Capsule reviews of films opening this week:
"Cold Weather" — This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but "Cold Weather" is a mumblecore movie with a purpose. Sure, its twentysomething characters sit around and talk about nothing in particular. They're unmotivated to work at jobs that don't exactly matter to them. And writer-director Aaron Katz, a founder of this film genre, isn't shy about lingering on a shot, such as when his characters are doing nothing more exciting than eating lunch at a park bench along the Oregon coast. But shots like that set the tone and subtly lure us in. And so when the tension does build — and really, surprisingly, it does — it sneaks up on us. "Cold Weather" steadily shifts while we're watching it and becomes almost an entirely different film, one that's compelling in a whole new way. With his third feature, Katz has taken the detective noir and made it his own. Whereas Rian Johnson made a stylish, verbally flashy noir with the high school mystery "Brick," ''Cold Weather" reinvents the genre in a confidently languid way. Much of the film's allure comes from the naturalism of its settings, performances and dialogue, and the unflagging believability that marks all his characters' interactions. Cris Lankenau stars as a college dropout who investigates the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend with help from his older sister (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and an aspiring DJ (Raul Castillo). Not rated but contains language and nudity. 96 minutes. Three stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"The Other Woman" — Playing the other woman is an uncomfortable fit for Natalie Portman. Sure, she did crazy beautifully in "Black Swan," earning an Oscar nomination for her performance as a ballerina pirouetting into madness. But playing a home wrecker and the stepmother to a young boy seems incongruent with her innately girlish likability. Writer-director Don Roos doesn't do her any favors by jumping all over the place in tone; he goes from deadpan humor to melodrama to awkward attempts at reconciliation, with all the subtlety of a made-for-TV movie. And in adapting his script from the Ayelet Waldman novel "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits," Roos leaves holes in logic and emotional resonance. For example, does Portman's character, Emilia, feel the slightest bit guilty about breaking up the marriage of an older, wealthy Manhattan lawyer named Jack (Scott Cohen)? Does Jack have any remorse about how his affair has damaged the lives of his ex-wife, Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow), and his sensitive son, William (Charlie Tahan)? These are just some of the many questions begging to be answered. But even more fundamentally: What does Emilia see in Jack? If he were sexy, funny and warm — or possessed even one of those traits — it might make some sense. Cohen plays him as standoffish and scolding. And suggesting that Emilia is drawn to him because she has daddy issues plays like facile pop psychology. R for sexual content and language. 102 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"Sanctum" — In this 3-D cave-diving adventure, a little bit of rain causes a lot of death — by accident, murder and a bizarre amount of assisted suicide. Who needs those chipper Chilean miners, anyway? Eschewing such heartwarming tales, "Sanctum," directed by Australian Alister Grierson and produced by 3-D guru James Cameron, is more interested in the savage realities of survival. A large expedition headed by grizzled Aussie explorer Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) is in the midst of mapping a mile-deep cave in Papua New Guinea (although the film was shot in Australia). Frank's less ambitious 17-year-old son, Josh (Rhys Wakefield), along with the team's financier daredevil, Carl (Ioan Gruffudd), and his equally gung-ho girlfriend, Victoria (Alice Parkinson), arrive shortly before a cyclone traps them underground. They're sent scurrying through a labyrinth of cavernous chambers and underwater crevices as tight as those in "127 Hours." Leading them with gruff determinism, Frank almost too eagerly dispatches the wounded. As a showcase for 3-D, the film is a failure. But as an anti-assisted living testament, it's weirdly bracing. R for language, some violence and disturbing images. 109 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer