Redwood Highway
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including a scene of menace.
Theater: Mall of America.

 

Shirley Knight, a two-time Academy Award nominee, never got the career she deserved. Here she gets a role good enough to be considered a consolation prize. Knight creates a nicely shaded yet vividly direct character as Marie, a proud, indomitably independent scold restless in her Oregon retirement home. With a rebuke for everyone, she provokes exasperation in all who know her, not least her own family. When Marie’s granddaughter disinvites her from her wedding, Marie slips off to walk the 80 miles to the seaside location. Marching into places welcoming and menacing, she’s impelled to confront her own flawed decisions. Knight spins tension, pangs of pain and wily fun out of her tottering but strangely durable character’s adventures. The mostly gentle drama has integrity without feeling caught up in its own nobility. (Edina native James Twyman, who co-wrote and co-produced the film, will host a Q&A following the 7:35 p.m. showing Friday and the 2:45 and 7:35 p.m. showings on Saturday and Sunday.)

COLIN COVERT

 

Ai Weiwei — The Fake Case
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Art nudity, profanity. In English and subtitled Mandarin.
Theater: St. Anthony Main.

 

If you want to provoke an artist, try to stifle him. Andreas Johnsen’s documentary shows the strategies used by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to mock the government for jailing, harassing and spying on him. He’s no sooner released from an 80-day solitary prison term than he finds himself under house arrest, facing a kangaroo court tax-evasion trial. The Kafkaesque prosecution pushes him to ever greater international prominence. It also rouses a huge wave of popular support, as thousands of everyday Beijing residents fold currency into paper planes and sail them over the wall of his studio, to pay his fines. The film focuses more on Ai’s quixotic political courage than his artistic output. He’s a pro-democracy anti-Communist with scant faith in Western capitalism. When he suggests a project to give away a fortune in gold, his American art adviser is flummoxed. The film ends on an optimistic note with Nina Simone’s “It’s a New Day” at the fadeout. As Ai says of the current regime, “One day it will completely collapse. I’m trying to figure out which day. It’s very hard.”

C. C.

 

A COFFEE IN BERLIN
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: In subtitled German.
Theater: Lagoon.

 

The cheerful Dixieland soundtrack implies “A Coffee in Berlin” is a comedy, but the story line smears the screen with melancholy. The black-and-white indie follows Niko (Tom Schilling), a rudderless German law-school dropout with hair flopping lankly over a sharp fox’s nose. After a sunrise breakup, our put-upon antihero packs a mountain of discontent into a single day. Officious authority figures dog his every step, and the women he encounters are judgmental or unstable, more often funny-odd than funny-ha ha. Some vignettes resurrect the city’s dark history, as when an old barfly reminisces about smashing Jewish shopkeepers’ windows. Others predict a dubious future, with teenage louts commandeering the nighttime streets. Niko’s daisy chain of misfortune feels more random than cleverly unresolved.

C. C.

 

RIGOR MORTIS
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Violence. In subtitled Cantonese.
Theater: St. Anthony Main, 10 p.m. Sat.

 

In this gory, uproarious, ultra-stylish Hong Kong ghoul-a-thon, a penniless former movie star hitting rock bottom moves into a haunted apartment building. The rent is cheap, and besides, he expects to hang himself straightaway. Well, you know what they say about best laid plans. Next thing, he’s in the midst of a vampires vs. exorcist battle royale, with creepy corpse kids, long-haired spooks, martial arts mayhem and blood that splatters like an uncapped blender. Eerie, hypnotic, visually stunning and ridiculous all at the same time. With visuals this gruesome and flashy, who needs seamless storytelling?

C. C.

SUPERMENSCH — THE LEGEND OF SHEP GORDON
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rating: R for language, some sexual references, nudity and drug use.
Theater: Uptown.

 

Even Christ had his critics, but this documentary tribute can’t find anyone to say a harsh word about showbiz superagent Shep Gordon. Slickly directed by actor Mike Myers, it intersperses Gordon’s sunny reminiscences with testimony from an army of A-list clients and celebrity pals. Admittedly, there are great stories here. Gordon masterminded the shock theatrics that made Alice Cooper anathema to every ’70s parent, and a demigod to their kids. It was his inspiration to wrap the “School’s Out” LP in panties. He’s also spiritually deep enough to pal around with the Dalai Lama. Repeated tales of Gordon’s Midas touch and his compassion are heartening — how many guys adopt four orphaned kids? — but grow stale. There’s a reason why rise-fall-and-rise stories are so popular. Rise-rise-and-coast is tedious.

C. C.

 

They Came Together
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for language and sexual content.
Theater: Mall of America.

 

Think of it as a self-aware, 80-minute, R-rated “Saturday Night Live” sketch — more than a few laughs, more than a few sharp observations about the clichés of the rom-com genre, more than a few “SNL” and “The Office” alumni as stars or co-stars. Molly (Amy Poehler) is the “cute, kinda klutzy” one, a bubbly goof who runs a sweets shop named “Upper Sweets Side.” Joel (Paul Rudd) is her “just Jewish enough” date, an office drone at the “faceless, evil conglomerate” CSR (Candy Systems & Research). Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper are the dinner-date couple who insist on hearing the tale of how Molly and Joel met. The shtick wears thin quickly, but Poehler and Rudd riff and banter like old marrieds. They make even the cheesiest lines funny, make even the clichéd dating montages set to syrupy pop music feel — if not fresh and new — at least funny enough to mock.

ROGER MOORE, McClatchy News Service

 

WILLOW CREEK
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: Not rated.
Theater: Mall of America.

 

The story sends a Bigfoot fanatic (Bryce Johnson) and his skeptical girlfriend (Alexie Gilmore) deep into California’s Six Rivers National Forest, armed only with a video camera and youthful enthusiasm. Their destination is the site of a supposed Sasquatch sighting recorded in a 1967 film fragment, but local monster experts (delightfully played by residents of the area) are cautionary. Director Bobcat Goldthwait gives us lovely, buttery daylight scenes, nicely relaxed leads and dialogue that pays attention to fluctuating gender dynamics. He also engineers a static, almost wordless 19-minute shot inside a tent that generates more tension than many horror directors achieve with a swarm of foley artists and a healthier budget. This canny exploitation of the power of silence is unnerving; that it should come from one of our most aggressively vocal performers is an unexpected treat.

JEANNETTE CATSOULIS, New York Times