Capsule reviews of recently released films 

 

 

OPENING FRIDAY
CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY See review.

THE INVENTION OF LYING See review.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (R) A youg couple moves into what they think is a typical starter home.  But, it's not long before they are disturbed by an unidentified presence that is most active at night.

SÉRAPHINE (NR) Séraphine is a colorful tale based on the true story of famed art colector/critic Wilhelm Uhde's discovery of houskeeperer/painter Séraphine de Senlis. The film swept the César Awards with seven wins.

TOY STORY 3-D DOUBLE FEATURE 5 stars (G) In anticipation of next summer's Toy Story 3, Disney rereleases the computer-animated comedies that made Pixar the pre-eminent family filmmakers of our time. Enhanced with 3-D effects, the first Toy Story offers a winning introduction to the Pixar formula by exploring the rivalry of two playthings, Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). Toy Story 2 is the rare sequel that improves on the original by giving Woody a dilemma that involves the contemplation of his own mortality, along with hilarious one-liners and rousing action scenes. - Curt Holman

WHIP IT 4 stars (PG-13) See review.

ZOMBIELAND (R) See review.

DULY NOTED

OUT ON FILM (OCT. 2-8)
The annual "celebration of Pride at the movies" includes such films as Annul Victory, which examines the emotional disconnect between President Barack Obama's inauguration and the passage of Proposition 8; the no-explanation-needed The Big Gay Musical; and the documentary Cross Burning in Willacoochee, about hate crimes against a gay couple in the small South Georgia town. $10-$20. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive. 404-671-9446. outonfilm.org.

THAT'S IT (NR) (2008)
21-year-old Brazilian director Matheus Souza tells a story of twentysomethings falling in and out of love. His unique humor and Generation Y perspective culminate in a fresh take on an ordinary topic. $6-$7. 8 p.m. Sat., Oct. 3. High Museum, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-4570. www.high.org.

VAN GOGH: BRUSH WITH GENIUS (NR) (2009)
Get a glimpse of the inspiration behind Van Gogh's body of work. Screened in IMAX. $8-$15. Various times. Opens Fri., Oct. 2. Fernbank Museum, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6400. www.fernbankmuseum.org.

CONTINUING

9 3 stars (PG-13) In a post-apocalyptic city, robotic ragdolls, including inquisitive 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood), fight off the remnants of the war machines that destroyed humanity. With so many computer-animated cartoon features devoted to pop-savvy kiddie comedies about talking animals, it's refreshing to see a CGI adventure with a unique vision. Director Shane Acker's vision of jerry-rigged, Rube Goldberg-style inventions and landscapes can be fascinating. That said, 9 is PG-13 for a reason, and may be too intense for little kids and too dark for many adults. It's like Pinocchio vs. Terminator. - Curt Holman

A PERFECT GETAWAY (R) Cliff and Cydney (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) are an adventurous young couple celebrating their honeymoon by backpacking to one of the most beautiful - and remote - beaches in Hawaii. Hiking the wild, secluded trails, they believe they've found paradise. But when the pair comes across a group of frightened hikers discussing the horrifying murder of another newlywed couple on the islands, they begin to question whether they should turn back.

ALIENS IN THE ATTIC (PG-13) Aliens in the Attic, co-scripted by one of the writers of Madagascar and the Academy Award-winning Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbits, is an adventure/comedy about kids on a family vacation who must fight off an attack by knee-high alien invaders with world-destroying ambitions - while the youngsters' parents remain clueless about the battle.

ART AND COPY (NR) Fans of "Mad Men" will want to check out the Plaza Theatre's run of this documentary about the recent history of the advertising industry and it's relationship between art and commerce.

BIG FAN 4 stars (R) "Paul from Long Island" (Patton Oswalt), a parking lot attendant and obsessed fan of the New York Giants, has a life-changing encounter with a star linebacker (Jonathan Hamm). Writer/director Robert D. Siegel also wrote the screenplay for The Wrestler and shows a similar insight to the subcultures and rituals of sports culture. Oswalt gives Paul a compulsiveness comparable to his voice performance in Ratatouille and offers a grim character study of an individual who can't imagine a better life. - Holman

BRIGHT STAR 4 stars (PG) The Piano director Jane Campion offers a deeply-felt retelling of the doomed love affair between romantic poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and neighbor/clothing designer Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Though set around the same time as all those Jane Austen movies, Bright Star presents far more of the dirt, pungency and claustrophobia of the era than the usual period piece. Avoiding melodrama, Bright Star captures the aching futility of love and its redemption - at least in the textbooks - through Keats' immortal verse. – Holman 

THE BURNING PLAIN (R) Oscar-nominated screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga makes his directorial debut with this drama starring Charlize Theron as a restaurant manager whose life becomes connected to other women in America and Mexico, including Kim Basinger.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS
3 stars (PG) Young crackpot inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) accidentally revitalizes his struggling hometown with a gizmo that causes "food weather" to fall from the sky. When greed and pride cause ginormous menu items to wreak havoc, it's like a Roland Emmerich disaster film combined with an all-you-can eat buffet. The sight gags, splendid animation and effective use of 3-D make up for the thin characterizations, and the metaphors for excess consumption make the film comparable to a Happy Meal version of Super Size Me. - Holman

EXTRACT (R) "Arrested Development's" Jason Bateman plays Joel, owner of a beverage company called Reynold's Extract, who juggles a corporate buyout, a personal injury lawsuit, a sexually disinterested wife (Kristen Wiig), a manipulative hottie (Mila Kunis) and the occasional horse tranquilizer. Mike Judge, who previously helmed the cult hits Office Space and Idiocracy, tends to be kind of half-assed with plot and structure, but deserves employee of the month for his hilarious, quotable dialogue and work with actors including Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons and David Koechner, and Gene Simmons in a hilarious cameo as a personal injury lawyer with unbelievable helmet-hair. - Holman

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER 2 stars (PG-13) Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a hapless would-be architect who falls for free-spirited Summer (Zooey Deschanel), despite her aversion to emotionally committed relationships. Quirky to a fault but nicely acted by Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel, the film offers a fresh substitute for cookie-cutter rom-coms, but Woody Allen brought more insight to scrambled chronology and surreal set-ups in Annie Hall. Summer would be on stronger ground if it offered a strong female perspective to balance Gordon-Levitt's character. - Holman

FAME (PG) The High School Musical franchise no doubt inspired this PG-rated "reinvention" of the R-rated Alan Parker film from 1980 about the students and teachers at the New York School of Performing Arts.

THE FINAL DESTINATION (R) The fourth and allegedly "final" film in the Final Destination series follows a group of young people who avoid a disaster at a race track, only to fall prey to more outlandish demises after the fact. Presented in 3-D at participating theaters, so you can feel like stuff is flying right at your head.

FUNNY PEOPLE 2 stars (R) In Judd Apatow's third film, Adam Sandler plays a fictionalized version of himself, a stand-up comic-turned-movie star who mentors an aspiring comedian (Seth Rogen) after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Apatow captures life at the top and bottom rungs of Hollywood comedy, from open-mic nights to lame sitcoms to high-concept movies, and Sandler deserves credit for his performance as a self-absorbed jerk. But if you're not already a fan of Sandler's humor, the incessant dick jokes won't convert you, and Apatow somehow stretches the thin plot to two and a half dreary hours. — Holman

G-FORCE (PG) Remember Spy Kids? Think of this as Spy Pets. A highly-trained team of cute fluffy animals, including guinea pigs and a mole, go on espionage missions in this 3-D comedy with such voice talents as Nicolas Cage, Tracy Morgan and Penelope Cruz.

GAMER (R) Gerard Butler stars in this futuristic action-satire in which real humans become unwitting pawns in a violent, multi-player on-line game created by an evil rich guy ("Dexter's" Michael C. Hall).

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA (PG-13) Stephen Sommers, director of the first two Mummy movies, literally turns actors into action figures in this adaptation of Hasbro's G.I. Joe toy franchise. Remember, this draws on its 1980s incarnation, when G.I. Joe is not a person, but an organization that takes on the terrorist group called Cobra.

HALLOWEEN II (R) Laurie Strode struggles to come to terms with her brother Michael's deadly return to Haddonfield, Ill. Meanwhile, Michael prepares for another reunion with his sister.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE 4 stars (PG-13) The romantic misadventures of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his pals Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) distract them from the secret plans of Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) to respectively hinder and help the malevolent Lord Voldemort. The sixth Harry Potter film conspicuously lacks the headlong momentum and political metaphors of Order of the Phoenix, director David Yates' previous effort. Between a suspenseful first section and an eventful (if anticlimactic) finale lies a pleasant but draggy stretch primarily about teen hormones and magic charms, but it's all essentially a prelude to the final two films. - Holman

THE HURT LOCKER
5 stars (R) In 2004 Baghdad, two U.S. "bomb techs" (Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty) hope to finish their tour without getting killed by the confident, reckless Sgt. James (Jeremy Renner in a star-making performance). Director Kathryn Bigelow presents the most original and gripping war film since Saving Private Ryan by crafting bomb disposal set pieces that draw the audience's attention as taut as a tripwire. Compared to other Iraq War films, The Hurt Locker  keeps its politics close to the chest,  while exploring the psychological impact war can have on our soldiers' psyches. - Holman

I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF (PG-13) Heavy-drinking nightclub singer April (Benjamin Button's Taraji P. Henson) attempts to care for three troubled young people with a little help from Madea in Tyler Perry's latest feature film. Look for such local stage actors as Tess Malis Kincaid and Eric Mendenhall.

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS (PG) In the third, 3-D entry in the Ice Age franchise, the wisecracking prehistoric mammals discover a subterranean realm populated by dinosaurs. Simon Pegg joins the vocal team of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, et. al.

THE INFORMANT! 3 stars (R) Looking more like Philip Seymour Hoffman than Jason Bourne, Matt Damon plays an Archer Daniels Midland executive who blows the whistle on the company's corporate malfeasance, even though he's a pathological liar up to his neck in personal misdeeds. Erin Brockovich director Steven Soderbergh takes the genre of crusading David vs. corporate Goliath on its head and reveals the commonplace banality of corporate chicanery and the flaws of the criminal justice system. Soderbergh shows little faith in the material as comedy, larding the soundtrack with whacky, kazoo-heavy ragtime, but supporting players like Tony Hale deliver enough laughs to balance the books. - Holman

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS 3 stars (R) In Quentin Tarantino's World War II revenge fantasy, the Basterds are a band of Jewish-American G.I.s, led by Brad Pitt's drawling lieutenant, who murder Nazis behind the lines in occupied France. Inglourious Basterds spends surprisingly little time on the title characters, or even caper-style action scenes of WWII mission movies, and opts for long, talky confrontations involving French, German and British agents. Christoph Waltz's misleadingly polite Nazi lives up to the hype as the villain of the year, but the film's restless approach to its multiple storylines makes it feel less, rather than more, meaningful. - HolmanIT MIGHT GET LOUD 3 stars (PG-13) Having tackled global warming with his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, director Davis Guggenheim turns to global loudening in this portrait of electric guitarists from three generations: Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, U2's The Edge and the White Stripes' Jack White. The trio's "summit" - part rap session, part jam session - includes a terrific cover of a hit from the Band but doesn't seem to be quite the revelation Guggenheim hoped for. The threesome provides insightful perspectives on rock music, with the younger guitarists seeming ambivalent about the styles of the elders. Plus, their shop talk can be fascinating. - Holman

JENNIFER'S BODY 2 stars (R) A hot, slightly bitchy high schooler (Megan Fox) turns into a hotter, bitchier, boy-eating cannibal when a satanic ceremony goes wrong. A mousy teen nicknamed "Needy" (Mamma Mia!'s Amanda Seyfried) tries to stop her former BFF. The sophomore script from Diablo Cody, Oscar-winner for Juno, goes off in too many thematic directions, including high school spoof, Sept. 11 satire, female-phobic shlock and feminist empowerment fantasy. A versatile, witty lead actress could have pulled Cody's ideas together, but Fox's slammin' body can't compensate for her flat delivery and empty eyes. - Holman

JULIE & JULIA 3 stars (PG-13) A woman verging on 30 and frustrated in a temp secretary job takes on a yearlong culinary quest: to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She chronicles her trials and tribulations in a blog that catches on with the food crowd.

LORNA'S SILENCE (R) The Dardenne brothers, who directed the intriguing drama The Son, helms this film about two pretty Albanian immigrants in Belgium seeking to find better lives.

MY ONE AND ONLY
(PG-13) The beautiful Ann Devereaux (Renée Zellweger) leaves her adulterous husband Dan (Kevin Bacon) behind and hits the road. She drags her two teenage sons George (Logan Lerman) and Robbie (Mark Rendall) along for the ride and together they discover a new meaning of family.

MY SISTER'S KEEPER (PG) A young girl (Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin), brought into the world as a genetic match for her ailing older sister, sues her parents for medical emancipation. Cameron Diaz plays the no-doubt conflicted mom and Alec Baldwin plays as the younger sister's lawyer. It's hard to imagine any summer movie being a bigger, more overt tear-jerker than this one.

ORPHAN (R) Talented indie actors Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard play a couple who adopt a 9-year-old Wednesday Addams lookalike (Isabelle Fuhrman) who turns out to be a bad seed.

PARIS (R) Adored director Cédric Klapish (L'Auberge Espangole) and a cast of all-star French actors (including Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, Melanie Laurent, Fabrice Luchini, Francois Cluzet and Karin Viard) give us a unique and romantic story of Parisian life and love.

PONYO 4 stars (G) A magical fish-girl (voiced by Noah Cyrus) bonds with a 5-year-old human boy (Frankie Jonas) and throws the natural order out of whack. Compared to his finely detailed animated masterpieces like Spirited Away, director Hayao Miyazaki gives Ponyo a more childlike, pastel-colored style that feels a little more like Hello Kitty. Once you get used to the look, Ponyo offers a loose but wildly creative riff on The Little Mermaid with some of the most rhapsodic set pieces of the year. The voice cast includes Tina Fey, Liam Neeson and Cate Blanchett. - Holman

THE PROPOSAL (PG-13) Sandra Bullock plays a Canadian-born New York book editor who pretends to be engaged to her assistant (Ryan Reynolds) to avoid deportation. It sounds like Green Card gives way to Meet the Parents when they fly to Alaska to meet his family.
PUBLIC ENEMIES 3 stars (R) In 1933, celebrity outlaw John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) robs banks and eludes the pursuit of the FBI's Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), who grows disenchanted with the investigative techniques championed by an oily J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup). The first hour or so comes on like, well, gangbusters as Heat director Michael Mann sets up compelling scenes of bank theft and manhunt procedures. The film feints at overarching themes, like the idea that neither Dillinger nor Purvis have a place among "modern" mobsters or feds, but the script leaves both men underdeveloped as characters. Public Enemies almost literally starts with a bang and ends with a whimper. - HolmanTHE SEPTEMBER ISSUE (PG-13) This documentary profiles Vogue magazine Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and the preparations for the magazine's massive fall fashion issue in 2008.

SHORTS
(PG) Sin City director Robert Rodriguez reverts to his Spy Kids family-oriented mode for this suburban fable about a boy who finds a rock that can make wishes come true.

SORORITY ROW
(R) A group of sorority girls attempt to cover up a prank turned deadly, only to be stalked by an unknown killer. It's a remake of 1983's The House on Sorority Row, raising the question, are there any slasher films left that haven't been remade?

SURROGATES (PG-13) See review.

TAKING WOODSTOCK 2 stars (R) Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee offers a fresh perspective on Woodstock's mythologized "three days of peace and music" by focusing on Elliott Tiechberg (comedian Demetri Martin), a struggling artist who reluctantly works at his parents' dilapidated Catskills motel and plays a small but key role in securing the concert's location. The film's centerpiece sequence that captures the excitement at the outskirts of the festival conveys the timeless quality of Woodstock as a generational touchstone. Unfortunately, Lee never finds the right tone for the film's moments of broad comedy, and while Martin's performance features an appealing lack of obvious theatrical technique, one suspects the real guy wasn't as mousy as the script makes him out to be. - Holman

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN 1 star (PG-13) The Autobots, those heroic space robots, must protect Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) from the evil Decepticons when the teen journeys from college campus to Egyptian desert to find an Earth-shaking artifact called the Matrix of Leadership. Bay's original Transformers was hardly an exercise in subtlety, but at least it offered a sense of discovery and built some genuine suspense. At once sillier and more pompous, the sequel makes a chaotic hash of things from practically the first scene and draws out for two and a half deafening hours. If only it could transform into a movie that doesn't suck. - Holman

THE UGLY TRUTH (PG-13) In this rom-com from the director of Monster-in-Law, an unmarried morning TV show producer ("Grey's Anatomy's" Katherine Heigl) becomes reluctantly teamed with a boorish on-air personality (300's Gerard Butler) for a series on dating and relationships. I wonder if they'll fall in love?

UP 5 stars
(PG) An elderly widower (voiced by Ed Asner) uses zillions of balloons to take his house on airborne adventure, unwittingly bringing a pesky boy scout (Jordan Nagai) along for the ride. Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter helms Pixar's latest masterpiece, which begins with an achingly lovely montage of a marriage and builds to a rousing adventure story that combines Jules Verne, Indiana Jones and some of the most hilarious dog jokes every put on film. Plus, the instantly-iconic image of the floating house accumulates considerable richness as a metaphor for life and memory. - Holman

WHITEOUT (R) Underworld's Kate Beckinsale plays a U.S. marshall tracking a killer in Antarctica when the sun is about to set for six months. This long-delayed action film is based on Greg Rucka's graphic novel, which has a similarly stark color scheme as Sin City - only white.

A WOMAN IN BERLIN 4 stars (Not rated) A German patriot (Nina Hoss) witnesses and endures brutal treatment at the hands of the Russian army during the occupation of Berlin in the final throes of World War II. Based on a controversial memoir published in 1959 by an author known only as "Anonyma," A Woman in Berlin captures the moral complexities of war-time atrocities, as Hoss's character and the other German citizens suffer from treatment comparable to what the Germans inflicted on the Jews and Russian citizens. Though the film occasionally makes for difficult viewing, it's an undeniably powerful work. – Holman

WORLD'S GREATEST DAD 3 stars (R) Two former madcap comedians - director Bobcat Goldthwait and star Robin Williams - defy expectations in this strong, controlled dark satire about a would-be author and high school teacher (Williams) saddled by a sullen teenage son (Daryl Sabara, now unrecognizable from the Spy Kids movies). In a high school-set spoof reminiscent of Election and Heathers, the film skewers society's manufactured heroism, and Williams suppresses his usual shtick to offer a compelling portrait of quiet desperation. - Holman

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  • Re: Fresh air

    • Local band Manchester Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack, probably would have appreciated a shout-out.

    • on June 29, 2016
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