A capable cast helps bolster this otherwise slight drama about sexual tension and wandering eyes involving Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde), co-workers at a Chicago brewery who flirt innocently enough on the job despite both being involved in relationships — Luke with his longtime girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) and Kate with a music producer (Ron Livingston). When the quartet gets together and the beer flows, however, loyalties become blurred and complications ensue. The movie’s improvisational structure yields some mild surprises, although as a whole the latest from director Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs) feels familiar when it comes to examinations of contemporary relationships. (Rated R, 90 minutes).
The lush landscapes of the titular setting are about the only worthwhile component of this mildly evocative Deep South period piece, which aspires to tell the true story of Ward Allen (Jim Caviezel), heir to a plantation who instead prefers to live the simple life of an outlaw hunter on the river. He maintains an enduring friendship with a freed slave (Chiwetel Ejiofor) during a time of racial tension and marries an affluent woman (Jaimie Alexander) against the wishes of her high-society father (Sam Shepard). Despite some fine performances, the film has difficulty finding a consistent tone, and the well-intentioned script emphasizes melodrama and sentimentality. (Rated PG-13, 109 minutes).
Longtime friends see their relationship deteriorate amid bickering under the most desperate of circumstances in this two-character drama about Mitchell (Josh Duhamel) and Carter (Dan Fogler), whose truck breaks down in the middle of the desert, with no provisions and no help in sight. The script bogs down in contrivances and dialogue that lacks authenticity, and the film becomes an exercise in watching the men air their dirty laundry. But just because moviegoers begin to know these characters intimately doesn’t mean they like them, or care whether they perish in the harsh conditions. The idea might have worked better as a short film than a feature. (Rated R, 86 minutes).
Short Term 12
This unassuming and quietly powerful drama takes place in an urban group foster home, where Grace (Brie Larson) and Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) are counselors who try to forge connections with children who have spent their entire lives feeling neglected or mistreated by the system. As the relationship between the main characters develops, and the story moves from one intimate vignette to the next, there’s a gritty authenticity to the material. The film showcases sharp performances by adults and children alike, and the evocative script by director Destin Cretton sidesteps cheap sentimentality to create a bittersweet yet heartwarming tale without any clear-cut heroes or villains. (Rated R, 96 minutes).
Certain horror film conventions are flipped on their head in this modestly amusing low-budget slasher flick that’s not especially original or complex, but it might deliver the goods for genre aficionados. The setting is familiar — namely a remote cabin effectively cut off from civilization — where an extended family is enjoying a reunion during an anniversary getaway when a masked gang of killers starts attacking them. Lead actress Sharni Vinson (Step Up 3D) makes an adequate scream queen, and director Adam Wingard (Autoerotic) doesn’t take the material too seriously, allowing the film to become equal parts subversive and frightening while also drenched in plenty of gore. (Rated R, 94 minutes).