Like its namesake, this small-town ensemble comedy is somewhat oily and lacking in flavor. It revolves around a prestigious butter-carving contest in an Iowa community, where Bob (Ty Burrell) has been the reigning champion for years. But when the organizers call for Bob to step aside, his bitter wife (Jennifer Garner) becomes furious and competes in his place, trying to upstage a foster child (Yara Shahidi) who is the crowd favorite. The satirical gags are hit-and-miss, but mostly the film is overloaded with broad quirks and stereotypes when real-world grounding would have been more effective. The cast includes Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone and Olivia Wilde. (Rated R, 90 minutes).
A first-rate cast cannot rescue a muddled script in this comedy of suburban dysfunction, focusing on two families whose lives are thrown into turmoil when David (Hugh Laurie) begins an affair with Nina (Leighton Meester), the daughter of his neighbor and best friend who returns home after spending five years overseas. The relationship exposes the already strained relationships in both families. While some viewers might question the film’s moral stance, the bigger problem is that the characters are one-dimensional and chemistry between David and Nina feels forced. Still, there are some amusing moments from an ensemble that includes Allison Janney, Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt. (Rated R, 91 minutes).
This low-budget French character drama is a powerful study of how relationships are tested under desperate circumstances. It follows Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein), a precocious preteen kleptomaniac who steals from wealthy guests at a posh Swiss ski resort near his home as a way of supporting himself and the troubled woman (Lea Seydoux) who lives with him. Their relationship is deeper than an average sibling bond, something French director Ursula Meier (Home) explores with unsettling authenticity. But mostly, it’s an evocative and intimate tale that audaciously refuses to pass judgment on its characters. The film is well-acted by its two leads and emotionally uncompromising. (Not rated, 97 minutes).
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
Perhaps the pain will be useful to the lead character in this pretentious coming-of-age drama, as the title suggests, but what about moviegoers? They are left to watch the cliched misadventures of James (Toby Regbo), an angst-ridden, socially awkward teenager trying to figure out his place while surrounded by a host of eccentrics, including his overbearing, high-maintenance mother (Marcia Gay Harden) and his estranged father (Peter Gallagher). There might be heartfelt intentions behind this adaptation of the novel by Peter Cameron, but the film takes itself too seriously while it tackles familiar territory. The cast includes Lucy Liu, Aubrey Plaza, Stephen Lang and Ellen Burstyn. (Not rated, 95 minutes).
Even horror aficionados likely will grow weary before the end of this meandering low-budget anthology that combines the efforts of six genre directors, most notably Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die) and Ti West (The Innkeepers). It strings together several “found-footage” short films of varying quality around the story of a group of petty thieves who break into a house to retrieve a rare videotape, but must search through several VHS stacks in order to find the right one. It’s not a bad concept, but the execution is predictably hit-and-miss. It’s occasionally unsettling and creepy, but rarely is it truly innovative or chilling. (Rated R, 116 minutes).