Beyond the Hills Set in a convent in rural Romania, this film follows Alina (Cristina Flutur) and Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), two young women who have been friends since they met as children at an orphanage. At the film's start, they're reunited after a period of separation. But all is not well as Alina wants Voichita to flee with her. And when Alina starts experiencing the effects of a strange illness and appears suicidal, the convent's head priest suggests they perform an exorcism to rid her of her "hidden sins," even though it's apparent Alina just wants to get the hell out of the convent. Much like an old school horror film, Beyond the Hills builds slowly. A little too slowly. The first 60 minutes of the movie are so devoid of action, they're likely to loose the audience's interest. The disturbing climax is certainly thrilling but writer-director Cristian Mungiu just takes too long to get there. Cedar Lee Theatre. (Jeff Niesel)
Croods This animated feature about a group of prehistoric cavemen who have learned to survive by following the strict rules of their lunkhead father Grug (Nicolas Cage) has a certain charm to it. The story centers on Eep (Emma Stone), the family's teenage daughter who doesn't like the fact that they spend so much of their time holed up in a cave. When she meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a cave kid who seems to have half a brain, she convinces her father that they need to move or an earthquake will swallow them up. Once the family hits the road, the adventures begin and Eep must learn to resolve her issues with her overly protective father. Nothing too riveting here but the film offers a few good laughs and will appeal to both adults and kids. (Niesel)
The Gatekeepers This brittle documentary about top-secret Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet features extensive interviews with its six surviving former heads. At best, the film inspires some worthwhile (if commonplace) reflections on morality and ethics within intelligence communities; at worst, it's a heady, basically shallow depiction of the Israel-Palestine conflict. There are some cool digital sequences that use old photos to recreate larger scenes, but the vast majority of the 101-minute running time is close-up interview content. The film's political context may also be a minor stumbling block. Knowing the fundamental geopolitical dynamics involved — the West Bank of what, for instance — and having an interest in the chronological and emotional minutiae are almost prerequisites for a thorough enjoyment of the film. (Sam Allard)
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