Film Reviews: New Releases (June 24-28,

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

White House Down
Distributor: Sony
It’s open season on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue ― yet again ― in Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down,” a slick, high-concept actioner that has the unusual distinction of arriving several months after its bargain-basement knockoff, Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen.” Itself owing much to such lone-man-of-action hallmarks as “Die Hard” and “Speed,” this welcome throwback to an earlier, more generously entertaining era of summer blockbusters delivers a wide array of close-quarters combat and large-scale destruction, all grounded in an immensely appealing star turn by Channing Tatum and ace support from imperiled POTUS Jamie Foxx. Though unlikely to rival career-best Emmerich grossers “Independence Day” and “2012” in the outer reaches of the box office stratosphere, pic should net a tidy profit for Sony, helping to salve the still-fresh wounds of “After Earth.”
— Scott Foundas
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The Heat
Distributor:
Fox
They don’t get along onscreen, but Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy have a field day in “The Heat.” While the title refers to the reluctant buddy-cop pair, it may just as well describe the packaging philosophy behind this R-rated comedy: Grab director Paul Feig as “Bridesmaids” breaks B.O. records, give him an on-fire spec script from ex-“Conan” intern Katie Dippold and attach two Oscar-forged stars, Bullock hot off her “The Blind Side” win and McCarthy about to be nominated. With elements like these, the pic’s shoot-first, fix-it-later approach sacrifices action for consistent laughs, delivering on the front that should make “The Heat” a hit.
— Peter Debruge
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I’m So Excited!
Distributor: Sony Classics
Longtime Pedro Almodovar followers who have secretly been hankering for a return to the broad, transgressive comedy of his early work will be thrilled by “I’m So Excited!,” a hugely entertaining, feel-good celebration of human sexuality that unfolds as a cathartic experience for characters, auds and helmer alike. Uniquely Almodovar’s own, the pic is as light and airy as the skies in which it’s set, but its failure to break new ground may leave auds feeling they’ve seen some of this before, done better. That said, the globally presold pic could ironically win new converts to the Almodovar cause.
— Jonathan Holland
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Byzantium (U.K., Ireland) – U.S. Premiere, Narrative  - SPOTLIGHT SECTION

Byzantium
Distributor: IFC Films
Neil Jordan is that rare director who’s comfortable with the fantastical, yet has never fallen into a genre-hack trap. So it’s disappointing that “Byzantium,” his first wade into vampire terrain since 1994′s starry “Interview With the Vampire,” should prove a lethargic and uninspired take that aims to be something different, but ultimately isn’t. Lacking the requisite scares, and blood, that entice gorehounds, this handsome, femme-driven Irish-Brit co-production is likely to fall between mainstream and arthouse categories among the several territories in which it has sold (excluding North America); better returns await in ancillary.
— Dennis Harvey
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Redemption (AKA Hummingbird)

Redemption
Distributor:
Roadside Attractions
As the screenwriter of “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Eastern Promises,” Steven Knight opened our eyes to characters scraping by in the shadows of London society. With “Redemption,” he shifts into the director’s chair while maintaining the same attention to half-overlooked souls — here, an ex-Special Forces officer now living on the streets, haunted by the realization that violence is evidently his only skill. Jason Statham is both an asset and liability in the lead role, which superficially resembles the star’s other work just enough to confound his fans, or at least the few who mistake this for another brainless, brawny thriller.
— Peter Debruge
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Museum Hours
Distributor:
Cinema Guild
With the aid of helmer Jem Cohen’s focused eye, auds as well as protags learn to view art and the world around them through complementary lenses in the warmly intellectualized “Museum Hours.” At once intimate and expansive, the pic uses the chance encounter between a Canadian visitor and a museum guard at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum to explore how it’s possible to see transcendence even in the mundane. Results are self-consciously arty yet accessible to those willing to have their minds expanded; fest viewers will happily wile away “Hours” before targeted arthouse play.
— Jay Weissberg
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Some Girl(s)
Distributor:
Leeden Media
In the world according to playwright-screenwriter Neil LaBute, men continually behave badly — some much worse than others — and the nameless protagonist of “Some Girl(s)” certainly is no exception. But the complexities and contradictions of this character remain perversely fascinating throughout the pared-to-essentials indie feature that helmer Daisy von Scherler Mayer (“Party Girl”) and LaBute have adapted from the latter’s play. While self-styled cinematic purists may dismiss the pic as canned theater, others will appreciate it as thought- and conversation-provoking drama. It’s a work that merits at least limited theatrical exposure before wider release on homescreen platforms.
— Joe Leydon
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Laurence Anyways
Distributor:
Breaking Glass Pictures
Fully immodest and intermittently astonishing, Xavier Dolan’s epic melodrama “Laurence Anyways” charts a male-to-female transsexual’s tumultuous relationship with a straight woman but stands to polarize more on the basis of its stylistic politics than its sexual ones. Indeed, the clearest achievement of Dolan’s typically self-indulgent eye-popper comes in equating its gender-bending protagonist’s metamorphoses with those in any relationship that lasts for years. Stunningly gorgeous leads prove more than capable of eliciting emotion over the near-three-hour haul, though the pic’s exhausting length and intensity will try even lovers of love stories, to the detriment of exposure and acclaim.
— Rob Nelson
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100 Bloody Acres
Distributor: Doppelganger Releasing
A gory and funny riff on the trusty standby of city kids being menaced by rural types, “100 Bloody Acres” reps a promising feature debut for Aussie brothers Colin and Cameron Cairnes. Pumping fresh juice into the formula by way of villains driven by economic imperatives rather than bloodlust, and victims more concerned with workshopping relationship issues than escaping certain death, the pic is primed to please gorehounds and has sufficient smarts to attract more upscale viewers.
— Richard Kuipers
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How to Make Money Selling Drugs
Distributor: 
Tribeca Film
A movie that should be banned within 100 yards of a school, “How to Make Money Selling Drugs” is two films: an ironically fashioned edu-doc about the vagaries of dealing dope, dodging cops and maximizing profits; and a righteous screed against the War on Drugs. By being both glib and preachy, this highly stylized pic ends up being a tiresome buzzkill and, despite the imprimatur of producer Adrian Grenier, will probably be consigned to TV, where its chapter-by-chapter structure — and profiles with the American idols of the drug world — will conform comfortably to commercial breaks.
— John Anderson
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Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle
Distributor:
Horse Pictures
After “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man,” Los Angeles-based Aussie helmer Lian Lunson tackles another of Montreal’s great songwriters in the concert-film-with-extras format in “Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle.” The docu offers ample proof of the talent — and talented offspring — of McGarrigle, who died in 2010, with her children, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, hosting two musical memorial evenings in New York, captured here with an intimacy that partly makes up for the pic’s middling technique.
— Boyd van Hoeij
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The Secret Disco Revolution
Distributor:
Screen Media
There’s a gold mine of vintage clips in “The Secret Disco Revolution,” but Jamie Kastner’s documentary tethers them to a strained thesis and a misfired package concept. Oft-told story of the Me Decade’s booty-shaking dance craze has some colorful insights from interviewees, and can hardly help but provide campy fun. Still, its flaws make this a less-than-definitive account. Broadcast sales will be hit-and-miss.
— Dennis Harvey
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A Band Called Death
Distributor:
Drafthouse Films
Death comes back to life in “A Band Called Death,” Mark Covino and Jeff Howlett’s unexpectedly emotional docu on the revival of an African-American rock group that’s among those to usher in punk music. The filmmakers’ savvy structural decisions yield powerful momentum and compelling interest from start to finish, fusing the strengths of a nonfiction narrative, featuring a memorably haunting subject, with a music movie’s entertainment value.
— Robert Koehler
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Petunia
Distributor:
Wolfe Releasing
An imperfect but satisfying progression from the campy bad-taste comedy of his prior features “Fat Girls” and “Mangus!,” Ash Christian’s “Petunia” offers family mega-dysfunction in the cruelly funny mode of Todd Solondz, albeit with a bit less bile (and punch). While the overall feel is a bit derivative and contrived, there are nonetheless plenty of bitingly sharp lines and performance moments to keep this well-cast ensemble piece percolating along. Sales are sure to spread wider than for helmer’s earlier efforts, from arthouse distribution to cable.
— Dennis Harvey
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After “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man,” Los Angeles-based Aussie helmer Lian Lunson tackles another of Montreal’s great songwriters in the concert-film-with-extras format in “Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle.” The docu offers ample proof of the talent — and talented offspring — of McGarrigle, who died in 2010, with her children, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, hosting two musical memorial evenings in New York, captured here with an intimacy that partly makes up for the pic’s middling technique. Music-focused fests and broadcasters and McGarrigle-clan fans will be the film’s most vocal lovers.

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