Reviewed in brief

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2011 - 2:32 PM

"Beastly," "Bereavement" and others

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Sara Mapelli in "Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us."

BEASTLY ★★

"Beastly" is an intolerably sappy "Beauty and the Beast" for the Clearasil set. Pretty boy Alex Pettyfer runs afoul of witch Mary-Kate Olsen, who hits him with an ugly spell. Unless Vanessa Hudgens tells him "I love you," he'll stay fug forever. This is a throwaway TV-level movie made with a very specific tween demographic in mind, and there won't be many fans of it outside that audience. Least of all me. (Rated PG-13 for language, brief violence and thematic material.)

BEREAVEMENT ★★★

This is an example of what happens when a clever, proficient filmmaker falls in love with brutal trash. Writer/director/producer/editor/composer Stevan Mena's rural slasher flick is gut-wrenchingly grim, horrendously gory and ruthlessly efficient at provoking dread and alarm. Alexandra Daddario plays a teenager who unwisely investigates when she sees a young boy's face in the window of an abandoned slaughterhouse. Once inside she (and we) get a crash course on all the unpleasant things a madman can do with sharp objects. A ghastly accomplishment, not for the nightmare-prone. (R for sadistic bloody violence, torture, brief nudity and language. Showing at Apple Valley, Brooklyn Center, Elk River, Oakdale and Wynnsong.)

A FILM UNFINISHED

★★★★

Israeli documentarian Yael Hersonski transforms 60 minutes of silent, unedited Nazi propaganda film into an electrifying essay on film's ability to falsify history. Shot in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto in 1942, it combines documentary images of the starved and suffering inhabitants, alongside elaborately staged scenes of wealthy Jews shown living in luxury. Hersonski uses the material, and interviews with survivors from the Warsaw Ghetto, to examine how we perceive the past, what we accept as truth, and the nature of propaganda in general. (St. Anthony Main. Unrated, in English and subtitled German, Yiddish, Polish and Hebrew. )

KURONEKO

★★★

"Kuroneko" is an eerie, meticulously plotted samurai ghost story full of gorgeous visual flourishes. Feudal knights are being killed one by one as two women they raped and killed return as sirens to seduce and destroy them. Director Kaneto Shindo's 1968 folktale is a theatrical and atmospheric reverie that's worked out with geometric precision. (Uptown. Unrated, in subtitled Japanese.)

QUEEN OF THE SUN

★★★

A honey of a documentary about beekeepers, it's both an examination of the mysterious, alarming colony collapse disorder that has decimated apiaries and an introduction to the eccentric, passionate folks who tend bee yards and love their buzzing inhabitants. The theories about how contemporary agricultural practices have contributed to the honeybees' disappearance are lucidly explained, and the tone is optimistic. If you're looking forward to this spring's blooms, you owe it to yourself to learn more about the little dynamos that pollinate them. (St. Anthony Main. Unrated.)

A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN

★★★ 1/2

From the moment the ever-dignified Stellan Skarsgård steps into view sporting a wispy ponytail, you know this Norwegian crime comedy will be a sly delight. He plays Ulrik, a newly released killer aiming to go straight as an auto mechanic, and to repair his ruptured relationship with his adult son. Meanwhile, a small-time crime boss pressures Ulrik to kill the snitch who sent him away, in order to restore the "grand order" of the universe. Director Hans Petter Moland works in minimalist Scandinavian style, earning laughs with offbeat rhythms, character quirks and static camera setups that turn the film frame into a single-panel cartoon. The cast is peppered with fine actors in pungent supporting roles, from the loquacious garage owner who ends every filibuster with "that's the way I see it" to the frumpy landlady who sees Ulrik as more than a tenant. Skarsgaard's performance is understated genius; his expressionless participation in the most squirm-inducing sex scene ever filmed will rank high on this year's honor roll of comedic highlights. (Lagoon. Unrated, in subtitled Norwegian and Lappish.)

UNDERTOW

★★

This will forever be remembered as "the gay, Peruvian 'Ghost.'" Macho fisherman Miguel (Cristian Mercado) has a dilemma. He's a proud father-to-be, yet in love with handsome gay outsider Santiago (Manolo Cardona). His staunchly religious village neighbors make it tough for Miguel to express his feelings until Santiago departs and returns in spirit form. Meh. (Lagoon. Unrated, in subtitled Spanish.)

ccovert@startribune.com • 612-673-7186

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