Friday Movie Roundup: MPMF Edition

Not that we'd ever want to steer you away from the pleasures of the movie house, but this weekend we won't be upset if you forgo the new cinematic releases — which, for the second straight week is rather robust — to hit the MidPoint Music Festival, which is also offering a few documentary films to complement its smorgasbord of musical options. —-

(Hot MPMF tip for tonight: Check out Surfer Blood at the Cincinnati Club, a old-school swanky subterranean space that was, via its stellar sound system, elaborate restrooms and Electro-heavy musical acts like Holy Fuck, a highlight of the fest's opening night.)

But if you insist on scratching your movie itch, it seems Oliver Stone's long-in-coming follow-up to Wall Street might worth catching despite the presence of Shia LaBeouf. (I'll reserve my judgment until I actually see it.) Then there's Samuel Moaz's Lebanon, a powerful Israeli war film set almost entirely inside the claustrophobic confines of a dank, slow-moving tank.

Rounding out the seven new releases are three uninspired-looking Hollywood offerings and a pair of curious foreign films.

Opening films:

BRAN NUE DAE — Dorky and earnest, aboriginal teen Willie (Rocky McKenzie) proves deep down a dissident when he escapes Catholic boarding school in 1969 Perth, extinguishing the fire and brimstone of Father Benedictus (a hammy, German-inflected Geoffrey Rush) through cheeky song: "There's nothing I would rather be/Than to be an aborigine/And watch you take my precious land away." Hooking up with a rascally drunken hobo and a hippie couple in a VW bus, Willie show-tunes his way home to Broome on a madcap, sunny-day road trip, eventually reconnecting with his evangelical mama and the girl who snubbed him (Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy). It's easy to understand why indigenous filmmaker Rachel Perkins' energetic adaptation of a two-decade-old stage musical has become a homegrown hit in Oz, as it nakedly attempts to be a timeless coming-of-ager about cultural identity with humor and music used to diffuse social injustices. However, the choreography is sloppy and lifeless; the outmoded blend of vintage Rock, Country and Broadway styles doesn't click; and the characters are such caricatures that it's no wonder the entire cast is overacting. Oh, but to Lord of the Rings cinematographer Andrew Lesnie: Well done, mate. (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Aaron Hillis (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C

LEBANON — Samuel Maoz's film, based on his own experiences during Israel’s 1982 incursion into Lebanon, sets virtually all its action occurs either within the tight confines of an Israeli tank alone in a hostile town, or as seen from the gun sight of it. The four young soldiers are grimy, sweaty, nervous, scared, sometimes profane, sometimes philosophical, sometimes heroic and sometimes not. In this, they seem very human — which is the film’s main draw after one tires of the limited setting. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Steven Rosen (Rated R) Grade: B-plus

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE Watchman and 300 director Zach Snyder shifts gears with this animated adventure about a young barn owl (voiced by British actor Jim Sturgess) that, after being kidnapped and brainwashed by a nefarious entity, escapes and tries to save his follow owls from the same fate. Based on a series of books by Kathryn Lasky, the 3-D film also includes voice work by Abbie Cornish, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush and Hugo Weaving. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG.) Review coming soon.

THE SICILIAN GIRL — Tells the true story of 17-year-old girl (Veronica D'Agostino) whose life is threatened when she informs police as to the names of those who murdered her father and brother, both of whom were also in the Mafia. Marco Amenta directs. (Opens Friday at Esquire Theatre.) — JG (Not Rated.) Not screened for review.

THE VIRGINITY HIT — This quasi (or faux, or maybe stunt) documentary follows a hapless dude called Matt (played by a guy named Matt Bennett) and his buddies' quest to vanquish his virginity. An online reviewer at calls The Virginity Hit an “American Pie for the YouTube generation.” Another commenter on the same site is calling for people to boycott the movie due to its vile, morality-free premise. For our view, it seems to be just the latest film (like Casey Affleck's recent I'm Still Here) that wants to blur the line between reality and fiction. (Opens wide Friday.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon.

WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS — Oliver Stone makes a winning attempt at staying true to his original Wall Street's streamlined storytelling about the warped mentality of the center of the economic universe. In keeping with the energized rhythms of his 1987 film, when greed was "good" (now it's "legal"), Stone masterfully applies stylistic, narrative and character details that plunge the audience into our modern climate of economic collapse with a sense of wonder and anger. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Cole Smithey (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-plus

YOU AGAIN — Fresh-faced if not especially distinctive actress Kristen Bell headlines this comedy as a once-geeky publicist whose brother (Jimmy Wolk) is marrying her onetime high school rival (Odette Yustman). It turns out that the two girls' mothers (Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver) were also high school enemies. Andy Fickman directs a cast that also includes Kristen Chenoweth, Victor Garber and Betty White. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.

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