Hey there! The world of the creative takes center stage on the big screen this week, as singers, writers, and performance artists feature heavily in the weekend releases. From ‘80s rock bands to the New York art scene to ex-pat writers in the birthplace of literary circles, The City of Lights itself, a hefty dose of the artistic graces the cinemas and adds some interesting and nontraditional subject matter to the lineup. Though the obligatory summer fare – another adult male with Peter Pan syndrome, a grisly murder flick, and even more aliens – isn’t very far behind. Looks like a blast!
Wedding bells reunite a father and son in this weekend’s “That’s My Boy,” from director Sean Anders (“Hot Tub Time Machine”). Of course, the reunion’s motives are mixed, as drunk, deadbeat dad Donny (Adam Sandler) is just looking for a handout from his son Todd (Andy Samberg), a very successful hedge fund manager, and his bride-to-be (Leighton Meester). The typical Adam-Sandler-rom-com antics ensue as Donny takes up residence with the engaged couple, pretending to be Todd’s long-lost friend and shoves his debased lifestyle (strippers and drugs are just the tip of the iceberg) in the duo’s face. Will Forte and James Caan co-star, along with non-actors Tony Orlando (minus Dawn), Vanilla Ice, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, and the Knicks’ guard Baron Davis. Our review attributes the R-rating and Samberg’s straight-man role to lessening the standard manchildishness we’ve come to expect from Sandler, but admits, “in ‘That’s My Boy,’ our men are bound to be bad boys forever, because it’s the women that are destined to be objects of mockery, derision and even grotesque defilement.” Rotten Tomatoes: 17% Metacritic: 20
Based on the hit Broadway musical, Adam Shankman’s “Rock of Ages” tells the completely original story of a Tulsa native with the totally non-ironic name of Sherri Christian (Julianne Hough), who comes to Los Angeles to pursue dreams of fame and fortune. Along the way she meets a bartender named Drew (Diego Boneta) with similar aspirations, who gets her a job as a waitress. And, as we all know, the most surefire way to make it in LA is to get a job waiting tables at a club. Especially if said club is owned by Alec Baldwin. And even more especially if your favorite band and its legendary lead singer (Tom Cruise) are playing their farewell show there. Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, and the go-to bad boy/rock star actor Russell Brand co-star. Our review says, “with its two-plus-hour running time, ‘Rock of Ages’ is a celebration of excess that only a passed-out, nearly deaf groupie would love. With Shankman in the director's chair, the tone is all over the place, with it never deciding whether it's a genuine effort or pure camp.” RT: 46% MC: 49
Directed by Lynn Shelton, “Your Sister’s Sister” follows Jack (Mark Duplass) into the woods. More specifically, to his best friend Iris’ (Emily Blunt) cabin in the woods, where she deports him with the hope of helping him move past his brother’s untimely death. Yet upon arrival, Jack discovers the country retreat inhabited by another – Iris’ sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). Though Hannah is seeking the same sort of solitude as Jack, the two find companionship helpful, and then complicated by an unexpected arrival from Iris. Our review says the film “ultimately feels somewhat cobbled together and despite great performances by the trio of leads, never gains the emotional pull or depth it strives for. The texture brought by the performances certainly goes a long way, but without a structure to properly zero in on where the strongest story elements are, Shelton's film misses the mark.” RT: 89% MC: 72
The noir thriller “The Woman in the Fifth” begins with an American, Tom (Ethan Hawke), arriving in Paris to reconnect with a wife and daughter who have abandoned him. They’re not particularly interested, however, so Tom sets up residence in a seedy motel and takes a back-alley job to pay for it, hoping to win over his family with more time. But soon enough he meets the lovely Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas), who compromises his good intentions and draws him into the sleazy underbelly of the city’s fifth arrondissement. Our review says, “Hawke is an attractive lead, and Scott Thomas brings a smoky maturity to her performance, but the final act of ‘The Woman In The Fifth’ dissolves into a tired what-is-reality refraction of the storyline that stunts any potential character drama originating from this premise organically,” and says the Pawel Pawlikowski-directed film “flits from magic realism, to inner-city domestic drama, to Dostoyevsky-ish moral conundrums without any confidence or conviction. It’s not a reflection of narrative restlessness, but rather storytelling timidity.” RT: 69% MC: 53
The Spanish film “Extraterrestrial,” from director Nacho Vigalondo, is a sci-fi-rom-com-quirkfest-thriller. If that sounds awkward and confusing, imagine waking up from a one-night stand to find your actual lover walking in the door and an alien spacecraft hovering over your city. Of course, the impending invasion provides great impetus for the trysting couple (Julian Villagran and Michelle Jenner) to create a real relationship and a question about whether it would survive without the death threat hanging (quite literally) over their heads. Our review says “while we don't get to see any slimy space beasts (sadly), we do get relationship unease, some clever third act twists, and a deep sense of resigned melancholy, all things that most romantic comedies could use more of,” and commends the direction, saying “‘Extraterrestrial’ is a bold move, but one that clearly spells out Vigalondo's versatility – he can make you laugh just as easily as he can get you to scream.” RT: 73% MC: 62
There are several characters that could be “The Tortured” in this week’s serial killer horror genre flick. A mother and father (Erika Christensen and Jesse Metcalfe), emotionally and mentally tortured by the kidnapping and subsequent death of their son, decide to take prisoner, then physically torture the man (Bill Moseley) who is responsible. Expect lots of blood and tears, but not a lot of acting. Or, rather, Acting. Our review says the Robert Lieberman-directed film is of the “immoral, empty-headed garbage-y genre” and cites improbable characters and a predictable storyline as some of its major downfalls. Congratulations, audience! You are the winners for the most tortured. RT: 8% MC: 14
In his film directorial debut, the documentary “Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present,” director Matthew Akers provides an overview of Abramović's history and her body of work, delves into the process of compiling a retrospective of that oeuvre at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and, finally, provides a deeper look into her 2010 performance exhibition that gives the film its name. The titular work involved Abramović sitting perfectly still and perfectly quiet for hours and hours on end, while visitors sat opposite and observed her silent and immobile body. Throughout the film, the artist comes across as a dedicated and inventive worker, but also kind and genuine, without any of the expected pretentions. Our review says, “The film is ably put together, the career synopsis is extremely digestible and the MoMA section moves well, though at the expense of more insight into the development of the production. However, considering how unquestionably interesting Abramović is, the documentary suffers from its anonymous, by-the-books directing…it doesn’t feel right to have such a conventional documentary done on such an unconventional artist.” RT: 88% MC: 71