Not to detract from the drawing power of Seth Rogen's comic chops (or Zac Efron's abs, pecs, etc.) in this week's Neighbors, but it seems Hollywood is taking a little blockbuster breather between last week's Spider-Man cash grab and next week's Godzilla onslaught. So now's a great time to catch up on some smaller films that might've otherwise escaped your radar, including brains-and-beauty costume drama Belle, opening theatrically after its recent bow at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Reviews, trailers, and links below!
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return Computer-animated musical which does not look to resemble 1985's spooky-great Return to Oz. Case in point: Dorothy is voiced by Glee's Lea Michele. (1:28)
Neighbors Seth Rogen and Zac Efron star in this comedy about a family with a newborn forced to live next door to a frat house. (1:37)
Now: In the Wings on a World Stage In 2011, a production of Richard III starring Kevin Spacey played SF's Curran Theatre; it was but one stop on a dreamy world tour (London, Istanbul, Beijing, Sydney, Doha, Brooklyn, and Epidaurus, Greece) for an American and British company and crew directed by Brit Sam Mendes, who guided Spacey to an Oscar (and earned one himself) for 1999's American Beauty. This backstage doc — fully endorsed by Spacey and co., so don't expect any juicy spats or diva routines — follows this rambling troupe around the world as they work through one of Shakespeare's most iconic history plays. Initially, some of the younger actors feel intimidated (and some of the Americans feel nervous about interpreting the Bard alongside Brits, despite the fact that superstar Spacey is spearheading the whole thing), but gradually the group becomes close-knit. Pretty scenery aside, most of the travel stuff is featherweight ("The culture [in Istanbul] is just crazy!" is one typically shallow insight), but watching the show from the inside out offers an intriguing look at the dramatic process. Still, as Mendes and others point out, "the thrill of theater is the fact that it's live" and "ephemeral" — qualities not captured by this rather conventional doc. If you're an aspiring actor, however, Now is probably essential viewing nonetheless. (1:33) Roxie. (Cheryl Eddy)
Young and Beautiful The titular attributes may be obvious surface ones, but they’re pretty much all we can take for granted in the character of Isabelle (Marine Vacth), a 17-year-old Parisian first met on a summer beach vacation with her family. With younger brother Victor (Fantin Ravat) as confidante, she methodically if haltingly sets out to shed her virginity, choosing as the lucky deflowerer a nice, very handsome German tourist (Lucas Prisor). The experience seems to leave her ambivalent, however, and a certain cool psychological opacity lingers after the clan goes home, and Isabelle returns to school while commencing a secret life so outré and baffling we would dearly love to understand her motivations. (Suffice it to say that the obvious reasons, love and/or need of money and/or sex, do not appear applicable in her case.) Is she rebelling? If so, against what? Probably not her easygoing mother and stepfather, played by Geraldine Pailhas and Frederic Pierrot. Reminiscent of Belle de Jour (1967) not just in premise but in dispassionate treatment of it, François Ozon’s latest sports his usual crisp directorial authority and eye for telling detail. But it’s built around a cipher, requiring an 11th-hour appearance by his past muse Charlotte Rampling in order to suddenly snap into focus — even as Isabelle remains something of a blur. (1:35) (Dennis Harvey)