Artois the Goat: Obsession meets magic-realism and indie quirk in this straight-outta-Austin tale of Virgil (Mark Scheibmeir), a lovelorn lab technician whose crush object has just left him high and dry, and his bizarre concept that creating the perfect goat cheese could win her back — long story. A very long story, actually, even at just over 90 minutes; debut directorial team Cliff and Kyle Bogart make the most of their budget — scenes often recall Jean-Pierre Jeunet at his worst or Tim Burton at his best — but the newbie leads aren't compelling enough to hold the screen for long, nor are the wearisome goat gags. The film has its charms, however, and the Bogarts are a team to watch.
Burma VJ: It's almost impossible to distinguish superb filmmaking from the sense of awe one gets experiencing the raw footage within this Danish documentary in which guerilla citizen journalists in Burma capture on camera the horrifying, often inspiring, uprising against the junta in the country in 2007. Has director Anders Østergaard himself made a great film, or has he cobbled together found art and assembled into a great film? (The admission at the top that some scenes were recreated furthers the line of questioning.) Ultimately, it matters not: Burma VJ 's outrageous footage of censorship, oppression and bravery in the face of certain doom hits deeply and hard.
Collapse: It's tempting to write off chain-smoking, self-important activist Michael Ruppert as a lunatic as he spends the entirety of this documentary — almost all of which contains one image: Ruppert's face — rattling off statistics about peak oil, environmental points of no return and the economic apocalypse. Tempting, that is, until he starts dropping key phrases that didn't mean nearly as much to us at the time of the interview (toward the beginning of 2009) as they do now; words like "Greece," "FDIC insolvency" and "offshore drilling." He didn't get lucky, either. The film documents Ruppert's calls to action over the last few decades over those concepts and others that now define our times like "mortgage crisis" and "subprime." The film's message: Ruppert tends to be right, and now he's telling us to stock up on seeds and that we're in a "population bubble" that's bound to collapse. Who brought Dr. Doom to the party?
Mary and Max: You would think that a claymation film about intercontinental pen pals would be a heartwarming bucketload of smiles, but alas, Mary and Max is anything but. Mary (United States of Tara's Toni Collette) is a lonely Australian girl with an alcoholic mom and a dad with a penchant for taxidermy, who randomly starts writing to Max Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a 40-something obese New Yorker with Asperger's. Hijinks do not ensue as both lives spiral into veritable misery and woe over a 20-year span. Touching! If you possess even a Grinch-level soul, this movie from writer-director Adam Elliot will make you miserable. You have been warned.