And While We Were Here
The scenery is more captivating than the drama in this love triangle that takes place on an island off the coast of Italy, where Jane (Kate Bosworth) is an American writer vacationing while her musician husband (Iddo Goldberg) is on business. It’s during this voyage of self-discovery that Jane begins a fling with Caleb (Jamie Blackley), an impetuous younger man. Generally, this effort from writer-director Kat Coiro (Life Happens) is predictable fluff, redeemed only by a performance from Bosworth that nicely balances strength and vulnerability, and the picturesque landscapes that form a tantalizing visual backdrop. The themes are familiar, and the relationships feel more contrived than authentic. (Rated R, 83 minutes).
Jayne Mansfield’s Car
Billy Bob Thornton makes an uneven return to the director’s chair with this low-key, deliberately paced ensemble drama that takes place in 1969, when an eccentric Alabama family fractured by wartime memories reunites for the funeral of an estranged matriarch who had left for England years earlier. There are some cheap culture-clash jokes about the woman’s British relatives, but Thornton is less concerned with comic hijinks than brooding character dynamics. It’s a bittersweet story of reconciliation that manages some genuinely powerful moments, but the inconsistent tone and melodramatic tendencies unfortunately cancel out strong portrayals from a cast that includes Thornton, Robert Duvall and Kevin Bacon. (Rated R, 122 minutes).
Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve
There certainly is admirable intent behind this insightful documentary that takes a skeptical look at the history of the Federal Reserve, from its creation as the United States central banking system in 1913 to its sometimes controversial role in handling various economic crises, including the most recent recession that began in 2007. The film is thoroughly researched and includes interviews with dozens of economists and investment industry experts, unleashing plenty of persuasive facts and figures along the way. It’s generally compelling, even if the film seems to target the financially savvy more than the working-class folks who are most affected by the events it chronicles. (Not rated, 101 minutes).
Fans of music history will appreciate this documentary that traces the creation of the iconic version of the song “Apache” by Incredible Bongo Band in the early 1970s. The song has since become a ubiquitous and much-sampled hip-hop anthem, but the film provides insight into the eccentric musicians — along with controversial producer Michael Viner — responsible for its grassroots origins and oddball sound. The film uses interviews and archival footage to offer a glimpse into a fascinating era, and rookie director Dan Forrer smartly doesn’t shortchange moviegoers when it comes to the music itself. The film is nearly as fun as the song. Narrated by Gene Simmons. (Not rated, 83 minutes).
The rigid patriarchal traditions in Muslim culture are scrutinized in this audaciously incisive coming-of-age drama from Saudi Arabia, in which a precocious young girl (Waad Mohammed) becomes torn between her loyalty to her religion and her desire to embrace certain aspects of Western culture, such as pop music and fashion. Specifically, her single mother (Reem Abdullah) forbids Wadjda to own a bicycle, so she tries to hatch a scheme to raise the money herself. Rather than making a grand political statement, the film excels in its quieter and more intimate moments, making a case for equal rights through the portrayal of an expressive newcomer. (Rated PG, 98 minutes).