Capsule Movie Reviews (Oct 2): 'Parkland' and five more

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NEW RELEASE
Parkland
PG-13, 1 HR., 33 MINS.
This episodic drama is set in Dallas during the three days after the JFK assassination, and some of it is highly charged, like the scenes inside Parkland Memorial Hospital when the president is dying. Paul Giamatti deftly traces the anguish of Abraham Zapruder as he figures out what to do with his 8mm film. Yet the movie lacks an authentic period flavor, and it ambles over so much old ground that it doesn’t add up to much. B-Owen Gleiberman

NEW RELEASE
All Is Bright
R, 1 HR., 47 MINS.
It’s been eight years since Phil Morrison made the marvelous Junebug. Why did he wait this long to direct a trivial, shaggy-dog buddy comedy? A hungry-eyed Paul Giamatti plays a Canadian ex-con who teams up with his old partner (Paul Rudd) to spend a month selling Christmas trees on a desolate New York block. The film has an accomplished mood of cantankerous despair, but it’s still little more than downbeat fluff. (Also available on VOD) B-Owen Gleiberman

NEW RELEASE
Ass Backwards
NOT RATED, 1 HR., 30 MINS.
If you loved Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion…well, rewatch it instead of this tedious comedy, which wants to be that movie. Decades after their first beauty pageant, Kate (June Diane Raphael) and Chloe (Casey Wilson) try to win the tiara back from a frenemy (Alicia Silverstone), surviving a van wreck on the way. Raphael and Wilson work hard to make these airheads charming, but thanks to the unfunny script, the movie is just as dumb as they are. (Available on VOD; in limited release 11/8) D —Melissa Maerz

NEW RELEASE
Concussion
R, 1 HR., 33 MINS.
Abby (Robin Weigert) is a 42-year-old stay-at-home mom living a life of quiet Lululemon-pantsed desperation. Her sex life with her powerful attorney wife is almost nil, and vacuuming and spin class are the highlights of her day. So, in a lesbian Belle de Jour twist, she becomes a high-class call girl for other women — including fellow PTA mom Sam (Mad Men‘s Maggie Siff). The ending’s a vague cop-out, but the movie is much smarter and more nuanced than the late-night-Cinemax setup suggests. (Also available on iTunes and VOD) B+ —Leah Greenblatt

NEW RELEASE
Let the Fire Burn
NOT RATED, 1 HR., 35 MINS.
In 1985, Philadelphia police tried to raid the residential headquarters of an armed radical group called MOVE. The ghastly cataclysm that ensued — gunshots, an explosive device dropped from a police helicopter, and an inferno that consumed a city block and 11 people (including five children) — is the horrifying centerpiece of Jason Osder’s lean and deeply unsettling archival-footage documentary. A- —Adam Markovitz

NEW RELEASE
A Touch of Sin
NOT RATED, 2 HRS., 5 MINS.
Director Jia Zhangke weaves together four violent episodes culled from the headlines of modern China. But Sin, more stylized than the director’s previous work, is also more detached. A man goes on a shooting rampage, a receptionist at a sauna knifes an abusive client — and there’s no one to connect to. Only when a worker gets tossed from one job to the next does the movie put a human face on China’s turmoil. B-Owen Gleiberman

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