Capsule reviews for Oct. 26

Fun Size

Similar to the candy bars that inspired the title, there’s not much substance to this silly comedy, which takes place during Halloween night, about a sardonic teenager (Victoria Justice) who is forced to watch her mischievous little brother (Jackson Nicoll) while trick-or-treating so their single mother (Chelsea Handler) can go to a party with her younger boyfriend. When she loses track of the pint-sized Spider-Man, however, a night of mayhem with her friends ensues. Undiscerning teens might enjoy the crude one-liners and low-brow slapstick in this Adventures in Babysitting wannabe, along with the appealing screen presence of Justice (TV’s “Victorious”). But adults should stay home. (Rated PG-13, 85 minutes).

 

The House I Live In

This insightful and persuasive documentary chronicles the attempts of the United States government to curtail drug abuse during the past four decades, an effort that filmmaker Eugene Jarecki argues has been futile. Through a series of interviews with pushers, cops, drug abusers, prison officials and other experts, as well as with statistics, he makes the argument that anti-drug initiatives through the years have been costly, racially biased, and more punitive than preventative. Jarecki glosses over some details to make a point, and he’s better at presenting problems than proposing solutions. Yet the film deserves credit for offering a unique perspective on a relevant social issue. (Not rated, 108 minutes).

 

The Loneliest Planet

There’s a certain audacity to this minimalist drama from director Julia Loktev (Day Night Day Night) that follows Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his fiancée, Nica (Hani Furstenberg), on a backpacking trip into the Caucasus mountain wilderness, where their relationship is tested by a confrontation with a foreigner. It’s an intimate examination of a romance in which the actors try to develop chemistry through body language and facial expressions rather than words and actions. Yet while exotic landscapes are scenic and the low-budget visuals are stylish, Loktev’s persistent use of long takes with little dialogue renders it a repetitive exercise that’s more pretentious than profound. (Not rated, 113 minutes).

 

Pusher

This hyperkinetic and ultraviolent English-language remake of the trilogy that launched the career of Dutch director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) is certainly never boring, but it’s shallow and fails to improve upon the original. It tracks the downward spiral over the course of a week of a drug dealer (Richard Coyle) who becomes desperate after a transaction goes awry, making him the target of a notorious crime boss (Zlatko Buric). Both the theme and the execution are formulaic, although Spanish director Luis Prieto shows some visual flair. Yet the gimmickry such as frenetic cutting and a relentlessly pulsating score cannot redeem such unsympathetic characters. (Rated R, 89 minutes).

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