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OBSESSED An asset manager with a big bank account is stalked by a temp worker. Beyoncé Knowles stars in this steamy office thriller.
PARIS 36 3 stars (PG-13) Like Baz Lurhmann's Moulin Rouge, only actually in French, this bubbly period piece, set in a 1930s Parisian music hall, embraces melodramatic clichés and features musical numbers. The ideal film for the current economic slump, Paris 36 depicts a lovelorn stage manager and his fellow unemployed artists who lead a spontaneous "occupation" of their beleagured theater and may find a saviour in a flirty young ingenue (Nora Arnezeder). The film oversells its nostalgia, whimsy and unabashed idealism, but puts on such an energetic show that you eventually succumb to its swoony overtures. — Holman
17 AGAIN Ever wanted a second chance? A loser played by Zac Efron gets the magical chance to relive his teenage years.
THE SOLOIST Adapted from real-life events, a journalist in Los Angeles befriends a homeless street musician named Nathanial Ayers who was trained at Julliard.
STATE OF PLAY 4 stars (R) Following the mysterious death of a young researcher for a U.S. congressman (Ben Affleck), reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) uncovers a conspiracy that throws his personal relationships and professional ethics into conflict. Director Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland) respectably boils down the terrific six-hour BBC miniseries into a simplified but still gripping newsroom thriller. The U.S. State of Play pays tribute to the ailing newspaper industry and features a lively turn from Helen Mirren as the newspaper editrix and an effective (if slightly condescending) mentor-pupil relationship between Cal and a spunky blogger (Rachel McAdams). — Holman
SUNSHINE CLEANING 3 stars (R) Sunshine Cleaning explores the hygienic challenges of crime scenes but, surprisingly, shows conspicuous amounts of restraint. The film's story involves two mismatched sisters who seek their fortune in the unlikely venture of crime scene clean-up, and it's all too easy to imagine Hollywood's take on the material. It debuted at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and hews a little close to the funny-sad formula of indie dramedies like Garden State and Little Miss Sunshine. Still, there are worse formulas it could follow as it shows the messiness of violent death as well as everyday life. — Holman
TOKYO! Three filmmakers (Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-Ho) team up for this frenetic vision of overpopulated urbanity in Tokyo.
12 4 stars (NR) Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov adapts the classic jury deliberation drama 12 Angry Men with spellbinding results. The skeleton of the story remains the same – a sole hold-out (Sergei Makovetsky) stands against the rest of the jury but gradually sways the others that the defendant is not guilty. The case now involves a Chechen youth accused of stabbing his adopted Russian father, casting harsh light on Russia’s treatment of Chechnya as well as the nature of civic responsibility in a country that traded Communism for corrupt capitalism. The colorful character actors all play their theatrical roles to the hilt. — 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
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE 2 stars (PG-13) The X-Men franchise fills in the backstory of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), born with claws and super-fast healing powers, but the metal skeleton and amnesia came later. Director Gavin Hood trades the social metaphors of the previous films for high-testosterone, low-intellect paramilitary action scenes, which include some admittedly neat-o set pieces. Jackman owns the role and Danny Huston and Liev Schreiber (as Wolverine’s similarly powered, psycho brother) make for effective villains, but they can’t compensate for the terrible dialogue, perfunctory plotting and fakey effects. — Holman
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