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In Theaters: 'We Have A Pope,' 'Damsels In Distress' And A 'Hunter' All Have An 'American Reunion' At The 'ATM' To Buy Tickets For 'Titanic'

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by Emma Bernstein
April 6, 2012 3:11 PM
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So “The Hunger Games” is still doing quite well, “Wrath of the Titans” is performing tolerably, but looking to ripple the waters this weekend is the behemoth of behemoth blockbuster movies, “Titanic (in 3D),” which (re)opened on Wednesday. It will again make James Cameron a boatload of money (HA) so he can buy another submarine or whatever he uses his money for. Not a bad life, Cameron, not bad at all. Oh, and some other movies opened as well, in the event that you’re in the mood for something other than a large-budget epic with sick CGI. Thrillers, indie comedies, and dramedies set in Vatican City abound this week: sit back, relax, and “never let go, Jack.” (I'm so sorry for that. I just couldn’t resist.)

As summer creeps closer, so do the blockbusters, and “American Reunion,” fourth in the “American Pie” series, is here to help ring in the season. The film hits theaters this weekend, helmed by new-to-the-franchise directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, notable for their work on the 'Harold and Kumar' films. So, not such a far toss for the duo. The original ensemble cast – including Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Tara ReidThomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Chris Klein (obviously absent from the last installment), and, of course, Eugene Levy and Seann William Scott – returns for another helping of sexual shenanigans and oh-so-crude humor at their high school reunion. Deeeeelicious. Our review credits the directors with attempting “to balance out the schmaltz with a slightly off-kilter sense of humor, going for the absurd or abstract in gags about bullying or homosexuality. The warmth of the original films remains, however surface level, but the duo never forget to keep things moving quickly.” Rotten Tomatoes: 47% Metacritc: 51

To the delight of animal-rights activists everywhere, Willem Dafoe stars as a man obsessed with finding and killing the extinct Tasmanian tiger in this week’s “The Hunter.” Aiding Defoe in his quest are Frances O’Connor and Sam Neill, who star as locals who allude to some familiarity with this particular mercenary mission. Sullivan Stapleton, the star of “Animal Kingdom,” also co-stars. Hmm. Shot on location in Tasmania, the film transforms from a cat-and-mouse thriller to a meditative and existential piece on humanity. Our review of the film by director Daniel Nettheim says, “the film's complicated climax, while disappointing from a spiritual point of view, is heartbreakingly tragic and ensures that the movie lingers in the mind, like some low-lying Tasmanian fog.” RT: 75% MC: 63

David Brooks’ thriller “ATM,” set in a – you guessed it – ATM vestibule, debuts this weekend. Though boasted as having a strong script and a cast of up-and-comers at its Sundance premiere, “ATM” sadly fails to meet the expectations set for it. Stars Alice Eve, Josh Peck, and Brian Geraghty fail to salvage the illogical premise (a crazy person traps them in said vestibule) or create interest in the single-setting horror show. Our review calls the film, “infuriating, lazy and pitiable,” and concludes, “there’s no denying that ‘ATM’ doesn’t work on any level, is frustratingly far-fetched and features characters behaving illogical and abandoning all basic reason, simply in the name of extending their perilous situation.” RT: 18% MC: 36

Sony Classics "Damsels in Distress"

Also opening this weekend is “Damsels in Distress” from director Whit Stillman – a man who makes movies about as often as Terrence Malick. The film is a quirky, witty comedy that follows four college co-eds as they attempt to reform the unwashed, unlearned masses into ladies and gents that smell nice and can tap dance. Though it begins with a cache of solid jokes and beautiful visuals run the length of the film, 'Damsels' begins to wane in humor and pace at the two-thirds point. Indie veteran Greta Gerwig, co-star of “Crazy, Stupid, LoveAnaleigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke, and Carrie MacLemore round out the foursome, and are joined by Adam Brody, Ryan Metcalfe and Hugo Becker as the hapless boys they hope to help. Our review says, “It's a whipsmart and arch screenplay and for viewers willing to play along, and it's a pleasure unraveling the wordplay the actors clearly enjoy delivering (and do so with ease, which we can only imagine was due to extensive rehearsals). But not everything in the film is a success…while its (at times self-aware) cleverness is great fun, Stillman can't keep up the energy.” And see our interview with Greta Gerwig here. RT: 76% MC: 70

Since there are no comic book adaptations/franchise installments/blockbusters opening this weekend (sigh), we’ll have to make due with a substitute: a documentary about comic books, comic fans, and the biggest comic convention EVER. Morgan Spurlock’s most recent effort to expose “the man” results in “Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope,” an account of the convention that outlines its growth from sci-fi enthusiast Mecca forty years ago into the pop-culture phenomenon it is today. Peppered with interviews from fans, artists, collectors, and the likes of Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Seth Rogen and Stan Lee, the documentary explores fandom and commercialization as well. Our review says, “for all its minor faults, ‘Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope’ isn't a bad little doc. Its says very little of substance, but this isn't a more serious investigation into a societal ill like ‘Super Size Me.’ Instead, 'Comic-Con,' is a celebratory fan-made doc for fans that should land well with is intended target audience.” RT: 75% MC: 69

We Have a Pope” from director Nanni Moretti opens in theaters this weekend, delivering an insider look at the Vatican that doesn’t come from Dan Brown. The cardinals are electing a new pope, but the man nominated doesn’t believe he’s fit for the job. In an unexpected twist that offers humorous absurdity, the new Pope ventures into Rome to consult with a psychoanalyst (not a symbologist) while the cardinals and the world’s faithful are placated with a cover story. Our review says, “The key stroke to the success of Moretti's film is that the thematic push-and-pull rides under the surface of what is a very often funny film. The laughs are frequent, but never mean. Moretti isn't interested in condemning the church, or judging the choices of his characters, but only asks if those decisions were fruitful.” RT: 47% MC: 57

Keyhole” is a straight-up art movie. Shot in black-and-white, employing classical film tropes and practices, and funded by (among others) Ohio State University and the Canadian government, this film is a love letter to the 1940s gangster flick. You can almost see Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney strutting alongside star Jason Patric, Tommy guns slung under their arms, fedoras atilt across their foreheads. And yet, the film fails to absorb any of the narrative success of classic studio system Hollywood, and director Guy Maddin’s experimentation with genre and technique leads to a hodgepodge of material that overwhelms the senses while underwhelming the brain. Our review says, “Maddin is on the edge, and that perspective gives him visions and insights others never dare to attain, but with the locked and puzzling ‘Keyhole,’ you get a sense of a filmmaker who's lost sight of how to take his audience along with him.” RT: 86% MC: 64

No review for “Titanic” this week, obviously -- though, just in case you've never seen it: boy meets girl, love blossoms, ship sinks, tears flow, Celine Dion sings. The 3D revamp is getting an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!

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