Movie Reviews: Enemies of the People, Step-Up 3D, The Other Guys

THE CONCERT Beyond fans of Mélanie Laurent — who furiously fingers a fiddle and wears flashback wigs — The Concert may appeal to those who delight in stereotypes (Jews like money!). Andrei Filipov (Aleksei Guskov) pushes a broom at the Bolshoi, where he lost his status as star conductor 30 years ago under Brezhnev for refusing to fire his Jewish musicians. Intercepting a fax from the Théâtre du Châtelet inviting the legendary orchestra to perform in Paris, Andrei rounds up his former colleagues in a scheme to pass themselves off as the real Bolshoi. To right an injustice from three decades ago — and to occasion more interminable flashbacks — the fallen maestro insists that violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet (Laurent) be the soloist during the performance of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. The emotional climax: Smeary mascara runs down the cheeks of Miou-Miou, playing Anne-Marie's manager and a Link to Her Past. Witless director Radu Mihaileanu, continuing the theme of false identity from his previous Live and Become (2005), holds the following truths to be self-evident: Nothing is funnier than a Russian speaking syntactically absurd French (except maybe a half-empty Communist meeting hall). And nothing salves historical and ego wounds quite like 12 minutes of bombastic strings. (Melissa Anderson) (Monica, Playhouse, Sunset 5)

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED In suspense films about confinement, characters may be kidnapped or tortured, but the real captive is the viewer. We're stuck in our seats, powerless against manipulated time and repeated turnabouts, eager, or at least morbidly curious, participants. For all of its stylistic ambitions and cool triangulations, J Blakeson's debut does little to modify or interrogate the genre, eagerly trading on the spectacle of a young pretty girl tied up. Rhythmically and visually, Blakeson takes an economical, methodical approach, documenting the grim preparations of two kidnappers, Vic and Danny (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston), from a place of chilly reserve. Their plan and process, which gradually, inevitably come asunder, is the engine of suspense, recalling Hitchcock's Rope — until a second-act reveal outdoes even the master's own psychosexual hysteria. Marsan scowls and spittles, Compston bares gleaming teeth for all occasions, and Gemma Arterton completes the trio by getting stripped, splayed and degraded early and often. Blakeson's feature-length calling card has storyboarded austerity and sadomasochistic promise but in the end lets the game play out in a familiar flurry of double-crossings, two-timings and false deaths, content to only fetishize itself. (Eric Hynes) (Monica, Playhouse, Sunset 5)

GO  ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE Taking in Enemies of the People is a little like watching a Cambodian Shoah, but as if we had access to the director's methods and motivations instead of just the astonishing results. Chronicling his ongoing project to track down and document those responsible for the Khmer Rouge's late-'70s reign of terror, co-director Thet Sambath, whose father (directly) and mother (indirectly) were murdered by the regime, draws on decade-long relationships he forged with both Cambodia's former second-in-command, Nuon Chea, and average peasants who were enlisted in the killing fields (often, like Claude Lanzmann, he wins their confidence under questionable pretenses). He has crafted an extraordinary historical testimonial: While he and co-director Rob Lemkin don't operate with the cool ruthlessness of the Shoah director — and occasionally draw on the archival footage verboten to the earlier project — the results are often as violently direct. They may black out one subject's face at her request — a retreat from the cruelty of Lanzmann's hidden cameras — but when they're framing a tight close-up of an otherwise sympathetic farmer talking about how he killed in cold blood, or taking in the pained expression on Chea's face when Sambath at last reveals his own family history, the pair's probing filmmaking feels like anything but a compromise. (Andrew Schenker) (Music Hall)

FLIPPED You'll be forgiven for groaning through the first 20 minutes of Rob Reiner's Flipped, which kicks off in a key of aggressively picturesque whiteness — I mean, wholesomeness. Adapted by Reiner and Andrew Scheinman from Wendelin Van Draanen's novel, and set in a late-'50s America rooted more in that era's sitcoms than reality, the film's coming-of-age love story follows its hero and heroine from second grade to junior high. Juli (Madeline Caroll, excellent) loves Bryce (Callan McAuliffe, also excellent) from the moment his family moves in across the street. Bryce, terrified of Juli's forthrightness, masks his terror behind asshole behavior that worsens with puberty — until those pangs of true love hit him. Narrated by both young characters, Flipped alternates p.o.v. to show how each interprets the same situations. The film settles into its hard-sell charm when it and Bryce segue from being dishearteningly dismissive of Juli as a stalker-turned-crazed–eco-activist (foreshadowing '60s political upheaval) to celebrating her intrinsically principled decency. Bryce, meanwhile, struggles to shed an ideal of middle-class macho defined by his jerk father and reinforced by his best friend. Reiner, in very broad strokes, works in issues of poverty, thwarted dreams and family obligation, and almost pulls it off, thanks to Anthony Edwards, Aidan Quinn, Rebecca De Mornay, Penelope Ann Miller and John Mahoney, who impart humor and humanity to thinly sketched characters. (Ernest Hardy) (Citywide)


GO  HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT'S THE INFERNO Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno is a posthumous psychodrama that, according to film archivist and co-director Serge Bromberg, grew out of a chance encounter in a stalled elevator with Clouzot's widow. Bromberg persuaded her to give him access to a particular holy grail: the surviving 15 hours of rushes and test footage from French director Clouzot's abandoned would-be masterpiece, Inferno. Starring Serge Reggiani and Romy Schneider, Inferno was meant to portray jealousy as a form of mental illness, but the real head case was its director. Clouzot was unable to finish the movie; as both the survivors interviewed and the surviving footage makes clear, the attempt drove him half-mad. Inferno was an ambitious production. Clouzot prepared elaborately color-coded charts tracking his hero's paranoid state. There were three separate camera crews. Columbia Pictures provided an "unlimited budget," much of which was spent on visual experiments involving superimpositions, dappled light patterns, fun-house mirror distortions and color inversion meant to convey a deranged consciousness. But rather than communicating his protagonist's madness, Clouzot appears to be documenting his own. Who knows how these fantastic shots of Schneider lying naked in the path of an onrushing locomotive or covered with glitter and smoking a cigarette in reverse would have played in the finished film? Who cares? For all the irrationality that fueled Clouzot's project, it's reasonable to assume that the finished Inferno would never have been any better than this arrangement of its shards. (J. Hoberman) (Sunset 5)

THE OTHER GUYS After obligatory helicopter views of New York's skyline open Adam McKay's The Other Guys, we're introduced to Danson and Highsmith (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson), a duo of unflappable supercops who keep the city exciting, if not safe, with law enforcement by the Michael Bay book. The Other Guys aren't them. This is the fourth feature collaboration between McKay and Will Ferrell, who make baggy improvisational comedies about utter boobs (Anchorman's Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights' Ricky Bobby) like detectives Allen Gamble (Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg). Gamble is an emasculated Prius owner transferred from forensic accounting. Loose cannon Hoitz seems to have been partnered with Gamble as punishment — he's been the departmental black sheep since a humiliating incident that earned him the nickname "Yankee Clipper." Laying out its premise, The Other Guys is loose and funny. But as it progresses, the leads are given little to do but trade off one-liners while treading the waters of an increasingly choppy plot. Gamble and Hoitz catch the scent of something big during a routine pickup of a Wall Street hustler (Steve Coogan), and, following the clues, The Other Guys turns more hectic than antic. Somebody didn't pack enough comedy for this long trip, and if there were a computer program that automatically generated generic action scenes after you punch in participating actors' names — and there may well be! — the product would look like The Other Guys' shoot-'em-ups. (Nick Pinkerton) (Citywide)

PATRIK AGE 1.5 Their new suburban house is lovely, the neighbors friendly, the nursery ready — and now all that Göran (Gustaf Skarsgård) and his husband, Sven (Torkel Petersson), need to make their familial dreams come true is an actual child. A letter from Swedish Social Services promises that a baby is on the way, but what arrives at the door instead is Patrik (Thomas Ljungman), a 15-year-old orphan with a criminal record and little tolerance for "homos." The couple doesn't handle the surprise very well, particularly Sven, who gets more loutish by the hour. Writer-director Ella Lemhagen's adaptation of Michael Druker's play begins, rather self-consciously, as a broad comedy, but the tone darkens quickly, as Göran and Sven's relationship unravels under the pressure, leaving Göran to handle the boy, who turns out not to be such a holy terror after all. There aren't many surprises to what follows, but one is never bored, thanks to the innate charms of Skarsgård and young Ljungman, both of whom have such sweetly hopeful smiles that it's hard not to wish them eternal happiness, even as we wait in vain for Lemhagen to throw their characters a few real-world challenges — they do an awful lot of gardening. (Chuck Wilson) (Nuart)

STEP-UP 3D The dance battles that structure the Step Up films are all about the Move — the one unexpected, mind-blowing, totally impossible move that ends a competition and raises the game. The franchise itself has attempted such a maneuver with its third installment, Step Up 3D, which, you might have guessed, was filmed in 3-D. Meant to take the scrappy and often ingeniously choreographed dance sequences to the next level, the result is stalled between floors: Some sick moves get even sicker; some become distorted and freakishly distracting. Those who watch these films for the dancing (i.e., everyone not trying to learn English) will find themselves in a purist bind: Aren't these dancers their own special effects? Some previous cast members return, including Moose (Adam Sevani) and Camille (Alyson Stoner), NYU freshmen whose friendship is tested when Moose is recruited to help a local dance crew win a really important thingy. Also recruited is Natalie (Sharni Vinson), the mysterious designated hottie who is not all that she seems! Director Jon Chu (Step Up 2: The Streets) lets his dancers define the space. For all of the technical dazzle, his actual technique — full-body shots and essential cutting, showcased in a spectacular, single-take duet through New York's streets — is blissfully old-school. (Michelle Orange) (Citywide)


TWELVE "Maybe you know how it is. Maybe you don't," gravely intones Kiefer Sutherland, the narrator of Joel Schumacher's silly, tone-deaf adaptation of Nick McDonell's 2002 book about entitled Upper East Side teenage twerps. Famously published when its author was only 18, Twelve the book briskly moves along with the Didionesque disdain of an insider — material that first-time screenwriter Jordan Melamed transforms into a hand-wringing cautionary tale with a tacked-on moral lesson and visions of a dead, beatific mother. Gossip Girl's Chace Crawford stars as White Mike, a Camus-quoting prep-school dropout who refrains from using any of the substances he sells to his former classmates, narcissists who are hurting deeply because their parents go on vacation without them, reachable only by satellite phone. Though Crawford's bangs and facial hair are the most art-directed aspect of the movie, he's costumed to look like a member of the Trenchcoat Mafia (Madison Avenue branch). But White Mike is not the psychopath of the story — that would be Claude (Billy Magnussen), who has left rehab and does something very bad at a party after Mom prefers talking with his younger brother, Chris (Rory Culkin). Filthy-rich parents, remember: Your adolescent children really want to Skype with you when you're in St. Barts. (Melissa Anderson) (Citywide)

THE WILDEST DREAM: CONQUEST OF EVEREST Everest looks suitably majestic in this IMAX documentary, though five different expeditions on the peak are awkwardly cobbled into one dubious narrative. At issue is whether, in 1924, George Mallory and his rope mate reached the summit 50 years before credited first-timer Edmund Hillary. Mallory's body was discovered in 1999 by American climber Conrad Anker, which prompted much media speculation and several new books on the subject. In 2007, Anker went back to test the hypothesis — i.e., sell more books and make this movie with director Anthony Geffen — that Mallory might've been able to free-climb the "Second Step" on Everest's north side (a section today scaled using an aluminum ladder). In addition to the many stills, old newsreels and passages read from Mallory's loving correspondence with his wife, Anker and his English rope-mate briefly don (re-created) '20s climbing attire to ponder if Mallory could've survived in the Death Zone without plastic boots and down parkas. But this becomes a somewhat ridiculous costume show, with two trudging figures in tweed, filmed in sepia tones, set to the epistolary drama. "There's no dream that mustn't be dared," says Mallory, through the voice of Ralph Fiennes. Liam Neeson narrates, and in an unintentionally morbid, mournful touch, Neeson's late wife, Natasha Richardson, reads the letters from Ruth Mallory. The photography is stunning, of course, but the historical conjecture and CSI: Everest vibe are less impressive. (Brian Miller) (Arclight Sherman Oaks, Landmark)


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