Reviewed in brief.
Brashly sentimental as a Harlequin romance, "Bride Flight" is a high-calorie wallow in forbidden temptations, religious taboos and guilty pleasures. A blonde, a brunette and a redhead depart drab post-World War II Holland for new lives in New Zealand, where their fiancés await. On the extended plane flight, devout fundamentalist Ada (Karina Smulders), Jewish fashion plate Esther (Anna Drijver) and down-to-earth Marjorie (Elise Schaap) all take a shine to fellow passenger Frank (Waldemar Torenstra), a studly farmer who will figure in their lives for the next 50 years. The plotting is artless: Hard-charging Esther gets an unwanted pregnancy, family-oriented Marjorie can't conceive and sensual Ada finds that it's easier to preach monogamy than to practice it. The film's timeline is scrambled, hopping from a contemporary funeral where the now elderly and estranged friends find a degree of closure, back to the first decade of their new lives in the South Pacific, with the tumultuous love affairs, disappointments and rivalries that drove them apart. The film is at times kitschy beyond belief. Yet it's hard to hate a film that knows just where its audience's buttons are and pushes them so energetically -- it does everything but hand viewers a glass of white wine, light candles and draw them a bath. Oh, and did I mention the sexytime scene that goes on and on and on? "Bride Flight" is sure to be the most talked-about movie at the nail salon this week.
This horrid teen drama concerns would-be failure George Zinavoy (Freddie Highmore), who decides that life isn't worth the effort since he will someday die. A friendless New York City prep-school senior, he'd rather brood, smoke and doodle than do his homework. A month before graduation, he's about to be expelled. Somehow the school has failed to mention George's chronic malingering to his mother and stepfather. There is probably no such thing as a happy teenager, but George takes it to extremes. He wears a dark thrift-shop overcoat, reads Camus' "The Stranger" sitting alone in the lunchroom, and announces "I'm kind of a misanthrope" long after the viewer has come to this conclusion. His spoiled, junior varsity fatalism captivates school beauty Sally (Emma Roberts), who just might teach him tough lessons about love. George's terminal lack of ambition is reflected in the film, a tedious catalog of genre clichés. In his writing/directing debut, Gavin Wiesen is both shamelessly derivative (yes, there is an 11th-hour cliffhanger at an airport) and inept (he allows his star to cock an eyebrow and half-smile in every scene, rather than demanding a committed performance). At least George's attitude of ironic boredom isn't infectious; I came away from the film wanting to smash something.
Nothing particularly eventful or momentous happens in "Just Like Us," a home movie-style documentary about Egyptian-American standup Ahmed Ahmed and his comedy tour of the Middle East. We learn that Egyptians are natural-born cutups and Beirut is a free-swinging party town, while Saudi Arabia forbids all public entertainment. Ahmed and his fellow comics traveled there presenting themselves as "consultants" and worried that the religious police could shut down their show or worse. It would have given the film a few moments of dramatic heft if they had. Comedy is often at its best when it is the rudest and culture-clashiest (Richard Pryor, anyone?), and this international tour has the studiously harmless quality of a diplomatic charm offensive. With censorship policies placing sex, politics and religion off-limits, this is a rather toothless, muddled comedy potpourri. Even at 72 minutes, the film runs long, thanks to run-of-the-mill jokes and a shortage of truly revealing moments. Hack routines that wouldn't be amusing in person are even worse up on the big screen.