The ABCs of Death
It’s an idea that sounds better in concept than in execution, compiling 26 disparate segments — each from a different director and based upon a different letter of the alphabet — that offer various takes on the horrors of death. This half-hearted gimmick might appeal to gore aficionados. Perhaps the film’s best asset is the diversity of styles on display among its roster of international filmmakers, including Ti West (The Innkeepers), Ben Wheatley (Kill List) and Xavier Gens (Hitman), who have done better work elsewhere. Yet these short-film anthologies tend to be very hit-and-miss by nature, and most of the installments here are more disgusting than frightening. (Not rated, 123 minutes).
Greedy Lying Bastards
The provocative title of this agitprop documentary refers to pundits and lobbyists who run campaigns to ignore evidence of climate change, oil companies who continue to emit greenhouse gases that threaten to expedite global warming, and politicians who refuse to pass clean-energy policies and regulations. Those are the targets of director Craig Rosebraugh, who tries to put a human face on the effects of climate change by interviewing victims of the recent Colorado wildfires and residents of the shrinking island nation of Tuvalu. The well-intentioned film includes plenty of statistics and makes its stance clear, but the familiarity of the subject matter decreases its impact. (Not rated, 89 minutes).
A magnetic performance by the versatile Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) drives this offbeat and even silly French drama about the rise and fall of a renegade priest who was raised as an orphaned child by friars in a 17th century Spanish convent before becoming a preacher whose sermons receive widespread acclaim. Then scandal and tragedy lead to his downfall. Director Dominik Moll (Lemming), who also adapted the gothic novel by Matthew G. Lewis, perhaps gets carried away with the deliberate pace and Catholic symbolism. Yet this is a fascinating character study about spirituality and religious responsibility that smartly doesn’t take its more melodramatic elements very seriously. (Rated R, 100 minutes).
The We and the I
The latest low-budget oddity from director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is an uneven if heartfelt examination of contemporary teenage social circles, taking place on a city bus in the Bronx carrying a diverse group of kids home after the last day of school. Along the way, it relays stories of rebellion, mean-spirited bullying, relationship drama and artistic ambition. Using a gritty documentary feel and an ensemble cast consisting entirely of newcomers, Gondry captures some intermittent compelling moments but overall the film lacks much depth or insight. And just because viewers might recognize these characters doesn’t mean they will sympathize with them. (Not rated, 103 minutes).