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Friday, May 21, 2010

Film Clips: This weekend's movie openings and more

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OPENING FRIDAY

HARRY BROWN (R ) Michael Caine stars in this violent crime drama about an English pensioner who takes arms against neighborhood criminals. It sounds comparable to Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, only with Cockney accents.

KITES (NR) Las Vegas provides the setting of this U.S.-friendly Bollywood musical about two star-crossed lovers (Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Mori) who struggle to be together.

MACGRUBER 4 stars (R ) “Saturday Night Live’s” “MacGuyver”-esque man of action explodes onto the big screen when oily arms dealer Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) steals a Russian nuclear war-head, bringing MacGruber (Will Forte) out of retirement. Director Jorma Taccone helms a nearly pitch-perfect parody of “24” and Stallone-era shoot ‘em-up clichés, with Ryan Phillipe and Kristen Wiig serving as a terrific foils to Forte’s over-the-top idiocy. Violent, silly and occasionally embarrassing to watch, MacGruber’s arsenal of dumb jokes seldom shoots blanks. -- Holman

MID-AUGUST LUNCH Think of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and that is the exact opposite of the relationship between the four women in the Mid-August Lunch. After three years of unpaid electric bills, the 50-something bachelor, Gianni Di Gregorio, strikes a deal with the condo's manager, Luigi: Giani will look after his mother during the Roman Holiday, Ferragosto in exchange for the money. However, the apartment, which houses Giani and his mother, soon becomes a kind of geriatric ward as he shelter's Luigi's mother, her sister, and his doctor's mother as well. And as with any group of females, there is some drama and good food. With a cast of non-professional actors (playing themselves), this film gives a realistic portrayal of sociability among the elderly.

RACING DREAMS 4 stars (PG) With a title that evokes the acclaimed basketball documentary Hoop Dreams, Marshall Curry’s film reveals the NASCAR aspirations of three young champions on the Go-Kart circuit. The racing scenes prove more exciting than you’d expect, but the subjects’ life stories become most compelling, particularly a temperamental competitor with a stormy family life and a girl whose interests broaden to beyond the track as she blossoms to young womanhood. You don’t have to know much about NASCAR for Racing Dreams to rev your motor. -- Holman

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES 3 stars (R ) In this Argentinian winner of Best Foreign Language Film, a retired federal investigator (the reliably superb Ricardo Darin) begins writing a novel about a haunting rape and murder from the mid-1970s, drawing attention both to the case’s unsettling loose ends and his own unrequited love for a colleague (Soledad Villamil). Reminiscent of the gritty American crime dramas of the 1980s, The Secret in Their Eyes features some manipulative twists but also explores the ambiguities of memory and fiction. -- Holman

SHREK FOREVER AFTER 2 stars (PG) Overwhelmed by the pressures of family life, Shrek (Mike Myers) strikes a bargain with Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dorhn) for one day as an unencumbered single ogre. The It’s a Wonderful Life style contract a world in which Shrek was never born and is a stranger to his wife (Cameron Diaz) and donkey friend (Eddie Murphy). The fourth Shrek film emphasizes downbeat adventure over funny bodily functions, so it’s less funny than its predecessors. But if you never liked the Shrek brand of humor, you’ll find the film less unfunny, which may be a plus. -- Holman

DULY NOTED

BULLITT (1968) (NR) Steve McQueen plays one of his iconic roles – and drives an iconic Ford Mustang – in this famed police story. Don’t expect the non-driving scenes to match the pace of the film’s signature chase sequence. Races & Chases. May 21, 8 p.m. Free-$7. Sifly Plaza, High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000. www.high.org.

THE ROOM (2003) 1 star (R ) This hilariously incompetent, sub-Skinemax-level romantic triangle has become a wildly entertaining monthly viewing party, a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Writer-director-star Tommy Wiseau strikes a freaky presence as a long-haired, heavy-lidded, thick-accented bank employee cuckolded by his vicious fiancée (Juliette Danielle). The film’s bizarre touches, like framed photographs of spoons, inspire audiences to throw plastic spoons at the screen, and more. Wiseau himself will be in attendance for a “What were you thinking?” Q&A. Screens Fri.-Sat., May 21-22, 9:30 p.m. $8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.

RECENTLY REVIEWED

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD 3 stars (Rated PG) Korean director Kim Ji-Woon helms an energetic but thin homage to Sergio Leone’s epic Western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. An upstanding bounty hunter, a sadistic assassin and a goofy petty thief contend with bandits, Japanese soldiers and each other while racing to find a treasure in the Mongolian badlands. The film features a spectacular chase scene on horseback near the end, and Song Kang-ho gives an amusing performance as “the Weird,” but his co-stars lack screen presence and the film feels like a well-designed, expensive doodle on Western conventions. – Curt Holman

JUST WRIGHT 3 stars (PG) In the sports centered romantic comedy written by Michael Elliot (Brown Sugar), Scott McKnight (Common) is a New Jersey Net facing a career ending injury when he meets the physical therapist and avid Nets fan, Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah). Wright, with success that is typical of these feel-good movies, guides McKnight back to his A-game against Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, and notable other NBA players and sportscasters. During the process, the two start to fall for each other, but what’s a romantic comedy without a love triangle with the hot, yet superficial girlfriend (Paula Patton)? McKnight discovers that the ironically hefty trainer has more substance inside (and out) and is in fact “just right.” Director Sanaa Hamri trades in predictability for admirable camera shots to make a movie that will bring in the ladies without any discontent from the men.

KILLING KASZTNER: THE JEW WHO DEALT WITH NAZIS (NR) This documentary from Gaylen Ross considers the controversial life of Reszo Kasztner, a Hungarian Jew who credited with saving hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust, but also accused of being a collaborator with the Nazis.

LETTERS TO JULIET 2 stars (PG) Magazine fact-checker Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), while vacationing in Verona with her distracted fiancée (Gael Garcia Bernal), writes a response to a lovelorn English girl’s 50 year-old letter to Juliet. Sophie ends up joining the now-elderly writer (Vanessa Redgrave) and her priggish grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) on a search for the long-lost “Romeo.” The film works the charms of Vanessa Redgrave’s sunny (but one-note) performance, but the initial insults turned romantic banter between Claire and Charlie couldn’t be more rote, and the film seems actively terrified of surprising its audience. As a sleep aid, Letters to Juliet could drive Ambien out of business. -- Holman

ROBIN HOOD 2 stars (PG-13) Cynical archer Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) impersonates stalwart knight Sir Robert Locksley and ends up defending the people of Nottingham against French invaders, a double-dealing English agitator (Robert Strong) and onerous taxation. Director Ridley Scott’s attempt at a Robin Hood Begins story becomes ensnared in convoluted history lessons that incorporate the Crusades, nasty King John and the Magna Carta, leaving the title character (and Crowe’s acting) surprisingly passive. Amid weak dialogue and a blur of background roles, the film only hits its targets with Cate Blanchett’s tough performance as Lady Marian and the final battle by the white cliffs of Dover. -- Holman

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