Capsule reviews of recently released films 

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THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG 4 stars (G) In 1920s New Orleans, hardworking waitress Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose) hits a bump on the road to buying her own restaurant when she kisses enchanted Prince-turned-frog Naveen (Bruno Campos) and – oops! – transforms into an amphibian herself. Like its workaholic heroine, The Princess and the Frog tries a little hard and tends to rush through songs and character introductions, so it lacks the ease of classics like Beauty and the Beast. The screwball bickering of hard-headed Tiana and hedonistic Naveen holds few surprises, but it’s still a lovely, tuneful film with gorgeous musical numbers that make the average CGI feature look sterile by comparison. – Holman

RED CLIFF 3 stars (R) Renowned action director John Woo designed this Chinese military epic, set in 208 A.D., to be released in two parts that totaled well over four hours, but the U.S. edit clocks in at only two and a half. The result resembles watching one of the latter Lord of the Rings films without having seen the first — but that’s not so bad, because Woo’s lavish combat scenes give Peter Jackson a run for his money. Tony Leung plays a noble viceroy leading a rebellion against a Napoleonic prime minister, but the spectacular set pieces are the real stars, including some of the most astonishing naval battles ever seen in movies. — Holman

THE ROAD 2 stars (R) A nameless father and son (Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, respectively) struggle to survive in the wastelands of post-apocalyptic America in John Hillcoat’s faithful-to-a-fault adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s best-seller. Mortensen and Smit-McPhee capture the anguish of the pair’s attempt to maintain their moral balance amid despair, but the film’s tone proves as monochromatic as its ashy color scheme, which falls short of the images evoked by the book’s stark lyricism. — Holman 

A SERIOUS MAN 4 stars (R) A Jewish physics professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) endures crises of family, career and religion in the Minneapolis suburbs of 1967. The Oscar-winning Coen brothers mine their own childhood for a Kafka-esque, seriocomic spiritual quest in which God, if He even exists, refuses to provide answers to the protagonist’s sufferings. The Coens offer caricatures of most of the Jewish characters, but nevertheless touch on provocative issues of the ineffability of the universe. — Holman

SKIN 2 stars (R) Anthony Fabian’s well-meaning biopic considers the curious case of South Africa’s “white” black woman. Black-completed Sandra Laing (Sophie Okonedo) was born at the height of South Africa’s apartheid system of white parents (Sam Neill and Alice Krige) unaware their own black ancestry. Sandra suffers abuse from both her father and her black husband, neither of whom can accept her for who she is. Despite its fascinating premise, the film seldom manages to get inside Sandra’s head and remains only skin deep. — Holman 

TRANSYLMANIA (R) This is a quirky spoof horror film about college kids who study abroad in Romania for a semester. They quickly realize that if the crazy eastern European party scene doesn’t hurt their grades, the vampires certainly will.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON 3 stars (PG-13) Chris Weitz has masterfully added depth and excitement to the moody, supernatural franchise. Unlike its predecessor, New Moonbalances the sugary love talk with several fast-paced action sequences. While some of the film's moments sputter and lose momentum, the submersion of Stewart and Lautner into their onscreen personas is captivating and adds believability to their romantic rollercoaster ride. 

UP IN THE AIR 4 stars (R) George Clooney’s corporate hatchet man spends more than 100 days a year on the road and prefers the VIP treatment of air travel and hotels — not to mention consequence-free trysts — to earthbound responsibilities. In Jason Reitman’s witty dramedy, Clooney’s role learns the value of human connections through his sister’s impending wedding, his relationship with a sexy fellow traveler (Vera Farmiga) and his mentorship to a young company woman (Anna Kendrick). Up in the Air captures the zeitgeist of recessionary layoffs and empty corporate culture, and though the narrative arc holds few surprises, it’s a first-class trip all the way. — Holman

WILLIAM KUNTSLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE (NR) William Kuntsler was one of the most famous lawyers of the 20th century. Through representing clients such as the Rev. Marin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Abbie Hoffman, he become “the most hated and most loved lawyer in America.” In this film, his daughters Emily and Sarah take a crack at telling the true story of their father’s life.

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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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