All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
The boys might love the title character, but it’s doubtful many of them will like her movie, which is a satirical low-budget teen slasher flick about an innocent girl (Amber Heard) lured by the wrong crowd to a pool party at a secluded ranch, where she is seduced by amorous classmates and chased by a sadistic killer. It doesn’t shy away from sex and violence, but the execution is predictable and the characters aren’t appealing. Perhaps that’s why the film has been on the shelf since 2006, since which time both Heard and director Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) have moved on to bigger and better things. (Rated R, 89 minutes).
Even when reduced to snippets, the music is still the best part about this wildly uneven tribute to the history of the iconic Manhattan club that gave rise to a 1970s punk movement that included such bands as Talking Heads, Blondie and The Ramones. Specifically, it focuses on Hilly Kristal (Alan Rickman), the proprietor whose horrible business acumen kept him from capitalizing on the venue’s success. The film has energy to spare, but the comic-book visual style is heavy-handed and the film merely skims the surface of the club’s influence on the pop-culture landscape. Instead, it’s noteworthy only for its plentiful name-dropping and actor cameos. (Rated R, 102 minutes).
Escape from Tomorrow
It might not be as fun as a day filled with carnival rides, but this surreal black-and-white comedy has plenty of oddball amusement. It tracks the downward spiral of a father (Roy Abramsohn), whose vacation to Disney World with his wife and kids becomes a series of hallucinations and erratic behaviors, including fantasies about two teenage French girls who keep crossing his path. It never adds up to much, and too often descends into sophomoric shenanigans. Yet this low-budget experiment from rookie director Randy Moore shows a subversive audacity in its off-handed contempt for the corporate world by practically flipping off the shiny Disney mythology. (Not rated, 90 minutes).
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
A collection of well-intentioned characters is trapped in a contrived storyline in this heartfelt urban drama from director George Tillman Jr. (Notorious) that follows Mister (Skylan Brooks) and Pete (Ethan Dizon), two Brooklyn pre-teens whose mothers are arrested on drug charges, leaving them to fend for themselves during a summer in the projects. The expressive performances of the two young protagonists helps to smooth over the rough spots in a script that too often turns sappy and heavy-handed, despite dealing with some compelling issues facing many contemporary inner-city youths and their parents. The supporting cast includes Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Anthony Mackie and Jeffrey Wright. (Rated R, 108 minutes).
Style trumps substance, with historical accuracy lost somewhere in the middle, in this stylish revenge Western about a former prostitute (January Jones) in 19th century New Mexico territory who gets caught up in a dispute with the leader of a religious cult (Jason Isaacs) and the vigilante sheriff (Ed Harris) on his trail. While the over-the-top absurdity might seem annoying, here it becomes somewhat endearing, especially when paired with solid performers who don’t take themselves too seriously and evocative landscapes that transcend the film’s low budget. There isn’t much insight into religious fanaticism or gender politics from the era, but the showdowns pack a punch. (Rated R, 95 minutes).