With lots of notable films hitting theaters today, it’s a great time for The Review Report, our weekly roundup of notable reviews for new films opening in theaters. Clicking on any title or critic will take you to the corresponding page on the Criticwire Network, where you can find lots more reviews and grades from all your favorite film critics.
First and foremost is “Side Effects,” which director Steven Soderbergh says will be his final theatrically released film. Many seem to think it’s a good way for the director who rocked the world of independent film with “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” to go out, though some found the numerous twists to be a hurdle rather than an adventure:
"If Soderbergh makes good on his threat to retire, 'Side Effects' reminds us of what we’ll be missing — he’s that rare filmmaker who can push big-name actors to new and interesting levels and who can still surprise audiences without making them feel duped or cheated. Go see it before someone spoils the fun."
"The story’s segue from intimate character study to wrong-man noir is wholly intentional and superficially gripping. But Law does little more than hit the same 'Parallax View' paranoiac’s note over and over, until things resolve themselves a little too neatly and miraculously. The emotional depths of the film’s first half get bludgeoned by the simplistically lurid twists and turns, which hinge on some egregiously homophobic stereotypes that Soderbergh’s clinical touch fails to complicate."
"Ultimate in more ways than one, 'Side Effects' may just be THE quintessential Soderbergh film."
Not a Soderbergh fan? Fancy yourself a unique take on tired settings? Cate Shortland’s “Lore," the top reviewed new release in our network, follows five siblings trying to make it to their grandmother’s house after their Nazi parents are arrested by Allied Forces:
"In writing it may sound like 'Lore' is a bit too sympathetic towards a young Nazi girl, but by experiencing the film firsthand, we are shown the horrors of brainwashing, whether it be by one’s family, political party, or religion. Shortland reveals the tragic effects that narrowminded ideologies have on children, especially when the facade of said ideology is ripped apart at its seams."
"'Lore' is a remarkable film that explores characters, often unlikable, in situations of unbearable stress. There is also this: Few storytellers -- one recent exception is Güther Grass -- are willing even now to see Germans as victims of Hitler... Even so it’s not a sympathetic portrait. It’s merely an empathetic one."
"'Lore' is a rare, wonderful film that works not just as surface entertainment, but has deeper historical meaning, as well as an even grander, more universal statement. For those still trying to make sense of the aftermath of World War II, observing the nascent camps of 'how to deal with this' is truly fascinating (and, with regard to the deniers, frightening.) As a coming of age tale in a crucible, I can think of few better."
Roman Coppola is behind the camera again after over a decade, but “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” hasn’t received the reception that fans of his first film "CQ" or his collaborations with Wes Anderson would hope for:
"We like Coppola as a director, but wish this were a story and a character that better deserved his idiosyncratic, energetic visual sensibility. Here he's working with a lot of resources at his disposal, heaps of self-awareness and no shortage of talent, but the confidence, even bravado, that the film displays in it visuals, it seems to lack in its subject matter."
"Coppola consciously tries to mimic Wes Anderson's whimsy and archness, but he lacks control of his instrument. He can't figure out the right tone, so the whole thing ends up feeling like a disorganized celebrity roast."
Lastly, you might consider “The Playroom," a divisive family drama by Julie Dyer:
"With a family dynamic so truthful and complex, the pathos is profound. Nuanced yet bold, The Playroomis utterly engrossing."
"Lacking much in the way of character depth, the film attempts to fill the gap with melodrama. But when tempers eventually clash and the unsaid becomes spoken, the incidents lack spark, because while The Playroom engages us with its thoughts on childhood and growing up in general, by the end it's hard to get past how little we actually know about the Cantwells in particular."