Movies reviewed in brief

  • Updated: September 6, 2012 - 6:33 PM
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The documentary "Samsara" was filmed in 25 countries and uses striking images but no narration or dialogue.

Photo: Oscilloscope Laboratories, Oscilloscope Laboratories

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SAMSARA

★★★★ OUT OF FOUR STARS

Rating: PG-13 for some disturbing and sexual images

Theater: Edina.

This non-narrative documentary examines our planet with the detached curiosity of an extraterrestrial sightseer. Director Ron Fricke's Super 70 Panavision camera gives us ravishing images without comment, allowing us to infer whatever connections we choose.

There are verdant Southeast Asian jungles where temple spires rise like stalagmites in the hot orange light of dawn. There are traditional Balinese dancers with rouged cheeks and fixed, staring eyes. Long-abandoned rooms where shifting sands have overwhelmed doorways, windows and walls. Robots that mimic human expression. Lithe, smiling dancing girls who, on closer inspection, are not girls. Framed by vignettes of windswept desert dunes and Buddhist monks creating painstakingly detailed sand paintings, the film returns again and again to images of birth, death and rebirth.

If you thought "The Tree of Life" was too weighed down by plot and story line, this is the hypnotic, transcendental movie for you.

THE INBETWEENERS

★★ 1/2 OUT OF FOUR STARS Rating: R for strong crude and sexual content, some graphic nudity, language, alcohol and brief drug use.

Theater: Lagoon.

"American Pie" with an English accent: Call it "Kidney Pie." This spinoff of the British sitcom follows four socially maladroit high schoolers on a senior vacation fling in sunny Malta, where inhibitions and undergarments are shed with deeply embarrassing consequences.

Every experience is a worst-case scenario brought to life. The boys' hotel is a hovel, their nightclub experiences are nightmarish, and they manage to offend the four nice girls they meet with clockwork regularity. Through repeated humiliation, the guys manage to emerge improved, if badly sunburned.

It's vulgar in the extreme and technically rough, but with enough endearing moments to redeem the raunch.

FOR A GOOD TIME, CALL ...

★ OUT OF FOUR STARS

Rating: R for strong sexual content throughout, language and some drug use.

Theater: Lagoon and Rosedale.

A foul-mouthed female "Odd Couple," pairing an uptight overachiever (Lauren Anne Miller, who co-wrote the screenplay) and a wild child (Ari Graynor) who operates a phone sex line to make rent. The comedic hook here is watching girls behave like Maxim-reading, fart-igniting recliner jockeys.

The film is a wobbly attempt to follow in the stilettos of "Bridesmaids," but its tissue-sharp punch lines and undernourished characters fall woefully short. Justin Long almost redeems his cliché role as the girls' gay best friend by overplaying so energetically that the performance becomes the joke. Seth Rogen and Kevin Smith pop up in thankless throwaway roles as clients of the girls' phone service.

WHY STOP NOW?

★ out of four stars

Rating: R for language throughout and drug content.

Theater: St. Anthony Main.

The estimable ensemble of Jesse Eisenberg, Melissa Leo, Tracy Morgan and Isiah Whitlock Jr. is squandered in the comedic dead zone "Why Stop Now?"

Eisenberg plays a hyper-nervous piano student whose big scholarship audition is put in peril by his erratic, drug-addled mother and a pair of blustering but harmless small-time pushers.

The cast tries its best to propel the film with frenzied mugging. But first-time directors Phil Dorling and Ron Nyswaner can't find a coherent emotional tone, and the actors' energetic contortions can't keep the sinking story afloat.

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