Friday Movie Roundup: Dig Deeper

Nov 13, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I know we’re in the midst of an economic recession not seen since before The Wizard of Oz — but we only have one Hollywood studio release this week? And the one is 2012, the latest effects-driven, apocalyptic nonsense from Roland Emmerich? —-

I thought movies were supposed to do well during tough times? I thought they were supposed to provide escape from mundane lives?

Despite the studios’ diversionary tactics when it comes to box-office receipts (ever heard of inflation, guys?), it appears the days of the masses salving their collective loathing in a darkened theater are on the wane. Or at least that would be the deduction based on the number of — and kind of — films that are currently being dropped on us via the studio system, a creatively stunted collection that largely attempts to do one thing: generate box office.

I don’t have the patience right now to get into what constitutes an official “Hollywood” release (nor do most of you probably care), but believe me when I say the output has been meager over the last year. (The one recent exception is Warner Brothers’ Where the Wild Things Are, a film that was initially set up in another time and universe.)

And the situation looks to get worse: Disney recently announced that Miramax, once a thriving entity that championed the films of everyone from Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Peter Jackson to Jane Campion, Wong Kar Wai and Pedro Almodovar, is essentially dead.

Yet the dearth of Hollywood films — in terms of both quality and quantity — only puts more of a premium on the unique fare of smaller distributors like Sony Pictures Classics, Music Box, Magnolia Pictures and Overture Films, all of which have released films here in recent weeks (see the reviews below for worthwhile examples).

Then there’s the dedicated folks over at Cincinnati World Cinema, whose Global Cinema Series continues with a pair of acclaimed dramas: French filmmaker Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours (see review below) and Moroccan filmmaker Faouzi Bensaidi’s What a Wonderful Life. (For more on CWC’s screening details, go to

The moral of this story, film fans? Dig deeper.

THE DAMNED UNITED — In his portrayal of famed British soccer team manager Brian Clough, Michael Sheen solidifies his status as this generation's Laurence Olivier in Tom Hooper's enthralling adaptation of Peter Morgan’s 2006 book, The Damned Utd. Hooper works effortlessly with Morgan's unconventionally formatted screenplay that flips between eras to explore Clough’s dynamic personality that took him from managing teams in Hartlepool and Derby to a doomed six-week tenure managing the Leeds United reigning champions. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Rated R.) Grade: A

PIRATE RADIO — Filmmaker Richard Curtis has used a true-life premise — the British pirate radio stations of the 1960s — as little more than an excuse for tried-and-true sitcom scenarios. Worse, while he has kept this a period piece (it wouldn’t make much sense if he didn’t) he has given all the characters a modern sensibility more fitting for Superbad than the ’60s. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Steven Rosen (Rated R.) Grade: C-

SUMMER HOURS — Olivier Assayas, one of the foremost contemporary French writer/directors, has woven together in Summer Hours a tapestry of a family drama that has great depth and power, but is also unencumbered by portentous melodrama and stylistic overstatement. The film has such an understated touch that the enormity of its message, about how time unsentimentally turns the present into history, sneaks up on you. And it leaves you deeply moved. (Read full review here.) (Presented by Cincinnati World Cinema, Summer Hours screens 6:30 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Carnegie Arts Center (1028 Scott St., Covington). Go to for more information. — SR (Not Rated.) Grade: B

2012 — Big-budget, event-movie hack Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow) is back with more effects-driven, apocalyptic nonsense. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: F