A.O. Scott over at the Times loves A Secret, Claude Miller’s "haunting" new film adaptation of a French novel by Philippe Grimbert. The movie skips through time, covering the pre and post war lives of a fractured Jewish family in France. Scott calls it a story of "confused passion and ethical struggle" that "leaves in place a sense that something horribly and splendidly strange can lie under the surface of ordinary experience.... The film endows them, and everyone around them, with a dense and exquisite humanity, so that their story is freed from the pressure of making a point or teaching a lesson."
On the other end of the spectrum is Bangkok Dangerous, which stars Nicholas Cage as a remorseless hitman sent to Bangkok to execute four enemies of a ruthless crime boss. Like Cage's career, things go wrong. The New Yorker's Anthony Lane observes that "the more ridiculous his films become, the more seriously he takes them—and the more, presumably, he is paid to do so...The movie grinds on, diligently skirting every chance to surprise."
Mister Foe stars Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as a young man convinced his stepmother clawed her way up from working as his father's secretary to his wife by killing his mom, and sets out to prove it by spying on her, sleeping with her, and fleeing to Glasgow, where he falls in with fellow voyeur Sophia Myles (pictured.) The Village Voice says that "what makes Mister Foe such unlikely fun, though, is Bell's accomplished smart-ass routine and [writer/director] Mackenzie's blithe attitude toward taboos."
There's also Ping Pong Playa, which, according to the Times's Nathan Lee, "mines hip-hop comedy gold from the least gangsta context imaginable: the assimilated Chinese-Americans of suburban California. On the surface this is a matter of swagger and slang ('what up, my ninja?!'), but there’s a deeper, touching acknowledgment of braggadocio as persona, how the commodified dissent of hip-hop lends itself to masking insecurities."
Andrew Sarris at the Observer really likes August Evening, a low-budget indie about the trials endured by an elderly, undocumented Mexican farm worker, played by Pedro Castaneda, a non-professional actor who Sarris says gives "one of the most lustrously lived-in performances I have ever seen on the screen." And Chris Smith's (American Movie) new film The Pool, about a poverty-striken hotel worker in Goa, India, is also opening. Stephen Holden writes, "Just when you expect the film to turn into a predictable, rose-colored valentine to opportunity and hope, it goes to a deeper, more ambiguous place."
Your midnight movies this weekend are The Wizard of Oz ("Sing-Along Lyrics on screen!") at the Sunshine and at IFC the rock doc You Are What You Eat, filmed in San Francisco around 1968. Oh, and The New York United Film Festival kicks off tonight with the documentary Last Cup: Road to the World Series of Beer Pong. Watch the funny/appalling trailer here, and pad your stomach now for the beer pong after-party at the Millennium in the East Village.