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Capsule movie reviews: 'The Fields' and more

Also reviewed: 'Fightville,' 'Helpless,' 'Hit So Hard,' 'Jesus Henry Christ,' 'Murder Capital of the World' and 'My Way.'

April 20, 2012
  • Cloris Leachman stars in “The Fields,” a thriller about a boy who believes Manson family is nearby.
Cloris Leachman stars in “The Fields,” a thriller about a… (Fabrication Films, Fabrication…)

This can't be correct: Cloris Leachman and Tara Reid topline a period horror-thriller about a young boy who becomes convinced the Manson family has moved into the cornfield in back of his house? And it's not some mad parody but, rather, an earnest effort, which makes it even more weird. The absolute best part of "The Fields" is simply that, letting the very idea of this cast and this story marinate in the brainpan for a moment before coming to the obvious common-sense conclusion: This cannot possibly work out.

And indeed the film, directed by Tom Mattera and David Mazzoni from a screenplay by B. Harrison Smith, is flat and lifeless, not even the odd object promised by its unlikely cast, who play it straight and with little energy. Which is a shame, as there is much in the film's premise — is there anything out there to be scared of? — that feels like the grounds for something more exciting. Though told ostensibly from the perspective of the boy, the story spends far too much time dealing with the family's domestic/custody issues and not nearly enough getting down to being creepy.

The inclusion of clips from low-budget horror classics like "Carnival of Souls" and "Night of the Living Dead" only highlights all that is missing, as those films made more from less, while "The Fields" simply feels like something less.

—Mark Olsen

"The Fields." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. At the Laemmle Noho 7 in North Hollywood.

The humanity behind UFC brutality

There's a lot of big talk in Petra Epperlein's and Michael Tucker's documentary"Fightville" from its subjects, about the nature of man, the primal power of violence and a warrior's spirit. The words reach high, but the speakers aren't philosophers or decorated soldiers. They're mixed martial arts amateurs hovering on this controversial yet popular sport's fringes: the strip mall gyms and rented rodeo centers where everyone's hoping to find the next UFC champion.

Epperlein and Tucker focus on a handful of characters, including amiable Louisiana-based promoter Gil Guillory and ex-UFC fighter Tim Credeur, an oddball mixture of Zen-like mind-body-spirit trainer and drill sergeant. But the emotional money on "Fightville" is in its portraits of up-and-comers Dustin, a quiet Credeur disciple with a violent past of boot camps and juvenile jail, and Albert, whose showbiz flair (he likes to dress as a droog from"A Clockwork Orange") masks an unhappy childhood.

Although the underdog story feels artificially pumped-up early on, as the movie tips toward make-or-break bouts for Dustin and Albert, Epperlein and Tucker's psychological acuity merits some cage-match suspense. By the end, "Fightville" feels authentic about this world, where success may be measured in wins, but the balance of unrelenting brutality and self-discipline needed for those wins is a trickier equation.

—Robert Abele

"Fightville." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. At Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills.

Did he really know the woman he loved?

The Korean import "Helpless" proves a largely absorbingmystery-thrillereven if it sometimes loses its way amid a whole lot of cinematic onion-peeling. Director Byun Young-Joo, who also adapted the densely plotted script from Miyabe Miyuki's novel "All She Was Worth," takes a fairly muscular approach to the twisty action yet manages to texture the film with helpful dollops of honest emotion and romantic sentiment.

After Seoul veterinarian Mun-ho (Lee Sun-kyun) discovers his seemingly playful fiancée and traveling companion, Seon-yeong (Kim Min-hee), has vanished from a highway rest stop, he disappears down the proverbial rabbit hole in an obsessive quest to find her. With the help of his cousin (Cho Seong-ha), a former detective with his own set of troubles, Mun-ho discovers an unraveling succession of secrets about his missing soul mate involving financial chaos, identity theft and possible murder.

As the puzzle pieces slowly fit together, Mun-ho must come to terms with the fact that the woman he loved may actually be a serial liar and wanted criminal. It's a poignant conflict that the appealing Lee handles with deep sensitivity as well as, unfortunately, the sporadic overreaction. As the desperate Seon-yeong, seen here in the present and in flashbacks, Kim convincingly infuses the femme fatale with the requisite beauty, mystery and danger.

—Gary Goldstein

"Helpless." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes. In Korean with English subtitles. At CGV Cinemas, Los Angeles.

An insider's view of grunge mania

Culled from more than 40 hours of personal video footage from her time with the band Hole, "Hit So Hard" tells the story of Patty Schemel, drummer with the band during its peak years and at the height of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love grunge mania. The film also explores Schemel's life apart from the band, including her addiction to drugs and alcohol and identity as a gay woman in the world of commercialrock 'n' roll.

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