Under new management and in its new fall slot, the Philadelphia Film Festival begins its 10-day binge session of more than 100 films from around the world this Thursday, Oct. 14. Here are some interesting selections.
Joining the ranks of film depicting the horrors that befall exotic cultures through a safe white perspective (Cry Freedom, Last King of Scotland, et al.), this Aussie import tells the tale of Indonesia’s gory invasion of East Timor through not one but two groups of visiting Aussies. Anthony LaPaglia plays a cynical war journo who goes on the probably fruitless hunt for five reporters who went missing in the titular border town. Director Robert Connolly knows how to stir up the intensity, albeit mostly by having everyone scream in shaky-cam, but the script is pure paint-by-numbers and only marginally terrifying.
Sat., Oct. 16, 4:15pm, IH.
The Best and the Brightest: C-
Bonnie Somerville and a barely utilized Neil Patrick Harris play parents scrambling to get their 5-year-old into one of the mega-elite private schools of Manhattan—or, rather, Philadelphia unconvincingly playing Manhattan. The decks are stacked for satire, but Josh Selov settles for lame sex jokes that not even Peter Serafinowicz or John Hodgman can make work.
Sat., Oct. 16, 7:15pm, R5. Mon., Oct. 18, 7:30pm, PMT.
Kind of a Lilya 4-Ever lite, this chunk of Danish miserablism presents a miserablist tour through misery. Sick of poverty, a teen (newcomer Ella-June Henrard) takes the advice of a wealthy friend and starts shtupping older men for money. It takes her longer than usual to realize hooking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and director Hans Herbots has filmed this netherworld with a variety of sickly filters. In the film’s final cruel plot twist, our lead screams in thrilling close-up; the best you should be able to muster for this familiar exposé is a shrug.
Sat., Oct. 16, 10:15pm, R5.
Certified Copy: A-
Juliette Binoche plays an antiques dealer touring a visiting writer (opera star William Shimmel) through pretty Tuscany. They’re complete strangers—until they abruptly start acting like they’ve been married 15 years. Certified Copy is the latest from Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami, and his first full-on fiction in a decade unless you count his script for Jafar Panahi’s Crimson Gold. Like a Buñuel remake of Before Sunrise, it’s the gentlest of mindfucks, speeding us through the life of a relationship in one magical day.
Sat., Oct. 16, 2:15pm, R5.
Cold Weather: B+
One of the major talents of the so-called mumblecore unit, Aaron Katz ( Dance Party USA , Quiet City ) makes a go for the mainstream—sort of. Aimless slacker Chris Lankenau learns of the disappearance of an ex, so he starts making use of his limited detective skills. The results, however, are never cutesy or affected. The noir angle rises organically out of the film’s nest of loose dialogue and gorgeous, gorgeous shots, most of them captured in the off hours. And when it reaches a moment that would make for a terrific offbeat ending, doesn’t Katz just—
Sun., Oct. 17, 5:25pm, AC.
Hilary Swank is so garishly earnest she’s hard to resist, and she—with a rambunctious Minnie Driver, plus Sam Rockwell sneaking in some brilliance—are the only reasons to bother with Tony Goldwyn’s real-life judicial potboiler. Swank is a working-class Massachusetts nobody convinced her brother (Rockwell) was wrongfully convicted. So she goes to law school and tries to get him off herself, even if it means estranging everyone around her. Conviction is only temporarily concerned with such madly obsessive behavior; by the end, it’s all about your tears. So, give them up.
Sat., Oct. 16, 1:45pm, IH + Tues., Oct. 19, 7:30pm, R5.
Those seeking sexy dirt in a doc on Jeanette Maier, madam of the late, well-patroned Canal Street brothel, take note. The brunt of Cameron Yates’ doc isn’t the scandal, but its less-skeezy aftermath—what becomes of the news sensation once the sensation ends?
Matt Damon delivers in "The Martian"