‘Prisoners,’ ‘Wadjda’ and other new movies, reviewed

September 20, 2013

In this week’s new movies, the screenwriting, cinematography and superb performances behind "Prisoners" make for a pretty good film; "Wadjda," a unique coming-of-age story about a 10-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia receives three and half stars; and Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow star in "Thanks for Sharing."


After his daughter and her friend go missing, Kelly Dover (Hugh Jackman) loses his cool with suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano) in “Prisoners.” (Photo by Wilson Webb)

Prisoners” (R) “‘Prisoners’ is a big-studio genre picture, a familiar — and undeniably well-executed — example of pulp miserablism in the tradition of ‘Seven’ and its grisly imitators. Given gravitas by Christian imagery and a mood of millennial survivalist desperation, this pulp procedural joins a long line of films that sell themselves by way of the very depravity and malignant moral imagination they pretend to deplore.” – Ann Hornaday

1/2 “Thanks for Sharing” (R) “Although Blumberg’s script focuses on the fraught romance between Adam and Phoebe, it is, improbably, the relationship between Neil, whom most people would consider a creep, and Dede, a woman who might once have been called a nymphomaniac, that is the film’s sweetest pleasure. Their platonic friendship (yes, platonic!) is rendered with great humor, poignancy and dignity.” –Michael O’Sullivan

(No rating) “The Wizard of Oz 3D IMAX” (PG) “Seeing ‘The Wizard of Oz’ on the big screen also offers an opportunity to consider the incredible special effects, considering the film was shot more than seven decades ago and long before computer-generated imagery. The black-and-white scenes of Dorothy battling against the wind as a twister approaches were especially transporting.” – Stephanie Merry

1/2 “Wadjda” (PG) “You’re seeing a world on screen that, until now, has been largely hidden from the filmgoing world at large. Because in addition to being a terrific garden-variety coming-of-age film, ‘Wadjda’ happens to be the first feature-length movie ever made in Saudi Arabia — all the more notable in that it’s been made by a woman, about a young girl chafing against the religious and social strictures of a kingdom literally shrouded in sexual anxiety, misogyny and severe repression.” – Ann Hornaday

1/2 “Salinger” (PG-13) “While much of the movie consists of variations on this same theme — that Salinger was a brilliant, flawed man — the film also delves into more salacious matters, including the role of “Catcher” in the shootings of Ronald Reagan, John Lennon and Rebecca Schaeffer (gunmen John Hinckley Jr., Mark David Chapman and Robert John Bardo were all fans of the novel).”– Stephanie Merry

The Henchman’s War” (Unrated) “Greene, a native Washingtonian with a handful of local directorial and co-producing credits on his résumé, has an eye for urban grit and an ear for tough-guy dialogue. He makes excellent use of his shadowy locations, lending “War” the coveted visual grime that enhances such pulp-noir material.” – Sean O’Connell

1/2 “Battle of the Year” (PG-13) “Lee is attempting to keep a spotlight shining on b-boy culture, an aggressive style of street dancing that consists of body-contorting twists, flips, leaps, spins and poses set to hip-hop music. Lee showcased this next level of competitive breakdancing in his award-winning 2008 documentary “Planet B-Boy,” and a feature film building on that awareness makes complete sense…just not five years later, when the fad appears to have faded.”– Sean O’Connell

My Lucky Star” (Unrated) “Bringing Sophie’s comics to life, the movie interjects drawings and animated sequences. The camera spins excitedly, and the editing is brisk. Split-screen compositions evoke the 1960s, as do Sophie’s pop-art ensembles, which include a lilac wig with matching lipstick. This girlie romp is less about martial arts and espionage than stuffed animals and dress-up.” – Mark Jenkins

1/2 “Good Ol’Freda” (PG) “Ryan White weaves in archival footage of girls fainting and images of old headlines. The soundtrack consists primarily of Beatles covers. While the tales of the band’s spectacular rise create a genial mood, the film feels superficial. Kelly can be cagey, and when a voice offscreen asks if she ever dated any of the guys, she demurs, saying, “That’s personal.”” – Stephanie Merry

1/2 “Ip Man: The Final Fight” (PG-13) “The showiest action sequence involves lion dancers who battle atop high wooden posts. The grittiest — and final — one sends Ip to save one of his former pupils, who’s risked fighting for money inside the gangster-controlled Kowloon Walled City. To add to the drama, the showdown occurs during a typhoon.”– Mark Jenkins

Generation Iron” (PG-13) ““Generation Iron” succeeds where other rote sports docs often struggle. Instead of clinging to clichés, Yudin wisely uses the inherent eccentricities of the bodybuilding community to help distance his film from convention. These are colorful characters populating the gyms and global competitions filmed for “Iron,” and they have fascinating stories.” – Sean O’Connell

Macy L. Freeman is an editorial aide for the Weekend/Going Out Guide section at The Washington Post.
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