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Coal protesters in "The Last Mountain"

Antrim Caskey,

Movie reviews: 'The Last Mountain,' 'Viva Riva' and 'The Ward'

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT
  • Star Tribune
  • July 8, 2011 - 6:07 PM

THE LAST MOUNTAIN

It can't have been easy to compile a record of 67,000 clean-water violations over a five-year period, as well as thousands of violations of safety laws, health laws, labor laws, mining laws and environmental laws, but Massey Energy managed somehow. The Appalachian coal company (now Alpha Natural Resources) is the villain of this activist documentary, an octopus whose tentacles branch into fetid pools of environmental devastation and political corruption. The film follows the citizens of Coal River, W.Va., on a campaign to regain control of their mine-blighted community. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s pronouncements on environmentalism have a preachy, schoolmarmish tone, but when you see a 91-year-old woman in a flag-draped wheelchair arrested for daring to challenge Massey's policies at the governor's office, you can't help but feel you're witnessing an American tragedy.

  • ★★★ out of four stars
  • Rating: PG for some thematic material and brief language.
  • Theater: Lagoon.
  • RottenTomatoes.com: read reviews
  • Showtimes: view listings

VIVA RIVA

A down-and-dirty gangster yarn about gasoline smugglers in Kinshasa, the sweltering capital of the Congo. Borrowing freely from "Scarface" and "in the hood" movies, the film deploys stock characters -- rival crime lords, a tough antihero fighting both for power, an insolent, dangerous moll -- adding a dusting of exotic African local color and the sort of craftsmanship you see in superior student films. Patsha Bay plays the macho title character, but the film belongs to sultry Manie Malone as the dancehall diva he aims to steal from the top mob boss. She makes even the act of applying lipstick spark with erotic electricity.

  • ★ 1/2 out of four stars
  • Rating: R for strong sexuality, graphic nudity, brutal violence, language and some drug use.
  • In subtitled French and Lingala.
  • Theater: Lagoon.
  • RottenTomatoes.com: read reviews
  • Showtimes: view listings

The Ward

John Carpenter's haunted asylum flick follows Amber Heard through her confinement at a psychiatric hospital, where her attractive fellow patients die horribly one after the other. Jared Harris offers the film's only truly solid performance as her suspiciously sympathetic psychiatrist (Meryl Streep's daughter Mamie Gummer has a long way to go if she's going to equal her mom). While Carpenter wrings an air of anxiety out of the clinic's vast, "Shining"-like interiors, the plot is old-hat, and the big who's-behind-the-door scares are pretty mechanical. The horror master's first film in nine years is not the comeback we had wished.

  • ★★ 1/2 out of four stars
  • Rating: R for violence and disturbing images.
  • Theater: Coon Rapids 16
  • RottenTomatoes.com: read reviews
  • Showtimes: view listings

IRONCLAD

This English sword-battle drama is a mess. But there's a violent simplicity and a lack of pretentiousness that's refreshing. "Ironclad" has an excellent cast; Paul Giamatti makes a one-note role as King John enjoyable, and he's joined by James Purefoy as a Templar knight and Charles Dance, Brian Cox and Derek Jacobi in supporting roles. King John and his mercenary forces attempting to take over Rochester Castle, whose handful of occupants manage a creative, sustained and carnage-filled defense. Arms, legs and a tongue are severed. Swords and axes split people in half like wood. If all this sounds like fun, you will not be judged here. -- SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

  • ★★ out of four stars
  • Rating: R for violence and disturbing images.
  • Theater: AMC Block E 15.
  • RottenTomatoes.com: read reviews
  • Showtimes: view listings

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