tough enough: Tye Sheridan and Nicolas Cage

"Southern Gothic" may be too genteel or literary a term for "Joe," even if the new film from director David Gordon Green is adapted from an acclaimed work of Southern literature, a 1991 novel of rural crime and violence by the late great Oxford, Miss., firefighter turned author Larry Brown.

'Heaven Is for Real' - A Review: He Sees Dead People

 

heaven may be real, but we bet the bill is gonna be *unreal*

With a title that is at once a spoiler and an enticement, "Heaven Is for Real" is a would-be mainstream-skewing "faith" film produced with more integrity than a cynic like myself would have expected. The movie's visions of a greenscreen afterlife of shiny angels, digital clouds and a Jesus who resembles Dan Fogelberg on the cover of the "Greatest Hits" album is more trite than inspiring, yet the film is smart enough to recognize the weirdness of its premise. With a few tweaks, it could be a horror movie; usually, when a kid onscreen makes the "I see dead people" claim, events don't turn out this well.

the happy couple: Duncan and Broadbent  

The fourth collaboration between director Roger Michell and writer Hanif Kureishi (earlier films include "The Mother" and Peter O'Toole's final starring vehicle, "Venus"), "Le Week-End" is a showcase for 64-year-old Jim Broadbent and 63-year-old Lindsay Duncan, cast as an academic couple from the English working-class city of Birmingham ("Not by birth!" the husband insists) who celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary by returning to the site of their honeymoon, Paris.

'The Lunchbox' - A Review: The Way to a Man's Heart...

 

food for thought: Irrfan Khan

hail to the chef: Nimrat Kaur

The themes are universal, even trite, but the details are authentic and specific in writer-director Ritesh Batra's "The Lunchbox," a not-quite-romance in the tradition of the classic "Brief Encounter," set in teeming Mumbai.

'13 Sins' - A Review: Pulp Fiction

 

i don't usually run images of posters with new movie reviews, but this is about the only cool art available for '13 Sins'

A remake of a 2006 Thai thriller known in America as "13: Game of Death," "13 Sins" is an implausible but agreeably pulpy (and occasionally bloody) B movie about a financially stressed young man (Mark Webber) in New Orleans who is recruited by a mysterious voice on his cellphone to participate in a secret "game" of "13 challenges" that will enable him to win millions of dollars.

'Ms. 45' Makes Its Blu-ray Debut; or, If the Nun Has a Gun - Run!

 

web of violence

O sister: Zoe Tamerlis

the nun has a gun...

"Violation is a synonym for intercourse," Andrea Dworkin wrote in her influential and controversial 1987 book, "Intercourse."

Did Dworkin mean to suggest that all actively heterosexual men are by definition rapists? She denied that interpretation, but such an extreme notion hardly would surprise the habitués of the drive-ins and grindhouse cinemas of the 1970s and '80s, who may not have been familiar with "radical feminism" but certainly were aware of "The Last House on the Left," "I Spit on Your Grave" and -- on a more prestigious level -- "Straw Dogs."

Zoe Tamerlis and one of the dirty/trashy locations of 'Ms. 45'

In maverick auteur Abel Ferrara's pitiless yet also acidly satiric "Ms. 45" (1981), a young, mute woman -- played by knockout movie neophyte Zoë Tamerlis -- is raped twice within the opening 20 minutes, first by a masked psycho in an alley, then by the burglar already lurking insider her apartment when the dazed woman returns home. (The first rapist is played by Ferrara, who also cast himself in the title role of his 1979 thriller, "The Driller Killer.")

innocent no more

The woman, Thana (derived from "Thanatos," the Greek god of death), fights back against her second assailant, crowning the intruder with a clothes iron (a significantly "feminine" weapon). She drags the corpse to the bathtub, dismembers it, and distributes the pieces in various scuzzy New York neighborhoods; Ferrara's evocative and economical location shooting -- the budget was less than $70,000 -- presents a thematically apt annd now historically invaluable portrait of the Big Apple at its wormiest. (The dialogue also has a time-capsule element, as when one of Thana's co-workers reacts with disgust to the sight of a couple making out in a diner booth: "This is a restaurant. It's not Plato's Retreat.")

'The Raid 2' is muddy as well as bloody

"Movie." The word originated a century ago as a slang abbreviation of the term "moving picture," and while memorable movies have been made about conversations and about people who barely move at all, few things are more exhilarating onscreen than human bodies in rapid, expert, thrilling motion, whether the bodies are dancing, as in a musical, dueling, as in a swashbuckler, or beating the ever-loving tar out of each other with hammer, bat, fist, foot and, yes, car, as in the ultraviolent Indonesian martial-arts film that has inspired these thoughts, "The Raid 2."

'The Unknown Known' - A Review: Talk Talk Kill Kill

 

the many sides of Donald Rumsfeld

Errol Morris' "The Unknown Known," a documentary constructed around a conversation with two-time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is rated PG-13 for what the Classification and Ratings Administration of the Motion Picture Association of America describes as "some disturbing images and brief nudity."

Those citations seem rather unlikely until you see the movie and realize the references are to the infamous pictures of abuse taken a decade ago at the U.S.-controlled Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

'Nymphomaniac: Vol. I' - A Review: Sex & Pain & Fly Fishing

 

mouth-wiper: Stacy Martin in 'Nymphomaniac: Vol. I'

In 2000, the electronic dance music artist who calls herself Peaches recorded a song that for purposes of this review we'll call "Fornicate the Pain Away." The directness of its message -- the actual song uses a verb other than "fornicate" -- appealed to filmmakers as well as to clubgoers, and it has been placed in numerous movies and television programs, often as a humorous or sorrowful commentary on a character's actions.

first-class ladies? Sophie Kennedy Clark and Stacy Martin

It's tempting to suggest that writer-director Lars von Trier, in his sexual odyssey "Nymphomaniac," requires four hours to say what Peaches said in four minutes (plus eight seconds). Von Trier's title character, Joe -- played as a teenager and young adult by lovely and courageous newcomer Stacy Martin, and as our bruised and battered adult narrator by Charlotte Gainsbourg -- is addicted to lust, but she hardly ever seems happy, even when she's wearing shiny red plastic hot pants and seducing train commuters in a count-the-conquests contest with her best friend, B (Sophie Kennedy Clark).

Scheherazade in borrowed pajamas: Charlotte Gainsbourg with Stellan Skarsgaard

Since age 7, Joe has felt "completely alone in the universe," she confesses to the apparent Good Samaritan (Stellan Skarsgaard) who offers the beaten woman a cup of tea and a novel body part, his ear. Joe describes loneliness as "my constant companion... as if my whole body was filled with loneliness and tears." Who else is this sad? Emily Watson in von Trier's "Breaking the Waves" (1996), perhaps, or Bjork in von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark" (2000). When Joe comments on being "alone in the universe," von Trier cuts to an image of nebulae and stars; one imagines the planet Melancholia among those lights, coasting toward Earth to overwhelm and destroy it, as happened in von Trier's previous film, "Melancholia" (2012), in which Kirsten Dunst was the most inconsolable to date of the director's doomed, damaged heroines. 

hot for teacher: Stacy Martin

If "provocauteur" isn't a word, it ought to be, at least in reference to von Trier, the fiftysomething enfant terrible of Danish cinema and persona non grata of the Cannes Film Festival (thanks to some unwelcome Nazi jokes) whose value as an auteur generates contentious debate but whose genius as a provocateur, marketer and self-promoter is beyond doubt. As a two-part sexually explicit movie, "Nymphomaniac" may not be an easy sell, but von Trier knows few companies would take a chance on a four-hour movie titled "Depression."

'The Face of Love' - A Review: Annette Bening Sees Double

 

Ed Harris stares into 'The Face of Love,' Annette Bening

Does "The Face of Love" belong to Annette Bening? If you're speaking of an ideal, the answer is debatable; if you're speaking of the new movie with that name, the answer is most definitely yes.