Capsule reviews for Oct. 12

Frankie Go Boom

A dysfunctional family and a host of quirky characters provide the basis for this raunchy comedy about Frank (Charlie Hunnam), who returns home to help celebrate the sobriety of his estranged older brother, Bruce (Chris O’Dowd), an aspiring filmmaker whose camera catches Frank in a one-night stand. The resulting video makes it way online, causing embarrassment and a run-in with an eccentric Hollywood actor (Chris Noth). Give the film credit for not turning mushy in the end, but it’s a thin one-joke premise that provides a few solid sitcom-style laughs before the bickering and mayhem become repetitive and the film simply runs out of gas. (Not rated, 88 minutes).

 

Least Among Saints

Good intentions abound in this earnest low-budget drama with an admirable agenda to encourage compassion for our troops when they return home from the battlefield with physical and emotional scars. However, the predictable and heavy-handed execution unfortunately dilutes that message. Writer-director Martin Papazian stars as Anthony, a suicidal ex-soldier contending with nightmares and an impending divorce. His saving grace might be Wade (Tristan Lake Leabu), a neighborhood boy who turns to Anthony for support after his mother’s death from a drug overdose. Any heartfelt charm from the resulting male-bonding story is squandered as Papazian overloads the film with contrived melodrama and forced sentimentality. (Rated R, 108 minutes).

 

Smashed

A terrific performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing) bolsters this otherwise muddled drama about a young schoolteacher whose alcoholism leads to job loss, and to joining a recovery program where she meets a helpful sponsor (Octavia Spencer). Meanwhile, her relationship with her husband (Aaron Paul) is tested when he is less supportive of her sobriety. Writer-director James Ponsoldt (Off the Black) deserves credit for his gritty approach to the material, which is essentially a tribute to the power of Alcoholics Anonymous. But the protagonist is portrayed too easily as a victim, making it harder for the audience to generate much sympathy or compassion. (Rated R, 85 minutes).

 

Smiley

Somehow bypassing the direct-to-DVD scrap heap is this amateurish horror cheapie that takes place on a college campus, where a naïve freshman (Caitlin Gerard) discovers an urban legend about a serial killer that appears through an online chat site, then begins to suspect that she might become a target. The film strains to be hip and high-tech, yet somehow feels dated. Using a silly concept that should have been relegated to a short subject at best, the whole movie would fall apart if any of its stereotypical coeds had any common sense. Just about any of the films it rips off would be superior choices. (Not rated, 94 minutes).

 

Special Forces

Stephane Rybojad has seen too many Hollywood action movies, because the director of this overwrought and borderline laughable French war film copies many of them. It follows a team of elite soldiers sent to Afghanistan to rescue a journalist (Diane Kruger) who has been abducted by the Taliban. The film has a relentless pace and video-game mentality, complete with an overbearing rock-music score and the type of front-lines machismo seen in war films from the United States and elsewhere, presumably meant to distract moviegoers from Rybojad’s trite dialogue and formulaic script. The heartfelt effort to pay tribute to French soldiers is negated by such ineptitude. (Rated R, 109 minutes).

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