“What We Do in the Shadows” (unrated, 86 minutes, The Orchard/Paramount): Co-writers-directors-stars Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement lovingly impale bloodsucker mythology with the sharpened wooden stick of comedy in their delightfully silly vampire mockumentary. As with “Shaun of the Dead,” their satire is a crude but effective tool. Clement is half of the comedic folk-music duo Flight of the Conchords (also featured on the HBO series). Fellow New Zealander Waititi is behind the celebrated indie comedies “Eagle vs. Shark” and “Boy.” This new movie, based on their 2005 short, is set in a New Zealand group house, where four undead housemates – ranging in age from 183 to 8,000 – are being followed by a film crew. (The cameramen all wear crucifixes and have been given contractual immunity against being eaten while filming.) The guys here - Vladislav (Clement), Viago (Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham) – spend a fair amount of time squabbling over chores and housekeeping. Several funny bits feature Viago, the neat freak, griping about Petyr’s failure to clean up the human spinal column left outside the stone crypt he lives in, or gently reminding his other roommates to put towels down on the good couch before chomping on victims. The visual special effects are simple but efficient: The boys fly (on what are obviously digitally erased wires), transform into bats and other creatures, and generally make a mess. Waititi and Clement’s jokes, which are often delivered directly to the camera, a la “The Office,” are sometimes lowbrow, but often very funny. Contains obscenity, cheesy blood and gore, some suggestive dialogue and a drug reference.
“Tangerines” (unrated, 87 minutes, in Estonian, Russian and Georgian with subtitles, First Run Features): Nominated for Oscar and Golden Globes as best foreign-language film, this Estonian-Georgian gem is set in the 1990s, in a war-torn corner of the Caucasus Mountains. The film takes place in Abkhazia, a disputed region claimed by Georgia that is trying to separate from the former Soviet republic. Fighting against the Georgian army are Abkhazians, their Russian allies and miscellaneous mercenaries. As the film opens, almost every civilian has left the battleground, except for Margus (Elmo Nüganen), a tangerine farmer, and Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak), a man who builds crates for his neighbor’s produce. Both are ethnic Estonians, a people with deep roots in this part of the world. Into this no-man’s land wanders Ahmed, a Muslim Chechen soldier of fortune fighting on the side of the Russians and Abkhazians, and Nika, a Georgian volunteer. When both fighters are gravely wounded in a skirmish outside Margus’ house, Ivo takes them in and nurses them back to health, while struggling to keep them from killing each other. Except for brief outbursts of violence, “Tangerines” is, like its hero Ivo, a stoic and introspective thing. The story moves slowly and methodically, tempering the expected - and only fleetingly heartwarming - rapprochement between enemies with a more acerbic outlook about human nature. Contains violence and obscenity.
Also: “Wild Horses” (Western mystery directed by Robert Duvall and starring Duvall as a Texas rancher, with James Franco and Josh Hartnett as his sons, Entertainment One), “Cemetery Without Crosses” (1969, aka “The Rope and the Colt,” spaghetti Western starring Robert Hossein and Michele Mercier, with new and archive interviews with Hossein, Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment), “My Beautiful Laundrette” (1985, Stephen Frears classic with Daniel Day-Lewis in a breakout role, The Criterion Collection) and “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012, Wes Anderson hit with Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and many others, The Criterion Collection).