April doesn't always bring the strongest theatrical openings, but this week is a real embarrassment of riches. We cover them all for you below:
J. Hoberman reviews Meek's Cutoff, the latest from indie luminary Kelly Reichardt, and notes that while "Meek's Cutoff has a tranced-out quality...the political implications, regarding trust given and abused, are hard to miss."
Doug Cummings reviews Diary of a Country Priest, screening this weekend at LACMA in a new print with improved subtitles, and calls Bresson's classic "a bold, revelatory example of first-person cinema."
On the eve of a major retrospective at UCLA's Film and Television Archive, Patricio Guzmán's latest, Nostalgia for the Light opens at the Nuart; Michael Atkinson reviews: "Often stark and ravishing, Nostalgia for the Light is most moving as a manifestation of the filmmaker's stubborn righteousness."
Karina Longworth's reviews It Felt Like A Kiss, as this razor sharp pop essay receives its first Los Angeles screening on Saturday at the Echo Park Film Center, and says, "It's instructive that [director Adam] Curtis takes the project's name from the second half of the title of Carole King's song 'He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss).' The emphasis is not on the violent impact of an event, but on the strange reverberations that follow, the romantic justifications of atrocity."
Mark Holcomb calls POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold Morgan Spurlock's "best, most formally inventive project yet...like watching a beloved pet devour itself tail-first, deliberately and with alarming grace."
Nick Schager reviews African Cats and finds that although "it maintains a superficially manipulative façade, the film remains committed to addressing the harsh realities of existence on the plains, be it through the depiction of a child's painful choice between pride and parent or the resignation of an old cat to its lonely, final fate."
Michelle Orange reviews The Bang Bang Club and finds that the war photography doc "treads around and too heavily on the moral ambiguities involved in documenting atrocities, moving between frantic, poorly explained scenes of African conflict and the equally familiar, benumbing aesthetic of boys making a macho game of war."
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Mark Holcomb reviews Academy Award-nominee Incendies and laments that "while the symbolic duality threaded throughout the story...is apt and inspired, it ultimately amounts to scaffolding for an exploration of war's vicious ironies that never quite develops."
Ella Taylor reviews Meeting Spencer and offers hedged praise: "though it's a big thrill that the world's finest character actor [Jeffrey Tambor] has his very own lead role, one wishes there were more meat on the elegant bones of Meeting Spencer to justify his cheerfully offhand wit."
Karina Longworth finds Robert Pattinson the weakest link in the "beautifully designed, sufficiently choreographed, insipid but watchable" Water For Elephants, and suggests that "what his role really needs is an actor who can think and hold a close-up at the same time. Someone like Paul Schneider, who gets about a dozen lines in a framing story, and deserves much better."
"Director Andrew Lau's handling of exposition is markedly poor, distended with rubbish plotlines, flashy sadism and overwrought jingo," says Nick Pinkerton in his review of Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. "Even the few-and-far-apart fights prove muddled affairs, barely worth the YouTube cherry-picking."