The Brass Teapot
This oddball dark comedy might have made an amusing short film, but its one-note concept wears thin at feature length. It’s based on an idea from a comic-book series about Alice (Juno Temple) and John (Michael Angarano), who steals a teapot from an antique store, later realizing it has magical powers to make them rich. The discovery leads to a moral dilemma for the young married couple, and also makes them the target of thugs willing to go to great lengths to possess their treasure. The film generates some solid laughs during the first act, then crumbles into a heavy-handed final act that feels desperate. (Rated R, 101 minutes).
My Brother the Devil
This evocative, low-budget coming-of-age drama marks a sharp debut for British filmmaker Sally El Hosaini. It takes place on the rough streets of London and centers on a family of Egyptian immigrants, in which Mo (Fady Elsayed) is a teenager who wants to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Rashid (James Floyd), a notorious gangster, when their loyalty is tested. The script bogs down slightly in contrivances and the performances are uneven, but there’s a gritty authenticity to the tough-guy characters and gang-infested setting. The film takes an insightful look at subtle cultural and socioeconomic differences, as well as similarities, during troubled economic times. (Not rated, 111 minutes).
No Place on Earth
A powerful true-life story gets a rather pedestrian treatment in this compelling documentary about a New York spelunker who discovers markings on the inside wall of a Ukrainian cave, then traces them to a large Jewish family who remarkably hid underground for more than a year as a method of survival during the Holocaust. The film’s narration is provided by interviews with family members who describe their harrowing ordeal firsthand, combined with wartime re-enactment sequences. It’s a heroic story of World War II sacrifice and perseverance in which director Janet Tobias manipulates the narrative structure in order to maximize the sentimental impact. (Rated PG-13, 83 minutes).
Julianne Moore cashes in a small segment of her reputation in the starring role of this overwrought psychological thriller, playing Cara, a widowed forensic psychiatrist assigned by her father (Jeffrey DeMunn) to interview Adam (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a patient with multiple personalities (and accents to match). As she begins to uncover Adam’s dark side, she realizes her involvement in the case might put her own family in danger. The movie is visually sharp, but even these talented actors can’t rescue a script that throws logic out the window in favor of a series of plot twists that instead of suspenseful become almost laughably ridiculous. (Rated R, 112 minutes).
Almost a decade after making a splash with the mind-bending Primer, writer-director Shane Carruth returns with another atmospheric low-budget science-fiction drama that also will leave plenty of viewers scratching their heads — in a good way. It follows the relationship between Jeff (Carruth) and Kris (Amy Seimetz), two mysterious loners whose paths cross after being subject to some sort of genetic experimentation. A challenging work that is not conventionally entertaining, it’s sometimes frustrating and perhaps intentionally obtuse (and it certainly defies mainstream conventions), but Carruth’s experimental style has a certain level of artistry, and the film contains enough ambitious ideas to make it worthwhile. (Not rated, 96 minutes).