Bruno - “The easiest way to sum up the multiple problems with Bruno, writer and actor Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow-up to 2006’s Borat, is to recall the 1949 Looney Tunes animated short “Curtain Razor.” The cartoon starred Porky Pig as a talent agent auditioning oddball acts, the culmination of which was a wolf who drank a variety of poisons and explosives before swallowing a lit match and exploding. Porky, finally amazed, exclaims, “Say, that really is terrific!” Then the door to his office opens and the wolf’s ghost walks in, forlornly complaining, “Yeah, but there’s just one tiny little thing wrong with it: I can only do it once.” Baron Cohen went all out in the first film, a series of candid camera bits involving his awkward immigrant character interacting with small-town Americans, and he tries to repeat that film’s comedic skill and occasional trenchant sociopolitical insight with a new film about, well, an awkward immigrant character interacting with small-town Americans. It’s not that there are no laughs to be had in Bruno; it’s that there are fewer than you’d want, and they arrive almost before the scenes do. The film feels familiar before it even begins to unspool, and returning director Larry Charles’ set-ups feel cheaper and somehow more exploitive than in the earlier film. Bruno goes further than many other comedies in attempting to wrestle certain issues, like the way conservative Americans deal with gays or how some people will do anything for a taste of fame, but the film stops well short of making any new or even interesting points on either front. Most of all, it feels like a dead man trying to come back to life.” - Daniel Carlson
Humpday - “Humpday gets promoted as a film about two straight friends who decide to make a gay porn, and on the surface that’s precisely what it is. But like most mumblecore, it’s not so much about a concept as about the concept of a concept. Humpday is less about two dudes getting their bone on than them building up to the actual boning. It wonderfully mines the tension and drama, wringing huge chuckles out of this strange act. While — thankfully — a growing portion of the world finds nothing wrong with two men or two women being in love, the actual physicality of homosexual sex is … well, it’s weird, and kind of icky. Frankly, all sex is weird and icky, no matter what orifice whatever digit is penetrating or manipulating. My parents had heterosexual sex to make me, but that doesn’t make it beautiful or natural. And I certainly don’t want to think about it. So before this becomes about Prisco-the-Homo-Hating-Slobo-Bitch, understand that I approve of two or ten folks consensually getting their freak on with whomever they chose, so bear with me on this. Humpday really puts thought and maturity into the idea of two straight guys doing the do. It starts out as a drunken bet and then becomes pseudo-macho posturing “I’ll fuck you. No, I’ll fuck YOU!” and then ends up as this really awkwardly amazing conversation and build-up. Clothes come on, clothes come off, some hugging, some kissing, and the entire time, these guys are trying to psyche themselves into the male-on-male sex as if they were members of the Polar Bear club staring into an icehole. It wasn’t an “Eww, eww, eww” situation, but it wasn’t just a casual tunneling of love either.” - Brian Prisco
My Sister’s Keeper - “Indeed, while Bay assaults us with slo-mo cleavage and too many Decepticons to count, get a load of the weep triggers in My Sister’s Keeper: 1) A teenage girl with leukemia; 2) a cute, doting little sister trying to gain medical control over her body; 3) a boyfriend with cancer; 4) a lawyer with an iron lung; 5) a cute dog; 6) a judge who has recently lost a 12-year-old daughter of her own to a drunk driver; 7) a neglected dyslexic brother; 7) and a couple whose marriage is strained by their daughter’s condition. A cancer kid movie, alone, apparently wasn’t enough for Cassavetes. He needed to force as many opportunities to jerk your tears as possible and then he crowds everything out with maudlin tunes. There are no less than seven sequences set to these sob songs; it’s like stringing together the last five minutes of 10 “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes. And in order for a movie like this to be effective on at least some level, you have to mix the sweet with the sorrow. Sadly, there’s no sweetness in My Sister’s Keeper. Just unrelenting sorrow.” - Dustin Rowles
Star Trek - “J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek accomplishes the impossible: It reboots an entire film franchise even while honoring the spirit of its beginnings, and it breathes new and heated life into a series grown stale. The director reteams with writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman; the same team also crafted the fantastically done Mission: Impossible III, and Orci and Kurtzman’s writing and producing credits include “Alias” and “Fringe.” They’ve created something wonderful in Star Trek: a fast-paced, breathless space opera, crammed with action, humor, and heart. Of the original film series, only the second and sixth entries — The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country — stand up as legitimately good films, thanks to director Nicholas Meyer’s emphasis on character conflict and dramatic action. Abrams and crew take a cue from those films but go light-years further and faster, upping the number of action sequences but also marrying them to an intriguing story. It’s easily one of the most fun films to hit theaters in some time, and the perfect summer blockbuster.” - Daniel Carlson
The Limits of Control - “Some people drink coffee to go to sleep. While I’ve always used it as a means of keeping my brain aflutter like children absently batting balloon volleyballs, there are folks who’ll slurp down a cup and pop off to slumberland, caffeine be damned. What does this have to do with anything? I have no idea. I just had my mind wiped by trying to contemplate Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, as if I focused too closely on the individual molecules of paint in a painting and went blind. In fact, The Limits of Control is very much like being in an art museum. For some people, it’s a deeply moving soulful experience, but in reality, it’s just a whole lot of walking and standing and staring. The Limits of Control feels like Coffee and Cigarettes as delivered to one single solitary person who’s not much of a talker or smoker. It would be impossible to say I hated this film or that I loved it. It was the equivalent of spending an entire day listening to the same classical song performed by various orchestras. For some folks, this is an electric buzz that will have them seeing colors and shapes and magic. For me, it just put me to sleep.” - Brian Prisco
Thirst - “Never has the dubbing of Park Chan-wook as the “Korean David Lynch” been more apt than after viewing his latest offering, the incredibly complex and stirring Thirst. Lynch has an uncanny ability to eviscerate the mundane until the inner workings are revealed in all their horror, glory and grotesquerie. With his Vengeance Trilogy, Park does the same, only rather than cutting his protagonists open, he breaks them apart shard by uncomfortably jagged shard. He’s known for his visceral and stomach churning acts of violence, but with Thirst, he creates an homage to the vampire mythos that is damn near perfect. Park remembers what most people who reinvent Dracula forget — at the core it’s a love story. It’s everything Twilight wishes it were, but at such an intensity that it would make Edward Cullen super sparkly before supernova-ing out of emo existence. At heart, Thirst is a coming-of-age love story for two quarter-lifers breaking out of their arrested developments, except wrapped within and around it is a vein of pure vampire goodness. Park also presents it as a stunningly hilarious pitch-dark comedy while still managing to keep the skin-crawling horror elements he’s known for, and you’re left with a gleefully evil and satisfying experience.” - Brian Prisco
Intern Rusty is a Masters student at the University of Miami. You can learn more about her at Rusty’s Ventures.