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"Peepli Live," "The Expendables," Ozon, Wakamatsu, More

So we've got entries going on David Michôd's Animal Kingdom and Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs the World and we've checked in on various local scenes. Here's a sampling of what the critics are saying about the other films opening today.

"One of the richest surprises of the summer is the pungent Peepli Live, writer-director Anusha Rizvi's vivid, bustling satire, in the vein of Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole," suggests Newcity Film's Ray Pride, "or should we say, opening a vein as Ace in the Hole does."

"What do you if you're a debt-ridden farmer about to lose your land?" asks Rachel Saltz in the New York Times. "If you're the brothers Naatha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and Budhia (Raghubir Yadav), you opt to take a politician's advice: one of you — Budhia chooses Naatha — will commit suicide, thus guaranteeing your family a government subsidy. That's the premise of Peepli Live, a fitfully amusing Indian comedy that touches on a hot-button topic — the country's rash of farmer suicides — as it skewers a hidebound bureaucracy (no one can figure out a way to get money to the brothers that doesn't involve one of them offing himself) and the predatory news organizations that swoop into the village of Peepli to capture Naatha's death live."

This "debut is both a heartfelt and a genuinely funny skewering of India's convoluted caste-consciousness," writes Eric Hynes in Time Out New York. More from Aaron Hillis (Voice), John Sylva (L), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Stephen Saito (IFC), Andrew Schenker (Slant) and Srikanth Srinivasan. Reed Johnson has a backgrounder in the Los Angeles Times. Viewing: David Poland talks with producer Aamir Kahn.

"With The Expendables, a rejuvenated Sylvester Stallone set out to make not just an action movie, but the action movie," begins Nathan Rabin at the AV Club. "To aid his quest to create the gold standard by which all other cinematic bloodbaths should be compared, he assembled a cast straight out of a 12-year-old boy's fevered fantasies, bringing together multiple generations of action heroes, including Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Gary Daniels, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, and more. He even managed to snag a much-ballyhooed cameo from a towering icon who seemingly abandoned Hollywood to pursue lesser work, like governing California. The once-in-a-lifetime cast has raised the expectations of ultra-violence fans to almost prohibitively high levels, but The Expendables delivers pretty much exactly what its audience wants and expects: big, dumb, campy fun so deliriously, comically macho, it's remarkable that no one in the cast died of testosterone poisoning."

Nick Pinkerton: "This is action as timeless as the reptilian brain — and if The Expendables is no classic, for about 20 minutes, it blowed up real good." Also in the Voice: "Although there's a long and quite reputable tradition of ensemble action-adventure films, from The Dirty Dozen and The Magnificent Seven to The Wild Bunch, Stallone's eldercare variant is most reminiscent of the unsung work of one Andrew V McLaglen," writes Eric Hynes, presenting an annotated list of "five McLaglen films starring anachronistic throwbacks: macho male expendables with nothing left to lose."

More, though, on The Expendables from Josef Braun, Richard Brody (New Yorker), Ty Burr (Boston Globe), Ed Champion, Richard Corliss (Time), Mike D'Angelo (Las Vegas Weekly), Tony Dayoub, William Goss (Cinematical), Robert Horton (Herald), Ben Kenigsberg (Time Out Chicago), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies), Anthony Lane (New Yorker), Shawn Levy (Oregonian), Drew McWeeney (Hitfix), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Michael Joshua Rowin (examining the "Death of the old-school action hero" at Salon), Marc Savlov (Austin Chronicle), AO Scott (NYT), Matt Singer (IFC), Benjamin Sutton and Henry Stewart (L), Keith Uhlich (TONY), Armond White (New York Press), Lauren Wissot (Slant) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline).

Apologies right up front to Slant for cutting and pasting so very much of Matthew Connolly's piece here (and to everyone else who's reviewed Ryan Murphy's film based on Elizabeth Gilbert's bestseller for giving him the floor completely), but this just about nails the consensus:

"A negative review of Eat, Pray, Love practically writes itself. Just look at the premise: An upper-middle-class white Manhattanite (Julia Roberts) who ends her mediocre marriage to a guy who looks like Billy Crudup has an affair with a twentysomething hunk who looks like James Franco embarks on a year-long quest of emotional and spiritual healing by spending four months apiece in Italy, India, and Indonesia (where she has an affair with a guy who looks like Javier Bardem). You don't even have to see the thing to prepare the requisite objections: the unthinking privilege of the setup; the encounters with third-world experience as lessons in solving first-world malaise; the reduction of culture to a series of shopworn visual trinkets (Italy = food! India = meditation! Indonesia = meditation and the beach!).

"But might these assumptions be clichés in their own right, I thought as I settled into my seat? Can't it be just as wearisome to hear critics chiding films for their lack of self-awareness and sophistication as it is to watch the films themselves? As the lights dimmed, I tried to embark on my own version of the film's journey, attempting to clear my mind of preconceptions and seeing where the flow of the universe took me.

"I'll be damned if it didn't end up taking me exactly where I thought it would, though one leaves more indifferent than incensed."

More from Josef Braun, Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), David Edelstein (New York), Jesse Hassenger (L), Ann Hornaday (Washington Post), Robert Horton (Herald), Kimberley Jones (Austin Chronicle), Ben Kenigsberg (Time Out Chicago), Karina Longworth (Voice), Drew McWeeney (Hitfix), Wesley Morris (Boston Globe), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Tasha Robinson (AV Club), Mike Russell (Oregonian), AO Scott (NYT), Betsy Sharkey (LAT), Eric D Snider (Cinematical), Dana Stevens (Slate), Anne Thompson, Scott Tobias (NPR) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline). Brooks Barnes profiles Murphy for the NYT. At Slate, Stephen Metcalf, Katie Roiphe and Julia Turner discuss the book.



"With sources as rich as Ursula K Le Guin and Studio Ghibli, Tales from Earthsea (loosely drawn from Le Guin's Earthsea series) has no right to disappoint," writes Ernie Piper IV in the Stranger. "But it does." It's "the handiwork of first-timer Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao — and the lack of the master's poetic control shows," writes Michael Atkinson in the Voice. At Twitch, Todd Brown goes to great lengths to "break down the film first on its own terms before addressing how it fits into the Ghibli canon and compares to the original text." More from Jürgen Fauth, Stephen Holden (NYT), Robert Horton (Herald) and Keith Uhlich (TONY).

"Salt of This Sea is an enraged tourist's consideration on the Israeli-Palestinian ethnic conflict, heavy in the mouth but not without its flashes of evocative visual beauty and insight," writes Slant's Ed Gonzalez. "Possibly a stand-in for writer-director Annemarie Jacir, Suheir Hammad stars as Soraya, a Brooklyn-born woman of Palestinian descent who travels to Israel in order to connect with her roots, and from checkpoints to restaurants to financial and government institutions, Jacir structures nearly every scene in the film as a condemnation of Israeli hegemony. Tactless and belligerent as Israeli's cavalierly supremacist attitude toward Palestinians in the Middle East may be, so too is Jacir's self-righteousness." More from Ian Buckwalter (NPR), Mike Hale (NYT), Brandon Harris (Hammer to Nail), Eric Hynes (TONY), Ella Taylor (Voice) and James van Maanen.

"The independent crime drama La Soga has the rare distinction of being shot in the Dominican Republic — a country without a film industry," notes Scott Tobias for NPR. "Director Josh Crook, a non-Spanish speaker from Brooklyn, shoots the film in a glossy Hollywood style that has the effect of aestheticizing poverty when he means to evoke it. Despite the novel setting, La Soga has the arm's-length distance of an outsider's travelogue, and the cliche-packed melodrama of the story does little to bring the audience any closer." More from Sam Adams (AV Club), Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Aaron Hillis (Voice), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant), Michelle Orange (Movieline) and Lisa Rosman (TONY). IndieWIRE interviews Crook.


They Came to Play is "a beautifully executed documentary about the Van Cliburn Foundation's Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs," notes Neil Genzlinger in the NYT. "The classical pianists in this contest play at a near-professional level, but when they talk about their work, the jobs involved are a bit more down to earth: ophthalmologist, dental assistant, jeweler, tennis coach." Alex Rotaru "paces the film perfectly... And, just as admirably, he never tips his hand as the competition's elimination rounds progress." More from Michelle Orange (Voice).

"Framed as a video from a mother to her child, Quentin Lee's [The People I've Slept With] traces one young woman's transformation from self-described slut to responsible parent," writes Andrew Schenker (TONY). Nick Pinkerton in the Voice: "When all's done, Angela has learned a challenging moral to pass along to her baby: 'The most important thing is: You do what you want.' If this advice is followed, no one will finish The People I've Slept With, which has notably liberated itself from the fusty tradition that a sex comedy should either titillate or tickle an audience." More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT) and Diego Costa (Slant).

"The 1964 murder of civil-rights activists Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney outside Philadelphia, Mississippi — the seat of Neshoba county — brought the deadly intractability of the segregated South home to many, particularly in the North." Sam Adams at the AV Club: "Nearly half a century later, Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano's documentary Neshoba: The Price Of Freedom, brings it home again with determination, if not much invention." More from Ed Champion, Ernest Hardy (Voice), AO Scott (NYT), S James Snyder (TONY) and James van Maanen.

"Family Affair is director Chico Colvard's very personal search for answers as to why his three sisters continue to keep in their lives the father who sexually abused them as children," writes Lauren Wissot in Slant. At the IFC Center in New York.



"Distributors have a hard time keeping up with François Ozon, who has made a film almost every year since his full-length debut, Sitcom, in 1998." Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman: "Or maybe, like audiences, they've lost interest. Ozon's The Refuge is being released in the UK before his previous film, Ricky, and a month ahead of the screening of his newest work, Potiche, at the Venice Film Festival. This impish director once seemed destined to be a Gallic Almodóvar. He produced a dazzling run of early films, including Under the Sand, rightly admired by Ingmar Bergman. Like that picture, The Refuge is an intimate portrait of an emotionally fragile woman, but it feels preliminary, even cursory, by comparison."

"It's blessed with a mesmerising performance from Isabelle Carré who was six or seven months pregnant for most of the shoot and appears in nearly every scene," notes Dave Calhoun in Time Out London. "It's short and even slight, more of an observational short story of a film than a rich novel, but it's entrancing and moving nonetheless."

Viewing (7'55"). Steve Rose talks with Ozon for the Guardian, where Cath Clarke gives the film three out of five stars.



"Koji Wakamatsu is living proof that a lifelong rebel can thrive in Japan's go-along-to-get-along film industry," writes Mark Schilling, introducing his interview for the Japan Times. "Today he is celebrated as not just another 60s survivor — he helped pioneer the pinku (pink, or soft porn) genre in that era, mixing in radical politics and experimental aesthetics with the sex — but a still-relevant director who has done some of his best work in his eighth decade." Schilling gives Caterpillar four out of five stars: "Though based on a story by Edogawa Rampo, Japan's master of the mysterious and bizarre, the film is not Rampo-esque in the least.... It is closer to the World War II trilogy of the late Kazuo Kuroki, from the 2002 Utsukushi Natsu no Kirishima (A Boy's Summer in 1945) to 2006's Kamiya Etsuko no Seishun (The Youth of Etsuko Kamiya) — films that sparely but powerfully examined home-front realities."

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