weber in Slant, "but Ott uses the threat of violence as a mere layer of mood, keeping his focus on the mutable, and often unspoken, themes of identity and the nature of attempts to explore and redefine it…. Rather than serving as an exoticized object of lust for [Cory] Zacharia and [Brett L] Tinnes to passive-aggressively compete for, Okatsuka's performance, and her voiceovers of letters home to Atsuko's father (freely fibbing about her location and activities), hold a yearning mix of bafflement and purpose; the girl's quest to solve the enigma of America is both aided and thwarted by its slippery, unfathomable man-boys."
More from Mike Hale in the New York Times, where Jeannette Catsoulis reviews another tiny American indie, this one playing at Brooklyn's reRun Gastropub Theater: "The first thing you notice about Bad Posture is that it's unstudiedly cool: laid-back, observant and rather shady, it cares so little for your attention that you can't stop watching. This offhandedly nonchalant tone emanates in no small measure from the film's summer-doldrums setting in Albuquerque. The director, Malcolm Murray, grew up there (as did most of his nonprofessional cast of friends and acquaintances), and this guys-hanging-out feature — Mr Murray's first narrative project — proceeds with an insider confidence that belies his inexperience and that of his collaborators."
"For about 20 minutes, Bad Posture is agonizing in all the ways we've come to dread from a low-budget film about troubled, rootless misfits," warns Chuck Bowen in Slant, and it hits those notes "for most of the first act, up to and including a meet-cute between the protagonist, Flo (Florian Brozek, who also wrote the script), and a pretty girl, Marissa (Tabatha Shaun), by the lake of a local park. As Flo and Marissa awkwardly and potentially hit it off, Flo's best — and, it would appear, only — friend, Trey (Trey Cole), seizes the opportunity to steal and hock Marissa's car, an act that will haunt Flo for the rest of the film and eventually come to inform the conclusion. Once it gets its nominal plot and character development out of the way, though, Bad Posture turns out to be pleasantly surprising."
Bad Posture "is sure to unsettle those who prefer films to pass clear judgment on not-so-upstanding types, but it's hard not to admire such a drolly off-kilter pass at the domestic regionalist indie," finds Benjamin Mercer in the Voice. Brandon Harris, who interviews Murphy for Filmmaker, argues for Hammer to Nail that this "anti-mumblecore western of sorts… contains worlds of rich texture and character interaction, of, for lack of a better word, community."
A few days ago, Filmmaker editor Scott Macaulay asked Kentucker Audley about No Budge, a site the Memphis-based filmmaker has launched for himself and other directors as "a place to watch no-budget films." One of those films is Audley's latest, the hour-long Holy Land (2010) and the New Yorker's Richard Brody is impressed: "He's a loamy filmmaker, a regionalist who gets at extended connections, involving friends and work, family and money, with rapid decisiveness and conjures webs of involvement that entangle characters like cinematic kudzu. His sense of landscape and texture suggests the heavy weight that comes with a sense of place, the connections that are also ties, the certainties that are also constraints. Audley's other features, Team Picture and Open Five, do something similar; Holy Land, with its more intricate construction, is a disarmingly simple and clear film that, in its mere one-hour running time, offers a remarkably full and novelistic sense of lives being lived, of a world and a worldview."
More from David Lowery and Craig Keller.
"30 Minutes or Less could mark the unveiling of a new generation of comedy heroes who get called upon to salvage unsalvageable scripts and redeem seemingly irredeemably slim material," writes Nathan Rabin at the AV Club. "It's the kind of featherweight trifle Owen Wilson might have been called upon to try to rescue six years ago. Today, Jesse Eisenberg — and to a lesser extent, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, and Nick Swardson — are the doomed souls cursed with trying to wring laughs from a vast comic desert." More from Marjorie Baumgarten (Austin Chronicle, 2/5), Paul Constant (Stranger), Richard Corliss (Time), Manohla Dargis (NYT), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 2/4), Jonathan Kiefer (Faster Times), Wesley Morris (Boston Globe, 2/4), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), R Kurt Osenlund (Slant, 1.5/4), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Ben Sachs (Chicago Reader), Dana Stevens (Slate), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York, 3/5), Seth Colter Walls (Voice) and Stephanie Zackarek (Movieline, 6.5/10).
"Legendary and modern struggles are braided together in director Yousry Nasrallah's Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story, which playfully yet bitingly evokes the titular Arabian Nights fabulist in contemporary Egypt." Fernando F Croce for Slant: "Just as the act of spinning tales was to Scheherazade a (literal) means of survival that grew into a creative form of resistance, to Nasrallah's heroines it is a medium of commoditized amusement which gradually becomes a platform for awareness of society and self." More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT) and Nick Schager (Voice).
"It almost kills me," sighs Slant's Ed Gonzalez, "to say that Steven Quale's Final Destination 5 brings sanity to a single-minded, broken record of a franchise that has, until now at least, seemed predisposed against thoughtfulness. If the series really does end here, may this final installment be hailed as a triumph of poetic justice." More from Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 2/4), Mike Hale (NYT), Michelle Orange (Movieline, 8/10) and Tasha Robinson (AV Club, C-).