Get the Gringo (R, 2012, Fox)
Crime doesn’t pay: Just ask the guy who dies in “Get the Gringo’s” opening scene. Or ask Driver (Mel Gibson), who volunteers a fable about the karmic price of a life led dishonesty. On the other hand? For a guy who’s locked up in a Mexican prison for who knows how long, Driver sure looks like he’s having fun. “Gringo” re-imagines prison as a full-scale village — a village from which prisoners cannot escape, but one bustling with shops, entertainment and prisoners’ families, who are free to come, go and even live on the premises. Among that crowd is a 10-year-old, Kid (Kevin Hernandez), who has a smoking habit, familial ties to some dangerous people, and possession of something that makes him valuable to yet more dangerous people. Without delving into specifics and secrets, that’s where Driver enthusiastically blazes in. As is appropriate for a movie that kills somebody during its opening minute, “Gringo” has no reservations about going off the reservation, and the logic that holds it together is less than threadbare by the time Driver’s odyssey comes in for a landing. But that thread never fully gives way despite numerous opportunities to do so. And who might even care if it did? “Gringo” is too spry and has way too much fun for implausibility alone to undermine it, and Driver, Kid and their surprisingly large supporting cast develop into terrific characters despite almost never having a chance to sit still. With respect to bloated and expensive special effects, this — sophisticated, smart, grimy but unapologetically silly — is how an action movie should roll in 2012.
Extras: Behind-the-scenes feature, music video.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (PG-13, 2011, Sony Pictures)
The notion of salmon fishing in the Yemen is such a seeming impossibility, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” turns it into a metaphor for its characters’ yearning for things that seemingly cannot be. But that’s a story for later on. First, there’s the matter of an uptight British fisheries expert (Ewan McGregor as Alfred), a persistent consultant (Emily Blunt as Harriet), a sheik (Amr Waked), a poster child for bumbling bureaucracy (Conleth Hill) and one wonderfully cynical press officer (Kristin Scott Thomas) joining hands to very literally bring the pastime of salmon fishing to a political and physical climate that seems wholly unfit to accommodate it. Upon meeting this dream team and getting a sampling of their separate backgrounds and shared circumstances, the storylines that lie ahead are so predictable as to be inevitable. But as is evidenced by how casually these inevitabilities arrive, “Yemen” doesn’t pretend otherwise. Better still, by the time these turns appear, “Yemen” has poured so much detail into its characters, their objective and their new surroundings that the whole thing feels pretty fresh anyway. The mood matches the moment, too: When “Yemen” wants to be funny, it is, and when it wants to challenge perceptions about the feasibility of a comedy-drama built on the back of global politics, it just goes right ahead and does. The prospect of literally fishing for salmon in the Yemen is indeed about as likely as going salmon fishing in the Yemen, but watching “Yemen’s” characters pursue it anyway is — as impossible pursuits often are — a real treat.
Extras: Two behind-the-scenes features.
Extraterrestrial (NR, 2011, Focus World)
The first thing worth noting about “Extraterrestrial?” It isn’t really about the aliens, whose ships suddenly and inexplicably hover above cities worldwide one day. Rather, it’s about Julia (Michelle Jenner), who somehow slept through the entire invasion, and her one-night stand Julio (Julián Villagrán), who slept over, also slept through the invasion, and thinks her name is Luisa until they reintroduce themselves after spotting a ship. It’s also about Julia’s strange neighbor Ángel (Carlos Areces) and (oops) boyfriend Carlos (Raúl Cimas), who arrives home just as things seemingly couldn’t be more awkward. The ships — and the unknown motives of whomever is piloting them — are predictably concerning. But the amusing thing about “Extraterrestrial” is that while everyone acknowledges this, they also realize there’s nothing they can do about them. They’re gigantic, they’re high in the air, and they’re apparently in no rush to move. So in place of an apocalyptic thriller about four survivalists fending off an alien invasion, “Extraterrestrial” is a dryly funny comedy about four ill-fit people demonstrating the majesty and nonsense of human behavior while their easygoing invaders look on in presumably the same fashion as a puppy experiencing television for the first time. Is there more to it than that? Without spoiling, yes. So long as you’ve made peace with the understanding that this really, really isn’t about the aliens, the enjoyably layered last act ties in the extraterrestrial portion of “Extraterrestrial” in a pretty satisfying (and, for this story, fitting) manner. It isn’t “Independence Day,” but that’s by design, and it’s a choice that pays off. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Extras: Four short films by director Nacho Vigalondo, behind-the-scenes feature, poster gallery.
Casa de mi Padre (R, 2012, Lions Gate)
“If it sounds Spanish, man, that’s what it is. It’s a Spanish movie.” With that little speech by Will Ferrell (delivered via his George W. Bush voice), so begins “Casa de mi Padre,” the story of a humble Mexican rancher named Armando (Ferrell) who discovers his brother Raul (Diego Luna) is deeply embroiled in a drug trade that could destroy his family. As quickly becomes apparent with that intro and the knowledge that Armando’s friends and family accept his clumsy Spanish and total lack of familial resemblance with completely straight faces, “Padre” isn’t bent on taking itself seriously. But Ferrell has a straight face of his own, and between his impassioned delivery of that broken Spanish and the enthusiasm the cast exudes as the body count piles up and Armando ascends from humble rancher to defender of his family, “Padre” blurs the line between parody and loving homage more than you might expect. As joke characters go, Armando is so eminently easy to root for that it almost doesn’t matter when “Padre’s” jokes miss nearly as often as they hit. On the other hand, “Padre” is home to the worst love scene this side of “Team America” and a jab at corner-cutting filmmaking that’s so brazenly unimaginative as to be pretty funny. It’s far from Ferrell’s best work, but whether you watch his movies to root for him or laugh at him, there’s a satisfactory level of something for everyone waiting in store. Gael García Bernal, Genesis Rodriguez and the late Pedro Armendáriz Jr. also star. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Extras: Ferrell/filmmakers commentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes feature, music video.
Intruders (R, 2011, Millennium Entertainment)
Is John (Clive Owen) delusional, and did he imagine the mysterious stranger who broke into his home and terrorized his daughter (Ella Purnell)? A scene in “Intruders” would suggest he is, but if that’s the case, what did his daughter see? And what about the kid (Izán Corchero) half a world a way who saw the same faceless man (known henceforth as Hollowface) before his own mother (Pilar López de Ayala) intervened similarly? “Intruders” has answers, and it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll satisfy once the movie lays them out. The discrepancy may even begin with that layout. You could argue “Intruders” is purposefully open to multiple interpretations in terms of what’s real and what may simply exist in nightmares. But another term for that is vague, and another is muddled. Arguably, “Intruders” is so careless with its herrings and allusions that they interfere with and even collapse on each other — a case of a movie that isn’t designed for multiple interpretations but instead has simply confused itself to the point of making no sense. All takeaways are possible, and for its part, “Intruders” throws in some creepy atmosphere and a twist that — provided you don’t see it coming — may be good for an “ah ha” moment. But that atmospheric aptitude, to say nothing of the talent in front of and behind the camera, also validates any assertion one might have about “Intruders” being in capable enough hands to get a more compelling story treatment than it got.
Extras: Two behind-the-scenes features.
The Three Stooges (PG, 2012, Fox)
Because outrage is customary — and usually warranted — every time Hollywood goes and does something like this, the news of a contemporary “Three Stooges” movie was very customarily met with outrage. Occasionally — such as during an absolutely murderous recurring bit involving the cast of “Jersey Shore” — the disgust is as warranted as ever. For the most part, though, who are we kidding? As comedies go, the new “Stooges” is a pandering cannonball of silly faces, stupid noises, inane antics and the kind of physical comedy that would kill its victims if they weren’t live-action cartoon characters. It is, to put it another way, extremely stupid. But if that upsets you, where have you been these last 80 years? The feature-length format does no favor to something that works far better as a 10-minute short, and that alone (to say nothing of Shemp’s absence, which is the arguable real outrage) makes this a watered-down imitation of the original “Stooges.” But beside that point, most of what these Three Stooges do is the same stupid stuff their forebears did, and Chris Diamantopoulos (as Moe), Will Sasso (Curly) and Sean Hayes (Larry) have the imitations down cold. It isn’t a great movie, and it certainly isn’t necessary to anyone not getting paid to make it, but the outrage is best reserved for another day (which, let’s face it, will arrive sooner than later.)
Extras: Deleted/extended scenes, mashup compilation.
Friends With Kids (R, 2011, Lions Gate)
Over the last four years, Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) have watched their best friends become parents, move to the suburbs, and become friends with kids. As you might guess, that term has a derisive connotation in the movie that bears its name, and it alludes to a lifestyle Jason and Julie don’t completely want. A kid, though? Sure, they’ll take one of those. So Jason and Julie have a kid together but remain platonic and actively, aggressively single in Manhattan. And for an unsettlingly long time, “Kids” just rolls along on a weird genre-neutral cruise control. It isn’t very funny, but stranger than that (and despite a pretty light disposition), it doesn’t even seem interested in being very funny. Yet “Kids” also doesn’t have much insight beyond the bare, cliched minimum that much harder-working comedies also touch on en route to making a farce or dark comedy out of them. Despite flashing a pronounced contempt for the dreary fall into oblivion it associates with marriage and parenthood, “Kids” never musters the courage to really take it on during its first two acts. It finds its edge during a great scene in act three, and it finds its voice a few scenes later, but too much has been squandered by then. And when “Kids” makes a hairpin turn into crushingly predictable formula in hopes of bringing itself back around as an upbeat comedy, the ambivalence is too strong for such an uninspired move to really disappoint. Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd, Maya Rudolph, Megan Fox and Edward Burns also star.
Extras: Westfeldt/Hamm/cinematographer commentary, deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes features, bloopers/ad-libs.