Monday, August 6, 2012

"Is Anything Good Playing Now?"

It's rare to have so many good movies playing at once during the dog days of summer, so here's a quick guide to some flicks you might want to check out once the Olympics end.

  • "The Amazing Spider-Man" (3 stars) is nearing the end of its run. Among blockbusters, it offers good value for money, packed with action and anchored by a sweet, ingratiating lead performance by up-and-coming Andrew Garfield.
  • "Savages" (3.5 stars) is still around, too. Oliver Stone's best movie in a score, it's sexy, pretty, and a lot of blustery fun, with tour de force performances by Benicio Del Toro and especially Salma Hayek. 
If you're in the mood to turn your brain off and just laugh a lot, give the underrated
  • "The Watch" (3 stars) a shot. It showcases the comic talents of Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill as well as any movie in ages; there's joy in watching them riff off each other.
For a more sophisticated, adult entertainment, there's Fernando Meirelles' 
  • "360" (3 stars), a globetrotting, cosmopolitan interconnected-vignettes movie with an especially involving storyline featuring Anthony Hopkins, Ben Foster and Maria Flor.
Documentary lovers have several worthwhile choices: the real-life changeling story 
  • "The Imposter" (3 stars);
  • "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" (3.5 stars), a portrait of the dissident Chinese artist; and, best of all,
  • "Searching for Sugar Man" (3.5 stars), the story of a long-lost 70s singer named Rodriguez with twists and turns so incredible they could only come from real life. It raises profound questions about the role of luck in life and how things might (or might not) have changed, had one only but known.

But the best thing at the cineplex - the most fun movie of the year to date - is "Killer Joe" (4 stars). Playwright Tracy Letts, adapating his stage play, has written a script that's almost painfully witty at times, with lines that will have you sitting up in bed at night laughing.
Director William Friedkin - doing his best work since 1985's "To Live and Die in L.A." - makes this story of a tawdry murder-for-hire plot involving the mother of a small-time coke dealer into something mythic and iconic, with an indelible final scene that will be talked about for years to come. Here's a loaded gun of a movie that fires itself straight into the heart - and the memory - of the collective American conscious.

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