Bachelorette A movie called Bachelorette is inevitably going to be accused of riding Bridesmaids' coattails, even if — as it happens — Bachelorette's source-material play was written years before the 2011 comedy hit theaters. (That said, there are inevitable similarities, what with the shared wedding themes and all.) Playwright turned scriptwriter-director Leslye Headland does a good job of portraying women who are repulsive in realistic ways: a decade ago, Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Gena (Lizzy Caplan), Katie (Isla Fisher) were the popular "B-Faces" at their high school and haven't matured much since. Competitive Regan is a Type A blonde; Gena's the queen of one-night stands; and Katie's a self-destructive party girl.
All of them are pushing 30, and though Regan's the most functional among them, she's the hardest-hit when she learns that Becky (Bridesmaids' Rebel Wilson), always treated as a second-tier B-Face by virtue of being plus-sized, is engaged. "I was supposed to be first," Regan wails via three-way cell call to Gena and Katie, who're sympathetic to this sense of entitlement. The wedding is a fancy New York City affair, so the B-Faces reunite for what they think will be a bachelorette party for the ages. Most of the film takes place during that single night, a madcap, coke-fueled, mean-spirited spiral into chaos. It's raunchy and funny, but every character is utterly unlikable, which becomes more of a problem and less of an amusement as the movie trundles onward toward the expected happy ending. Bachelorette would've been better served by sticking with its rallying cry — "Fuck everyone!" — to the bitter end. (1:34) (Cheryl Eddy)
Chicken With Plums Steeped in whimsy — and a longing for love, beauty, and home — this latest effort from brilliant Persian-French cartoonist-filmmaker Marjane Satrapi and director Vincent Paronnaud flaunts the odd contours of its eccentric narrative, enchants with its imaginative tangents, sprawls like an unincapsulated life, and then takes off on aching, campy romantic reverie—a magical realistic vision of one Iranian artist’s doomed trajectory. Master violinist Nasser Ali Khan (Mathieu Amalric) is seeking the ineffable — a replacement for his destroyed instrument — and otherwise he’s determined to die. We trace the mystery of his passing, backward, with wanders through the life of his family and loved one along the way in this playful, bittersweet feast. Despite Amalric’s glazed-eyed mugging, which almost spoils the dish, Satrapi’s wonderfully arch yet lyrical visual sensibility and resonant characters — embodied by Maria de Medeiros, Jamel Debbouze, Golshifteh Farahani, and Isabella Rossellini, among others — satisfy, serving up so much more than chicken with plums. (1:31) (Kimberly Chun)
Kumaré Just as there was a certain bullying pride of snark that made Bill Maher and Larry Charles' Religulous (2008) more mean-spirited than necessary, Kumaré leaves a sour, smug aftertaste. Raised in New Jersey by a first-generation immigrant family of Hindus, Vikram Gandhi proclaims himself a skeptic who started out wanting to make a documentary about the opportunistic charlatans one can find passing as spiritually enlightened gurus in both India and around the booming US yoga industry. "I wanted to prove to others looking for answers that no one is more spiritual than anyone, that spiritual leaders are just illusions," he tells us. A noble impulse. Yet somehow this took the form of growing his hair and beard out, wearing saffron robes, and posing as Sri Kumaré, a fresh-off-the-boat guru who arrives in Phoenix, Ariz. to open up shop as a one-stop spiritual guide for the gullible. He asks "Could people find the same peace in a made-up religion that they would in a real one?" But too often the real question here seems to be "How silly can I make these chumps look while starring in my very own nonfiction version of The Love Guru?" The comedy Kumaré has been primarily compared to is 2006's Borat, another Larry Charles joint. As unhappy as their portraiture in Borat made its duped participants, it was hard to feel sorry for them — given enough rope they gladly hung themselves expressing racism, homophobia, sexism, and sheer Ugly Americanism. But those who fall under Kumaré's farcical spell don't deserve to be exposed and ridiculed; they're just people with real-world issues — financial struggles, low self-esteem, empty-nest loneliness, etc. — looking for somebody to tell them what to do. (1:24) Roxie. (Dennis Harvey)
Samsara Samsara is the latest sumptuous, wordless offering from director Ron Fricke, who helped develop this style of dialogue- and context-free travelogue with Koyaanisqatsi (1982) and Baraka (1992). Spanning five years and shooting on 70mm film to capture glimmers of life in 25 countries on five continents, Samsara, which spins off the Sanskrit word for the “ever-turning wheel of life,” is nothing if not good-looking, aspiring to be a kind of visual symphony boosted by music by the Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard and composers Michael Stearns and Marcello De Francisci. Images of natural beauty and African women cradling their babies give way to the madness of modern civilization — from jam-packed subways to the horrors of mechanized factory farming to a bizarre montage of go-go dancers, sex dolls, trash, toxic discarded technology, guns, and at least one gun-shaped coffin. After such dread, the closing scenes of Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist spirituality seem almost like afterthoughts. The unmistakable overriding message is: humanity, you dazzle in all your glorious and inglorious dimensions — even at your most inhumane. Sullying this handwringing, selective meditation is Fricke’s reliance on easy stereotypes: the predictable connections the filmmaker makes between Africa and an innocent, earthy naturalism, and Asia and a vaguely threatening, mechanistic efficiency, come off as facile and naive, while his sonic overlay of robot sounds over, for instance, an Asian woman blinking her eyes comes off as simply offensive. At such points, Fricke’s global leap-frogging begins to eclipse the beauty of his images and foregrounds his own biases. (1:39) (Kimberly Chun)
The Words We meet novelist Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) as he’s making his way from a posh building to a cab in the rain; it’s important the shot obscures his generally shiny exterior, because we’re meant to believe this guy’s a sincere and struggling novelist. Jeremy Irons, aged with flappy eye makeup, watches him vengefully. Seems Rory fell upon the unpublished novel Irons' character wrote in sadness and loss — and feeling himself incapable of penning such prose, transcribed the whole thing. When his lady friend (Zoe Saldana) encourages him to sell it, he becomes the next great American writer. He’s living the dream on another man’s sweat. But that’s not the tragedy, exactly, because The Words isn’t so concerned with the work of being a writer — it’s concerned with the look and insecurity of it. Bradley and Irons aren’t "real," they’re characters in a story read by Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) while the opportunistic, suggestive Daniella (Olivia Wilde) comes onto him. She can tell you everything about Clay, yet she hasn’t read the book that’s made him the toast of the town — The Words, which is all about a young plagiarist and the elderly writer he steals from. “I don’t know how things happen!", the slimy, cowering writers each exclaim. So, how do you sell a book? Publish a book? Make a living from a book? How much wine does it take to bed Olivia Wilde? Sure, they don’t know how things happen; they only know what it looks like to finish reading Hemingway at a café or watch the sun rise over a typewriter. Rarely has a movie done such a trite job of depicting the process of what it's like to be a writer — though if you found nothing suspect about, say, Owen Wilson casually re-editing his 400-page book in one afternoon in last year's Midnight in Paris, perhaps you won't be so offended by The Words, either. (1:36) (Sara Vizcarrondo)