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Thursday 4.28

"Feathered Cocaine"

Feathered Cocaine

3 out of 4 stars

If this wild documentary study of weirdly named falconer Alan Parrot doesn't raise at least one of your eyebrows, nothing will. Parrot, a.k.a. Hari Har Singh Khalsa, claims the U.S. government has ignored evidence that Osama bin Laden can be found near Tehran through homing beacons attached to the Al Qaeda leader's beloved falcons. These rare and magnificent creatures have for decades been smuggled and traded throughout the Middle East -- a crime Perrot seems to consider more dastardly than terrorism. "Feathered Cocaine" may not succeed in aiding an odd bird's cause, but it's surely a hoot. (Iceland, 81 min.) --Rob Nelson

Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film

2 out of 4 stars

"These were our home movies. Until my dog peed on them. I thought it looked cool." So begins Pip Chodorov in his admittedly surface-scratching look at experimental cinema from 1920s filmmaker Hans Richter to, uh, himself. Having grown up in proximity to avant-garde film giants such as Stan Brakhage and Ken Jacobs, Chodorov claims he'll tell the stories of "my friends," but contrives to squeeze in some non-pals (e.g., Maya Deren) while omitting countless others (and making a footnote of Andy Warhol). Clips from Len Lye's "Rainbow Dance" and Robert Breer's "Recreation" do look cool, though, even without dog pee. (France, 82 min.) --Rob Nelson

The Sleeping Beauty

3.5 out of 4 stars

Following "Bluebeard," this is director Catherine Breillat's second fairy tale revision, and, if anything, its surreal images are even more indelible. The bulk takes place within the vivid dreams of 6-year-old Anastasia (Carla Besnainou), whom fairies have blessed with a century-long catnap. Before she wakes at age 16, Anastasia rides cross-country on a doe looking for Peter (Kerian Mayan) -- who, as another fairy tale would have it, has been abducted by the Snow Queen (Romane Portail). Fans of the filmmaker won't be surprised to discover that, aside from a steamy Sapphic liaison, Anastasia's adolescence is rather less than dreamy. (France, 85 min.) --Rob Nelson

Friday 4.29


3.5 out of 4 stars

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, usually cleancut and winsome, goes scary crackhead in this deranged coming-of-age comedy. Looking like a tattooed roadie for Motörhead, he veers from scary-cool to total Molotov cocktail in a blink. He walks in the door of a 13-year-old boy (Devin Brochu) mourning the loss of his mom, and his devastated, pill-popping father (Rainn Wilson in a solid dramatic performance). Hesher plunks down on their sofa in his BVDs and becomes the troubled family's grief counselor/repressed id. Natalie Portman is a bespectacled sad-sack cashier who becomes the boy's first crush. Gonzo, grungy, one of a kind. (USA, 100 min.) --Colin Covert



3.5 out of 4 stars

Actor Paddy Considine ("In America") goes behind the camera to expand on his 2007 short film "Dog Altogether" with the same lead actors. Joseph (an excellent Peter Mullan), a widower and alcoholic, struggles to keep his life intact until he meets Hannah (an impressive Olivia Colman), a devout Christian. When Joseph and Hannah form an unlikely bond, their friendship is threatened by her abusive husband, James (Eddie Marsan). Considine's film is bleak and harrowing but shows a minimalist approach to his subjects and injects enough levity to make this an eye-opening affair. (United Kingdom, 91 min.) --Jim Brunzell III



2.5 out of 4 stars

A Russian mother living illegally with her son in Belgium is paranoid about being caught. And for good reason, apparently, because as soon as she lets her guard down and gives in to her son's request on his birthday to speak Russian with her, she's dragged away by police and thrown in a holding cell, awaiting deportation. The son escapes and the mother tries desperately to get out and back to him. If some of the plot develo p.m.ents weren't handled so clumsily (like the frustrating ending), "Illegal" would be a better film. (France, Britain, Russia, 99 min.) --Erik McClanahan

Film Socialisme

4 out of 4 stars

At age 80, Jean-Luc Godard remains the unduly disputed champion of the politically radical, aesthetically thrilling headscratcher. What his latest (and last?) feature -- split into three chapters, shot in part with a cell phone, subtitled in "Navajo English" -- will mean to neophytes is anyone's guess. But for those who've followed him from "Breathless" to "Notre Musique," the film resonates deeply with the director's half-century of defiant provocations. Godard himself has intimated that "Film Socialisme" is his "farewell to language" -- but, as usual, he may have been kidding. Better to think of it simply as a gift. (Switzerland, 101 min.) --Rob Nelson

Saturday 4.30


3 out of 4 stars

A German-Dutch-Ukrainian coproduction, shot in Russia by Belarus-born director Sergei Loznitsa (and premiered in Cannes), "My Joy" is the definition of international cinema, although the focus of its considerable rage rests squarely on the former Soviet Union. The film's title is ironic and then some, as Loznitsa depicts a nation overrun by casual cruelty, thievery and murder. A dark and difficult movie, it spends nearly an hour following Georgy (Viktor Nemets), a young trucker, only to abandon him in favor of flashbacks to WWII, as if to reveal the origins of the brutality that ends up engulfing our would-be hero. (Germany/Netherlands/Ukraine, 127 min.) --Rob Nelson

"Project Nim"

Project Nim

3.5 out of 4 stars

A rich and haunting portrait of the unbridgeable gap between kindred species, this documentary "King Kong" recounts the mid-'70s experiment in which Columbia University researchers sought to raise a young chimp within a human family. The primate Nim, by turns cuddly and ferocious, learns to communicate in sign language, but declines -- heroically, perhaps -- to supply scientific evidence that an ape can live comfortably among people who often appear less intelligent than he is. As in "Man on Wire," director James Marsh makes such brilliant use of archival footage that one could swear he had shot it himself. (U.K., 93 min.) --Rob Nelson

The Imperialists Are Still Alive!

3.5 out of 4 stars

A wonderfully eccentric throwback to early-'80s American indies, this deadpan screwballer is nevertheless futuristic in its vision of Manhattan as an underpopulated burg where masters of the universe are nowhere to be found. Asya (Elodie Bouchez), daughter of a Jordanian dad and a Bosnian-Palestinian mom, is a well-off conceptual artist who falls for a sexy Mexican med student named Javier (Jose Maria de Tavira) while fretting about her childhood sweetie Faisal, a suspected terrorist. Will our glam, stretch limo-riding heroine hook up with Javier long term? The only thing predictable about director Zeina Durra's farcical fantasy is its unpredictability. (U.S., 90 min.) --Rob Nelson

"Stake Land"


3.5 out of 4 stars

Refreshingly devoid of teen heartthrobs, this vampire flick adopts themes central to most zombie movies: post-apocalyptic survival and blood-splattering death scenes. After grotesque vampires kill Martin's parents, the young teen is taken under the wing of a consummate badass known only as Mister (think Woody Harrelson in "Zombieland," sans humor), who through Mr. Miyagi-style lessons, teaches the boy how to survive in a world overrun with fanged foes. Never is there a dull moment while our protagonists encounter cannibals, murderous cults and countless vampire attacks. (U.S., 98 min.) --Michael Rietmulder

Sunday 5.1


1.5 out of 4 stars

For American audiences, the narrative here is incredible -- a modern-day husband and wife, Israeli and Palestinian, cannot legally cohabitate in either's homeland. Documentary filmmaker Gabriella Bier follows the pair as they embark upon a series of legal maneuvers. The wife, a boisterous Israeli named Jasmin, simultaneously seeks citizenship in Germany, where her mother was born, and legal residency for her husband in Israel. Meanwhile, the Palestinian husband, a handsome and broody fellow named Osama, struggles to sustain hope for the future. Too bad their compelling story is muddied by slapdash camerawork and meandering editing. (Sweden/Israel, 92 min.) --Christy DeSmith


3 out of 4 stars

The Pruitt-Igoe develo p.m.ent was a handful of high-rise, low-income apartments built in downtown St. Louis circa 1954. In 1972, the then crime/drug infested complexes were imploded on national TV. The presumed culprit? Modernist architecture. But Minnesota-bred director Chad Freidrichs compelling documentary busts that myth, providing another explanation via interviews with urban historians and former residents. Among them: A mid-century exodus from cities, socioeconomic plight and racism. The film smacks of an NPR radio doc and is executed in a clean, thoughtful Ken Burns-ian style. It's a thought-provoking, sometimes heart-wrenching look at urban develo p.m.ent and society at large. (U.S., 83 min.) --Jay Boller

Monday 5.2

"Somewhere to Disappear"


2 out of 4 stars

Minneapolis photographer Alec Soth has a serious international reputation, which is why a couple of young European filmmakers spent a year documenting him roaming U.S. back roads looking for the hermits, recluses and survivalists that featured in his 2010 Walker Art Center retrospective. Soth is an engaging on-screen presence, ruminating about childhood fantasies and his desire for a cave in which to hide out. And the "broken men" he photographs are surprisingly articulate and often much wiser than you'd expect given their desolate lives. Still, only diehard Soth fans are likely to thrill to this tour-de-tumbleweed. (U.S., 57 min.) --Mary Abbe

"The Tree"


2 out of 4 stars

Though handsomely photographed in widescreen and boasting another believably strung-out performance by Charlotte Gainsbourg ("I'm Not There," "Antichrist"), "The Tree" never quite comes to fruition. Gainsbourg plays Dawn, an Aussie outback widow whose 8-year-old daughter (Morgana Davies) believes that Dad's spirit remains alive within a gigantic fig tree. This complicates Dawn's grieving, as does her tentative relationship with a hardware store owner (Marton Csokas). Writer-director Julie Bertuccelli ("Since Otar Left") plants symbols all over the place, but while the tree eventually starts to move (Dad?), the film stays firmly rooted to convention. (France-Australia, 100 min.) --Rob Nelson

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