⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: PG for brief language.
For arts, music and dance aficionados, “Ballet 422” is a documentary that will speak (and perhaps sing) to them. With copious attention to detail, Jody Lee Lipes’ feature records key moments in 25-year-old dance master Justin Peck’s skyrocketing career. In only two months, he must create a fresh piece for the elite New York City Ballet. It’s a task of copious detail, every creative decision a balancing act as the debut draws near.
Will a dance suit cut like a 1950 bathing suit romper make a petite dancer look short-legged? Can a piano refrain stop speeding when it must ease along delicately? Can a choreographer make a dancer lift and lower his partner at the same time? How big and bright should the spotlight be?
Luckily, the turmoil is faced by a company utterly lacking prima donnas. It’s not egotism that complicates their teamwork, but Peck’s effort to define each problem’s best solution in a way everyone can support.
Lipes pulls us through the process with skill and treats the subject matter with respect. He films the almost entirely unnamed cast respectfully, never resorting to Hollywood aggrandizement. We’re watching this drama like fascinated flies on the wall.
By the time we reach the opening minute of Peck’s “Paz de la Jolla,” watching from an angle better than any box seat, it’s clear why Lincoln Center produces some of America’s finest art.
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Theater: Mall of America.
Unrated but includes violence.
A modestly chilling if predictable Spanish science-fiction film, “Eva” is obsessed with that one great robotic concern in sci-fi — the ineffable extra “something” that makes us human.
Daniel Brühl (“Rush”) plays Alex, a robot scientist who returns to his hometown to help finish a prototype child robot. In a world where Alex’s “cat,” secretaries, drivers and valet are robots, people still want a child who won’t grow up. The plan is to model it on a real boy until Alex spies Eva. Played by Claudia Vega, the 10-year-old is precocious, beguiling and playful. It turns out she’s the child of his ex-lover and his brother. That makes for an interesting dynamic.
“Eva” isn’t surprising enough to break new ground. But the cast, the gorgeous wintry setting and suggestion of a tech future that is closer than we fear make it a most watchable variation on a well-worn sci-fi theme.
Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
⋆ out of four stars
Theater: Mall of America.
Rated: R for strong bloody violence, torture, nudity, sexual images, language.
This strained, hyperviolent shoot-’em-up, featuring Salma Hayek as a retribution-fueled sex slave trying to escape her apartment prison, feels precision-engineered for a morally torn fanboy who likes the idea of female empowerment but needs it served with a heavy dose of torture porn and glistening flesh.
Hayek is undoubtedly a photogenic dynamo, game for every dumb joke about dead whores (there are many) and wounded moan under the interminable captivity of a visitor called the Sadist. She was surely under the impression this would recast her as a hot-and-heavy badass. But the overarching impression is that she’s dancing wildly to the trite, sick genre ammo being fired at her feet by screenwriter Yale Hannon and director Joe Lynch, a pair who should have spent more time studying what works and what doesn’t in exploitation vengeance fantasies. (Or maybe just gotten out more.)
Their pulverizing mash of carnage and sentimentality — there’s even an innocent 5-year-old girl (Everly’s daughter) crammed into the mayhem — is too calculatedly nasty to flip the switch in your brain from “repulsed” to “so icky it’s fun.”
Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times