Has a screen role ever dovetailed with an actor’s biography as perfectly as it does with Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (Fox)? Once seen as a legitimate heir to Marlon Brando, Rourke sabotaged his career with a series of bad choices on and off the screen, including a stint as a boxer. He brings all that life experience to bear on the role of a former pro-wrestling icon reduced to a ’roid-damaged “piece of meat,” living hand-to-mouth on a part-time grocery-store job and weekend off-circuit wrestling gigs. Elements that might have otherwise seemed cliché, like a stripper with a heart of gold (Marisa Tomei) and an estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), are poignantly authentic in the hands of Rourke and director Darren Aronofsky…

Ron Howard’s primary job as director of Frost/Nixon (Universal) entailed getting out of the way of playwright-screenwriter Peter Morgan—who cleverly adapted his own hit play—and Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, in their powerhouse performances as a redemption-hungry Richard Nixon and an even more redemption-hungry David Frost. On that level, he succeeded, in spite of scenes that suffer from busy editing when long takes are called for…

Who could have guessed that a rapper/neophyte actor named Gravy would deliver a more convincing performance than the great Angela Bassett in the sleeper-hit biopic Notorious (Fox)? Gravy captures the violent contradictions and charisma of the late wordsmith Notorious B.I.G., while Bassett is saddled with the film’s clumsiest, most melodramatic scenes as Biggie’s loving mother. In spite of some impressive performances and some great music, Notorious would feel right at home on VH1…

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Much like the fiction film 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, Scott Hicks’ documentary Glass: A Portrait Of Philip In Twelve Parts (Koch Lorber) attempts to explore a composer’s life and work—in this case, minimalist lightning rod Philip Glass—through a series of vignettes. Hicks’ approach meets with considerably less success, but it does offer fitful insights into its genial subject, whom even detractors would acknowledge is a major 20th-century figure…

Following up her powerful documentary Trembling Before G-d, about gay men and women who identify themselves as Orthodox Jews, director Sandi DuBowski produced A Jihad For Love (First Run), which delves into the even more restrictive world of observant Muslims who are openly gay. DuBowski and director Parvez Sharma go from country to country, tracking subjects who are often living in exile from their original homes, each telling harrowing stories about how they were cast out from their families and communities.