Veteran indie actor Martin Donovan makes his directorial debut with this low-key thriller about a struggling playwright (Donovan) whose marriage is falling apart when he is taken hostage at gunpoint by a former classmate (David Morse), an ex-con lamenting numerous problems in his own life. The two men try to find common ground during the long night that follows. The performances are sharp and Donovan’s script holds more surprises than the premise might dictate, even if the material sometimes feels like a short subject stretched to feature length. Still, it’s a promising debut for the director and an intriguing study of characters facing desperate circumstances. (Not rated, 87 minutes).
Just because the main characters are in a constant state of depression and angst doesn’t mean the audience should have to wallow in their misery as well. Yet such is the case with this meandering low-budget romance that follows Zach (Lukas Haas), whose pleasures in life consist of alcohol and women, in that order. He meets a mysterious companion (Madeline Zima) who plays hard to get, causing Zach to consider a lifestyle change just as family issues push him in a different direction. Director Adam Sherman (Happiness Runs) employs an appropriately trippy visual style, but doesn’t realize that his characters aren’t as compelling. (Not rated, 95 minutes).
The latest low-budget comedy from the prolific sibling duo of Mark and Jay Duplass (Cyrus) is this slight if charming story of estranged middle-aged brothers Jeremy (Mark Kelly) and Mark (Steve Zissis), who reunite for a weekend to re-stage a private 25-event athletic competition from their childhood to settle their rivalry once and for all, much to the dismay of the rest of their family. Strong performances allow viewers to root for both of these lovable losers. But despite a cool concept and a few scattered laughs (including epic sequences involving arm wrestling and laser tag), the film overall feels like a series of cheesy home-video outtakes. (Rated R, 76 minutes).
Katy Perry: Part of Me
This 3D backstage documentary chronicling the bubbly pop-music star is fully authorized by its subject, so the result inevitably feels glossed over with regard to some of Perry’s private details, including the break-up of her relationship with comedian Russell Brand. When the focus is on the music, however, including a handful of concert numbers from tour stops featuring her most popular songs, the film generates an energy that’s certain to resonate between Perry and her fans. And that’s the target audience for the movie anyway, regardless of whether the whole enterprise is simply another way for the singer to cash in on her stardom. (Rated PG, 97 minutes).
Rookie director Nicholas McCarthy adds some visual flair to an otherwise formulaic genre picture in this story about family secrets and a haunted house. Annie (Caity Lotz) is the damsel in distress, as she returns to her childhood home following the death of her mother and begins hearing strange noises at night. When her sister (Agnes Bruckner) arrives to help with the grieving process, Annie begins having nightmares that raise questions about the family’s past. The film has some cheap thrills amid an incoherent story but lacks more sustained tension. It does signal future promise, however, for McCarthy and Lotz, who brings unexpected depth to her portrayal. (Not rated, 89 minutes).