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Frances Ha, Ambushed, Byzantium

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Frances Ha

Frances Ha (R)

Criterion

In the wake of Lena Dunham's woman-child phenomenon, Girls, we've already seen a fair share of imitators. And it'd be easy to lump in with them director Noah Baumbach's new film Frances Ha, which concerns a New York woman-child and features both veteran (Adam Driver) and newly added Girls actors (Michael Zegen). But the undeniable chemistry between Baumbach and co-writer and star Greta Gerwig propels Frances Ha above the reach of such comparisons. The director is so confident in his new, lighter mood, and his muse is so radiant, that the film refuses lumping, except maybe with Jules et Jim. Gerwig plays Frances, a financially insecure, fitfully employed dancer who's thrown into a ruinous tailspin when her best friend/roommate moves out. What follows is an exuberant and poignant love letter to the state of being twentysomething — adrift but very much alive. — Justin Strout

Byzantium

Byzantium (R) (Blu-ray)

IFC Films

Many people were disappointed by Neil Jordan's previous take on the vampire epic with his early '90s adaptation of Anne Rice's pre-Twilight undead-romantic nonsense Interview with the Vampire. But I liked it, so I was doubly impressed with his return to the genre with atmospherically sumptuous Byzantium. In this highly original tale, British pin-up Gemma Arterton is a vampiric prostitute who travels from town to town with her eternally 16-year-old daughter (Saoirse Ronan). Every time they put down stakes (no pun intended), a member of their clan stalks them, wanting some sort of retribution. With a chance at a new life, the daughter realizes she wants something more, bringing down a set of real-world problems. Reminiscent of the Euro-horrors of Jean Rollin, the literal waterfalls of Napoleonic-era blood are mesmerizing, perfectly covering the subtle horrors of the mythology. — Louis Fowler

Ambushed

Ambushed (R)

Anchor Bay Entertainment

No one is keeping the side-stars of The Expendables busier than the folks at Anchor Bay Films. It seems like every other week there's a new straight-to-DVD action flick starring actors from those movies — not that I'm complaining. This week's pick is the terribly entertaining dirty-cop picture Ambushed, which not only stars the always-enjoyable Dolph Lundgren, but MMA superstar Randy Couture and ex-footballer Vinnie Jones, too. What more do you need? Low-life drug-dealers Frank and Eddie are looking for that one big score that will put them over the top, but that score will include running afoul of a beefy federal agent (Lundgren), a ruthless criminal mastermind (Jones) and a dirty cop (Couture), with explosively brutal results that are so much testosterone-driven fun. Don't be surprised if you've got new chest hair by the time the end credits roll. — Louis Fowler

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