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Capsule reviews of recently released films 

OPENING FRIDAY
12 ROUNDS (PG-13) Detective Danny Fisher (John Cena) must complete 12 challenges to save his kidnapped girlfriend from a bitter ex-con.

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS (PG) See review.

JANKY PROMOTERS
(R) Ice Cube and Mike Epps star as shady concert promoters trying not to eff up their chance at booking a well-known rapper.

THE HAUNTING IN CONNETICUT (PG-13) Boo-geois thriller based on the true story of a family's claim of encounters with the dark side.

THE EDGE OF LOVE (NR) The story of famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas' two loves, played by Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller.

DULY NOTED
DREAMS OF DUST Set in northeast Burkina Faso, a man in the midst of self-destruction finds a reason to live in his relationship with a struggling single mother. Part of the High Museum's Films from Africa and the African Diaspora series. Free-$7. Sat., March 28, 8 p.m. Rich Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000. www.high.org.

LASKY JEDNE PLAVOVLASKY A landmark film of the Czech new wave directed by Milos Forman that lends a decidedly Eastern Bloc point-of-view to global youth culture. Presented by Emory Cinematheque. Free. Wed., March 25, 8 p.m. White Hall, Room 205, 480 Kilgo St. 404-727-6761. www.filmstudies.emory.edu. 

MONSTER ROAD See review.

THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (G) Swahbuckling 1958 tale of Sinbad's quest to save the princess. Part of the Silver Scream Spook Show. Free-$10. Sat., March 28, 1 and 10 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.

SUBLIME FREQUENCIES FILMS Screening Phi Ta Khon and My Friend Rain at Eyedrum. See story.

CONTINUING
THE CLASS 4 stars (Not rated) In this Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, teacher and award-winning novelist François Bègaudeau plays a fictionalized version of himself, a middle-school French instructor who struggles with his confrontational middle-school students. Compared to Hollywood inspirational teacher-dramas like Dangerous Minds, The Class could be a remedial course, focusing on the institutional and cultural challenges that make education an uphill battle. Primarily set in the classroom, the film reveals complex conflicts and proves that educational problems have no easy answers. — Curt Holman

CORALINE 4 stars (PG) When spunky tween Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) and her family move into a remote boarding house, she discovers a deceptively appealing ìother worldî full of magical wonders. Henry Selick, director of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, helms another film of stop-motion animated splendors reminiscent of such fantastical coming-of-age stories as Alice in Wonderland and Pan’s Labyrinth. Definitely try to see it in 3-D, which fits the stop-motion format like a hand in glove, but be warned that the wild images may be too creepy for little kids. — Holman

CROSSING OVER 2 stars (R) Harrison Ford plays the central role of a weary but conscientious Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer in this sprawling drama about diverse Los Angelenos whose lives intersect through the issue of illegal immigration. Writer/director Wayne Kramer follows the model of the Oscar-winner Crash all too closely, and though he nimbly juggles multiple storylines, the themes and confrontational performances prove hilariously heavy-handed. Kramer has clearly done his homework in the Catch-22s of U.S. immigration laws and black market documents, but the hyperbolic crime-related subplots drown out the thoughtful content. — Holman
 
FANBOYS 2 stars (PG-13) In late 1998, a group of Star Wars fans road-trips from Ohio to Marin County, Calif., to break into Skywalker Ranch and steal a rough cut of The Phantom Menace. First scheduled for release in 2007, the film became a geek cause celebre when the studio contemplated cutting out a wan subplot in which one of the friends is dying of cancer. Even with the cancer plot included, the characterizations are thin, the cameos predictable and the craft generally amateurish, suggesting that films like Clerks set the bar for comedies about fandom culture way too low. — Holman

GOMORRAH 3 stars (Not rated) Italy's official entry for this year's Academy Awards offers a sprawling, journalistic portrayal of the Camorra crime syndicate in Naples. Director Matteo Garrone's five entwined narrative lines cross generations and social strata, from a white-collar toxic waste dumper to an impoverished housing projects kid named Totó (Salvatore Abruzzese) who aspires to join a "clan." Gomorrah leaves audiences in the position of innocent bystanders, without always knowing who the players are or where sudden violence will come from, and manages to offer a gangster film without a trace of glamour. — Holman 

THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD 2 stars (PG) A restless lawschool dropout (Colin Hanks) takes a job as the road manager for a temperamental, has-been “mentalist,” The Great Buck Howard (John Malkovich). Malkovich clearly delights in the role’s unctuous brand of showmanship, which has just enough magnetism to account for his loyal, dwindling fan base. Unfortunately, the film condescends to tacky Middle-Americans and fails to give Buck an adequate foil, with Hanks serving as a passive protagonist who recounts his trivial dilemmas in numbing voice-overs. —  Holman

I LOVE YOU, MAN 3 stars (R ) After straight-laced realtor Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) pops the question to his girlfriend (Rashida Jones), he realizes he has no male buddies and resolves to meet a potential best man. Will free-spirited Syndey Fife (Peter Segel) be his BFF or wreak havoc in Peter’s life? I Love You, Man has flaws, including a perfunctory set-up, thin female roles and too much attachment to improvised goofing off. Nevertheless, Rudd and Segel make a funny comedic team and the film examines the amusing but real hurdles for male-male friendship. The best romantic comedy in months turns out to be about two straight guys. — Holman 

THE INTERNATIONAL 2 stars (R) An Interpol agent (Clive Owen) and a New York City attorney (Naomi Watts) try to build a case against a corrupt global bank, but all their potential witnesses end up dead. Inspired by the BCCI banking scandal of the 1990s, The International hits the national mood just right — what better time to attack financial institutions than during a global financial meltdown? Run Lola Run director offers technically proficient spy-type thrills, but the film wavers uncertainly between loud action movie and tub-thumping economic populism. — Holman

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT This by-the-book horror remake involves parents taking violent revenge against the man who attacked their daughter.

MISS MARCH A couple dude-brahs chase down the centerfold model that they used to know. Expect a few good fart jokes.

THE READER 4 stars (R) A German law student (David Kross) discovers that his older-woman fling (Kate Winslet) from his teenage years was a former guard at Auschwitz. The Hours’ Stephen Daldry directs one of the season's richest and most challenging films, in which the central relationship unfolds as a powerful, two-pronged character study as well as providing sturdy metaphors for a nation's guilt, responsibility and forgiveness. Playing the same character in different decades, Kross and Ralph Fiennes show how short relationships can reverberate across a person's life, but Kate Winslet owns the film with her career-best leading performance. — Holman

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD 2 stars (R) A young, miserably married couple (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) seek to escape the suburban rat race of 1950s America in this adaptation of Richard Yates’ acclaimed novel. Seldom has such an intelligent, impeccably-mounted production seemed so out of sync with the cultural zeitgeist: DiCaprio and Winslet dig deeply in their performances, but its hard to feel sorry for such superficial, prosperous characters at a time of foreclosures and layoffs. — Holman

SUNSHINE CLEANING 3 stars (R) Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, two of Hollywood’s rising “it” girls, play mismatched sisters who form a business cleaning up Albuquerque crime scenes. Director Christine Jeffs mostly avoids the potential Hollywood clichés for slapstick and phony romance in the premise, although she tends to substitute them for indie dramedy clichés about dysfunctional family dynamics. Given the presence of Oscar-winner Alan Arkin, the film could be called Little Miss Sunshine Cleaning, but Adams unquestionably makes things fresh and bright. — Holman 

TWO LOVERS 2 stars (R) Joaquin Phoenix's bizarre recent behavior upstages his performance in director James Gray's romantic triangle about a depressed would-be photographer (Phoenix) who vacillates between his attraction to an unstable, alluring neighbor (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the nice Jewish girl (Vinessa Shaw) hand-picked by his parents. Phoenix's Brando-esque method acting suggest that family ties and bipolar disorder have blunted his role's true passions, but he also falls prey to a habit of overplaying his characters as innocent or "slow." The actresses make stronger, more relaxed impressions, including Paltrow’s self-destructive beauty and Isabella Rosellini's loving, unpretentious mother. — Holman

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