Tonally schizophrenic and at times downright disturbing, director Marilyn Agrelo’s little-seen adaptation of Aimee Bender’s novel about a woman (Jessica Alba) who retreats to the safety of numbers when her father develops health problems, then is given the chance to pass on that love of math to elementary school kids, is neither as smart as it needs to be nor as fantastical as it wants to be. Still, it’s an interesting failure, which I always prefer over phoned-in duds. Mona (Alba) eventually befriends a student going through similar difficulties and falls for a fellow teacher, all while the actress loses her grip on a consciously frumpy performance. Eventually, the plot’s machinations abandon any grip on reality, opting for maudlin nonsense over emotional mining, but for all its flaws, there’s a decent movie buried in there somewhere. It doesn’t emerge, but I admire the effort. (available now)
Special Features: None
A boldly old-fashioned romantic comedy with the rare quality of being both romantic and comedic. Steve Carell plays a dowdy, cuckolded family man who gets the Pygmalion treatment from a suave, handsome Lothario (Ryan Gosling). The adults in the film actually act like adults, while the kids also act like adults – but not in the hyper-intelligent, cutesy way that’s so overdone lately. It’s doubtful that any rom-com this year can match Crazy’s honest laughs, surprising tears or the care put into its characters, its look and its refreshingly madcap structure. This is one of the year’s best. (available now)
Special Features: Deleted scenes, alternate ending, featurettes
Master documentary filmmaker Errol Morris expertly and invigoratingly toes the line between smug and exploitative in Tabloid, a recounting of one Joyce McKinney’s wild life in the headlines. The one-time Miss Wyoming was accused of raping her Mormon husband in the late ’70s, and U.K. tabloid muckrakers tore her to shreds exercising the dark side of her giddiness. Morris indulges a few zany excesses of his own, but they don’t negate our empathy for the woman, even when the film goes out with a head-tilting bang about cloned puppies. What a story. (available now)
Special Features: None
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