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“Battle of the Year” – Formulaic dance flick whose only real highlight is watching R&B star/domestic violence poster boy Chris Brown get clocked. Even the dancing isn’t anything to get excited about. It’s easy to see why this sat on Sony’s shelf for more than a year (D).
“Instructions Not Included” – The acting and script are strictly amateur hour in this ineptly-made Spanish-language clunker. Absolutely nothing works here. Not the cretinous comedy; not the cringe-inducing sentimentality; nada. How sad that Spanish-speaking U.S. audiences were so starved for a movie in their native tongue that they helped turn this dud into a grassroots phenomenon (D-).
“Prisoners” – Except for an overly portentous opening (and a somewhat rushed climax), French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s English-language debut is an absorbing, solidly crafted and splendidly acted (Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal have never been better) mainstream Hollywood thriller. Just don’t confuse it with a masterpiece
like the similarly-themed “Zodiac” or “Mystic River” (B+).
New on DVD:
“Iron Man 3” – A huge improvement over 2010′s disappointing “Iron Man 2,” this Shane Black-directed sequel puts the spring back in Tony Stark’s step. Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow remain Marvel Comics’ leading power couple (B+).
“The Kings of Summer” – Splendid coming of age dramedy about a trio of Northeastern Ohio high schoolers who, unbeknownst to their parents, decide to spend summer vacation in their very own tree house. Despite solid reviews, this unaccountably flopped in theaters. (A completely undeserved “R” rating meant that its core demographic–teens and ‘tweens–couldn’t get in.) Home video should be a lot kinder (B+).
“Room 237” – Semiology as conspiracy theory: a brilliant, one-of-a-kind documentary deconstruction of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (A).
“Something in the Air” – 1972 Paris is the setting for French auteur Olivier (“Irma Vep,”"Carlos”) Assayas’ remarkable autobiographical tale of a high school student becoming politicized, creating art and discovering sex in the same eventful year (A).