Soko is a troubled French maid in “Augustine.”

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Reviewed in brief: 'Augustine,' 'Much Ado About Nothing,' more

  • June 20, 2013 - 2:31 PM

⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: Scenes of sexuality and nudity. In subtitled French.
Theater: Lagoon.


The French actress Soko is a constant flurry of emotion as a troubled maid in an upper-class home in belle époque Paris. Raised and operating in an atmosphere of strict repression, the girl suffers flailing seizures that result in confinement at a psychiatric hospital. Formal Dr. Charcot (Vincent Lindon) finds her ecstatic bouts of epilepsy remarkable and makes her his subject for a series of neurological experiments. It develops that the noble physician has repressed passions of his own, and I think you can see where this is heading. Though the tone is solemn, I took the finale as a knowing, agreeably dirty joke.

Berberian Sound Studio
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: Mature themes. In subtitled Italian and English.
Theater: St. Anthony Main.


The psychological horror film “Berberian Sound Studio” is a one-trick pony, but it’s a reasonably cool trick. Diminutive, balding Toby Jones plays Gilderoy, a shy English sound engineer hired to provide the sonic shocks for a trailblazing Italian fright film. Unprepared for the film’s scenes of graphic gore (which, thankfully, we never see), and the Machiavellian manipulations of the mysterious cast and crew, he loses his grip. A love letter to the popular and brutal Italo-chillers of the ’70s, the film is a creepy vision of the internal and external toll sadism takes on those who embrace it. Writer/director Peter Strickland has clearly learned from the genre’s masters, with salutes to the work of Fulci, Bava and Argento. The ending is too rushed, unpersuasive and arty for my taste, but Jones owns his role as a mama’s boy whose grip on sanity grows increasingly slippery.


⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Theater: Edina.


The thesis of Richard Rowley’s pessimistic, grimly outraged and utterly riveting documentary “Dirty Wars” is that America’s largely clandestine war on terror is now globally entrenched. Far from ending, the film argues, the fight has spread and begun breeding an increasing hatred of the United States that would have delighted Osama bin Laden. Because it is a hidden war, there are few congressional restraints on how it is conducted.

The bearer of these bad tidings, Jeremy Scahill, who wrote the movie with David Riker, is an author and national-security correspondent for The Nation who narrates the film like a hard-boiled gumshoe following leads in a film noir.

Scahill’s journey begins in Gardez, Afghanistan, in February 2010, when two pregnant women were among those killed in a night raid. In the official U.S. explanation, the women were victims of a Taliban honor killing, although U.S. soldiers were seen digging bullets out of their bodies. Scahill subsequently learns that during one week in Afghanistan, there were 1,700 such night raids, carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command, a covert military unit that also operates in countries on which no war has been declared.

Scahill comes away convinced that conventional war, as waged by the United States in the Middle East and Africa, is being superseded by a new form of warfare waged in secrecy and often by remote control by shadowy forces working from “kill lists” and accountable directly to the White House. “The world has become America's battlefield,” Scahill concludes, “and we can go everywhere.”
Stephen Holden, New York Times


Much Ado About Nothing
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: R for violence, language, sexuality and drug use.
Theater: Uptown.


Having conquered the world with “The Avengers,” Joss Whedon goes indie with this effervescent micro-budget modern-dress Shakespearean comedy. Whedon cast friends and favorite actors, with Clark Gregg and Fran Kranz nailing the Elizabethan English as noble lords, Nathan Fillion shining as comic constable Dogberry, and the rest giving the iambic cadences and antique vocabulary a game go. Whedon is clearly smitten with his cast, the players are relaxed and loose, and there’s not an ounce of staginess in the production, which is filmed in quick, episodic snapshots. It’s like watching a gang of talented people put on a show in a friend’s back yard. Which it is, actually.


⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for violence, language, sexuality and drug use.
Theater: St. Anthony Main.


Young, handsome L.A. lovebirds Billy (Josh Henderson) and Sarah (Haley Webb) think they’ve found their pot of dirty gold after they discover that her dead junkie roommate — who happens to look very much like Sarah — has a rich, also-dead uncle who just left his niece a fortune in his will. The pair go to Texas to collect, and encounter various small-town stereotypes who complicate their plan, including a shady lawyer (Aidan Quinn, phonin’ it in) and his brother the sheriff (an ever-campier Beau Bridges).

Director and co-writer Antoni Stutz attempts to achieve the gritty, sexy realism and who’s-scamming-who twists of such classic indie-noir thrillers as “Blood Simple” and “Red Rock West,” but falls well short, due largely to preposterous coincidences. The action begins slow and dreamy, drenched in shades of yellow and accompanied by a twangy, bluesy soundtrack. Then Stutz starts hurling unexplained characters and actions onto the screen at a pace that makes you think, What? Who? How? It all dwindles into “Who cares” long before the end of the road.
Kristin Tillotson

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