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Run, Don't Walk, to 'Gloria' & 'Stranger by the Lake' in Theaters This Weekend

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! January 24, 2014 at 1:34PM

As Sundance starts to wrap up and Oscar voters continue filling out their ballots, it's a relatively light weekend in mainstream theaters, with Lionsgate's horribly reviewed "I, Frankenstein" opening Friday. But three must-see festival hits finally land at arthouses this weekend: France's "Stranger by the Lake," Chile's "Gloria" and US experimental doc "Visitors."
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Paulina Garcia as "Gloria"
Paulina Garcia as "Gloria"

As Sundance starts to wrap up and Oscar voters continue filling out their ballots, it's a relatively light weekend in mainstream theaters, with Lionsgate's horribly reviewed "I, Frankenstein" opening Friday. But three must-see festival hits finally land at arthouses this weekend: France's "Stranger by the Lake," Chile's "Gloria" and US experimental doc "Visitors." Also hitting theaters is Vanessa Hudgens-starrer "Gimme Shelter." Trailers below.

Though Sebastian Lelio's refreshing midlife crisis dramedy "Gloria" got snubbed for the foreign language Oscar, star Pauline Garcia picked up the Silver Bear for Best Actress in Berlin for her remarkable performance as the title character. She plays a lonely yet loving divorcee in her mid-50s navigating late adulthood and finding love with another single man who awakens her senses to the thrumming joy of life and all its warts.

'Stranger by the Lake'
'Stranger by the Lake'

Steadily picking up raves since premiering in Cannes' Un Certain Regard sidebar last May, Alain Guiraudie's "Stranger by the Lake" takes an unnerving look at the politics of gay male cruising in a secluded lakeside oasis. The moody, slow-boiling thriller centers on Franck, a lonely, handsome man looking for love -- or something like it -- in all the wrong places. When an alluring, impeccably mustached stranger named Michel shows up, mysterious circumstances mount, quiet hysteria ensues and the film unspools into an explicit nightmare whose sex scenes top "Blue Is the Warmest Color" for sheer audacity and realism.

From "Koyaanisqatsi" director Godfrey Reggio, "Visitors" is yet another wordless, experimental doc that conjures a wildly cinematic dance between technology and the earthbound, set to the propulsive rhythms of modern day life. Made up of only 74 breathless shots, the film dazzles in black-and-white 4K presentation as a disorienting montage of people, places and faces.

'Gimme Shelter'
'Gimme Shelter'

Despite a strong cast featuring Vanessa Hudgens, James Earl Jones, Rosario Dawson and Ann Dowd, "Gimme Shelter" currently faces some of the year's worst reviews so far. This shaggy true story centers on a pregnant 16-year-old girl's (Hudgens, in yet another serious attempt to break from Disney fame a la "Spring Breakers") hustle on the streets as she flees her ramshackle home life. Critics say it's grungy, maudlin and pointlessly bleak.

Meanwhile, in wide release, Stuart Beattie's "Underworld" knockoff "I, Frankenstein," starring Aaron Eckhart, is also getting the skewer, with a whopping 0% on the Tomatometer. Critics say this monstrosity isn't even so-bad-it's-good. So it's best to skip this late January horror, which sets the Mary Shelley horror tale in a "dystopic present where vigilant gargoyles and ferocious demons rage in a battle for ultimate power." Okay then.

Stranger by the Lake Dir. Alain Guiraudie, France | Strand Releasing | Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d'Assumcao, Jerome Chappatte | 100% Fresh | Variety: "An absorbing and intelligent exploration of queer desire spiced up with thriller elements after one of the studly nudists goes missing." | Our review

Gloria Dir. Sebastian Lelio, Chile | Roadside Attractions | Cast: Pauline Garcia, Sergio Hernandez, Diego Fontecilla | 98% Fresh | The Hollywood Reporter: "Funny, melancholy and ultimately uplifting, Sebastian Lelio's enormously satisfying spell inside the head and heart of a middle-aged woman never puts a foot wrong." | Our review and roundup

Visitors Dir. Godfrey Reggio, USA | Cinedigm | 64% Fresh | The New Yorker: "A calculated philosophical emptiness pervades the solemnly contemplative, minutely gliding, powdery-matte images of this visual symphony by the director Godfrey Reggio." | Our review

Gimme Shelter Dir. Ron Krauss, USA | Roadside Attractions | Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, James Earl Jones, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, Ann Dowd | 17% Fresh | Village Voice: "Though the arc of the film is as saccharine as a Precious Moments figurine, Hudgens is too honest to believe in simple, happy endings."

I, Frankenstein Dir. Stuart Beattie, USA | Lionsgate | Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto | 0% Fresh | RogerEbert.com: "

A grievously ill-advised motion picture on every level."


This article is related to: Weekend Preview, Reviews, Stranger by the Lake , Gloria , Visitors


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.