Ballet 422 *** Directed by Jody Lee Lipes. A documentary chronicling the intense artistic effort behind the 422nd new work staged by the New York City Ballet. A delightfully immersive look at how a ballet is created, Lipes’ documentary is a stark contrast to the psycho theatrics of something like Black Swan.
Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles *** Directed by Chuck Workman. Cinema icon Welles’ talent and checkered career are memorialized in this documentary featuring clips from nearly all of his directorial efforts and interviews with filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and George Lucas. Sturdy and rudimentary, Magician may be Welles 101, but it’s dotted liberally with TV and radio clips of the famously loquacious auteur talking, talking, and doing more talking — and how could anybody with ears and a brain resist that buttery voice, spinning out clause-laden sentences that take more twists and turns than the streets of Venice but always end, somehow, in a place that’s ravishingly articulate?
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus ** Directed by Spike Lee. While researching the history of a little-known empire, anthropologist Hess Greene (Stephen Tyrone Williams) comes across an ancient dagger that is shortly used to murder him. When he wakes up unharmed, Greene discovers that he’s developed an acute appetite for human blood. While this return to indie roots frees up Lee’s often gifted image making, his usual pace issues and penchant for jagged flourish over sustained feeling keep it from achieving a rich, strange, sexy and sad whole.
Cut Bank *½ Directed by Matt Shakman. Starring Liam Hemsworth, Teresa Palmer, Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Dern, Michael Stuhlbarg, Oliver Platt, John Malkovich, A young man’s life is unraveled after witnessing a murder that he filmed in his rural town of Cut Bank. Clever enough to provoke a few abrupt laughs along the way, this big screen debut for two television stalwarts, Shakman (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and writer Robert Patino (Sons of Anarchy, Prime Suspect), is sabotaged by some frightfully on-the-nose expository dialogue and an adamantly prosaic visual style.
Seventh Son * Directed by Sergei Bodrov. In the 18th century, apprentice exorcist Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) is the lynchpin in a battle between good and evil when imprisoned witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escapes. Not only offers no new spin on its bland, by-the-numbers story, it also fails to deliver any generic pleasures; I’m not sure this movie could even keep a young child engaged.
See You In Valhalla * Directed by Jarret Tarnol. Starring Sarah Hyland, Steve Howey, Odeya Rush, Bret Harrison, Emma Bell, Jake McDorman, Beau Mirchoff, Michael Weston, Conor O’Farrell. A young woman returns home to reunite with her estranged family after the bizarre death of her brother. Featuring stereotypical characterizations and painfully awkward dialogue, the film treats its dramatic themes with a wince-inducing shallowness. Virtually nothing in the drawn-out proceedings works on any level, and the characters are so inherently unlikeable that being in their company is as painful for viewers as it is for them.
Nightlight * Directed by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods. Making a night journey into Covington Forest — a place long associated with teen suicides — five friends plan to play flashlight games. It’s all very familiar in that Blair Witch kind of way, with neither the characters nor situations proving remotely interesting.
The Loft * Directed by Erik Van Looy. Five married co-owners of an upscale loft enjoy their investment as a discreet hideaway for their adulterous pursuits. But when a murdered woman is discovered in the apartment, each suspects the others of committing the grisly killing. This silly chamber piece about sex and murder elicits only yawns, interrupted by the occasional unintentional giggle.