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Film Reviews: Opening This Week (April 28-May 2, 2013)

Iron Man 3
Distributor: Disney
The third time is neither a particular charm nor the kiss of death for Marvel Studios’ robust “Iron Man” series, which has changed studios (from Paramount to Disney) and directors (Shane Black subbing for Jon Favreau) but otherwise toyed little with the formula that has so far generated more than $1.2 billion in global ticket sales. The inevitable franchise fatigue ― plus a markedly unmemorable villain ― may account for the feeling that “Iron Man 3” is more perfunctory and workmanlike than its two predecessors, but this solid production still delivers more than enough of what fans expect to earn its weight in box office metal.
— Scott Foundas
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What Maisie Knew
Distributor: Millennium Entertainment
Henry James’ 1897 novel about a child caught between two horribly unfit parents has been effortlessly updated to the present day and adapted to the screen in “What Maisie Knew.” Anchored by five strong performances, including a piercing turn by Onata Aprile in the 6-year-old title role, this beautifully observed drama essentially strikes the same sad note for 98 minutes, though with enough sensitivity and emotional variation to make the experience cumulatively heartrending rather than merely aggravating. Despite its downbeat material, this classy return to form for Scott McGehee and David Siegel (“The Deep End”) should find a sympathetic audience.
— Justin Chang
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Love Is All You Need
Distributor:
Sony Classics
Corny as a vat of polenta, but still rib-sticking enough to satisfy those who like lightly seasoned, easily digestible cinematic starch, Italy-set “Love Is All You Need” offers a romantic comedy for middle-aged palettes. Helmer Susanne Bier takes a welcome break from melodramas such as “In a Better World” to make Pierce Brosnan’s widowed grump fall for Trine Dyrholm’s cheerful cancer survivor when his son and her daughter prepare to marry in Sorrento. English dialogue and pic’s “Mamma Mia!”-like elements — without the Abba songs, of course — could give pic an extra B.O. bump beyond its natural specialist constituency offshore.
— Leslie Felperin
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The Iceman
Distributor:
Millennium Entertainment
A finely chiseled thriller that reflects the cold-blooded efficiency of its murderous subject in every frame and detail, “The Iceman” expertly unpacks the story of frighteningly prolific contract killer Richard Kuklinski. Holding its own among the numerous films and series about New Jersey mobsters, no-nonsense hitmen and their long-suffering wives and children, this latest effort from Israeli-born director Ariel Vromen is a model of lean, incisive filmmaking fronted by a commanding Michael Shannon and backed by a terrifically offbeat supporting cast. Grim subject matter and frequent, spasmodic violence will draw a limited but discerning arthouse audience.
— Justin Chang
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Something in the Air
Distributor:
IFC Films
Made with the bittersweet clarity of hindsight and the assurance of a director in peak form, “Something in the Air” is Olivier Assayas’ wise and wistful memory-piece on the revolutionary fervor that suffused his young adulthood. Conjuring the mood and attitudes of 1970s European counterculture with pinpoint detail and nary a shred of naive romanticism, this tender but dispassionate semi-autobiographical drama offers a gentle rebuke to the celebratory spirit of many post-’68 movies, capturing how political zeal gives way to confusion, compromise and a dawning sense of personal identity. Local appreciation will be echoed by a warm reception abroad.
— Justin Chang
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Post tenebras lux
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Maverick helmer Carlos Reygadas compares “Post tenebras lux” to an expressionist painting, though Dadaist is more accurate. Auds will go for “perplexing,” likely to be the kindest word used when describing this challenging non-story about a family living in the grandeur of Mexico’s wilds. The director surely doesn’t expect auds to attempt a logical piecing together of the shifting elements in this ultra-personal mood piece, which makes Djuna Barnes feel like Dan Brown. Themes from Reygadas’ previous pics crop up, and visuals expectedly astonish, yet “Post” will largely remain in tenebrae.
— Jay Weissberg
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Generation Um
Distributor:
Phase 4 Films
Few actors can eat a cupcake with the existential despair of Keanu Reeves in “Generation Um … ,” a slapped-together sub-mumblecore exercise that at times suggests a feature-length expansion of 2010′s “Sad Keanu” meme. Following an overgrown lost boy on his plot-free peregrinations around New York over 24 hours, often in the company of two similarly lost girls, this scrappy, draggy study in soul-crushing failure and disappointment is noteworthy primarily as a showcase for its lead actor’s most quintessentially Keanu performance in years — a master class in brooding, taciturn non-emoting that will account for what little commercial interest the film generates in VOD and limited-theatrical release.
— Justin Chang
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Kiss of the Damned
Distributor:
Magnet Releasing
A sly tongue-in-cheek tribute to old-school horror films, especially Tony Scott’s “The Hunger” and giallo maestros like Mario Bava and Dario Argento, Xan Cassavetes’ vampire story “Kiss of the Damned” reps a fitting debut feature from the director of movie-buff-tastic docu “Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession.” Saucily thumbing its nose at the insipid teen love of the “Twilight” franchise, “Kiss” reimagines its bloodsuckers as horny, supercilious Eurotrash with addiction issues, sucking the life blood from naive American thrill-seekers. Rapacious lovers of cult cinema will sink their fangs into this.
— Leslie Felperin
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Greetings From Tim Buckley
Distributor:
Tribeca Film/Focus World
A snapshot of two prodigiously gifted, tragically short-lived artists, “Greetings From Tim Buckley” dramatizes formative career moments in the lives of the titular 1960s folk icon as well as ’90s rock star Jeff Buckley, who never really knew his long-gone father. Dan Algrant’s well-crafted third feature focuses primarily on the younger musician, who’s strikingly if somewhat off-puttingly portrayed as a petulant man-boy acting out his Oedipal issues in bratty self-absorption. Likely to get respectful rather than enthused reviews, the pic will have an uphill climb in reaching beyond the subjects’ diehard fans.
— Dennis Harvey
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Dead Man’s Burden
Distributor:
Cinedigm
A slow-burning oater that’s not gun-shy when it matters, “Dead Man’s Burden” reps an impressive first feature from producer-turned-helmer Jared Moshe. Set right after the Civil War, this intimate story — it’s essentially a four-hander — compensates for its small scale with widescreen New Mexico vistas, and unfolds not just gradually but with the precision and force of irrevocable tragedy. The unknown cast is aces, and Moshe inscribes his loquacious film in the Western tradition without overdoing the references to the classics, suggesting this Cinedigm release could appeal to a genre-loving, indie-savvy crowd who’ll hopefully understand the pic’s clearly bigscreen material.
— Boyd van Hoeij
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1st Night
Distributor:
Gravitas Ventures
Opera lovers, a potentially large demographic, are targeted by “1st Night,” a frothy English country-house romp that throws in hefty portions of Mozart. As a cast and crew gather to rehearse “Cosi fan tutte” at the palatial retreat of a rich industrialist, the ensuing romantic mischief creakily echoes the opera’s own plot. Neither fish nor fowl, this eccentric item looks likely to turn off moviegoers resistant to the upscale art form while failing to satisfy opera’s true devotees. Its probable fate is an early curtain call in cinemas before taking a few bows in ancillary.
— Charles Gant
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The Attack
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
A well-esteemed Palestinian surgeon working in Israel is overtaken by an all-consuming need to comprehend seemingly inexplicable circumstances after learning that his wife died in a suicide bombing in “The Attack.” Fascinating in the sense that it covers the aftermath of an act of terror from the perspective of someone the bomber left behind, this streamlined adaptation of Yasmina Khadra’s bestselling novel strips the source of nearly all its profundity, focusing instead on the good doctor’s dangerous journey into the depths of the terrorist organization responsible.
— Peter Debruge
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Caroline and Jackie
Distributor:
Phase 4 Films
Displaying nerves of steel and a generous heart, helmer Adam Christian Clark takes a lot of chances with “Caroline and Jackie,” a tale of troubled sisters that keeps the viewer off balance throughout before delivering a payoff that serves as both catharsis and absolution. The question in this low-budget, psycho-flavored drama is whether auds will stay with the story long enough to allow Clark’s devious use of uncertainty to work its magic. The sisterhood theme will be a big plus for some constituencies, as well lead thesps Bitsie Tulloch and Marguerite Moreau as the titular duo.
— John Anderson
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Paris-Manhattan
Distributor: eOne
Take the template of 1972′s “Play It Again, Sam,” replace Woody Allen with a generic French blonde with lite love troubles and Humphrey Bogart with the maxim-dispensing Woodmeister (in poster form), and voila, you have “Paris-Manhattan,” in which debuting Gallic scribe-helmer Sophie Lellouche borrows Allen’s moves without displaying an ounce of his talent. This update-cum-ripoff might be aiming for witty and romantic, but it’s mostly a hollow, rambling effort leavened with some stargazing. eOne picked up Stateside rights and will have to pray for a subtitled miracle.
— Boyd van Hoeij
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