Charlie Chaplin's second talkie hits Philly screens.
There are no fewer than 10 different telekinetic, telephatic and clairvoyant abilities in Push, ranging from “watchers” who can see the ever-changing future to “movers” who can physically move people and objects with their mind. The latter ability belongs to hero Chris Evans, an expat hiding out in pretty Hong Kong. He gets roped into intrigue involving a group of shadowy U.S. government baddies led by Djimon Hounsou (a “pusher” who can “push” lies into another’s mind); a runaway super-psychic who’s also his ex-girlfriend (Camilla Belle); a rival Chinese gang; and an old-fashioned MacGuffin stored, amusingly, in a briefcase. C+ (M.P.)
Kate Winslet essays Hannah Schmidt, a mysteriously private and weary mid-30s tram conductor in post-WWII Germany who seduces 15-year-old Michael Berg (David Kross). They have a special relationship: He reads her the greatest hits of classic literature and then she works his bones. After a couple sweaty months Schmidt abruptly disappears. It’s eight years before Berg sees her again, this time as a law student sitting in on her war crimes trial. C+ (M.P.)
Teenage nobody Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is a mere few questions away from beating the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. But Malik’s been accused of cheating, and as the shadowy, belligerent authorities go through his taped performance, answer by answer, we’re treated to his ramshackle, Dickensian childhood as an orphaned slum kid from Mumbai, riding the rails and eking out various desperate existences alongside his more crafty and ethics-handicapped brother. C+ (M.P.)
It’s reactionary father-knows-best- because-he-used-to-murder-people-for-a-living nonsense, implicitly reinforcing all sorts of xenophobic paranoias and insidious patriarchal hierarchies. But it’s also absurdly entertaining to watch Liam Neeson cut a bloody swath through Paris leaving countless dead bodies in his wake. This is a lurid, sleazy button-pusher movie, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t work like gangbusters on a base, Cro-Magnon level. B- (S.B.)
Leonard Kraditor, a heartsick, bumbling mess who’s recently reclaimed his childhood bedroom, living with his parents in the insular Jewish community of Brighton Beach. We hear mention of a bad breakup, and subsequent suicidal overtures. Off-kilter Leonard even hurls himself into Sheepshead Bay before the opening credits have unspooled, only to think better of it and head home for dinner. He’s an odd, tormented duck, but also quite funny and vulnerable at unexpected moments. A- (S.B.)
Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail
As one colleague explained, “Madea’s following the Ernest route to cinematic success.” (Not reviewed.)
In this horror flick, two young girls freak out when their dad marries their dead mother’s nurse. Naturally, the ghost of the dead mother is a main character. (Not reviewed.)
Waltz With Bashir
Director Ari Folman stars, detailing his personal attempt to come to terms with atrocities he witnessed during Israel’s 1982 war in Lebanon. The journey begins over drinks with his old friend Boaz, when the latter admits to being haunted by dreams of all the dogs he shot in combat—evocatively rendered hell hounds of the past coming to collect on the present. Folman, oddly enough, claims to have no memories at all of his wartime experiences, save for a single recurring image of emerging stark naked from the water near the Sabra and Shitila refugee camps where countless Palestinians were massacred. C+ (S.B.)
Set in an alternate 1985, one in which Nixon is serving his fifth term and the Cold War ain’t all that cold anymore, Watchmen posits a world in which costumed avengers are so common they’ve actually been outlawed by congressional decree. The title team is a long-dormant band of caped crusaders spurred back into action by the murder of one of their own. C+ (S.B.)
Faced with a health crisis, wrestler Randy the Ram’s (Mickey Rourke) forced to consider retirement, and that’s when the movie begins questioning how we define ourselves. If a man is what he does for a living, who does he become when he can’t do that anymore? The Ram tentatively tries to muster an existence beyond the mat, attempting to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood.) Only Cassidy seems to understand. Brilliantly played by Marisa Tomei, Randy’s favorite stripper is secretly a single mom, and the two foster a friendship outside the sleazy club’s VIP room. Just like the Ram, Cassidy’s getting too old to make a living off her body anymore, and Aronofsky quietly underlines their similarities with matching camera movements whenever these two are “at work.” A- (S.B.)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943): Fritz Lang’s M (1931) featured a cinema first: a psychopath who was borderline sympathetic. But Peter Lorre’s child killer wasn’t exactly likable; he did kill children, after all. Neither is Joseph Cotten’s “Merry Widow Murderer” in this Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece. But at least someone loves him: his niece Teresa Wright, who’s ecstatic when Cotten pays a visit to her boring American town, unaware he’s really just eluding capture. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944): What are two adorable old spinsters doing poisoning lonely old men with laced elderberry wine? Cutest serial killers ever. Monsieur Verdoux (1947): For his second...