Movie Tickets: “Rock of Ages,” “Your Sister’s Sister,” “The Princess Bride”

Our picks for the best in film over the next seven days.
Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, and Rosemarie DeWitt star in Your Sister’s Sister, opening tomorrow. Image courtesy of IFC Films.
Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, and Rosemarie DeWitt star in Your Sister’s Sister, opening tomorrow. Image courtesy of IFC Films.

The biggest film event of this week is undoubtedly
Silverdocs, the annual celebration of all things
documentary
opening Monday at the AFI Silver. We’ll have reviews of
selected films and a roundup of critics’ picks coming soon, but for
now, here are the can’t-miss movies for this weekend.


Your Sister’s Sister

The fourth feature from indie director
Lynn Shelton is the first to feature bona fide star power (in the form of
Emily Blunt and
Rosemarie DeWitt)—and that’s not the only sign
that Shelton may be on the verge of becoming a recognizable name
herself. The writer/director
takes her usually keen ear for natural dialogue (developed
through improvisations by her actors), and creates a story that’s
insightful and remarkably polished for a film in which so much
is off the cuff. Her previous features often had the ragged
qualities of microbudget indies, with the shaky handheld
cameras and less experienced performers that may keep some viewers
away, but this latest is accessible without ever compromising
her usual intimacy. The story centers on Jack (Mark Duplass), a bit of a sad sack having
trouble processing the grief from his brother’s death a year earlier. He
heads to the woods
for some time to think, at the behest of his best friend, Iris,
who offers up her family’s secluded cabin for his use. But
when he arrives, he finds Iris’s sister Hannah there dealing
with her own recent loss. Thanks to a bottle of tequila, things
become intimate in a hurry between the two former strangers,
which creates further complications when Iris shows up the next
morning.

View the
trailer.
Opens tomorrow at E
Street and Bethesda
Row
.


Rock of Ages

Chris D’Arienzo’s 2007 musical told the simple
story of a pair of young lovers—one a Midwestern girl newly arrived in
LA in 1987 to seek
fame as a singer, the other a stage-fright-ridden barback at
the Sunset Strip’s hottest rock club with similar aspirations
of his own—via the pop metal and power ballads of the day.
Adam Shankman, who previously adapted the Broadway version of
Hairspray for the big screen, does the same for
Rock of Ages. The film’s two forgettable romantic leads are supported by a much sturdier cast that includes
Alec Baldwin and
Russell Brand as the owners/managers of that club,
Bryan Cranston and
Catherine Zeta-Jones as moral crusaders looking to shut them down, and
Tom Cruise as a drunk, spacey, oversexed
rock-and-roll giant who provides much of the movie’s comedic fuel as
well as the catalyst for
much of the plot. If you like jukebox musicals and you’re fond
of a nostalgia trip to a time when Whitesnake, Journey, and
Bon Jovi ruled the airwaves, there’s probably enough enjoyment
here for you to give it a look.

View the
trailer.
Opens tomorrow at
theaters across the
area
.

Baby Kamp: The Hirshhorn’s Summer Camp Film Series

Each summer the Hirshhorn offers up a triple shot of campy, kitschy older titles in its summer camp series, and this year
it’s all about babies. The series spans more than 50 years, starting tonight with
Baby Face, a racy piece of cinematic pulp from 1933 (before Hollywood introduced the production
code that kept movies squeaky clean through most of the mid-century) that features
Barbara Stanwyck as a small-town girl looking
to make it in New York and not afraid to use whatever talents she has at
her disposal to get
there. Let’s just say there are a lot of suggestive cutaways to
tall buildings when her seductions become even too hot for
pre-code standards. That’s followed up next week with
Elia Kazan’s 1956
Baby Doll, an adaptation of the Tennessee Williams
play about a 19-year-old married woman who teases her older husband—who
can’t consummate
their marriage until she’s 20—by engaging in a sexualized
infantilism that drives him as crazy as the film drove the National
Legion of Decency in the ’50s. Things wind up with
Johnny Depp’s turn as rebel with a tear “Cry-Baby” Walker in
John Waters’s 1990 musical
Cry-Baby.

View the trailer for Baby Face, which screens tonight at 8 at the Hirshhorn. The subsequent films show on each of the next
two Thursdays.


Woman in the Fifth

Polish director
Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest film stars
Ethan Hawke and
Kristin Scott Thomas as lovers engaged in an
affair, the terms of which are quite specific and dictated by her. He
must see her at the same time
twice a week at her apartment, and can know nothing of who she
is or what she does. Getting away is probably an attractive
prospect for Hawke’s character, a writer who’s come to live in
Paris to be closer to his daughter but can only find work there
employed by the mob in a task as mysterious as the terms of his
affair: He sits in a room and pushes a button whenever he
hears a bell. As one might expect with all these mysterious
dealings, things start to go wrong, and he eventually must attempt
to clear his name when accused of a murder he didn’t commit.

View the trailer. Opens tomorrow at West End Cinema.


The Princess Bride

It’s been less than a year since the AFI last screened
The Princess Bride as part of its ’80s series last summer, and it’s taking advantage of another tie-in (the
Peter Falk retrospective) to show the film
again. And who can complain? It’s one of those movies that bears
repeated viewings thanks
to its rare blend of comedy and drama, adventure and
sensitivity, and entertainment and artistry, not to mention a
practically
unmatched quotability factor.
The Princess Bride is one of those perfect storms of a movie in which everything happened exactly right in all quarters.

William Goldman’s script, adapted from his own
proudly quirky novel, is a rousing adventure, even as it slyly skewers
every genre tradition
it employs. All those quotable lines are delivered by actors
who burn their dialogue into your brain with impeccable timing.
All you have to do is say the word “inconceivable” in
conversation, and anyone who’s seen the film immediately has a mental
video of
Wallace Shawn spitting out the word in disbelief. The rest of the cast is pitch perfect, from
Mandy Patinkin’s vengeance-seeking Spaniard to
Christopher Guest’s cruel six-fingered man to the lovably gruff Falk overseeing the whole thing from
Fred Savage’s bedroom.
Rob Reiner, in the midst of an impressive directorial run that had started three years earlier with
This Is Spinal Tap, displays a light touch that lets the impressive cast and well-crafted script do all the heavy lifting.

View the
trailer.
Friday, Saturday,
and Sunday at the
AFI
.

Blu-ray/DVD Pick of the Week:

Harold and Maude

A huge commercial flop reviled by many critics at the time of its release,
Harold and Maude eventually found its audience, who
firmly established it as a cult classic light years ahead of its time.
In the early ’70s,
though, deft gallows humor and overt quirkiness were not as
readily accepted by audiences as they might be today. Which may
explain why, as the years go by, this film just seems to be
more and more well loved.

The film stars
Bud Cort as Harold, a death-obsessed 19-year-old with a penchant for staging his own suicide in creative ways to shock his conventionally
minded mother. It’s cruel, but
Hal Ashby’s film, as is often the case with
the director’s work, exists just far enough outside any kind of familiar
reality that it
just comes across as funny with a bit of added discomfort.
Harold runs into the 79-year-old Maude (an unforgettable performance
by
Ruth Gordon) at a funeral, and the two strike
up an unlikely friendship, which, in an even more unlikely development,
turns romantic.
Sex between characters with a 60-year age gap seems impossible
not to play for shock value, but Ashby doesn’t really go there.
That’s just one of the many extraordinary things in a film that
defies convention in every way imaginable, including its celebration
of life even as it takes such a wry look at death.

Special Features: New audio commentary by Hal Ashby biographer
Nick Dawson and producer
Charles B. Mulvehill; illustrated audio excerpts from seminars by Ashby and writer-producer
Colin Higgins; a new interview with songwriter
Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens; and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic
Matt Zoller Seitz, a 1971
New York Times profile of star Ruth Gordon, an excerpted interview from 1997 with star
Bud Cort and cinematographer
John Alonzo, and another from 2001 with executive producer
Mildred Lewis.

View the trailer.

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