Alice Flipped: "Eat the Expendables Here"
I'm Still Here: "Congratulations, we've all been had. Though there were brief gaps in the logic of Joaquin Phoenix's much ballyhooed "retirement" from acting -- right after he had been twice nominated for Academy Awards -- to start a career as a hip-hop artist, for the most part, it simply seemed like Phoenix had a break from reality and chose to act that out spitting phat beats into a microphone. His brother-in-law Casey Affleck follows Phoenix around, recording his meltdown from behind the scenes and his attempts to break in to the music industry. And by god, it is the bread and circus he promised in Gladiator. It's one part rockumentary, one part mockumentary, and one part shockumentary -- and it adds up to a fascinating study in the 24/7 cult of celebrity that plagues our culture. And it's all bullshit. I debated whether or not to be like my peers and pull back the curtain on the sideshow, but in reality, it's always been exposed. Which sucks, because it was a pretty fucking badass social experiment. Like a backyard magician trying to perform card tricks with a surly half-in-the-bag suburban fuckknuckle bellowing "It's fake! I can see him palming it! Phony!" from the front row, Phoenix's gambit was constantly scorned and ridiculed as an obvious hoax. But like The Blair Witch Project and James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, if the end result is still entertaining, does it really fucking matter if it's true? I submit with Joaquin Phoenix's two year descent into faux lunacy that it does not." - Brian Prisco
Flipped: "If at least one Rob Reiner directed film isn't on your list of favorites, you're not trying hard enough. This is the man who directed The Princess Bride, Stand by Me, A Few Good Men, and Misery. When Harry Met Sally twisted the conventions of the Rom-Com. Whether you love or hate it, its effect on relationships has been palpable. Wry sarcasm tempering bittersweet sentimentality are the mark of Reiner's adaptations. The motherfucker made a good Stephen King film. TWICE. But he's lost it. Over the last decade, he's been dropping a steady stream of clunky, misshapen, atrocious romantic-comedies on the market, each more clotting and progressively greasier, like the inside of his own arteries. Paired with his Castle Rock production partner Andrew Scheinman, Reiner decided to try to recapture the magic by trying a little old fashioned romance with the kids by adapting Wendelin Van Draanen's Flipped. It's a blisteringly melodramatic, completely plastic, artificial tale of two young neighbors who grow up and fall in and out love with each other during their childhood. It's tailor made quilting-bee porn for the bingo blue-hair crowd. I guarantee before this Christmas, there will be a grandmother who finds a copy at her local Cracker Barrel and buys it for her grandchildren, who will start visiting less based on that gift." - Brian Prisco
The Expendables: "There are two women in The Expendables. They exist for no other reason than to be alternately abused by men with muscles and/or guns and saved by men with muscles and/or guns. Oh, my apologies, there was a third one, the random one night stand of Mickey Rourke's. I'm not even sure if that's abuse or salvation, probably both." - Steven Lloyd Wilson
The Disappearance of Alice Creed: "In his second screenplay and first time behind the camera at the feature level, Blakeson keeps things simple. This is a story about a girl and two kidnappers, and that's all we ever see. That narrow focus gives the proceedings an air of believability, at least at the beginning, as Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) go quietly and efficiently about the business of buying supplies at a hardware store and turning their van and apartment into the transport and prison necessary to hold someone against their will. The best moments in the film are possessed of this almost mundane quality in regards to criminal activity, as Blakeson works to highlight the fact that, as outlandish as it is to kidnap someone and ask for $2 million in ransom, you still have to buy duct tape and gloves and remember to charge the cell phone. Danny and Vic construct their ad hoc prison before taking Alice off the street one afternoon, an act that's also left unseen. It's easy to say (however rightly) that the reasons for having major moments in the story occur off-screen are as budgetary as they are aesthetic, since the viewer's mind can easily fill in the few seconds between when Danny and Vic get out of their van and when they return to its rear with the struggling form of a hooded woman, and filming that imagined action costs money. But Blakeson manages to make it feel like an emotional choice, not a fiscal one, thanks to his focus on the characters as well as what those characters are doing." - Daniel Carlson
Also released this week: Medea: Big Happy Family: The Play, The Winning Season