⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: In subtitled Turkish and English.
Acclaimed German/Turkish director Fatih Akin and Mardik Martin, a screenwriter of Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” and “Mean Streets,” collaborate in this harrowing study of the 1915 Armenian genocide that claimed 1.5 million lives. Tahar Rahim, the French/Algerian star of “A Prophet,” plays the lead in this globe-crossing road movie.
An Armenian knife sharpener is pulled from his hometown in southern Turkey and pressed into slave labor by the Ottoman army. He loses his voice when a civilian ordered to execute him slices his throat with a less than fatal wound, an act of deliberate kindness. Filmed in widescreen 35mm in Germany, Canada, Cuba and Malta, it follows the mute man on his arduous quest over thousands of miles from the Ottoman Empire to Minnesota, searching for his missing twin daughters and, in a sense, his vanished Catholic faith. Its unspoken question is how wartime survivors can close their cuts and heal their traumas.
This is a difficult, demanding, violent, courageous and deeply moving allegory. Rahim’s stunning performance shows that silent acting of moving genius did not pass with Chaplin.
The Green Inferno
⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for aberrant violence and torture, grisly disturbing images, brief graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.
Horror movies have a unique way of dredging up cultural anxieties and playing them to their worst ends on screen. Director Eli Roth has managed to do this in artful, cheeky ways with “Cabin Fever” (flesh-eating viruses!) and “Hostel” (commercialized torture!). In his latest effort, he works out that oh-so-scary fear of … hashtag activism?
The first half is a dull eco drama in which a college freshman links up with a group of activists headed to the Amazon rain forest to livestream and shame developers who are threatening the land of an ancient tribe. But when the students’ plane crashes in the jungle, it’s time for the horror to begin. The indigenous tribe, mistaking them for developers, hauls them back to their village for a barbecue. What follows isn’t so much as scary as it just is unwatchable. You’re either going to be able to watch bodies torn limb from limb, roasted, and happily feasted on or you’re not.
Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service
The New Girlfriend
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for some strong sexual content and graphic nudity.
There is a special category of film that makes viewers wonder if the director might have just had a nervous breakdown. Such is “The New Girlfriend,” the latest from Francois Ozon. He enjoys making films that are grounded in a high-concept story, and he likes dealing in issues surrounding sexuality. Here, we find both elements but in a confection that seems like an extreme self-parody.
Anais Demoustier plays a young woman who is devastated by the death of a lifelong friend. In keeping with the friend’s last request, she looks in on her husband. And because he happens to leave his front door unlocked (doesn’t everybody?), she walks in and discovers that he has an unexpected secret. “The New Girlfriend” is based on a story by the late, great mystery writer Ruth Rendell, whose novels have formed the basis of a number of superb French thrillers, including “La Ceremonie” and “Alias Betty.” But Ozon makes some fundamental changes to Rendell’s story, tilting it in a direction that is gloriously outrageous and yet more sentimental than Rendell ever would have tolerated.
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
Hotel Transylvania 2
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: PG for some scary images, action and rude humor.
This summer has seen the likes of the emotional “Inside Out” and the brilliant claymation film “Shaun the Sheep.” The sequel “Hotel Transylvania 2” is cute and diverting enough, with a heartfelt family message, and unique style, but it won’t be joining the pantheon of animated classics. Adam Sandler voices Dracula, the proprietor of the titular hotel, and of course, he has Kevin James along to voice trusty sidekick Frankenstein.
The film opens with the wedding of Dracula’s daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) to goofball human Jonathan (Andy Samberg). This vampire-human union is at the crux of the tension in the story, particularly the fruit of that union, little Dennis (Asher Blinkoff).
The jokes are serviceable, but don’t hit that sweet spot where the adults in attendance can enjoy the film as much as the kids. It’s cute enough, but it doesn’t really amount to much more than Saturday morning cartoons.
Meet the Patels
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: PG, for thematic elements, brief suggestive images, incidental smoking.
Theaters: Eden Prairie, Edina.
“Meet the Patels” is the unlikeliest of success stories. It’s a documentary that began as a home movie and ended up a warm and funny feature. It turned one man’s culturally specific dating journey into an engaging universal story.
Front and center in this endeavor is comedian Ravi Patel, whose story this is and who codirected the film. A first-generation Indian-American, Ravi reveals that just before filming began he broke up with his first serious girlfriend, the red-haired, non-Indian Audrey. What follows is his Adventures in Matchmaking, Indian Style.
In broad outline, of course, this story is not an unfamiliar one, but two things make it special, starting with Ravi’s live-wire personality. Another factor that makes “Meet the Patels” so attractive is the detailed specificity of both Ravi’s immediate family and the broader Indian cultural context everyone is rooted in.
The film’s candor allows it to make keen points about love, marriage, family and the unexpected complications that American freedoms can bring to immigrant lives.
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times