Film
10:53 am
Fri April 23, 2010

Art, Independent, and Foreign Film Reviews

Steve Kraske sits down with film critic Steve Walker and others to discuss the latest in art, independent, foreign, and documentary films showing in area theaters. Favorites include The Runaways,The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and
Vincere

Kansas City, MO –

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Reviews from Steve Walker

The Eclipse - Acclaimed playwright Conor McPherson ventures into cinema with more style than skill. Set in the village of Cobh on the south coast of Ireland, the movie is a valiant attempts to meld a ghost story to a personal drama about a man (Ciaran Hinds) carving himself out of a black abyss of grief. It certainly has ambitions of literary heft (in fact, it takes place over the course of a literary festival), but its theme of how people can be haunted by all kinds of things unfolds too literally, with scenes that wouldn't be out of place in a cheap horror film. Still, Hinds is a very fine actor and the town of Cobh is beautifully atmospheric. - Steve Walker (it opens Friday, May 7)

The Square - An ill-advised affair between suburban neighbors ends up a twisted mess of death, blackmail, and arson in this terrific contemporary film noir from Australia. Director Nash Edgerton displays a gut-punching knack for the genre, paying homage to such vintage classics as "Double Indemnity" while exhibiting a completely original vision - as in such details as the inherent flaws of cheap Christmas tree lights and a dog romance. Alfred Hitchcock is also referenced, as we sit back helplessly watching people get into situations whose resolve is completely out of their skill sets. - Steve Walker


City Island
- Andy Garcia and Julianna Marguiles show previously untapped comic flair as a Bronx prison guard bitten by the acting bug and his horny, frustrated wife. The quaint fishing village of the title is actually on the far tip of the Bronx and to get there is a chore. The same might be said for their family's journey to get beyond all their lies and hang-ups. Though the script is sometimes a little too self-consciously quirky (as in their son's fetish for watching obese women eat), it also manages to mine a dose of earned truth and pain. - Steve Walker

Vincere - From Italy comes this historically accurate - but not necessarily truthful - story of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's tortured relationship with his emotionally unbalanced mistress, ferociously played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno. Using a mix of stock footage (the whole second half depicts the real Mussolini instead of the actor from the first half), animation, and an operatic score, director Marco Bellocchio imposes a visually energetic style upon a story that could have been as stodgy as a textbook.-Steve Walker

The Runaways - Proving there's a lot of talent in Young Hollywood, Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning are terrific as real-life rockers Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, who made up two-fifths of the all female band The Runaways in the pop culture earthquake centered around Los Angeles's Sunset Strip thirty years ago. Gritty and grungy as the band's music, the film has been unfairly dismissed as yet another rocker-gone-bad bio-pic. But other than "Sid and Nancy" a couple decades ago, how many of these films actually exist? This one has tightly spandexed legs.-Steve Walker

Greenberg - Noah Baumbach, director of the best movie of 2008, "The Squid and the Whale", cast Ben Stiller against type as a 40-year-old ex-mental patient who leaves New York to housesit for his more successful brother in Los Angeles. Though the movie is humorous, it's not laugh-out-loud funny; it's more witty than silly, with grad school smarts about it. Stiller here is uncharacteristically reserved but just as entertaining as in his huge box office hits like "Meet the Fockers." But the real find is actress Greta Garwig, whose performance is so real and non-actressy that, at times, one wonders if one of the crew has stumbled in front of the camera.-Steve Walker

Daniel Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Man in America - One of this year's deserved Oscar nominees for Best Documentary, the film uses Ellsberg's own words to place viewers back in the tumultuous 1970s of the Vietnam War, Watergate and Richard Nixon. The movie painstakingly recounts what even the savviest baby boomers may have forgotten: that Ellsberg, who played a major part in ending the war and ousting Nixon, began his career working for the Defense Department. It's a fascinating account of a personal journey many Americans travelled themselves.-Steve Walker

The Art of the Steal - When inventor and philanthropist Dr. Albert C. Barnes died in 1951, he left behind a collection of modern and post-impressionist art thought to be valued at $25 billion dollars. Over the past half-century, the museum housing it had its fans but, more dastardly, a horde of high-dollar predators who want the art for themselves. It all unfolds with drama and humor, begging the question: who would have suspected that a documentary about Philadelphia art museums could be as riveting as a classic heist film? -Steve Walker