⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for language, brief violence and nudity.
Theater: Lagoon.


The comedy of embarrassment reaches mountainous heights of mortification in this delicious English trifle. Writer/star Steve Coogan (“Philomena”) has been playing the hapless Partridge character, a no-talent talk show host, for more than two decades on TV, making him the spiritual father of Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy and Ricky Gervais’ David Brent. Relentlessly inept — he was canned by the BBC after accidentally killing a guest — Alan has arrived at midlife.

Working the afternoon slot at a marginal radio station, Alan finds his employment on the line when new management sweeps in with a cost-cutting agenda. He succeeds in getting them to sack another broadcaster (Colm Meaney), who returns to the office with a shotgun and the misguided notion that Alan was his only friend at the job.

Delighted that the crisis has put him at the center of a media frenzy, Partridge tries to string out the negotiations to prolong his moment in the spotlight. That means enabling the madman with a gun to his co-workers’ heads. More important, it means ratings. Alan, who can always be counted on to say the wrong thing, make the wrong move, and drop trou in the most humiliating circumstances, bumbles his way to heroism. Recommended without hesitation.


⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated, with torture, shootings, attempted rape.
Theaters: Brooklyn Center, Burnsville, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Inver Grove, Mall of America, Oakdale 20.


Ben Kingsley classes up this ambitious if muddled World War II drama about the Holocaust in Hungary. Kingsley plays Miklos Horthy, regent of Hungary during the war. He gives the leader, an ally of Nazi Germany, a complexity — balancing cooperation with Hitler with a self-righteous neutrality about the nation’s Jews — that Horthy himself would approve.

Irish actor Jonas Armstrong is Elek, a Jewish college student whose swing-dancing good times come to an end in early 1944, as Hungary comes under the administration of Nazi SS Col. Adolph Eichmann (Charles Hubbell). The war has turned against Germany, but Eichmann has arrived to ensure that Hungary’s Jews, mostly protected under the Horthy regime, face the same fate as those of Poland, France and the rest of Europe.

The dialogue sounds as if it came from a World War II Movie Dialogue Generator, and not from nine credited writers.

Only Kingsley comes out unscathed, lured into this project by the scant few good scenes and the very best lines.


⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: Mature themes.
Theater: Walker Art Center, 7:30 p.m. Fri., 4 and 7:30 p.m. Sat, 7:30 p.m. Sun.


Cambodian-born director Rithy Panh films clay figures in richly detailed dioramas representing his family’s experience of deportation, re-education and suffering during the Marxist nightmare of the genocidal Pol Pot regime. When he came to power in 1975, the tyrant set about transforming Cambodia into his notion of an agrarian utopia. His Khmer Rouge emptied the cities, abolished money, private property and religion and set up rural collectives characterized by slave labor and forced starvation.

In narration that is poetic and historically astute, Panh layers his own memoir atop his nation’s. The visuals are even richer, intertwining colorful traditional dance footage from the pre-civil war era, propaganda and documentary films, and the colorfully painted figurines and sets representing Panh’s memories and fantasies. Ideology-based dogma “all starts with purity and ends with hate,” Panh observes. But as his work demonstrates, there’s another possible outcome: the creation of art that inspires empathy and advances understanding.


⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: Mature themes and partial nudity.
Theater: Lagoon.


This documentary inquest into a lurid 1930s murder mystery never quite delivers on its melodramatic premise. The remote Pacific Galapagos archipelago attracted a number of expatriates from Weimar Germany, beginning with Berlin physician/philosopher Friedrich Ritter, who settled on an uninhabited island. Then unwanted others followed, sparking rivalries, resentments and simmering antagonisms.

The self-styled “Baroness Eloise von Wagner Bosquet” was especially objectionable, establishing what she thought would become a millionaires’ getaway hotel and living openly with a pair of love-mad male consorts. One visiting tycoon made her the star of a 1932 silent film called “The Empress of Floreana,” in which she played a lethal pirate vamp. The Baroness and one of her men vanished mysteriously one day under circumstances that look a lot like murder, but co-directors Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine don’t construct a solid explanation for the disappearance nor a compelling drama around it. The film’s strongest element is its tart depiction of the unpleasant Baroness. The film feels less like a whodunit than a “why didn’t they do it sooner?”



⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material.


“Brick Mansions” is a dumb, noisy remake of the French parkour thriller “District B-19,” a run, jump, punch and dangle picture from the Luc Besson (“Taken,” “Transporter”) action stable. David Belle, the French stuntman / parkour specialist who starred in that one, returns here. The late Paul Walker plays a cop who meets this French wonder while working undercover, and has to match or somehow keep up with a guy who goes over walls, not around them.

Set in the Detroit of the very near future, in a housing development that’s turned into such an irredeemable ghetto that the government has walled it in, “Mansions” showcases Belle as Lino, a French underworld figure who turns into some sort of crusader for cleaning the place up, probably to win back his girl (Catalina Denis).

Walker’s Damien is out to finish off one last drug lord, Tremaine, played by the rapper RZA.

A bomb has been stolen and activated by the gangsters, who risk blowing up the entire middle of the city. The action has a jagged, nervy edge, but the stupidity of the piece hangs over it from the start.