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In Theaters: Put A 'Premium Rush' On 'Samsara' & 'The Revanant' Because You May 'Sleepwalk With Me' Through 'The Apparition' & 'Hit And Run'

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by Emma Bernstein
August 24, 2012 3:56 PM
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As another summer comes to a close, we can look back at all the fare this mega blockbuster season has brought us while finishing off with a few more popcorn flicks. Nothing so big as “The Expendables 2,” mind you, but still plenty of big name stars and CGI to look forward to this weekend. So with Labor Day just around the corner, take some time to bask in the last rays of August sun as you bike along the Hudson River or drive across the country in your convertible. Or, for those who’ve had enough UV rays for this year, board yourself up in a haunted house with a zombie or two. There’s plenty of fun to be had in this last summer go-round.

A bike messenger, armed only with his wits and a very large chain lock, evades New York City traffic and a fanatical cop in “Premium Rush,” from director David Koepp. After picking up a seemingly innocuous envelope, Wiley (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) discovers that he’s being tailed by the very manic, highly persistent Detective Monday (Michael Shannon). And so begins a chase across the gridlocked city, in which Wiley must use his powers as The Best Bike Messenger Ever to escape the dangers lurking at every intersection. So, it’s sort of like “Cosmopolis,” just without the limo. Meanwhile, flashbacks offer explanation for Monday’s behavior; sadly, no mention is made of the possibility that he’s related to "Dragnet"’s Joe Friday. Vanessa Ramirez and Jamie Cheung co-star. Our review admires Shannon’s performance – “you won’t find a funnier villain turn in any studio picture this year” – and the “endearing low-fi tricks,” but admits that the flashbacks cripple the otherwise tonally perfect frenetic pacing, culminating in a counterintuitive, radically slowed down ending. Metacritic: 65 Rotten Tomatoes: 71%

Three mainstays of the horror film - specters, screams, and a sheet-wrapped girl – collide with three mainstay actors of recent franchise films in the Todd Lincoln-penned and -directed “The Apparition.” Kelly (Ashley Greene, “Twilight”) and Ben (Sebastian Stan, “Captain America”) gleefully move into a new house, only to find it’s occupied by the remnant of a parapsychology experiment: a phantasm that feeds on their fear. Luckily, they have supernatural expert Patrick (Tom Felton, “Harry Potter”) to look to for answers. Unluckily, he doesn’t really have any control over the ghost, leaving them to fend for themselves, with nothing but a broom and Patrick’s big psychology words for assistance. Fingers crossed the ghost has an aversion to dust bunnies and dictionaries. Our review calls the premise “potentially nifty,” but admits its doesn’t go much further than that, deeming the film “a plodding, undercooked, and old-fashioned (not in a good way, either) chiller that will bore you to tears instead of scare you to death." MC: 0% (no reviews yet) RT: 0% (no consensus yet)

While a bicycle may work fine if you’re in the midst of a citywide chase, you probably need four wheels for the cross-country variety. And in the pursuit action comedy “Hit and Run,” written and co-directed (with David Palmer) by Dax Shepherd, we get nothing less than muscle cars. Charlie Bronson (Shepherd) and his girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell), set off for Los Angeles, but their road trip quickly becomes an epic manhunt. See, Bronson is a member of the Witness Protection Program, and he isn’t really supposed to go anywhere, so you’ve got a parole agent (Tom Arnold) who wants him back at home. Also, the guy he ratted on (Bradley Cooper) is out of jail, aching for revenge, and receiving assistance from Annie’s brother (Michael Rosenbaum), who knows there’s something fishy about his sister’s partner; so they’re chasing the West Coast-bound pair. Finally two police officers are tracking the couple because Bronson solicited one of them over the Internet. And this is just the set-up. Our review calls the movie “not a great use of your time,” citing wooden performances, a halting momentum, and “inane comedy bits” as a few of its problems. MC: 50 RT: 47%

Mike Birbiglia’s stand-up material and same-titled book are translated to the big screen in “Sleepwalk With Me,” an “I’m in my mid-20s and have no idea what the fuck I’m supposed to do with my life” meditation directed and co-written by the comedian. While attempting to make it on the comic circuit, Matt Pandamiglio (Birbiglia – excellent alias, really) also struggles with committing to his girlfriend, Abby (Lauren Ambrose), pleasing his well-meaning parents (James Rebhorn and Carol Kane), and a rapidly escalating sleepwalking disorder (oh joy – a title that isn’t just a bad pun). Our review says the “droll, clumsy delivery works just as well on screen as it does on stage,” and finishes with, “fans of Birbiglia should be easily entertained, and with a little luck, it will only earn this particular loveable neurotic a few more of those.” MC: 71 RT: 85%

Little White Lies,” from French director Guillaume Canet, sees “The Big Chill” resettled in Bordeaux, as five friends make an annual vacation to a beach house with revelatory outcomes. When their pal Ludo (Jean Dujardin) gets in a motorcycle accident and ends up in intensive care, Max (François Cluzet), Marie (Marion Cotillard), Eric (Gilles Lellouche), Vincent (Benoît Magimel), and Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) opt not to forsake their getaway, but, rather, cut it in half. But half the time is still plenty of time, and as the bon amis spend more and more time together, their struggles and secrets begin to leak through the veneers they’ve been sporting. Though our review admits the final act “feels false and a bit cheap,” it ultimately declares, “the characters are a delight to know and the whole movie goes down easy like a cold glass of Chardonnay on a warm summer evening. As far as cinematic vacations go, this one is worth the trip.” MC: 45 RT: 41%

The non-verbal documentary “Samsara,” from director Ron Fricke, sets silent visuals to music to tell a tale of the circle of life. The film features still images, sequences of time-lapse photography, and scenes in slow motion taken from around the globe, all shot on 70mm film. A narrative erupts out of the editing of this footage, and, backgrounded by a rhythmic, pulsating score, that story of this world is both spiritual and emotional. Our reviewer called her viewing “a truly special cinematic experience,” and says, “the film itself is a rare artifact, due to the technical ability and will the filmmakers had to have to capture these images. You can't simply go out and recreate it. And while one can discuss the technical prowess of these shocking and beautiful images, it doesn't do justice to the spiritual cinematic power of this work.“ MC: 63 RT: 88%

Kerry Prior’s comedic gorefest “The Revanant” sees a man evolve into the perfect soldier – stunningly adept, hungry, and ruthless. But here’s the catch: he’s dead. After being killed in action, Bart (David Anders) is resurrected as a sort-of-zombie that requires sustenance in the form of plasma. And what’s the most plentiful, accessible source of plasma? Human beings! Hmm, this could be problematic? No siree Bob! In a two for one deal, the dead man walking and his best pal Joey (Chris Wylde) begin preying on local criminals, carrying out merciless vigilante justice while satiating Bart’s thirst. Our review likens Prior’s directorial style to early work of Stuart Gordon, Peter Jackson, and Sam Raimi, and concludes, “made with a chip on its shoulder and a generational insight that would put most Oscar bait to shame, this completely daft film deserves to be seen by anyone who remotely supports the potential of the horror genre, to frighten, to disgust and to anger.” MC: 55 RT: 58%

Also opening this weekend is “Hermano,” from Venezuelan director Marcel Rasquin. The film follows two brothers, Julio (Eliú Armas) and Daniel (Fernando Moreno), superbly skilled soccer players who have nothing in common but the sport but, together, lead their local barrio team, with the hope of playing professionally someday. However, their mother’s untimely death, combined with a host of other personal issues, threatens the already tense relationship of the dissimilar duo and their chances with a scout who wants to recruit them for a pro league. Our review cites the movie’s authenticity and sincerity, particularly in the two lead performances, but criticizes its lack of subtlety and says, “soccer in the film becomes largely pushed to the side, for a movie that bears a lot of wounded emotion on top of an increasingly paint-by-numbers and predictable narrative.” MC: n/a RT: 55%

Additionally, “Teddy Bear,” a Danish film about an insecure body builder who finds love and acceptance at long last, and received acclaim from our correspondents at L.A. Film Fest earlier this summer, opened in limited release on Wednesday. MC: 70 RT: 89%

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