The Bitter Buddha
This amusing documentary takes a glimpse into the fascinating life of Eddie Pepitone, an obscure middle-aged stand-up comedian whose troubled life has fueled the anger and resentment that drives his comedy career. In particular, Pepitone candidly discusses his battles with alcoholism and family dysfunction, and his sarcastic attitude toward spirituality and politics, among other things, as he tours the country amid an unlikely popularity surge. Pepitone has a caustic yet engaging personality, and the film pays tribute to its subject while capturing what makes him unique. The result is too long but quite funny, featuring interviews with fellow comedians Patton Oswalt, Dana Gould and Paul Provenza. (Not rated, 90 minutes).
Escape from Planet Earth
Small children might be amused by this innocuous 3D animated alien comedy, but accompanying adults will recognize it more as a knockoff of other superior computer-generated films from the past couple of decades. The plot follows a blue-faced hero named Scorch Supernova (voiced by Brendan Fraser), who ventures to Earth from his home planet on a rescue mission, only to become trapped by a world-domination plot involving an evil madman (William Shatner). The colorful animation can’t compensate for a mediocre script that generally lacks depth, excitement and consistent laughs. The top-notch voice cast also includes Rob Corddry, Jessica Alba and Sarah Jessica Parker. (Rated PG, 89 minutes).
Acclaimed director Pablo Larrain concludes his trilogy about Chilean politics with this true-life story of how notorious dictator Augustin Pinochet, bowing to international pressure, allowed a public referendum in 1988 on whether he should stay in office. Specifically, the film takes a behind-the-scenes look at Rene (Gael Garcia Bernal), the advertising executive who spearheaded a cheesy but effective campaign to overthrow his regime. Evocative and suspenseful, the film is a fascinating glimpse into recent history and the democratic process, made more powerful by Larrain’s even-handed approach that allows the story to tell itself. Above all, it’s a tribute to truth in advertising and democracy in action. (Rated R, 116 minutes).