‘Under The Skin,’ ‘Joe’ and other new movies, reviewed

In this week’s new releases, director Jonathan Glazer impresses critic Ann Hornaday with “Under the Skin,” starring Scarlett Johansson. Nicolas Cage delivers what could be his best performance to date in “Joe.”


Scarlett Johansson’s character encounters a succession of local men in her generic-looking white van in this sci-fi crime thriller. (Studio Canal)

★★★1/2 “Under the Skin” (R) “As a speculative piece of fantasy and warily somber mood piece, this erotically charged thriller recalls Philip K. Dick, but in its finely calibrated formalism and vivid atmospherics, it’s pure Glazer.” – Ann Hornaday

★★★★Joe” (R) “Working from Gary Hawkins’s adaptation of Larry Brown’s 1991 novel, director David Gordon Green (‘Prince Avalanche’) evokes a powerful sense of hopelessness in both the people who populate the film and the place where the action is set. ‘Joe’ is filled with prostitutes, day laborers, cops and drunks and is decorated with ramshackle houses. It’s both ugly and beautiful, but Joe stands out for his seeming ability to see both sides.” – Michael O’Sullivan

★★★Oculus” (R) “A good carpenter never blames his tools. But neither does he go out and buy a new hammer every time he makes another cabinet. Using the most tried and true of techniques and material, ‘Oculus’ director Mike Flanagan has crafted a satisfyingly old-fashioned ghost story that, in its evocation of shivery dread, is the most unnerving poltergeist picture since ‘The Conjuring.’” – Michael O’Sullivan

★★Draft Day” (PG-13) “Make no mistake, this isn’t a sports movie so much as a procedural about backroom dealings, double-crosses and high-stakes trades. It’s about the games before the games. And if writers Scott Rothman and Pulitzer Prize finalist playwright Rajiv Joseph (who wrote ‘Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo’ and ‘Gruesome Playground Injuries’) had stuck to the basics — if the plot was just business — it might have worked.” – Stephanie Merry

★★Rio 2” (G) “’Rio 2’ is curiously devoid of decent comedy, but the song-and-dance routines, which are beautifully choreographed, lead to the movie’s biggest laughs, especially when the contestants keep getting eaten by predators.” – Stephanie Merry

★★1/2 “Dom Hemingway” (R) “Though writer-director Richard Shepard (‘The Matador’) knows how to spin a yarn about the vicissitudes of fate, Dom’s adventures make for a pretty thin garment in which to cloth such an outsize antihero.” – Michael O’Sullivan

★★★Mistaken For Strangers” (Unrated) “Even with its fascinating psychological subtext, ‘Mistaken for Strangers’ rewards fans with plenty of footage of the National performing, as well as some priceless Spinal Tappish moments between the bumbling Tom and his hip but somberly businesslike employers. (Trying to lure the band’s drummer into partying with him, Tom shares his observations about Matt and the rest: ‘They seem so coffeehouse and you seem so metal.’)” – Ann Hornaday

★★Watermark” (PG) “Burtynsky explores our relationship with water through the way we drink, dam, worship and rely on it, not to mention how we take it for granted. The opening shot literally challenges the way we see water: Captured in high definition and unfolding in slow-motion, a crashing wave of water looks more like a wall of smoke, both beautiful and terrifying.” – Stephanie Merry

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