AMERICAN GUN In a leafy Oregon suburb, a factory worker (Marcia Gay Harden) tries to move on with her life three years after her teenage son’s involvement in a Columbine-style school shooting. Meanwhile, on the mean streets of Chicago, a tough inner-city high school principal (Forest Whitaker) struggles to keep his campus gun-free and his students on the straight and narrow. Way across the map in Charlottesville, a fresh-faced college student (Linda Cardellini) reluctantly takes a part-time job in her grandfather’s gun shop. Beyond that, the tag line for American Gun — One Nation Under Fire — tells you all you need to know: This is Crash with gun violence substituted for racism, although the tone of director–co-writer Aric Avelino’s debut feature may be closer to one of those pious public-safety films that used to be shown to schoolchildren in order to frighten them out of potential bad behavior. While the movie feigns objectivity, it’s clear from the start that, for Avelino and co-writer Steven Bagatourian, there’s not a scenario imaginable in which having a firearm on hand would be preferable to not having one. Which may be the least of the problems facing a movie that offers scarcely a dramatically believable moment, and whose ace character actors are on hand only to perpetrate shootings or to become their collateral victims. (Sunset 5; Regency Academy) (Scott Foundas)
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MUSIC FROM THE INSIDE OUT Documentary filmmaker Daniel Anker spent five years filming the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra as they rehearsed, toured Europe and Asia, and occasionally gathered together to answer Anker’s lofty questions about the nature of personal expression, the individual-versus-collaborative pleasures of performing, and that real humdinger: What is music? The result is 90 minutes in the company of some of the nicest and most boring people you can imagine ever having a movie made about them. The great documentary films give us characters more compelling than fiction; Music From the Inside Out gives us a trombone player who, when he wants to really let his hair down, spends a few hours jamming in a salsa band. Anker’s goal here seems to be to show us that orchestra musicians are people too, though by the time the film is over, you may have your doubts — Anker’s attitude toward his subjects is so solemn and austere, it’s almost as if he thought he was making a movie about cloistered monks or some indigenous tribe that had never had any contact with the outside world. I’m tempted to say that Music is better suited to PBS broadcasts during Music Appreciation Week than to cinema bookings, but its ideal audience may lie somewhere beyond that: It’s a movie that should be shown to hardened criminals in order to purify their souls. (Music Hall) (Scott Foundas)