Capsule reviews for Dec. 22

Crooked House

Agatha Christie might be experiencing a resurgence on the big-screen these days, but this adaptation shows again that her mysteries are best enjoyed on the page. It’s a stylish period piece that begins with the patriarch of an aristocratic family being poisoned, and a private detective (Max Irons) being summoned to investigate before Scotland Yard pokes around. After sorting through the eccentric suspects, he uncovers darker secrets. The screenplay by Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey”) generates some mild intrigue, although the characters remain cold and distant, allowing for little emotional investment surrounding the juicy climactic twists. The supporting cast includes Glenn Close, Christina Hendricks and Terence Stamp. (Rated PG-13, 115 minutes).


Father Figures

Both unfunny and uninspired, this aimless comedy follows fraternal twin brothers Peter (Ed Helms) and Kyle (Owen Wilson) after their mother (Glenn Close) reveals that she’s been lying about their father being dead. Instead, she doesn’t know which of her 1970s flings produced them, so the siblings hope a road trip will reveal the answer. The resulting adventure produces plenty of low-brow and tasteless shenanigans involving paternity candidates played by Terry Bradshaw, Ving Rhames, J.K. Simmons and Christopher Walken) before missing the mark with a stab at heartfelt reconciliation within their own families. There’s little reason to care about the brothers or their plight. (Rated R, 112 minutes).



Al Pacino chews the scenery and cashes a paycheck in this lurid crime thriller, playing an irascible New York homicide detective whose latest case involves tracking a serial killer leaving behind grisly clues inspired by the titular children’s game. Also trying to solve the case are a criminal profiler (Karl Urban) and a ride-along journalist (Brittany Snow) who gets deeper than she ever imagined. Despite some stylish action sequences, the screenplay is derivative right from the get-go, and unleashing lackluster twists that become more ridiculous and less coherent as they proceed. Moviegoers likely will be able to fill in the blanks more quickly than the characters. (Rated R, 98 minutes).


Happy End

Even by the standards of notoriously cynical German filmmaker Michael Haneke (Amour), the dirty laundry in his latest examination of crumbling morals and dysfunctional relationships is almost suffocating, in a good way. It centers on an aging patriarch (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who summons his daughter (Isabelle Huppert) and the rest of his family to his picturesque estate in Calais, where they sort through their troubles and grudges against the backdrop of the European refugee crisis. Haneke is dealing with familiar themes in a way that seems more scattered than cohesive. Yet while it’s uneven, there are still plenty of stinging character-driven exchanges that pack an emotional punch. (Rated R, 107 minutes).


In the Fade

Diane Kruger’s ferocious performance bolsters this muddled if provocative drama from director Fatih Akin (The Cut). She plays a mourning German woman whose Kurdish husband and young son were killed in a bomb attack. The authorities suspect foul play, specifically Nazi sympathizers who target those of foreign descent, but becomes frustrated with the justice system and consumed with her own grief. The story is obviously personal for the filmmaker, who is of Turkish descent, even if its passion and rage needs to be more tightly focused. Still, although the intentionally episodic structure doesn’t work, the film effectively builds tension amid its more conventional narrative elements. (Rated R, 106 minutes).