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Capsule reviews of new movie releases

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 1 2012 10:00 a.m. MST

In this film image released by Focus Features, Robert De Niro portrays Jonathan Flynn, left, and Paul Dano portrays Nick Flynn in a scene from "Being Flynn."

Focus Features, David Lee, Associated Press

"Being Flynn" — Robert De Niro and Paul Dano play a father and son who reunite after 18 years of estrangement, and they approach their roles in such polar opposite ways, it's as if the actors themselves have been estranged, as well. De Niro, as the alcoholic, would-be novelist Jonathan Flynn, is all delusional bombast; he insists everything he writes is a masterpiece, and his bravado barely masks his insanity. Dano, as Flynn's aimless, hipster son, Nick, may actually have some talent and insight as a poet but he's meandering between jobs, homes and girlfriends. They're forced to get to know each other when Jonathan, suddenly finding himself unemployed and homeless, turns up at the shelter where Nick works. (This might sound like a massive plot contrivance, except it actually happened, as detailed in Nick Flynn's memoir "Another (Expletive) Night in Suck City.") De Niro's taking big bites out of one of the meatier and more serious roles he's had in a while; Dano, meanwhile, is dialed down and constantly reacts with deadpan incredulity. Rather than providing an intriguing contrast, these disparate performances undermine the cohesion and flow of director Paul Weitz's film. R for language throughout, some sexuality, drug use and brief nudity. 102 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"Project X" — This suggests what it might look like if the teen romp "Superbad" had been shot with the first-person, hand-held aesthetic of "Cloverfield" — except it never achieves the hilarity of the former or the thrills of the latter. It's mainly an excuse to show hot, young women cavorting drunk and topless in music-video style montages edited to the insistent thump of house music. So if you ever wanted to see "Girls Gone Wild" blown up on the big screen, well then, this is your lucky day. Shy, sweet-faced Thomas (Thomas Mann) is turning 17, and his fast-talking, superconfident best friend Costa (Oliver Cooper) insists that they need to throw the mother of all ragers at his Pasadena home to celebrate. It will make them popular, Costa promises — and more important, it will get them laid. Tagging along is their nerdy, awkward pal J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown), who thinks he's more sophisticated than he really is. Things spiral out of control pretty quickly as a couple thousand people show up and trash the place, which admittedly does get amusing and provides an escalating energy. But only about an hour in, "Project X" grows repetitive and starts running out of steam, and you begin to wonder what could possibly occur over the remaining 30 minutes or so. R for crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem — all involving teens. 88 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"This Is Not a Film" — Everything about this documentary is cleverly deceptive, from the title that's so self-deprecating it sounds like a shrug to its long, first take to its many quiet moments to the peaceful demeanor of its central figure: acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. But in just 75 minutes, it reveals itself to be a powerful statement about nothing less than the paramount importance of freedom and the driving urge for artistic expression. "This Is Not a Film" takes place entirely in Panahi's Tehran apartment over a single day. This is where he was forced to dwell under house arrest while appealing a sentence of six years in prison and a 20-year ban on filmmaking and conducting interviews with foreign press. The film is simultaneously depressing as hell and brimming with hope and defiance. It finds poetry in the mundane and even boring details of daily life. And it's an inspiring must-see for anyone who feels the urgent need to create something beautiful and meaningful, no matter the cost. 75 minutes. Unrated but contains nothing objectionable. Three and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" — The cult comedy of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim gets its first big-screen showing, a faithful if not exceptional example of their unique brand of mania. Tim and Eric, given $1 billion by studio executives to make a movie, have turned in a three-minute disaster no thanks to their spiritual guru, Jim Joe Kelly (Zach Galifianakis). They skip town, where they're lured by promises of riches by a lunatic huckster (Will Ferrell), who hires them to manage his rundown mall. One of the mall's residents is Taquito (John C. Reilly), a kind of sickly, grown orphan. But plot matters little: It's the domino riffs of absurdity that can spiral out of control at any moment. For Heidecker and Wareheim, whose TV shows include "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" and "Tom Goes to the Mayor," over-the-top isn't something to be evaded, it's an ethos. Packaged in public access TV production and frenzied, chopped-up editing, it has the hyper-pacing you'd expect to find in a Japanese TV commercial. The philosophy seems to be to take a risk, and then take 12 more. Certainly, a large percentage of the public will have no tolerance for it, but if you go with it, there's quality absurdity here. R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, comic violence and drug use. 94 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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