12/3/13 : Lost and Found, The Wolverine, Jobs, Drinking Buddies, Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus, The Canyons

Lost and Found (NR, 2008, Entertainment One)
The computer-animated “Lost and Found” is the story of a boy and the penguin who unexpectedly shows up at his door one day, and the total number of words uttered by both during the course of the story is zero. Credit certainly is in order to Jim Broadbent, who very gracefully takes the speaking reins as narrator and leaves the boy to quietly ponder his surprise houseguest. But if even Broadbent had decided to go silent, “Found’s” wonderful gift of expression — a less-is-more master class that is at once subtle and unmistakably demonstrative — would leave one hard-pressed to wonder if something was missing. “Found’s” animation style, though clearly the work of computers, also serves as proof that not every movie assembled from rendered polygons need look like it obeyed the Pixar manual of style. By adopting a classic look — nearly but not completely like wooden toys come to expressive life — “Found” stands refreshingly apart amid a pretty but visually staid genre in need of some new energy. The sweet and funny story that pulls it all together could scarcely do better justice to that style, either.
Extra: Lengthy making-of feature.

The Wolverine (NR/PG-13, 2013, Fox)
With the oddly-titled “The Wolverine,” Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) gets his Ang Lee “Hulk” movie moment — delicate pace, pensive mood, audience-polarizing capabilities, the works. Compared to 2009’s more understandably-named “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which bit off more exposition than it could chew and coughed up a completely ordinary origins movie as result, the new “Wolverine” has a more singular focus and fewer heroes and villains getting in the way of that focus. Set almost exclusively in Japan — both in present day and, briefly, during World War II — it enjoys the benefits of a fish-out-of-water story and takes advantage to comic, unsettling and curious effect. Due to mortality-related circumstances that won’t be spoiled here but likely can be seen coming, it’s also darker (for a Marvel movie, anyway), and there’s something appealing about the prospect of Wolverine taking on the Yakuza instead of more comic book villains (though there are, of course, a couple of those as well). Regardless, where “Origins” felt obligated to check off the usual array of origin-story boxes, “The Wolverine” feels like a sequel with only passing interest in obligation. There’s action, but it’s the punctuation for a run-on sentence of a story that takes its sweet time feasting on the psyche of a superhero who frequently looks out of his element. The approach is destined for polarization — canonically unfaithful to some, plain dull to others, and, for the subset of fans who have grown bored with comic book movies that almost all march to the same bored rhythm, Jackman’s best turn by far as Wolverine in four-and-change (and counting) attempts.
Extras: Extended cut of the film, director commentary, alternate ending, three behind-the-scenes features, second screen app.

Jobs (PG-13, 2013, Universal)
Perhaps the most admirable thing about “Jobs” is that it’s audacious enough to exist — and exist audaciously, in fact — even though it never really had a chance to matter. Steve Jobs’ life (portrayed here by Ashton Kutcher) has been exhaustively documented both in the moment and in retrospect, and the 656-page Walter Isaacson biography plundered the depths of detail in ways that are completely prohibitive to a feature-length movie (to say nothing of “Jobs,” which plays like a biopic borne out of secondhand research instead of firsthand accounts). Inevitably, “Jobs” finds itself in a position to please no one. Those unfamiliar with the story will be left to assume nothing of note happened during Jobs’ wilderness years between stints at Apple (“Jobs” barely acknowledges them), while those who do know the story will lament the omission of some of the most fascinating years of his career. The cut is understandable considering how much scrambling “Jobs” has to do — music montages, dubiously authentic melodramatic speeches and all — to take a lengthy story about obsessive devotion to nuance and compress it into something that hits the usual dramatic high notes. That’s the bad news. The good news? Taken for what it amounts to — a rah rah movie about doing the impossible, doing it well and living a life that changes a world previously shaped by people “that were no smarter than you” — it actually hits those notes more respectably than not. “Jobs” holds no candle to the book, it never feels remotely as personal or engrossing as the abundantly accessible mountain of Jobs’ own written and recorded words, it occasionally overdoses on schmaltz and embarrasses itself, and it ultimately wouldn’t matter if it never even existed. But “Jobs” genuinely conveys the excitement of meticulous hard work and a job magnificently done, and that understanding goes a long way for the viewer who holds those beliefs in the same high regard.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes features.

Drinking Buddies (R, 2013, Magnolia)
When humans in the future compile a list of history’s most stirring film speeches, the bombardment of “totally, um, yeahs” that Jill (Anna Kendrick) unleashes on Luke (Jake Johnson) when discussing their future probably won’t make the cut. That’s only a half-knock, because “Drinking Buddies” — the story of fun-loving microbrewery employee Kate (Olivia Wilde), her kinda serious boyfriend Chris (Ron Livingston), her fun-loving co-worker (Johnson) and his kinda serious girlfriend (Kendrick) — isn’t in a stirring mood, and its extremely conversational style suits it more comfortably. Either way, we all know where this is headed almost as soon as the table is set, “Buddies” seems smart enough to realize we know, and the film does its damnedest not to be the same old movie a less imaginative screenwriter with a Hollywood ending mentality would lazily allow it be. The effort pays off, because “Buddies,” like real life, is emotionally messier and more grounded than your typical movie about the same stuff. But the cost of that temperament — a borderline comedy that’s never really funny, a drama that’s too busy maintaining its grounding to really unload all the emotion it bottles up — will price “Buddies” past a lot of viewers’ patience levels. There’s a reason Hollywood mentalities remain popular in Hollywood, and “Buddies'” divisive lack of emotional spectacle is as bound to be its biggest drawback for some as it is its saving grace for others.
Extras: Filmmakers commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews, three behind-the-scenes features.

Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus (NR, 2013, Sundance Selects)
For a guy whose to-do list consists of “find a San Pedro cactus, go to the desert, drink its contents and hallucinate with friends,” American expatriate Jamie (Michael Cera) is seriously uptight. But maybe that’s the whole reason he needs a sip of San Pedro in the first place. Or maybe this elaborate cactus hunt-slash-acid trip is more trouble than it’s actually worth, and maybe that’s the inconvenient lesson hiding deep within Jamie’s road trip across Chile with friends and a free spirit (Gaby Hoffmann as Crystal Fairy) whom Jamie, much to his sober regret the next day, invited to ride along while high on coke at a party the night before. There are no wrong answers, because “Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus” itself is a nebulous trip where what you see — fables, revelations, maybe nothing at all past boredom — may differ completely from what someone else sees. The rhythm is so erratic, in fact, that one might just walk away thinking it’s simply a lousy movie and have no shortage of ammo with which to support that argument. “Fairy,” to its credit — whether by design or by accident — doesn’t protect itself from this very possible outcome. By putting the relentlessly unlikable Jamie out in the open with a bullseye on his face, it practically invites it. But it’s that approach that allows “Fairy” to be something different to everyone based on the angle at which they approach it. It’s a tradeoff that arguably backfires, but amid a thousand drug movies and a thousand road trip movies that all travel in the same direction, it’s a valiant bet to make.
Extra: Behind-the-scenes feature.

The Canyons (NR, 2013, IFC Films)
“The Canyons” is baggage in motion, a film that was unfairly savaged before it even surfaced but one that also lives up to the savage adjectives lobbed its way. It’s a desperate comeback project for an actress (Lindsay Lohan) who either no longer can act or no longer has enough clout to command dialogue that doesn’t make her look incapable. It’s a would-be breakout role for a porn star (James Deen) who instead validates the old adage about porn stars and actors being mutually exclusive professions. And it’s a movie about betrayal and the dregs of adult filmmaking that manages to be so boring that even its cast can’t resist looking down at their phones from time to time. “The Canyons'” existence is a net win, because the non-snarky recollections of its tumultuous creation provided reams of genuinely excellent reading. But purely on its own, it’s the worst kind of movie — so ill-conceived as to never engage its audience, yet so powerfully lifeless and bland that even enjoying it on an ironic level is next to impossible. If all that savage commentary was counting on anything, it was for “The Canyons” to at least be so bad as to be good. But even that low bar sits beyond reach here.
Extras: Six behind-the-scenes features.