Red Riding Hood
A distinctly modern and adult take on the well-known children’s story that ups the sexual chemistry and throws in a werewolf and other supernatural elements. From Twilight saga director Catherine Hardwicke, Red Riding Hood stars Amanda Seyfried (who played Sophie in Mamma Mia!) as the red-capped beauty in question, and despite the medieval setting, teen romance is written all over this movie, a mood that is further underlined by the percussive rock score. Red Riding Hood is caught between the love of brooding outsider Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) and wealthy and good-looking Henry (Max Irons). As Solomon the werewolf hunter, Gary Oldman looks like he has walked off the stage of a provincial Shakespeare revival. He leads an inquisition within the village that reveals too many secrets.
World Invasion: Battle of Los Angeles
As much pleasure as the obliteration of Los Angeles may give to some, it is probably not sufficient to get excited about World Invasion: Battle of Los Angeles, a big-budget, big-effects alien invasion movie. An asteroid shower turns into an alien invasion by intergalactic types who seem intent on wiping out the human race. Both human and alien hardware is well rendered, and the desperate struggle of a marine platoon to save itself manages moments of genuine excitement, but in general this is just another generic apocalyptic tale.
Blue Valentine met with a polarized reception at Sundance last year and scored highly with the hard-core cinephile set at Cannes. It was dismissed at the Oscars, probably for reasons similar to the cold shoulder given to Winter’s Bone. The film is a sexually and emotionally frank film about a working-class American marriage, and uses its two stars, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, to go places that mainstream films seldom visit. Although the topic is rooted in American culture, the intense, Method-based character construction and its ventures into hyper-real color saturated cinematography give it the feel of the European art house. Love it or hate it, Blue Valentine does not leave much middle ground.
Mysteries of Lisbon (Misterios de Lisboa)
This movie is not to be undertaken lightly. It is a Dickensian narrative that follows a jealous countess, a wealthy businessman and an orphaned boy across Portugal, France, Italy and Brazil and encompasses themes of prostitution, murder, romance, war and spiritual malaise. It does this over a running time of 272 minutes, but according to Variety magazine, which describes it as “a period drama of contemporary import — and of the highest order,” both the narrative and the imagery are captivating. Based on a book by 19th-century novelist Camilo Castelo Branco, Mysteries of Lisbon is directed by Raoul Ruiz and manages to be engaging and accessible even when everyone in the film is embroiled in secrets and lies.
Undertow is a ghost story combined with a tale of gay romance in rural Peru that has proven a huge success on the festival circuit through its ability to transcend narrow genre tags. While taking on psychological and metaphysical themes related to love, loss and true identity, the story is rooted in the daily lives of its characters, who reside in a small Peruvian village. The ghost of fisherman Miguel’s deceased lover lingers on in the corporal world, and while Miguel had managed to keep the affair secret when it was happening, now his lover is dead and the story begins to seep out.