Film Capsules

For when long reviews are... well... too long

Blue Valentine Blue Valentine (NC-17) – This portrait of a relationship’s beginning and end has a gift for realizing and capturing the unvarnished slivers of everyday life. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams possess the subtle intelligence and controlled bravery to realize the two lead characters as utterly fallible human beings. The movie cuts between a day in the life of Cindy and Dean today (a time period during which all their problems come to a head) and their head-over-heels courtship six years earlier. It’s meant to contrast love at the beginning and end, but the juxtaposition actually illuminates the fact that people grow and change over time, and not always at the same pace or in the same direction. Gosling and Williams’ finely tuned detailing sustain Blue Valentine for as long as it can, even when the movie doesn’t entirely earn their commitment. The problem is that while they have clear ideas who these people are, what makes it to the screen doesn’t always articulate their relationship’s complexity. At its best, Blue Valentine is a ferociously sincere meditation on why young love doesn’t last. At worst, it’s a self-conscious variation on “Jack & Diane.” (Bret McCabe)

The Green Hornet (PG-13) – Sure, the 2011 version of The Green Hornet is about fighting evil, walking away from explosions, and having cool one-liners, but the real drama is the conflict going on between Seth Rogen’s playboy hero and Jay Chou’s deadly serious sidekick Kato. Any bad guys that get taken down aren’t so much defeated as they’re ground up between this pair’s egos. These heroes are real, but there’s still some fantasy going on here. Chou channels a bit of Bruce Lee (who starred in the ’60s TV show), and Rogen channels Rogen. The movie is also funny. Very funny at times. Underneath all that, The Green Hornet is just a simple “fill these shoes, son” type of story -- a coming-of-age-20-years-late thing. And we love it for being so simple and so fun, and without pretending otherwise. (Stephen Graham Jones)

Tiny Furniture (NR) – Tiny Furniture may be the most adorable movie ever made about people who can’t be bothered to recognize your existence. It’s a fairly typical liberal-arts-graduate-returning-home-after-college-to-figure-things-out movie. Only home is a gorgeous, two-story Tribeca flat where mom and sister (director Lena Dunham’s real-life mother and sister) live the privileged life of, well, people who live in a gorgeous, two-story Tribeca flat. Dunham merely sorts things out, feeling like a visitor in the apartment -- and city -- where she grew up. Dunham captures this life with an insider’s beguiling eye. If Tiny Furniture feels a little coy, remember that it is a post-collegiate finding-myself flick. Costar Jemima Kirke steals every scene she’s in. Her Charlotte embodies the sort of indolent downtown decadence that’s been drawing young people to Manhattan for generations. (McCabe)

Country Strong (PG-13) –It might be unfair to judge Country Strong against other movies, because while it looks like a movie, it’s actually a collection of clichés so tired they wouldn’t surprise a second grader. There’s the damaged country legend on a comeback tour (Gwyneth Paltrow, woefully miscast and completely unbelievable as a wrecked, fading star); her distant husband/manager (Tim McGraw, who completely wastes his country cred and thinks growing a beard is acting); the guitar-slinging young buck caught between them; and the Taylor Swift-ian country-pop princess nipping at Paltrow’s career. These characters are as thinly drawn, and not a single one of them is worth rooting for. Surprisingly, the one area where Country Strong doesn’t completely fail is the soundtrack. Indiscriminating fans of contemporary country music will probably find at least one song they can tolerate (and maybe even like), despite Paltrow’s consistently thin vocal performances and some of the worst fake-guitar playing since Marty McFly crashed the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. (Chuck Kerr)

Season of the Witch (PG) – If you haven’t seen Gladiator, 300, and at least one of The Lord of the Rings movies, then you might have a shot at not letting this movie crush your spirit. It’s not even like it’s bad enough to goof on; it’s just very not good. Although there are some cool castles and scenes of European valleys and mountains, and it’s always great to see Christopher Lee, even all Black Plague-y as Cardinal D’Ambroise, a big shot in the church who extorts our Crusade-deserting heroes Behmen and Feslon (Nicolas Cage) into transporting a witch (Claire Foy) to some other castle so she can be given a fair trial before they burn her. There are zombie-demon monks, witches, books, wolves that have to turn into worse-looking wolves before they attack, and some great supporting actors all speaking in different accents, including Cage and Ron Perlman, who play it for laughs with modern-speak and then get all serious and “ye olde” with it. But this isn’t their fault. It’s just a bad movie. (Joe MacLeod)

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