This week’s new releases: America: Imagine the World Without Her, Begin Again, Deliver Us from Evil, and Wish I Was Here.
AMERICA: IMAGINE THE WORLD WITHOUT HER
Running Time: 105 mins.
OFRB Rating: Not Rated
Starring: Dinesh D’Souza, John Koopman, Don Taylor, Josh Bonzie, and Rodney Luis Aquino
Verdict: The most nonsensical excuse for a documentary since D’Souza’s own prior piece of “non-fiction,” 2016: Obama’s America. That being said, being manipulative propaganda isn’t in itself a mortal sin — hell, Michael Moore has made a career out of manipulative propaganda — but America: Imagine the World Without Her is so amateurishly prepared and bluntly one-sided, it hurts its own arguments. There are more truthful facts about the history of the U.S. in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter than are to be found here. (0 stars / 5)
Running Time: 104 mins.
OFRB Rating: 14A (coarse language)
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, James Corden, Mos Def, CeeLo Green, and Catharine Keener
Verdict: John Carney, the writer-director of 2007’s Oscar-winning, musical love story Once, plumbs similar depths here, to slightly diminished returns. Transplanting his setting to New York City instead of Dublin, Carney’s new tale follows a record exec just kicked out of his own label (Ruffalo) who discovers a promising new talent that just may be his ticket back to prominence. Ruffalo and Knightley both shine in this quaint story that doesn’t always take the turns you expect, but Begin Again’s biggest downfall is that for a movie about singing, it only has one or two great songs. (3½ stars / 5)
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Running Time: 118 mins.
OFRB Rating: 14A (coarse language, disturbing content, graphic violence)
Starring: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Dorian Missick, Chris Coy, Sean Harris, and Joel McHale
Verdict: A banal blend of The Exorcist and The Conjuring, with rote elements of police procedurals added in. Bana plays a New York officer investigating a series of crimes that begin taking on more and more supernatural elements. Every element of the plot is pilfered from other movies, right down to the generic title. Bana coasts on autopilot, Munn struggles to fill a role likely written from Megan Fox, and McHale spends the whole of his screen time seemingly trying to figure out how he was cast in the movie at all. Utterly forgettable. (2 stars / 5)
WISH I WAS HERE
Running Time: 106 mins.
OFRB Rating: 14A (coarse language, sexual content)
Starring: Zach Braff, Joey King, Peirce Gagnon, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Alexander Chaplin, Jim Parsons, Michael Weston, and Donald Faison
Verdict: After 2004’s Garden State and 2006’s The Last Kiss, Braff ties up his trilogy of quarter-life crises with Wish I Was Here, his most mature movie to date, if not quite as skillfully made as Garden State. Aidan (Braff) is surrounded by the life of an adult, even though he’s reticent to really grow up. When he’s forced to put off his acting career and home-school his children after his dying father (Patinkin) stops being able to pay for their schooling, he learns to become the man his family needs, while still maintaining his quirky sense of self. A smart story of the sacrifices grown-ups need to make for their children, Wish I Was Here reminds you of the prodigal promise of talent Braff tantalized audiences with his in 2004 debut. Here’s hoping it won’t take another decade for his next work. (4 stars / 5)