"When We Leave, the first feature written and directed by Feo Aladag, is a somber, sometimes powerful and frequently schematic drama about a woman trying to free herself from the emotional and physical violence of a cruel, patriarchal system," writes AO Scott in the New York Times, where Ella Taylor profiles the director. "The violence is present from the very first shot, in which a young man (we will eventually learn that he is one of the main character's brothers) points a gun at a woman walking with her child. What follows flashes back from that moment, tracing a path of brutality, oppression and stifled individuality leavened by a few glimmers of tenderness and grace."
"Based on an 'honor killing' that took place in Berlin in 2005, When We Leave, Germany's worthy submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, starts with a mother's simple instinct to protect her son," writes Scott Tobias at the AV Club. "From there, she's set on an inexorable path to tragedy. Giving a far more sober — though no less impressive — variation on her scintillating breakthrough role in Fatih Akin's Head-On, Sibel Kekilli stars as a German-born woman from a conservative Turkish Muslim family who flees from her abusive husband (Ufuk Bayraktar) in Istanbul. She and her son (Nizam Schiller) return to Germany to find safe haven in her family's home, but she doesn't get the welcoming (or at least grudgingly accepting) reception she naïvely expects."
For Joseph Jon Lanthier, writing in Slant, Kekilli "deserves attention primarily for resisting the plodding stateliness of Aladag's neophyte directing." In the Voice, Nick Pinkerton agrees: "Kekilli, more than an unofficial spokeswoman for rebellious Euro-Muslim youth, sells a simple and deterministic story through her sheer presence and precise reaction shots." More from Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times), Leslie Stonebraker (New York Press) and James van Maanen.
"Strange is the new normal in Gregg Araki's splashy and squishy Kaboom, a screwball clusterfuck that finds the writer-director returning to portraits of youthful, orgasmocentric ensembles while seeking a balance between the gleefully anarchic impulses of his early New Queer Cinema efforts and the newfound technical control of Mysterious Skin." Fernando F Croce in Slant: "The gumdrop-colored dorms and surrounding party-hardy dives and nude beaches of its campus setting (which, identified simply and amusingly as 'College of Creative Arts,' plays much like a lampoon of conservative fears about Southern California universities) make for arguably the most visually vibrant of the filmmaker's teenage wastelands, a polysexual hothouse that, as dazed freshman Smith (Thomas Dekker) promptly discovers, is not without its intimations of dread."
Time Out New York's David Fear: "Cute, awkward college freshman Smith (Dekker) spends his days nursing a crush on his priapic surfer roommate (Chris Zylka) and palling around with his female best friend ([Haley] Bennett). Then strange things start happening: People from Smith's recurring dream begin showing up in real life. Men in animal masks start stalking him. A comely British student ([Juno] Temple) and impossibly hunky gentlemen suddenly seem ready to jump into his bed. (In Araki's films, the women are hot — and the dudes are much, much hotter.) Corpses appear, then go missing. Something surreal and possibly supernatural seems to be afoot. It's as if Araki simply decided to make the horniest episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ever."
More from Christopher Bourne, Cynthia Fuchs (PopMatters), J Hoberman (Voice), Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist), Noel Murray (AV Club, B+), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), AO Scott (NYT), James van Maanen, Kim Voynar (Movie City News), Armond White (New York Press) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 8/10). Earlier: Reviews from Cannes. Interviews with Araki: Ed Champion (audio, 24'29"), Steve Erickson (Gay City News), Brandon Harris (Filmmaker), Aaron Hillis (Voice), Dennis Lim (NYT), Noel Murray (AV Club) and Joshua Rothkopf (TONY).
"Made before [Charles Bronson] and director Michael Winner unleashed the Death Wish cycle upon the world, The Mechanic (1972) is far from great, or even good, but it's interesting," argues Matt Prigge in the Philadelphia Weekly. "Bronson's high-end assassin is a master craftsman, as well as hideously lonely, detached from humanity and, possibly, suicidal — surely the only explanation for why he plays mentor to a kid whose father he earlier whacked. (Hopefully he won't seek revenge!) It's a lazy director's imitation Le Samouraï, with none of the craft but, eerily, some of the same concerns. Thirty years later and Winner's and Bronson's curio is reborn as a Jason Statham vehicle, but not one of the fun ones."
But for Josef Braun, "The Mechanic distinguishes itself almost instantly from your run-of-the-mill contemporary hitman-as-antihero actioner by way of its relative efficiency, dearth of annoying cutting frenzies and absence of ostentatious computer-enhanced tomfoolery… Statham's so rarely used to full effect. It's refreshing to see him in a picture devoid of splatter, misogyny, sexual assault, inane video game aping, and bad comedy."
More from Manohla Dargis (NYT), Todd Gilchrist (Cinematical), Jesse Hassenger (L), Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 3.5/5), Brian Miller (Voice), Josh Modell (AV Club, B), Mary Pols (Time), Nick Schager (Slant, 2.5/4), Bill Stamets (Newcity Film), Keith Uhlich (TONY, 2/5) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 6.5/10).
"The famed titular Wing Chun martial arts master returns to protect Chinese honor in Ip Man 2, a redundant if nonetheless occasionally thrilling follow-up bolstered by star Donnie Yen's precision combat skills," writes Nick Schager for the Voice. Manohla Dargis in the NYT, where Dennis Lim has background on the film's making: "With the exception of an overextended, two-part smackdown featuring a brutish British boxer (Darren Shahlavi), the director Wilson Yip keeps the movie moving as fast as the whiplash action. Choreographed by the film martial-arts veteran Sammo Hung, the fights are spectacularly designed and performed, relying more on muscle and skill than wirework." More from Simon Abrams (NYP), Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant, 3/4) and Gabe Toro (Playlist).
"In Sebastián Cordero's Rage, Latin American immigrants José María (Gustavo Sánchez Parra) and Rosa (Martina García) strike up a passionate affair in their adopted Spanish homeland, but everything seems stacked against their happiness," writes Andrew Schenker in Slant. "Although the film's opening act is a tad blunt in its portrayal of the obstacles facing South American immigrants in Europe (is everyone in Spain a racist?), it's also rather charming in its depiction of the first stirrings of young love… But when José María's irrepressible anger and its inevitable consequences force the construction worker to go into exile, the film never overcomes the pair's separation." More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT) and Michelle Orange (Voice).
"More schizophrenic than its diabolically infested characters, The Rite is partly a slow-burning horror flick and partly a Vatican recruitment video," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. Time's Richard Corliss: "Anthony Hopkins stars as a craggily heroic Jesuit, perhaps as penance for his three Hannibal Lecter films, but The Rite is no Silence of the Lamb of God. Scrupulously hewing to both the scriptures of Catholic dogma and the strictures of a PG-13 rating, director Mikael Håfström forsakes horror for atmosphere. In his effective version of Stephen King's 1408, Hafstrom got plenty of thrills from locking a skeptic in a spooky room, and here again he sets a portentous mood in scenes in which Hopkins is cloistered with one of the possessed. These, though, are just creepy preparations for gross-out surprises that don't materialize. The Rite is all windup, weak delivery." More from Simon Abrams (Slant, 1/4), Cynthia Fuchs (PopMatters), William Goss (Cinematical), Stephen Holden (NYT), Keith Phipps (AV Club, C-), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY, 1/5), Bill Stamets (Newcity Film), Jim Tudor (Twitch), Mike Wilmington (Movie City News) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 6.5/10).
Andy Webster in the NYT: "Blackmail Boys is basically about just that: a young gay couple and their ill-fated attempt to coerce a famous figure into paying them to keep his gay identity from view… Much of the film is one sexual interlude after another (full frontal, yes; pornographic detail, pretty close). Many straight viewers (gay ones, too) may roll their eyes." More from Diego Costa (Slant, 2/4) and Mark Holcomb (Voice). At Brooklyn's Rerun Gastropub Theater.
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