By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Thursday, April 22, at 9:25 p.m.; Saturday, April 24, at 2:15 p.m.
Writer-director Dagur Kári's 2009 film brings together a misanthropic bar owner, Jacques (Brian Cox), and Lucas (Paul Dano), a gentle loner, for a bittersweet tale about redemption. The two meet up in the hospital—Jacques has had multiple heart attacks and Lucas has attempted suicide—and they strike up an uneasy friendship that mostly amounts to the old man bossing around the younger. In an odd twist on the Pygmalion storyline, Jacques decides to take on Lucas as a human project, with the goal of rendering him fit to take over the bar, a neighborhood dive filled with eccentric regulars. Jacques ultimately wants Lucas to be more like him—a cold-hearted and obsessive bastard who lashes out at whatever kindness is sent his way. Jacques even sabotages Lucas's chance at love to ensure his protégé leads as miserable and lonely a life as his own. Inevitably the unlikely pair learn something important and life-changing from each other, although the transformation Lucas undergoes seems less believable than the one experienced by Jacques. The ending—while not surprising from a dramatic perspective—still manages a stirring message about the rare possibility for second chances and the importance of making the most out of them. —Caroline Palmer
Wednesday, April 21, at 9:45 p.m.; Sunday, April 25, at 8:45 p.m.
The phenomenon of Islamic punk rock in America has recently inspired a number of bemused news articles and at least one documentary, so it's only natural that a feature film would follow close behind. Eyad Zahra's debut tracks the goings-on in a Buffalo rental house populated by young Muslims/punk archetypes, each of whom has a different recipe for reconciling faith and lifestyle. That religious wrinkle colors every action and adds tension to familiar punk clashes like drunks vs. straight-edgers and activists vs. anarchists. The Taqwacores is at its best when it hews closest to a documentary style, capturing the squalor of flophouse parties and the stupid thrill of shocking the squares. In true punk fashion, the film largely eschews metaphor in favor of bold, noisy statements, leading to too many awkwardly on-the-nose observations reminiscent of early Spike Lee joints. (One character actually utters the sentence, "I'm too wrapped up in my mix-matching of disenfranchised subcultures, man.") Fortunately, Zahra also shares Lee's gift for cinematic catharsis, especially in an indelible late-film concert scene that encapsulates a world in which one man's easy hook-up is another man's unforgivable sin. —Ira Brooker
Sunday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, April 21, at 4 p.m.
Just when you thought you'd heard everything about the ghastliness of military chow, along comes Péter Kerekes's documentary on European cooks who worked for Nazi, Soviet, and other occupying armies of the past 60 years. Interviews with veterans and survivors are sprinkled among documentary footage and fleeting historical reenactments. This is a slow, sometimes quite grim slog that's not always easy to watch. For our edification, a cow, a pig, and a chicken are killed, and their respective entrails processed. But many of the anecdotes are compelling and even darkly humorous. That particularly applies to the official "taster" for Yugoslavia's Marshal Tito, who describes the elaborate process he went through to test the dictator's bountiful daily banquets for poison, and a Jewish baker who, in fact, did poison 300 SS officers with loaves of bread filled with arsenic, and somehow got away with it. The film features recipes for meals at the hearts of the recollections (including that fatal supply of bread) and, for reasons unexplained, the air-lifting of a jeep trailer over all the locations filmed. This film is not for the squeamish, or those planning to dine right after watching. —John Ervin
Friday, April 23, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 24, at 5 p.m.
A movie about food and restaurants should, at the very least, make you hungry. David Kaplan's Today's Special, while largely a by-the-books family comedy, certainly whets the appetite for traditional Indian cooking. Samir (Aasif Mandvi, whom you may recognize from The Daily Show), a rising Manhattan chef, finds himself in charge of his family's failing Indian restaurant. At first Samir has no real interest in his country's traditional food, but after enlisting a cab driver/genius chef/possible magic man (Naseeruddin Shah), he slowly begins to see the value of the traditions—and of letting go. When the film focuses on food, it's an entertaining ride. It's the rest of the movie (scripted by Mandvi and Jonathan Bines) that gets in the way, including a pair of parents straight from central casting (No. 4 on the list—overbearing but full of love) and a by-their-bootstraps subplot, with a touch of "Shallow son gets in touch with roots" mixed in. Still, the finale brings it all home, with plate after plate of tasty-looking treats passing on the screen. Either eat before Today's Special or plan to head out after. —Ed Huyck
Saturday, April 17, at 8:45 p.m.; Wednesday, April 21, at 8:45 p.m.
The subject of gay Orthodox Jews isn't new to film, but it's typically the stuff of documentaries (2001's Trembling Before G-d, among others). So Haim Tabakman's feature directorial debut, Eyes Wide Open, deserves not just political points but artistic ones as well: overused adjectives like "patient" and "understated" are perfectly justified here. The simple story of devout family man and Jerusalem butcher Aaron (Zohar Shtrauss), who falls from grace via a love affair with hired hand Ezri (Ran Danker), Eyes abstains from all forms of shouting, dramatic excess, and third-act eruptions of tragic violence. There are a few missteps: Aaron's profession means a few too many symbolic shots of meat being cut, and Aaron and Ezri's exile from the community is too neatly paralleled by a parent-unapproved straight couple's similar shunning. Mostly, though, it wins with excellent performances: Strauss never overplays his character's internal tension, nor does Danker camp up his youthful virility. Cinematographer Alex Schneppat frames the film gorgeously, and Tabakman knows where the occasional showy effect can be inserted for emphasis. Not groundbreaking, but definitely a cut above. —Vadim Rizov