Capsule reviews for Oct. 6

Barracuda

Considering its backdrop in the world of country music, this low-key thriller appropriately finds an appealing rhythm. Of course, its tune is potentially more sinister when considering the relationship between Merle (Alison Tolman) and her half-sister, Sinaloa (Sophie Reid), both daughters of a deceased musician. Sinaloa visits Merle’s home in Austin with intentions that seem innocent enough at first, but soon are revealed to be darker with regard to her stake in the family legacy. Some intriguing character dynamics and strong performances bolster a screenplay by Jason Cortlund — who also co-directed — that gradually ratchets up the tension and offers a fresh take on familiar material. (Not rated, 98 minutes).

 

Brawl in Cell Block 99

Any doubts about Vince Vaughn’s underused versatility can be quieted by this ultraviolent thriller from director Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) that vividly depicts the chaos suggested by its title. Vaughn plays a drug-dealing brute who rarely shows his softer side, except when it comes to defending his pregnant wife (Jennifer Carpenter). Jailed after a drug bust, he’s blackmailed into targeting a fellow inmate by a crime boss on the outside while dealing with a corrupt warden (Don Johnson). This leads to plenty of testosterone-fueled brutality within a textured if self-indulgent revenge saga that employs an effectively gritty throwback visual style amid its narrative meandering. (Not rated, 132 minutes).

 

Dina

Dina Buno might not be a conventional movie star, but this documentary shows that a working-class 49-year-old woman from the Philadelphia suburbs is worthy of the spotlight. She’s eccentric but charming as the film chronicles her attempt at cohabitation with her fiancé, Scott, a Walmart greeter who — like Dina — is on the autism spectrum. From there, directors Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles (Mala Mala) chronicle their struggles to achieve intimacy and fulfill each other’s unique needs as their wedding approaches. By using a verite approach, the result manages to balance sympathy for their situation without resorting to cheap sentiment, even if the approach lacks true objectivity. (Not rated, 103 minutes).

 

My Little Pony: The Movie

Most in the target demographic for this egregiously wholesome animated adventure aren’t old enough to read this. It’s a big-screen incarnation of the brightly colored equine dolls (and their eponymous television series) that finds the perky inhabitants of Equestria invaded by an evil force attempting to steal their magic, which causes them to flee and tests the limits of their friendship. While it might charm small kiddos enough to spark toy sales, the film resembles a throwback to Saturday morning cartoons, with rudimentary animation and dialogue like, “Come on, every-pony!” It would be more tolerable without the forgettable songs that needlessly pad the running time. (Rated PG, 99 minutes).

 

The Osiris Child

It might take place in another galaxy, but the clichés in this incoherent science-fiction thriller come straight from Earth. The futuristic story follows the rogue efforts of a soldier (Daniel MacPherson) trying to save his young daughter (Teagan Croft) from a deadly virus unleashed by evil forces on a colonized planet. He reluctantly teams with a prison escapee (Kellan Lutz) to battle intergalactic thugs and lowlifes, in addition to some menacing creatures. Australian director Shane Abbess (Infini) employs some ambitious low-budget visuals that lend some style to a convoluted and chronologically jumbled script. Yet amid the violent chaos, the film never achieves its desired emotional payoff. (Not rated, 99 minutes).

 

So B. It

An exploration of childhood curiosity is undermined by contrived sentimentality in this well-intentioned coming-of-age story from director Stephen Gyllenhaal (Losing Isaiah) that consistently strains credibility. Heidi (Talitha Bateman) is a precocious girl living with her mentally disabled mother (Jessica Collins) and agoraphobic caretaker (Alfre Woodard) in a Reno apartment. Carrying only a gift for good luck at the slot machines, the youngster embarks on a cross-country bus trip seeking answers to questions about her fractured family. The scattered episodes of character-driven charm become lost amid the accumulating afflictions and strained attempts to yank at the heartstrings. There’s not much subtlety or surprise along the way. (Rated PG-13, 98 minutes).

 

Una

Two powerhouse performances skillfully elevate some difficult subject matter in this intimate drama about a vulnerable young woman (Rooney Mara) who tracks down a factory boss (Ben Mendelsohn), then confronts him about a sexual encounter from 15 years ago, when she was only 13. Their respective psychological wounds have evolved in various ways since, as their feelings for one another are rekindled in unexpected ways. The film isn’t interested in contrived revenge, but rather an honest portrayal of the residual damage inflicted by sexual predators. Although the direction sometimes is overwrought, the result has a raw intensity in its character-driven moments that’s both powerful and unsettling. (Rated R, 94 minutes.).

 

Walking Out

The vivid wintry landscapes in this low-key drama provide a harrowing backdrop for a suspenseful tale of survival that’s much more than just father-son bonding in the great outdoors.  It follows a rebellious big-city teenager (Josh Wiggins) who agrees to join his estranged father (Matt Bomer) on a hunting trip in the Montana wilderness. As they struggle to connect, violent circumstances bring them closer out of desperation. The film is much heavier on dialogue than action, yet although it sometimes feels too bleak, it’s well acted and evocatively captures its remote setting to the extent that you can almost feel the chill in the air. (Rated PG-13, 95 minutes).

  • catamaran11

    my little pony: “rudimentary animation?” while the movie has its flaws (plot and pacing) come to mind), the soaring, detailed animation in this film is one of its best features to recommend seeing it on the big screen.

    and i’d put some of the songs in this film on a par with disney musical numbers. “open up your eyes” is one of the best animated film villain songs i’ve ever heard, backed by a full orchestra.

    • *woop woop* Brony alert. – Ed.

    • FastRiff

      True true, especially “one small thing” and “open up your eyes” were top notch. The other songs are good as well but the composing was a little bit to complicated to get into the ear first time. I’m speaking of “Time to be awesome and We got this together.”
      The animation was deadly fluid, amazing work. But apparently some reviewers had seen a total different movie XD

    • Romuska Palo Ur Laputa

      “Open Up Your Eyes” sounds too triumphant and epic for a villain song to me. Villain songs in my eyes should sound more sinister and haunting, like “Be Prepared” (which it reminded me of).

      “One Small Thing” was good though.

  • Romuska Palo Ur Laputa

    The animation for the MLP movie isn’t even a twentieth as amazing as fans say it is from what I’ve seen of it (I’ve glimpsed at it but am planning to borrow it
    from the library when on DVD, and btw I used to be a casual avid MLP fan [no brony] but not anymore). There are scenes where it does look good/fine, but the problem is the frame rate half the time looks sloppily done, like look at One Small Thing (which by the way, out of all the mostly forgettable songs is the only one I think sounds good): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhFVkqWUKYI

    Notice how when Skystar says “You and me we started something great”, the animation is very fluid and smooth, but then in the next scene, it’s choppy, stilted and laggy like a video game with too much sprites on the screen (probably because of too few frames drawn to create a sense of smoothness). I’m not an animation expert, but I highly doubt they were sweating out bullets to make sure it looked Disney/Don Bluth/TMS/80’s-90’s Toei Animation/Sunrise/Studio Ghibli good.

    That was a preview and from another video I saw that I believe has the actual clip (unless it’s just the video recorder the user used) being slightly more fluid but it’s still got a sense of cheapness to it.

  • Romuska Palo Ur Laputa

    Let him have his opinion. And wait, you said you kept hearing the songs but then said only two were memorable? That doesn’t make any sense…