The pumped-up controversy that is "Spring Breakers" arrives in Salt Lake City today along with a lot of other new movies.
"Spring Breakers" is indie writer-director Harmony Korine's biggest stab at the mainstream, and it's a button-pushing drama that dances between art and exploitation. It centers on four college girls who want to get to Florida for spring break - even if it means robbing a local diner to fund the trip. The four (played by Disney princesses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, "Pretty Little Liars" star Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine, the director's wife) fall into the party scene fast, until an arrest leads them to be bailed out by a skeevy drug dealer (James Franco), who introduces them to his violent world. Korine self-consciously breaks taboos as he saturates the film with lurid images and banal dialogue. The results makes for an interesting cultural artifact, but not a good movie.
The best movie this week is "Admission," which is Tina Fey's first foray into full-blown romantic comedy - but it's smarter and warmer than your usual rom-com. Fey plays a detail-obsessed Princeton admissions officer who is told that an applicant (Nat Wolff) is the child she gave up for adoption when she secretly gave birth in college 16 years earlier. She learns this bombshell from the student's teacher (Paul Rudd), a globe-hopping do-gooder with whom Fey's character strikes instant sparks. Fey and Rudd have a comfortable chemisty, and Fey also works well with a solid supporting cast that includes Wallace Shawn and Lily Tomlin.
For kiddies, there's "The Croods," DreamWorks' latest computer-animated tale this time following a family of cavepeople who must migrate when natural forces threaten to destroy their home. The visuals are exquisite, but the storyline is simple to the point of stupidity.
But for really stupid, it's hard to beat "Olympus Has Fallen," an insanely over-the-top action thriller that imagines a terrorist takeover of the White House. The only hope for the President (Aaron Eckhart) and the world is one Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) who slips into the White House, "Die Hard"-style, to take down the bad guy (Rick Yune). Director Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") amps up the rah-rah patriotism and the excessive bullet-to-the-brain violence into an orgy of overkill.
The Southern Gothic thriller "Stoker" is also amped up severely, as Korean director Park Chan-Wook (in his U.S. debut) tosses Hitchcock references freely in a sweaty tale of a mother (Nicole Kidman) and daughter (Mia Wasikowska) dealing with the sudden arrival of the handsome and mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode). The results are often fascinating, but wildly uneven.
The art-house list is topped by "Lore," an absorbing German drama set at the end of World War II, focusing on a teen girl (Saskia Rosendahl) who must confront the lies her Nazi parents have taught her as she leads her siblings across the wartorn country. Australian director Cate Shortland burrows deep into Rosendahl's character, having to think on the fly as her ordered world comes apart.
The left-leaning documentary "Greedy Lying Bastards" exposes the people who deny climate change and the oil-industry fat-cats who fund them. Director Craig Scott Rosebraugh makes some solid points, even if his efforts at creating a Michael Moore-like spectacle fall short.
Several Megaplex theaters are screening "Upside Down," a sci-fi/romantic thriller starring Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess as lovers from different planets. And at a few theaters is the comedy "InAPPropriate Comedy," starring Rob Schneider and Adrien Brody. Neither was screened for Utah critics.