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Quartet, Knife Fight, As Luck Would Have It 

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click to enlarge Knife Fight DVD

Knife Fight (R)

IFC Films

Knife Fight desperately wants to be a seethingly cutting look into the world of political spin and controversial cover-ups, but it is far too busy trying to be cute to really be of any future significance. Rob Lowe, doing a dramatic version of his character from Parks and Recreation, is Paul Turner, a fast-talking political strategist in the midst of covering up various politicos' peccadilloes and indiscretions, from an Afghanistan vet who might have harassed a masseuse, to a Kentucky senator who had sex with an intern, and so on. Of course, thanks to a plucky assistant, he's reminded of why he got into the business and sets his sights on helping a San Francisco free-clinic doctor run for governor, in the movie's most bleating attempt at idealism after 90 minutes of unabashed cynicism. It's a woeful and actually quite shameful attempt at putting spin on a movie that was better off without it. — Louis Fowler

click to enlarge As Luck Would Have It DVD

As Luck Would Have It (NR)

Sundance Selects (release date: June 25)

Spanish filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia continues his streak as my favorite working director with his latest satirical masterpiece, As Luck Would Have It. It's a biting, pointed dramedy just as relevant to American audiences as it is to Spanish. Roberto (José Mota) is a down-on-his-luck ad exec who has been out of work and is getting ready to lose everything. Even though his loving wife Luisa (Salma Hayek) is extremely supportive of him, he's in a total depression due to his constant failings. One night, he accidentally winds up at an excavation site where he is startled and falls, piercing the back of his head with a metal rod. As he lies there, immobile but alive and cognizant, he becomes an overnight sensation and tries to turn this fame into dollars for his family before he dies. Funny and poignant, but always with a point, de la Iglesia continues to be a true unduplicated original. — Louis Fowler

click to enlarge Quartet DVD

Quartet (PG-13)

Starz/Anchor Bay

A little counterprogramming in the middle of yet another spectacle-filled summer goes a long way. Consider this low-heat, high-spirited adaptation of Ronald Harwood's play, in which three key members of an oddball home for retired musicians reunite with the fourth piece of their once well-known quartet for a fundraising concert. It's a basic-enough premise built upon with wit and verve by a treasure trove of British legends on temporary leave from big-budget YA adaptations. Handsomely shot by Dustin Hoffman, making his directorial debut, Quartet boasts moments of convincing tension below the crew's bawdy surface, and the material is done enormous favors by its esteemed cast, including Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, and Michael Gambon. The time has already come for audiences to expect more from AARP member-aimed fare; Quartet is a step in the right direction. — Justin Strout

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