The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3
(Lionsgate)
In the moviegoer’s hierarchy of needs, a PG-13 “Expendables” is about as essential as a Joel Schumacher remake of “Tokyo Story.” Or, to put it in terms more appropriate to its target audience: You need “The Expendables 3” like you need a kick in the crotch, and while this running-on-fumes sequel may not be quite as painful a thing to experience, it will waste considerably more of your time. From train-crashing start to back-slapping finish, Lionsgate’s latest and longest showcase for Sylvester Stallone and other aging slabs of B-movie beef — the marquee names this time around include Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford — smacks of desperation and teen-audience pandering, from the literally bloodless action to the introduction of a younger, hotter backup team of fighters (call them the Hip Replacements). It’s an obvious, half-hearted ploy to keep the beleaguered series going, when it would be far wiser to heed one character’s advice: “You know, I’m getting out of this business and so should you.”
— Justin Chang
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The Giver
(The Weinstein Co.)
Sameness, the conformist plague that afflicts the futuristic citizens of Lois Lowry’s celebrated and scorned YA novel, “The Giver,” might also be the name given to what ails the movie adaptation — the latest in a seemingly endless line of teen-centric dystopian fantasies that have become all but indistinguishable from one another. A longtime passion project for producer/star Jeff Bridges, “The Giver” reaches the screen in a version that captures the essence of Lowry’s affecting allegory but little of its mythic pull — a recipe likely to disappoint fans while leaving others to wonder what all the fuss was about. Any hopes by co-producers the Weinstein Co. and Walden Media that they might have the next “Hunger Games” (or even “Divergent”) on their hands look to be dashed by lackluster late-summer box office.
— Scott Foundas
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Let’s Be Cops
(Fox)
The mix of raucous buffoonery and violent mayhem isn’t exactly seamless, and the laugh-out-loud moments come with conspicuously less frequency during a third act that suggests a rough draft for “Bad Boys 3.” Still, “Let’s Be Cops” should generate solid late-summer box office, if only because of trailers and TV spots that smartly exploit the sporadically hilarious funny business in helmer Luke Greenfield’s farce about underachievers who boost their self-esteem by pretending to be LAPD patrolmen. Relatively restrained by the contemporary standards of R-rated raunch, the film could conceivably reach beyond its young-male target demographic during theatrical play and homescreen afterlife.
— Joe Leydon
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The Trip to Italy
(IFC)
The dynamic duo of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon return for another highly entertaining round of travel and food porn in “The Trip to Italy,” a most welcome sequel to 2010’s “The Trip” that follows our intrepid armchair gastronomes on a carb-heavy tour of Italy from northern Piemonte to the sun-drenched Amalfi Coast. Resolving not to fix what wasn’t broken, director Michael Winterbottom once again gives free reign to his stars’ improvisational gifts, juxtaposed with heaping plates of fresh pasta and seafood, reflections on art and literature, and incessant celebrity vocal impressions. Atkins dieters will surely recoil in horror, but that shouldn’t stop this “Trip” (which goes out on the BBC as six 30-minute episodes, and internationally as an edited theatrical feature) from meeting or exceeding its predecessor’s $2 million U.S. gross. Can the inevitable “Trip to France” be far in the offing?
— Scott Foundas
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<p>Directed by Lenny Abrahamson, the comedy follows a young wannabe musician played by Domhnall Gleeson as he joins a band of eccentric musicians led by Frank, who is played by Michael Fassbender. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy, and Carla Azar also star in the quirky feature, which premiered at Sundance.</p>

Frank
(Magnolia Pictures)
Of all the acting challenges Michael Fassbender has faced, none quite compares to performing without the use of his face. That’s precisely what’s required in “Frank,” a weird and wonderful musical comedy about an oddball outsider band whose mentally ill frontman insists on wearing an expressionless plaster mask at all times — both onstage and off, in the shower and even to bed. It’s the sort of affectation that gets films labeled as “quirky,” although this one happens to be inspired by a true story. Luckily, helmer Lenny Abrahamson (“Garage,” “Adam & Paul”) puts the pic’s eccentricity to good use, luring in skeptics with jokey surrealism and delivering them to a profoundly moving place.
— Peter Debruge
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Abuse of Weakness
(Strand Releasing)
Catherine Breillat’s films have always been autobiographical, often painfully so, and yet “Abuse of Weakness” cuts even closer to the marrow than the rest. Featuring iron-nerved Isabelle Huppert as the director’s onscreen equivalent, a partly crippled French helmer named Maud, the uneasy-making story re-creates a situation in which the helmer cast a known con man to star in her next film, only to be swindled by him in the process. Between its perverse power games and co-dependent sadomasochism, the almost frigidly unsentimental pic seems an ideal double bill with Roman Polanski’s “Venus in Fur,” but will likely prove too personal to attract much of an audience.
— Peter Debruge
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Moebius
(RAM Releasing)
A gloriously off-the-charts study in perversity featuring castration, rape and incest, Kim Ki-duk’s “Moebius” is right inside the Korean king-of-wackitude’s wheelhouse of outrageous cinema. A twisted companion piece to the fraught mother-son relationship in last year’s “Pieta,” Kim’s latest ups the ante with arguably his most twisted nuclear family yet, a lust-and-guilt-ridden menage a quatre.
— Leslie Felperin
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Dinosaur 13
(Lionsgate)
Those looking for a classic instance of the little guy being screwed by big government need look no further than “Dinosaur 13.” Todd Douglas Miller’s engrossing documentary moves from the triumphant discovery of what remains the world’s largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton through its abrupt seizure by feds, a criminal trial, then finally its sale to the highest bidder on the auction block. While paleontology wars might not be a theme easily sexed up for arthouse exposure, this potent exercise in nonfiction storytelling will have considerable appeal for broadcasters.
— Dennis Harvey
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Cheatin’
(Downtown Independent, Los Angeles)Bill Plympton’s first feature in five years — a fairly long pause for this nearly one-man animation factory — is about l’amour, which of course leads almost immediately to strife and loads of sexual humor. Like most of his efforts, “Cheatin’” has a bit of trouble sustaining full interest even over a relatively limited runtime. But it’s also one of his best longform toons, an energetic romp less dependent on grotesquerie than usual (which is not to say that quality is absent), and with distinctive, freewheeling visual imagination on giddy display. The dialogue-free pic should cross a fair number of borders, perhaps slightly expanding Plympton’s fanbase in niche multiformat release.
— Dennis Harvey
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Jealousy
(Distrib Films)
Although Philippe Garrel’s “Jealousy” doesn’t stretch the Gallic helmer’s thematic canvas much beyond his usual preoccupations — lovesick Parisians, la vie boheme and his lushly tousle-headed son, actor Louis Garrel — there are a few new tints on the palette that brighten this slight but watchable black-and-white pic. More tightly scripted than Garrel’s usual rambles, the comedy-drama also has an unexpected emotional warmth, thanks partly to a cute if slightly sentimental subplot about a father and daughter, fetchingly thesped by Louis Garrel and Olga Milshtein. It’s also blessedly brief at 76 minutes, which will only enhance its exportability.
— Leslie Felperin
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Life After Beth
(A24)
For those wondering if there’s any fresh meat left to chew on in zombie cinema, relationship comedy “Life After Beth” answers a resounding yes. Blending smart fantasy elements, broad comedy, tender romance and an atypically slow-burning apocalypse, the directorial debut of “I Heart Huckabees” co-writer Jeff Baena is charming, thoughtful and laugh-out-loud funny. Given the current undead craze in pop culture, commercial prospects look lively — especially among young adults accustomed to playful genre romps.
— Geoff Berkshire
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Mr. X: A Vision of Leos Carax
(Film Forum; original title: “Mr. X”)
“The return of phantoms, of impossible beings,” is how actress Eva Mendes describes Leos Carax’s work during her appearance in “Mr. X,” a reverent tribute to the French auteur that makes him out to be something of an impossible phantom himself. Tessa-Louise Salome’s handsome, appropriately spidery doc draws on interviews with a host of Carax’s collaborators and admirers in an attempt to define the soaring significance of his short filmography — but with Mr. X naturally absent from his own party, any answers remain elusive. Alluring if not especially illuminating, this presently brief pic (presented in Sundance as a work in progress) serves as a tasty primer for audiences who only got wise to Carax with his 2012 comeback feature, “Holy Motors.” Festival programmers will flock, though it’s a niche item from a distribution standpoint.
— Guy Lodge
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We Are Mari Pepa
(Anthology Film Archives, New York)
A middle-class Guadalajara teen with typical adolescent-male summer plans must come to terms with significant life changes in the tender, pitch-perfect coming-of-ager “We Are Mari Pepa.” Expanding his prizewinning short, Mexican helmer Samuel Kishi Leopo makes a confident, appealing feature debut that sensitively and naturalistically depicts his protagonist’s hormones and high spirits, as well as the small, telling details of daily life in his milieu. Fest programmers and Spanish-lingo TV buyers will fall for this modest but gracefully crafted and poignantly performed drama.
— Alissa Simon
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37: A Final Promise
(Gravitas Ventures)
Although it slyly teases its audience with hints of paranormal activity in the early going, “37: A Final Promise” gradually emerges an old-fashioned tearjerker set to a goth-rock soundtrack. Commercial prospects appear extremely iffy for Randall Batinkoff’s indie romantic drama, but simpatico viewers who happen upon the film on VOD or in limited theatrical exposure may be pleasantly surprised by the cumulate impact of its affecting performances and involving narrative. To put it another way: The film deserves more than just a passing grade, and is a good deal better than any plot synopsis might make it sound.
— Joe Leydon
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Found
(XLrator Media)
Based on a novella by Todd Rigney, “Found” hits an atypically earnest note for horror by presenting a young serial killer from the p.o.v. of the little sibling who discovers his big bro’s secret hobby. Although not entirely successful, this intriguing, above-average genre effort still reps an ambitious and resourceful debut for helmer/co-writer Scott Schirmer (adapting with Rigney), especially given a budget of below five figures. After touring horror fests, it launches on iTunes, VOD and in limited theatrical release Aug. 15. Prospects are modest in all formats, but the principal creatives will get a likely career leg up from this accomplished indie effort.
— Dennis Harvey
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Coldwater
(Breaking Glass Pictures)
Coldwater” is the story of what happens to a baby-faced hunk after his mom sends him to a juvenile rehabilitation facility. Never mind that he sells drugs, starts fights at parties and is directly responsible for the death of an innocent friend. As played by heartthrob-in-the-making P.J. Boudousque, the character is evidently just too cute to deserve rehabilitation. A passion project more than a decade in the making for director Vincent Grashaw, this uneven arthouse- and VOD-bound indie — released unrated, but suitable for teens — lies somewhere between indignant expose and unusually tasteful exploitation pic, with shower scenes and sweaty young delinquents aplenty.
— Peter Debruge
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Septic Man
(Starz Digital Media)
Anyone clamoring for a scatological horror movie will get what’s coming to them with “Septic Man.” The Canadian oddity about a sewer worker who oh-so-slowly transforms into a monstrous mutant proudly distinguishes itself as the crappiest chiller in recent memory, quite literally. Overflowing with bodily fluids (and solids) but lacking the sort of gonzo calling cards that would make it required viewing for extreme-cinema aficionados, director Jesse Thomas Cook’s humorless third low-budget feature is a monotonous mess. It’s set to make the rounds from VOD bow to limited theatrical release to DVD debut in just eight days, but it would be more apt to flush this steaming pile straight away into the annals of trivial genre junk.
— Geoff Berkshire
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