Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is the best of New York’s agile and aggressive bicycle messengers who one fine day picks up a package that someone other than the intended recipient despirately wants. Gordon-Levitt, who is making the shift from sensitive preppy (500 Days of Summer) to more macho rolls (a solid supporting part in The Dark Knight Rises), now has his own action vehicle — even if it is just a bicycle. Directed by David Koepp, who is primarily a screenwriter (Mission Impossible, Panic Room), the film doesn’t provide much room for dialogue, but the use of bicycles gives the usual chase sequences a twist that might be just enough to generate interest among action fans.
For those who wish for a deeply unsettling and demanding movie-going experience, Alps, the most recent film by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, is definitely pick of the week. His last film to screen here, Dogtooth, about a group of children rigorously home schooled in a bizarre misuse of language and a perverse sense of morality, wowed the critical community. Alps, about yet another strange group of people who impersonate the recently deceased for the gratification of their relatives, has already picked up Best Screenplay at Venice last year, and is likely to do well on the festival circuit. Lanthimos’ film, with its elaborate ambiguities and its invitation to rethink basic assumptions about identity and feeling is certainly not for everyone.
Ace Attorney (Gyakuten saiban)
Takashi Miike is one of Japan’s most prolific directors. He is never subtle, but has been known to deliver some unexpected pleasures to various cult audiences. Unlike films like the almost absurdly violent Ichi the Killer, or the cynical take on the samurai genre in 13 Assassins, not too much can be expected with Ace Attorney, a futuristic legal drama based on a popular manga. The setting, which mixes cosplay stylings grafted onto scenes lifted from any number of Hollywood blockbusters, is so obviously derivative and sloppily unimaginative that it is easy to see Ace Attorney as Miike marking time until the next time he finds form.
Dark satire of Japan’s beauty and celebrity industry by fashion photographer Mika Ninagawa has much to recommend it, from its incisive depiction of an industry that holds up impossible standards of female beauty to young women, to Koji Ueno’s unremitting score that provides an interesting audio accompaniment to the story of LiLiCo (Erika Sawajiri), a supermodel whose beauty is mostly the product of the surgeon’s knife. Her moment of fame and gradual descent into infamy make for a compelling cinematic parable, but Ninagawa’s punchy style gets a bit wearing over its 127 minute running time.
After School Midnighters
An expanded version of a popular short film released in 2007, After School Midnighters is an animated musical film that features a cast of skeletons, ghouls, ghosts, along with, you guessed it, a cast of loveable children who find that the netherworld is not so frightening after all. Some echoes of Western films such as Corpse Bride, but with a distinctly Japanese take on cute.
Crayon Shin-chan: Arashi o Yobul Ora to Uchuu no Princess
Yet another in a long series of feature films featuring the adventures of five-year-old Shinnosuke “Shin” Nohara. In this most recent adventure Shin has to save the universe after relinquishing his little sister to aliens. She must either become an alien princess and leave her home forever or Earth will be destroyed. Shin must resort to his wiles once again. For fans only.