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White God ***½ Directed by Kornél Mundruczó. When a cruel father dumps his daughter’s beloved dog, Hagen, out on the highway to fend for himself, Hagen not only survives the horrors of abandonment, dog fights and starvation, but rouses an angry army of mongrels out to exact vengeance. Superbly acted allegorical drama with a climax that is not only breathtakingly exciting but flawlessly handled.
Revenge of the Mekons *** Directed by Joe Angio. Formed during the punk-rock era of the late 1970s, the Mekons established themselves as one of the most creative and adventurous bands of the day. This documentary chronicles the still-going group’s more-than-30-year run. A contagious enthusiasm runs through the heart of this documentary that celebrates and explores the evolving ethos of a seminal British punk band while also proving that some of rock’s most interesting stories come not from success but survival.
52 Tuesdays *** Directed by Sophie Hyde. Sixteen-year-old Billie’s (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) reluctant path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals plans to gender transition and their time together becomes limited to Tuesday afternoons. Full of touching moments even if its emotional rewards remain somewhat muted, 52 Tuesdays feels highly personal and is never less than absorbing or sincere in its depiction of a non-traditional family navigating difficult changes.
Runoff *** Directed by Kimberly Levin. With her husband’s health and business failing, Betty Freeman (Joanne Kelly) is forced to take on a host of burdens — including preventing foreclosure of the family’s rural Kentucky home. This is the kind of film that finds power and pleasure in silence; many of its best scenes come in careful, long, quiet scenes of revelation or desperation.
Glass Chin **½ Directed by Noah Buschel. A down-on-his-luck former boxing champ (Corey Stoll) is forced to make a choice between friendship and ambition when he is framed for murder. It’s a good thing the film has a good cast in general and Stoll in particular. He’s the main reason to watch Glass Chin. And not coincidentally, he’s often quiet.
3 Hearts **½ Directed by Benoit Jacquot. A tax inspector (Benoît Poelvoorde), his new bride and her sister become entwined in a love triangle. While the controlling deities might have found some amusement in this narrative, in Jacquot’s hands the tale is more bland than tragic.
Home ** Directed by Tim Johnson. On the run from cosmic enemies, a band of aliens arrives on Earth looking for a safe haven, but one of them inadvertently gives away his location. Though it opens with the studio’s seemingly mandatory voice-over setup, the story itself, adapted from the children’s book The True Meaning Of Smekday, shows immediate conceptual audacity.
Comet ** Directed by Sam Esmail. Set in a parallel universe, the story bounces back and forth over the course of an unlikely but perfectly paired couple’s (Justin Long, Emmy Rossum) six-year relationship. Give credit to Esmail for coming up with an inventive way to tell the story, even if the execution doesn’t live up to the idea. He shows great confidence as a director, and the film has a unique look, with heightened reality providing clues that this really is a different world, or worlds, even.
The Water Diviner ** Directed by Russell Crowe. An Australian man (Crowe) travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons. Crowe’s movie is a male weepie, slickly lit, but clearly the work of an amateur. Its emotional thrust — the search — is made limp by indiscriminate direction and the kind of quantity-over-quality mindset that invites tacked-on romances and dream sequences that play like dream-sequence parodies.