Friday Movie Roundup: Oxford Film Festival

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Our largely uneventful summer movie season gets a kick in the ass this week with the arrival of not only one of the best films of 2009 — Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker — but also the third annual Oxford International Film Festival (OIFF), which moves to Cincinnati this year. —-

Festival founder/Executive Director J.C. Schroder clearly envisions his baby growing into to a more established midlevel festival like the one in Nashville. (Read tt stern-enzi’s interview with Schroder here.) The move to Cincinnati (sorry, Oxford) and a full-fledged movie house (the Esquire Theatre in Clifton) are steps in the right direction. And a quick glance at the festival’s various films — which include an intriguing array of short and full-length documentary, animation and fictional features from around the globe — confirms that the programming side is getting better with each passing year.

The organizers also seem committed to making it a diverse, multimedia experience, incorporating a series of live musical events as well as filmmaking panels and other industry-related fare. (Go to for a comprehensive schedule of events.)

Of course, the question remains whether there is an audience interested enough to support and sustain such an ambitious endeavor.

Let’s hope there is.

Elsewhere, in addition to The Hurt Locker (read my review here), prolific Canadian filmmaker Atom Agoyan is back with probably his best effort since at least Felicia’s Journey (1999); The Hangover’s breakout comedic ace Zach Galifianakis (anyone catch his hilarious chat with Conan O'Brien last night or his appearance in that Fiona Apple video back in the day?) returns in a movie about extraordinary guinea pigs; Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard star in a creepy, Omen-esque thriller; and Katherine Heigl tries her hand at another romantic comedy.

Opening films:

ADORATION — Talented Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan errs on the side of shattered melodrama in a thought-provoking dissection of post-9/11 sensibilities. As with all of Egoyan’s films, Adoration is a forward-thinking exploratory work of cinema meant to invigorate audiences into social discussions beyond its narrative structure. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Rated R.) Grade: B-

G-FORCE — Advanced, specially trained guinea pigs (and other assorted members of the animal kingdom) voiced by the celebrated likes of Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Jon Favreau, Penelope Cruz, Steve Buscemi and Tracy Morgan attempt to defeat a nefarious plot to take over the world in this uninspired live-action 3-D adventure. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide Friday.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D

THE HURT LOCKER — Kathryn Bigelow’s latest jettisons the contentious politics, clichéd caricatures and/or post-deployment home-front dramatics that have hampered previously Iraq War-themed movies in favor of a more visceral approach. Based on the first-hand reporting of journalist and screenwriter Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker is an unrelenting, impressively self-contained pressure cooker that feels both deeply authentic and appropriately unsettling. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide Friday.) — JG (Rated R.) Grade: A

THE ORPHAN — Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard lend their ample talents to this thriller about a couple dealing with its demonic, adopted daughter (Isabelle Fuhrman). Uh, can you say The Omen, The Exorcist or even the more recent Joshua, in which Farmiga plays yet another tortured mother? Jaume Collet-Serra directs. (Opens wide Friday.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon

THE UGLY TRUTH — Director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde) has a fundamentally strong sense for how to pace this unambitious brand of comedy, as well as how to cast solid comic performers. But the moment never comes when we care about these characters getting together. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide Friday.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated R.) Grade: C

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