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A Prophet

The idea that prisons are schools for crime as much as deterrents to it is hardly new in either life or art. But only very rarely has it been used with the kind of impact Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet does. Audiard’s honored film (Grand Prix at Cannes, France’s submission for the foreign language Oscar) is disturbing, and sometimes stunning, in its depiction of a young man’s very brutal education in survival in a French prison.


Arthouse erotica or well-produced softcore? I vacillated while watching Chloe, which comes with the benefit of the doubt: The cast includes Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, and Amanda Seyfried, and it was directed by Toronto’s Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter, Ararat, The Adjuster, and many other films which, whatever their respective merits, display a consistent filmmaking intelligence).


If you tend to describe as “pointless” movies which do not follow a clearly defined character arc, you are not likely to be the audience for this, the latest film by writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding). It offers a few weeks in the company of Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller). In his early 20s he was a musician who sneered at what turned out to be his only shot at fame and fortune. Now 40 and a carpenter, he has returned to Los Angeles for the first time in over a decade to recuperate after a nervous breakdown. Staying at his brother’s house while he and his family are away on a long vacation, Greenberg gives no evidence of trying to adjust to the world: he refuses to drive, writes prolix letters of complaint to companies like Starbucks and American Airlines, and gives unwanted advice to his former bandmate Ivan (Rhys Ifans), who has had life problems of his own.

Hot Tub Time Machine

The 1980s were very good to John Cusack. That’s when he became a star, and he has gone on to be identified with the decade. In Grosse Point Blank, which may be his “signature” movie (and which he co-wrote and produced), he plays a hit man attending his high school reunion, an excuse of lots of 1980s nostalgia.

How To Train Your Dragon

Based on a popular series of children’s books (albeit a prequel to them), How to Train Your Dragon is a charming tale of a boy and his dragon. The boy, Hiccup (voiced by She’s Out of My League star Jay Baruchel), is a runt on a medieval island populated by burly, red-bearded Vikings. That they all speak in thick Scottish brogues—the voice of Craig Ferguson blends easily into the mix—may not be historically accurate, but as I have no idea how real Vikings sounded I won’t argue the point. As the son of the macho chief, Hiccup longs to do something of which no one thinks him capable, to become a warrior against the dragons that regularly attack their village. Working with a bolo-slinging catapult he has invented, he brings down a “Night Terror,” a breed (there are at least a dozen) of dragon so swift that no one has ever seen one. Going in for the kill, however, he discovers a wounded creature as frightened as he is, and a friendship is born.

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