‘Middleton’ is middling, ‘Labor Day’ is romantic and ‘Somewhere’ is engrossing

Among the new movies that were released Friday, Jan. 31 are a trio of romance flicks – one in which Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga meet on a college campus tour; one in which Josh Brolin takes Kate Winslet hostage and one in which Jessalyn Gilsig finally feels comfortable in her own skin.

At Middleton

Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga play two strangers who meet on their children’s campus tour at the idyllic Middleton College. What begins as an afternoon of fun soon becomes a revealing and enlightening experience that will change their lives forever. (R – 93 minutes)

Thanks primarily to a playful performance from star Vera Farmiga, “At Middleton” is – at least for a while – an incredibly charming little romance flick. One cannot help but fall in love with the actress and her character during the first half of writer/director Adam Rodgers’ new film, which plays out a bit like a college-campus-set “Before Sunrise.” However, as a result of co-star Andy Garcia’s too-quirky character with whom she has very little chemistry and a story that digs a lot deeper than it should, the movie ends with a thud despite having started out as light as a feather. (Thumbs Down!)

Labor Day

Kate Winslet plays a depressed single mom who offers a wounded, fearsome man a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, she gradually learns his true story and her options become increasingly limited. (PG-13 – 111 minutes)

For a movie that is essentially about a mother and son who are taken hostage by a convicted murderer, “Labor Day” hits on emotions that most viewers will likely never see coming. In fact, when all is said and done, the entire ordeal is actually remarkably romantic – albeit in an extremely strange sort of way. As far-fetched as its 5-day chain-of-events are, the family that is forged by the finale of this fantastic feature film is much more real than most and arrives with a moving message about how the universe finds a way to ensure that we never truly have to walk through life alone. (Breakthrough!)

Somewhere Slow

Jessalyn Gilsig plays a woman who gets mixed up in a convenience store robbery and makes a split-second decision to walk out of her life and into the unknown. On her travels, she meets a teenage drifter (Graham Patrick Martin) on his own journey of self-discovery. (NR – 96 minutes)

“Somewhere Slow” is a fascinating character study about one woman’s journey from an affected existence that leads her to nothing but unhappiness to a genuine one that grants her an opportunity to experience life for the first time. Actress Jessalyn Gilsig gives an extraordinarily engrossing performance in writer/director Jeremy O’Keefe’s new motion picture, skillfully using body language and facial expressions to reveal her character’s internal transformation. The film’s best bits are its bookends, though, as actor Graham Patrick Martin’s character is somewhat unlikeable and is more of tool of the plot than someone real like Gilsig’s character, with whom we empathize against all odds. (Thumbs Up!)

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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