Capsule reviews for Nov. 3

Blade of the Immortal

The latest samurai epic from prolific director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) is another ultraviolent exploration of brutality and Japanese legends that winds up an exhausting exercise in overkill. It also dabbles in the supernatural with its story of an immortal assassin (Takuya Kimura) who agrees to help a young girl (Hana Sugisaki) avenge the murder of her parents, and save his soul in the process. For moviegoers, of course, the resulting mission is less about character motives and more about the barrage of creatively choreographed fights and swordplay. In that sense, it delivers for Miike devotees, although the film itself needs to be sliced. (Rated R, 141 minutes).

 

Lady Bird

Perceptive and heartfelt, the directorial debut for actress Greta Gerwig (Mistress America) manages to balance an intimate approach with universal relatability. It puts a fresh twist on familiar coming-of-age themes by chronicling the gently comic adventures of Christine (Saoirse Ronan) — who prefers the titular nickname — trying to navigate her senior year at a Catholic high school while applying to colleges, dealing with relationships, and enduring her overbearing but well-meaning mother (Laurie Metcalf). Gerwig’s screenplay reflects sincerity and compassion in its depiction of a young woman striving for independence while balancing adolescent obligations. Ronan finds depth in a character that could have been constrained by clichés. (Rated R, 93 minutes).

 

Most Beautiful Island

This raw and powerful glimpse into the everyday experience of undocumented immigrants is a striking debut for director Ana Asensio, who also stars as Luciana, driven to desperation while struggling to pay bills in New York. On the advice of an acquaintance (Natsha Romanova), she takes a vague but potentially lucrative job working at an upper-crust “party.” However, the experience turns both unpredictable and dangerous. Asensio’s screenplay condenses the narrative into a single day, and doesn’t provide much context with its verite style, preferring to have Luciana be the audience’s window into her life. The low-budget result is modestly suspenseful and unsettling without turning heavy-handed. (Not rated, 80 minutes).

 

Singularity

Combine some science-fiction mumbo-jumbo about artificial intelligence gone amok with an unintentionally hilarious by a villainous John Cusack, and you get this inept post-apocalyptic thriller. Cusack plays the head of a robotics firm whose latest project is intended to end human warfare on Earth, except that it massively backfires, leaving mankind on the verge of extinction and a pair of teenagers (Julian Schaffner and Jeannine Wacker) as the best hope for survival. What’s meant to be a cautionary tale about technological overreach and corporate greed turns into a mess of clichés and contrivances without much reason for emotional investment in the characters or their perilous plight. (Rated PG-13, 92 minutes).