Film Capsules

In theaters this week


Generation P Based on a novel by Russian author Victor Pelevin, this Russian film directed by Victor Ginzburg centers on Babylen Tatarsky (Vladimir Epifancev), a cashier who has aspirations of being a poet and writes existential verse when he's not engaged in transactions with customers. One day, a friend of his whisks him away and finds him a job at an advertising agency where he starts promoting American brands like Pepsi and Nike. One surreal scene follows another and it's never clear whether Babylen is just having a crazy dream or experiencing hallucinations brought on by the various drugs he takes. Set in 1990s Soviet Union, the film provides a commentary on what life in Eastern bloc countries was like in the wake of Westernization. Babylen and his pals are obsessed with Western technology and Russian politics. The film's a real wild ride that's made all the wilder by its soundtrack that features a mix of Russian punk rock and groovy incidental music courtesy of DJ Shadow. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 and at 9:35 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25. (Jeff Niesel)

In Theaters

The Last Stand Well, he said he'd "be back." And Arnold Schwarzenegger is back, alright, delivering those simple-minded one-liners in his thick accent as always in The Last Stand, a new action film that picks up where all his crappy action films from the late '90s left off. In his first starring role in ten years, Arnold Schwarzenegger gets to act his age as Sheriff Ray Owens, a big-city cop who has retired to a small Arizona town because he got sick of working the narcotics beat in L.A. Ray is in the middle of enjoying a day off when he gets some disturbing news that a wanted fugitive might be heading toward his town. Despite the fact the FBI is unable to get a SWAT team to town to help him out, Ray is determined to make a stand and ensure that Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), a dangerous drug lord making a run for the border in a souped-up Corvette, doesn't come through his town without encountering some resistance. So Ray gets together a motley crew of law enforcement officials to create a barricade and deputizes gun collector Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) to supply them with ammunition and artillery. While South Korean director Kim Ji-Woon balanced humor and violence adroitly in 2008's terrific The Good, the Bad, the Weird, something gets lost in translation here. (Niesel)

Mama Another carnival of cheap spooks and PG-13 thrills. This one revolves around the return to society of two rodential sisters after five years living with a deranged ghost-mom in a forest locale of variable remoteness. The eponymous Mama, a sort of Carrie/Dementor hybrid, follows her surrogate daughters to their new home and wreaks havoc upon disgruntled adoptive mother Annabel (Jessica Chastain), who undergoes — betwixt sweaty freak-outs — a predictable change of heart. The supernatural premise is, believe-it-or-not, stomachable, if a variation on a recognizable theme — i.e. "unfinished business" — but debut director Andrés Muschietti seems afflicted with rather than energized by the burden to scare. He populates his film's bulky middle with nonstop replicas of bat-shit crazy encounters and only a passing interest in internal continuity therein. Here is Chastain, costumed in the style of Lizbeth Salander, shocked awake in the dead of night, tip-toeing toward strange and haunting sounds! The film has one or two frankly touching moments, but its texture and imagery (to say nothing of its script) is by and large confused. (Sam Allard)