The Internship

A critical digest of the week’s latest U.S. theatrical releases. Where applicable, links to longer reviews have been provided.

The Internship
Distributor:
20th Century Fox
“Google Crashers” must have been the high-concept pitch for “The Internship,” which reteams “Wedding Crashers” stars Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson for a round of markedly less ribald shenanigans, this time as two washed-up Willy Lomans trying to reinvent themselves as tech-sector whiz kids. “The Social Network” it isn’t — nor does it try to be — but this big-hearted underdog comedy from director Shawn Levy is, much like its two leads, exceedingly affable and good-natured despite being undeniably long in the tooth. Low-key pic faces its own generation-gap standoff at the summer box office, where it opens just five days ahead of the more buzzed-about hipster doomsday farce “This Is the End” — a reminder that much has changed in American screen comedy in the eight years since “Crashers” racked up a $200-million-plus domestic total.
— Scott Foundas
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The Purge
Distributor:
Universal
That old horror-movie standard, a homestead besieged by psychos, gets remixed with a bit of Occupy-era class-conflict satire in the disappointing future-set thriller “The Purge.” Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey are interestingly cast, slightly against type, as a smug couple defending their family against murderous intruders on the one night of the year when any crime, even murder, gets a free pass. But while writer-helmer James DeMonaco’s scenario echoes the fiction of J.G. Ballard and even “The Hunger Games,” the film’s thudding shocks and predictability dull its edge. “Purge” took a not-so cathartic $1.5 million over the weekend in Blighty; it looks to do proportionally modest biz when it opens Stateside on Friday.
— Leslie Felperin
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Much Ado About Nothing
Distributor:
  Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions
As improbable and charming a follow-up to “The Avengers” as could be imagined, Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is an inspired example of Shakespeare-on-a-shoestring. Updating the setting but, mercifully, not the language of the Bard’s great love comedy, this nimble black-and-white rendition honors a classic text, adroitly performed by a game ensemble of Whedon TV alums, while teasing out all manner of anachronistic in-jokes and sight gags that enhance its merry spirit. More apt to please the writer-director’s devotees than literary purists, this singular item will require skillful handling, but has sufficiently broad appeal to woo an indie following.
— Justin Chang
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Tiger Eyes
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
Like the much-beloved kid lit of its source author, “Tiger Eyes,” the first proper film adaptation of a Judy Blume novel, is effectively tailored to a very specific target viewer. For a certain type of contemplative teen girl, its sensitive handling of heavy material will surely prove affecting, though the pic sometimes veers too far to the sleepy end of low-key. In the end, it represents a solid blueprint for a later, better Blume adaptation, but that’s hardly anything to scoff at. Directed by the author’s son, Lawrence Blume (who adapted along with his mother), “Tiger” looks destined for a limited, if appreciative audience.
— Andrew Barker
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Dirty Wars
Distributor:
IFC/Sundance Selects
Filed from the frontlines of the war on terror, documentarian Richard Rowley’s astonishingly hard-hitting “Dirty Wars” renders the investigative work of journalist Jeremy Scahill in the form of a ’70s-style conspiracy thriller. A reporter for the Nation, Scahill follows a blood-strewn trail from a remote corner of Afghanistan, where covert night raids have claimed the lives of innocents, to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a shadowy outfit empowered by the current White House to assassinate those on an ever-expanding “kill list,” including at least one American. This jaw-dropping, persuasively researched pic has the power to pry open government lockboxes.
— Rob Nelson
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Rapture-Palooza
Distributor:
Lionsgate
The latest in a string of audience-of-none, end-is-nigh indie dramedies, “Rapture-Palooza” strains to find comedy in the book of Revelation, tracking a contempo young couple besieged by CG locusts, rains of blood and a horny Beast obsessed with booty sex. More irrelevant than irreverent, the unworthy script from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’s” Chris Matheson might play to apocalyptically stoned college kids, but offers nothing in the way of broader social satire, suggesting the waste of a perfectly good Reckoning — not to mention the talents of a cast far funnier than the doom-and-gloom results suggest.
— Peter Debruge
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Wish You Were Here
Distributor:
Entertainment One
With a storyline that coils around and around itself until viewers may have trouble breathing, “Wish You Were Here” is the incandescent feature debut of helmer Kieran Darcy-Smith, and a rare kind of showcase for leads Joel Edgerton (“Warrior”) and co-writer Felicity Price as a couple whose South Asian vacation comes back to haunt them. Taut construction, deft acting and a gift for keeping auds off balance will make this Aussie drama a winner in offshore release and a springboard for its veteran screenwriter-cum-director.
— John Anderson
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The Prey
Distributor:
Cohen Media Group
The ironies keep piling up alongside the dead bodies in the pacey and preposterous man-on-the-run thriller “The Prey.” Gallic helmer Eric Valette (“State Affairs”) invests this giddily implausible crime yarn with a propulsive sense of energy, much of it derived from Albert Dupontel’s impressively physical turn as a bank robber whose escape from prison sets off an unpredictable whirlwind of violent mayhem. A 2011 French release making a belated Stateside bow, the film seems unlikely to travel much farther but could snare quite a few fans as a vigorous VOD item; remake potential is considerable.
— Justin Chang
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Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Exactly the sort of figure presaged by “Network,” Morton Downey Jr., with his unique blend of bullying, liberal-baiting politics and Barnum-like eye for the human circus, turned his latenight New York talkshow into syndicated TV’s most attention-getting sideshow. Now Downey’s brief but influential moment in the spotlight is the subject of “Evocateur,” an entertaining, affectionate docu created by three self-professed fanboys, which proves as nostalgic for the host himself as for a bygone broadcast era, before the reality-TV explosion allowed the inmates to fully take over the asylum. Solid reviews and fest pedigree should draw the Downey faithful and assorted other media gadflies to this day-and-date Magnolia release.
— Scott Foundas
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Violet & Daisy
Distributor:
Cinedigm
Following his Oscar-winning script for “Precious,” Geoffrey Fletcher’s directorial debut manages to be precious in a whole different way, sadly far-removed from the approach he took adapting the novel “Push” by Sapphire. Last and least in a run of pics that fancy teen girls as cold-blooded killers, “Violet & Daisy” offers a questionably sentimental spin on the Hit Girl gimmick seen in “Kick-Ass,” casting the armed-and-dangerous stars of “Sin City” (Alexis Bledel) and “Hanna” (Saoirse Ronan) as a pair of implausible assassins. This cutesy dark comedy seems destined for cult status, but could also connect with less Puritanical overseas auds.
— Peter Debruge
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London: The Modern Babylon
Distributor:
Cinedigm/Docurama
A swooning, punch-drunk love letter to one of the world’s greatest cities, “London: The Modern Babylon” unspools a magnificent collage of vintage and original material, offering a rousing unofficial history of Blighty’s capitol. Having found his groove as a documaker after a patchy career in features, helmer and local boy Julien Temple goes ape in the archives to illustrate a loose-limbed thesis about London’s vitality, diversity and irrepressible energy from the early 20th century to the present.
— Leslie Felperin
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I Send You This Place
Venue:
reRun Gastropub Theater, Brooklyn, N.Y.
It isn’t easy to capture and preserve the epiphanies produced by immersion in an unfamiliar world, here the dramatically alien snowscapes of Iceland. When these epiphanies are meant to mirror and validate the perceptions of a mind labeled bipolar and schizophrenic (that of co-helmer Andrea Sisson’s institutionalized brother, Jake), the stakes go higher. To equate these two experiences, tyro filmmakers Sisson and Pete Ohs choose to film Sisson against various striking backdrops: white mountains looming above the sea, or transparent icebergs scattered around like pebbles on a beach. She wanders in long shot or poses in closeup while her navel-gazing narration, in sync or in voiceover, relentlessly philosophizes on.  Indeed, when the directors (or “designers,” as they call themselves) choose to shoot wild shots of toddlers absorbed in play, or document the idiosyncratic shapes of Icelandic doors, the sudden narrative halt produces its own epiphany: blessed silence.
— Ronnie Scheib

Hello Herman
Distributor:
Gravitas Ventures
The horrifying number of mass shootings in recent years would seem to have upped the relevance of director Michelle Danner’s “Hello Herman,” adapted from John Buffalo Mailer’s post-Columbine play. In truth, the proximity of real-life tragedy does no favors for this risible exercise in misplaced empathy, which seeks to understand why troubled teen Herman (Garrett Backstrom) shot and killed 39 students and three teachers at his Anytown, USA, high school. Was it the near-constant bullying? The bloody videogames? What does any of it have to do with the pointedly named Lax Morales (Norman Reedus), the liberal blogger-journalist whose decision to tell Herman’s story opens a window onto his shady white-supremacist past? Despite the tricky narrative structure, laced with cheap-shock flashbacks to the massacre, easy answers abound in what amounts to a both a tone-deaf political satire and a Afterschool Special-style remake of Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant.”
— Justin Chang

Hey Bartender
Distributor:
4th Row Films
Small wonder that in this age of celebrities and branding, creative bartenders should aspire to the stardom enjoyed by master chefs, and unlike the numerous documentaries on food maestros, films about mixologists rank as rare vintage.  Unfortunately, “Hey Bartender” feels obliged to also cram in a history of the cocktail; a rundown of its current star proponents; an analysis of bar culture; and a case history of two barkeeps, one triumphantly rising in the field and the other scrambling to stay afloat.  The result proves somewhat hit-or-miss.  The docu’s evolving history of social drinking intrigues, and several tapsters’ big personalities amuse.  Yet certain privileged moments, as when individual cocktail creators mix their colorful concoctions and offer them directly to the camera, lack the requisite panache. Helmer Douglas Tirola’s coverage of an annual New Orleans-based convention, culminating with the “Spirits Awards,” serves as the same old showbiz template for seeking appreciation from one’s peers.
— Ronnie Scheib

1 Mile Above
Distributor:
Asia Releasing
Original title: “Kora”
Mountaintop scenery provides a pleasing backdrop for “1 Mile Above,” a transparent propaganda piece embedded within the story of a young man’s cycling trip from Taiwan to Tibet. This largely China-bankrolled adaptation of a Taiwanese novel exists largely to extol the virtues of the country that lies between its starting point and destination, and while the thin story more or less succeeds dramatically, it’s overshadowed by the extreme-travel brochure imagery and political agenda.
— Russell Edwards
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Filed from the frontlines of the war on terror, documentarian Richard Rowley’s astonishingly hard-hitting “Dirty Wars” renders the investigative work of journalist Jeremy Scahill in the form of a ’70s-style conspiracy thriller. A reporter for the Nation, Scahill follows a blood-strewn trail from a remote corner of Afghanistan, where covert night raids have claimed the lives of innocents, to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a shadowy outfit empowered by the current White House to assassinate those on an ever-expanding “kill list,” including at least one American. This jaw-dropping, persuasively researched pic has the power to pry open government lockboxes.

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