FRANCE: SLEEPNESS NIGHT
When dirty cop Vincent (a magnetic Tomer Sisley) becomes involved in stealing cocaine from a powerful drug lord, not only is his life on the line, but so is his family's with the kidnapping of his son. Amid a claustrophobic nightclub setting, director Frederic Jardon's relentless action-thriller never lets up and adrenaline rises with every scene. There are plenty of double crossings among gangsters and policemen, as Vincent always seems to be one step ahead of the gangsters while trying to rescue his son but the audience is thrown numerous curveballs in this highly entertaining pulp fiction. (In French w/ Eng. Subtitles, 103 min.) JIM BRUNZELL III
CUBA: JUAN OF THE DEAD
Just when you thought the zombie film had completely exhausted all social parables and parodies, along comes this extremely entertaining reinvention from Cuba. Making mincemeat out of socialist propaganda, this spoof rallies around the colorful characters of Juan and his band of unprincipled opportunists as they take on the undead of Havana. The script is rife with clever innuendo and the action is brimming with creative zombie takedowns -- gratuitous buckets of blood free of charge. Although slight on story, "Juan of the Dead" has no problem winning the award for best living dead hootenanny of 2012. Revolution or death! (110 min.) KATHIE SMITH
U.S.: NATURAL SELECTION
This delirious religious satire stars Rachael Harris as Linda, a 40-ish fundamentalist housewife who is also longing for freedom. When her asexual husband is felled by a stroke, she discovers his secret: He was a compulsive sperm donor who fathered quite a brood. His dying wish is to meet his adult son, and soon the guileless Linda is on a cross-country road trip with a weedy jailbird. Her naive Christian convictions and his aggressively stupid criminality provide for some unpredictable and uproarious detours. Harris ("The Hangover") dazzles. (90 min.) COLIN COVERT
When Sayoko, proprietor of an entrepreneurial rent-a-cat business, proclaims as fact that "there is no such thing as a bad cat," most will have personal evidence to the contrary. However, suspending disbelief and cynicism for this saccharine sweet film is not such a hard task. Young Sayoko has an uncanny ability to attract cats and is willing to share her windfall with lonely individuals. But she is not so good at attracting people and longs to have a companion to fill the void her cats can't fill. "Rent-a-cat" delivers on subtle charms, cute cuddly cats and a bittersweet ending. (110 min.) KATHIE SMITH
NORWAY: TURN ME ON, DAMMIT!
Here's a delightful twist on the teen sex comedy. Alma, 15, is trapped in a dull Norwegian Podunk. Her libido is humming -- screaming. She's such a steady customer for the phone-sex line that the guy on the other end gives her common-sense personal advice as well as carnal murmurings. Alma's comic-erotic fantasy life is so vivid that we're not positive her embarrassing episode of show-and-tell with teen dream Artur is real or imaginary. First-time actress Helene Bergsholm is endearingly awkward as the sexually precocious heroine. As her sulky BFF Sara, newcomer Malin Bjorhovde elevates sullen eye-rolling to high art. (76 min.)C.C.
Nadav Lapid's electrifying film is a penetrating political portrait of Israel from contradictory perspectives. With the symmetry of a Rorschach test, "Policeman" first witnesses the aggressive purview of an elite anti-terrorist squad and then folds in half to observe a naive group of idealistic bourgeois anarchists. Headed for inevitable conflict, the two parts form unsettling mirror images of national identity and conviction. Lapid avoids manipulation of the scenario, instead capturing a taut reality of extremism from both the left and the right. This must-see film offers no easy answers and no pacifying conclusions, but profound insights. (107 min.) K.S.
Ryan Gosling produced and narrates this Minnesota-made documentary on the Internet generation's cynicism about political and corporate corruption. Left academics Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, and Adbusters founder/Occupy Wall Street initiator Kalle Lasn offer perspectives on the mass media's influence -- diverting audiences, fostering apathy and alienation. The film also follows Georgia's anti-corporate band STS9, a group of Eagan High School students, and Farmington's Nicole and Dustin Artwohl, young suburbanites awaiting the birth of their second child. The message is clear: Switch off the screen, exit the consumer treadmill and make a difference. (80 min.) C.C.
NORWAY: OSLO, AUGUST 31ST
Set mostly in Oslo at the sad end of summer, this wrenching sophomore feature from director Joachim Trier ("Reprise") is itself a kind of long goodbye, bidding farewell, it seems, to 30-ish Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), a chronically depressed writer and nominally rehabbed addict who can't seem to muster the desire to live. And yet the film is infinitely more than a bummer, displaying an invigoratingly acute understanding of the psychology of insecurity, longing, defensiveness and inward-turning rage. All of this is conveyed evocatively by the haunting Lie, whose future appears infinitely brighter than that of his character. (96 min.) ROB NELSON
U.S.: NANCY, PLEASE
This thrilling, perverse and unnerving comedy of humiliation is a must-see. Paul, a boyish, bookish Ph.D. candidate, has a feud with former roommate Nancy that becomes a toxic fixation. She refuses to hand over his copy of "Little Dorrit." Paul reacts like a scorned lover, magnifying her trivial slight into a never-ending tale of whipping-boy victimhood. As Paul, Will Rogers exudes a wistful, why-me innocence, but there's an almost sexual charge to his hatred -- the way he describes her, you'd think she was Pol Pot. His obsessive quest for reparations annihilates his friendships, career and fledgling romance. It's like a case of demonic possession played for poisonous laughs. (84 min.) C.C.
While the latest film from Thai genre auteur Pen-Ek Ratanaruang is by no means original, it's how the story is told that makes it special. The director presents the story like a compulsive liar taking a polygraph test. The quick jolts of gunplay and action raise the excitement level, and then things calm down to a more contemplative approach. The film's striking visual style is perfectly in step with the narrative structure, balancing Thailand's serene forests and rivers with cold cityscapes. "Headshot," a cool hitman flick steeped in Buddhist philosophy, proves the genre still has a strong pulse. (105 mins.) ERIK MCCLANAHAN
From the environs of an art studio, a taxidermy shop and an exotic-animal zoo, Canadian director Denis Côté creates a formal yet lyrical ode to observation. As an artist draws from a still life, "Bestiaire" renders a rich visual essay, without context or narrative, about our compulsion to capture and re-create the natural world. Côté's beautifully shot images of animals -- in disconcerting manmade constructions -- occasionally veer toward abstraction, but not without capturing the innate mysteries and curiosities that drive this fascinating documentary. (72 min.) K.S.
FRANCE: SLEEPLESS NIGHTS
When dirty cop Vincent (a magnetic Tomer Sisley) becomes involved in stealing cocaine from a powerful drug lord, his life is on the line. Then his son is kidnapped. With its claustrophobic nightclub setting, director Frederic Jardon's relentless action-thriller never lets up and adrenaline rises with every scene. There are plenty of double crossings among gangsters and policemen, as Vincent always seems to be one step ahead of the gangsters who pursue him. The audience is thrown numerous curveballs in this highly entertaining pulp fiction. (103 min.) JIM BRUNZELL III