Better Luck Tomorrow. Justin Lin. Director Lin's Sundance fave kicks off like a high-on-high-school comedy, Fast Times at John Hughes High: Straight-A nerds want lettermen's jackets and the babes they come with; cheerleaders want to be taken seriously twixt pompom routines; would-be bad boys go cruising for the sort of danger they see in movies but never experience in boring real life. They begin hustling cheat sheets, selling drugs, using drugs, becoming hallway mobsters who carry guns. Lin never comments on the need for the outsider to become the insider, but it's clear that Ben (Parry Shen) and his buds are sick to death of being outnumbered, turned into tokens. The movie ventures into hyperbole to make a different point: Kids left to their own devices make bad decisions that lead to worse ones that lead to outright tragedy, and if you want to make it out of high school alive, you'd better wise up and straighten out. Still, it ends with an escape sure to infuriate those who like happy, snappy resolutions. Opens Friday, April 25, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)
Confidence. James Foley. Opens Friday, April 25, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
It Runs in the Family. Fred Schepisi. The story of a dysfunctional New York family named the Grombergs. Starring three generations of the Douglas family, including Kirk "Spartacus" Douglas, Michael "Gordon Gekko" Douglas and Cameron "My First Lucky Break" Douglas. Opens Friday, April 25, at multiple locations. NR
Identity. James Mangold. Opens Friday, April 25, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Morvern Callar. Lynne Ramsay. Supermarket clerk Morvern Callar (Samantha Morton) has her life turned upside down when her boyfriend unexpectedly commits suicide. Unsure what to do next, she keeps his death a secret and heads off for a Spanish vacation with her best friend, Lanna (Kathleen McDermott). Morton is extraordinary in this new film from writer/director Ramsay (Ratcatcher). One of the movie's glories is that Ramsay keeps us rigorously to Morvern's point of view without ever being explicit about what's going on in her head. It's up to Morton to make Morvern real, without ever compromising the character, who would never think to spill her guts, even to Lanna. As with the deaf-mute girl she played in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown and her cosseted "precog" in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, Morton uses her face and body language to bring us Morvern's soul, even though the character is almost completely deadpan. Opens Friday, April 25, at the Tivoli. (Andy Klein)
Raising Victor Vargas. Peter Sollett. Opens Friday, April 25, at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed this issue.
The Real Cancun. Rick de Oliveira. American college students drink, fight and flirt during their spring-break vacation in Cancun, Mexico. Opens Friday, April 25, at multiple locations. NR
Russian Ark. Alexander Sokurov. An astonishing work of art and a near-miracle of filmmaking, the latest picture from brooding Russian director Sokurov is an 87-minute tone poem, a dreamlike journey through three centuries of Russian/Soviet history, told in a single, uncut Steadicam shot that wends its way through a mile of St. Petersburg's stunning Hermitage Museum. There is no narrative, in the traditional sense. Two individuals, one a nineteenth-century French marquis and the other an unseen interloper from the present day, find themselves wandering through 300 years of Russian history, all within the confines of the museum, which served as the czar's winter palace until the Bolshevik Revolution. Obstacles to making the film included language barriers, a mere four hours of daylight, a cast of about 1,500 and the impossibility of a full run-through before the actual shoot. Those without a good foundation in Russian history may become frustrated, and some viewers may get bored. But for those who have the tenacity, vision and romantic spirit required, this film will prove a transcendent experience. Opens Friday, April 25, at the Tivoli. (Jean Oppenheimer)