Amreeka Yes, it's distributed by the dull-sounding National Geographic Entertainment, and it does concern a Palestinian family surviving racism in a post-9/11 U.S. (the title is the Arabic word for "America"), but don't let that fool you: Amreeka, starring the charmingly warm Nisreen Faour, is a crowd-pleasing gem. The story, overdone as it may already be in the socially aware indie world, is infused with so much robust life that this immigrant tale transcends politics. (PG-13)
Big Fan The Wrestler screenwriter Robert Siegel chose for his follow-up (which he also directed) an unusual premise — a dark take on the Lemmon-Matthau comedy The Fortune Cookie — and married it with an even stranger choice as the Taxi Driver—style unstable lead: comedian Patton Oswalt. The result is creepy joy, the kind of character drama that gets under your skin and camps out there for an extended stay. It's almost obligatory in modestly budgeted indie films like this (especially one with a tragic trajectory) that the last half loses steam and, in that sense, Big Fan, like The Wrestler, sticks with convention. Even so, the performances are so easy to relate to that it's a pleasant journey for such an unpleasant story. (R)
The Brothers Bloom/In the Loop/Moon It's a Best-Of Special as three of the films in OW?'s Top 10 films of 2009 make their debut on DVD this month. Obviously, none of these titles will steer you wrong, but allow us to especially point you toward The Brothers Bloom. Unlike Loop's scarce extra features, Bloom comes loaded with an entertaining director commentary and a half-hour of deleted scenes that actually add to the enjoyment of the story that made it onto the screen. (PG-13, NR, R)
Departures The surprise winner of last year's Best Foreign Film Oscar (even though it hadn't opened stateside at the time of its win), Departures bears no discernible hook other than a solid story concerning a cellist who gets a job working with dead people. (Come to think of it, that's pretty hooky.) The Japanese film shines with tightrope-walking performances and a wake-up slap of a mortality theme. (PG-13)
Lorna's Silence This latest neo-realist gut punch from the Dardennes brothers (two-time winners of the Palme d'Or, effectively christening them the new masters of cinema) is one of the more wrenching dramas of last year. Lorna's Silence teeters on the edge between a sinister portrait of a woman in over her head and a tender look at the strong will she possesses beyond evil's grasp. (R)firstname.lastname@example.org
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