Wish I Was Here (Focus Features)
Wish I Was Here
(Focus Features)

In Theaters

Though it only has a cast of two and takes place in a single room, Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur is not lacking in the entertainment department.  That’s probably to be expected when one of our greatest directors has Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric at his disposal, but after the so-so, star-studden Carnage, the joy he elicits with half the cast for Round 2 is extra special.

Not nearly as vibrant is A Most Wanted Man, Anton Corbijn’s follow-up to The American and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last lead role.  Based on the John le Carré novel, the film is clearly the work of a filmmaker with an artistic eye, but the material is sluggish and both Hoffman’s and Rachel McAdams’ German accents are not so great.  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy this ain’t.

As for the titles not made available for critics, Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here is the one I’m most looking forward to seeing.  Hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Garden State (which still holds up, as far as I’m concerned), but so it goes…which also happens to be close to the title of the new Diane Keaton/Michael Douglas rom-com, And So It Goes from director Rob Reiner.  The film is surprisingly the first time the two stars have worked together…which is also the case for Scarlett Johansson and writer/director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) in the sci-fi actioneer Lucy and for Dwayne Johnson and director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) in Hercules…which has to be better than Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules from earlier this year, right?  Right!??!?

Fleeing the Scene

With only two evening shows per day, Third Person never really stood a shot at lasting a second week, but it was nice to see PG-rated ’80s throwback Earth to Echo hang around nearly all of July.  Also, I’m a bit surprised that Begin Again didn’t take off at the Carolina, but it’s holding steady at the Fine Arts, where I’m not surprised it’s a big hit.  I mean, if Chef can get standing ovations, anything has a shot.

Dom Hemingway (Fox Searchlight)
Dom Hemingway
(Fox Searchlight)

On DVD

Jude Law’s ferociously funny turn in Dom Hemingway demands to be seen and don’t let so-called “Johnny Depp fatigue” scare you away from the smart, scary Transcendence.  On the flip side, don’t let folks convince you that the indie thriller Blue Ruin, the sloppy Schwarzenegger action flick Sabotage, or the harebrained Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club are anything special.  (And that’s coming from someone whose friend just wrapped a role as the token white guy on Perry’s new TV series.)  As for Heaven is For Real, well…the thing plays it so safe that not even the church groups at my screening were emotional during or after the movie.  It’s fine, but considering the story’s flawless characters, I still think it should have been called Ridiculously Nice People Are For Real.

On Netflix Instant

Other than Weekend of a Champion, a 1972 documentary about Polanski recording F1 racer Jackie Stewart’s life in the three days leading up to the ’71 Monaco Grand Prix, the only potential films of note this week are fishy looking direct-to-DVD titles.  Does Samuel L. Jackson really want you to know about The Samaritan?  Would David Morse prefer that McCanick stay on the periphery?  And what are Danny Trejo and Mickey Rourke’s thoughts on Dead in Tombstone?  Well, OK, they’d probably be pretty jazzed if you gave that one a look.  Every little bit helps in the B-Movie world.

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