CENTURION 3 stars (R) In Great Britain circa 117 A.D., invading Roman soldiers (including Dominic West and Michael Fassbender) face devastating guerrilla tactics from the native Picts. Neil Marshall, director of The Descent and Doomsday, makes the most of gritty period detail, startling violence and a Fassbender’s commanding performance, but Centurion’s apparent terror of strong women (who turn out to be the most memorable villains) overshadow its political metaphors for Vietnam and any country that ever invaded Afghanistan. — Holman
MACHETE 2 stars (R) Ultra-macho federale turned anonymous day laborer Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) takes a job to assassinate a Texan anti-immigrant state senator (Robert De Niro), then seeks revenge on villains from either side of the border, played by the likes of Don Johnson and Steven Seagal. Director Robert Rodriguez expands his hilarious fake trailer from Grindhouse to feature length, but after an uproarious, over-the-top prologue, the tongue-in-cheek Mexploitation flick turns flabby and unfocused. Like most of Rodriguez’s work, Machete starts as a sharp commentary on shlocky cinema, then ends up indistinguishable from its cheesy target. — Holman
MAO’S LAST DANCER 3 stars (PG) While visiting the Houston Ballet in the 1980s, Chinese dancer Li Cunxin (Chi Cao) faces the temptations of American freedom and flashes back to his severe Communist childhood. Driving Miss Daisy director Bruce Beresford soft-pedals the drama and Cao, while a trained dancer, reveals limited emotional range. Nevertheless, the film provides a welcome reminder of the Orwellian oppressiveness of Communist China under Mao, and builds to a fascinating confrontation between Li’s Communist handlers and his American allies. — Holman
MESRINE: PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1 3 stars (R) The second half of Jean-François Richet’s two-part action biopic traces the downfall of Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassell) as France’s most notorious bank robber and kidnapper of the 1960s and 1970s. Cassell continues to convey the dangerous charisma of young, thin Robert DeNiro, and Mathieu Amalric joins up as cellmate and fellow escape artist who disdains Mesrine's showmanship. The film loses steam in its last hour, when Mesrine half-heartedly dabbles in revolutionary politics, but overall, director Jean-François Richet crafts compelling set pieces that pit Mesrine against the criminal justice system. — Holman
ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) (R) Bruce Lee became an iconic action star (with a tragically short career) with the release of this kung fu action flick in which a martial artist uses a combat tournament as a pretext for spying on a crimelord. Art Opening and a Movie. Sep. 7, 8 and 10., 9:30 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.
JOURNEY OF THE CHILDMEN: THE MIGHTY BOOSH ON TOUR (NR) This comedy/musical tour documentary follows Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, creators of the cult British series “The Mighty Boosh” as they take their patented brand of surrealism on the road. Fri., Sep. 3, 7 and 9 p.m. Cinefest Film Theatre, Georgia State University, Suite 240 University Center. 404-413-1798. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft.
THE AMERICAN 4 stars (R) A pseudonymous assassin and gunsmith (George Clooney) lays low in a small Italian village, where a friendly priest and a vivacious prostitute tempt him to lower his emotional defenses. Despite a clichéd storyline about existential hitmen, The Assassin benefits from Clooney’s lean, focused performance, which seizes your attention even when he’s silently customizing an assault rifle. Director Anton Corbijn maximizes the town’s maze-like architecture and frequently isolates Clooney in the frame, bringing fresh eyes to a familiar story. — Holman
CAIRO TIME 2 stars (PG) A married American journalist (Patricia Clarkson) seeks the companionship of an Egyptian café owner (Syriana’s Alexander Siddig) when diplomatic complications delay her husband’s exit from Gaza. Writer/director Ruba Nadda presents a story comparable to Eat Pray Love in which a woman of a certain age experiences a sensual awakening in an exotic land, but Cairo Time’s tighter narrative doesn’t make up for its languid pace and overly-contained performances from the two otherwise appealing leads. — Holman
COCO CHANEL AND IGOR STRAVINKSY 2 stars (R) The second biopic in a year about Coco Chanel, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky focuses on the heated attraction between the French fashion icon (Anna Mouglalis) and the Russian composer (Mads Mikkelsen). A fan of Stravinsky's ever since witnessing the riotous reception of his The Rite Of Spring in 1913, the two become reacquainted seven years later. She invites him and his family, including a sickly wife (Yelena Morozova), to install at her villa in Garches, and a kind of primal, practically dialogue-free, love affair ensues. Unfortunately, what could have been a deliciously fascinating peek at two of the 20th-century's most revered creative geniuses turns out to be a drag. — Debbie Michaud
DESPICABLE ME 3 stars (PG) An evil genius named Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) adopts three orphan girls as part of a plan to reclaim his title as the world’s #1 supervillain from his younger rival, Vector (Jason Segal). But will the girl’s steal Gru’s heart while he attempts to pilfer the moon? The comedy’s most despicable qualities are the oppressive bathroom humor jokes and the heavy dose of treacle that floods the last half. Focus instead on the gizmo-driven feud between Gru and Vector and you’ll enjoy Despicable Me’s slapstick worthy of Wile E. Coyote. — Holman
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS 2 stars (PG-13) Tim (Paul Rudd), an aspiring financial exec accidentally invites Barry (Steve Carell), an odd yet clueless IRS employee and taxidermy enthusiast to attend an exclusive dinner where the invitees are mocked and scrutinized by partygoers in order to impress his boss and move up the ladder. As funny and fuzzy as some moments in this film are, Schmucks derails itself by just going too far — never knowing when to pull in the reins with the sheer onslaught of buffoonery they cram into every crevice of the story. The slow build up to the climatic dinner sequence is laden with unnecessary diversions that deliver some chuckles and a couple of laughable moments. Depending on your tolerance for off-color humor, Schmucks will either have you laughing heartily throughout or just checking your watch often for this dinner party to just end. — Ed Adams
EAT PRAY LOVE 2 stars (PG-13) Freshly-divorced travel writer Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) tries to get her groove back by spending a year in Italy, India and Bali. Based on Gilbert’s bestselling middlebrow memoir, Eat Pray Love casts an innately self-conscious movie star as a self-absorbed woman, so it’s like 140 minutes of “But enough about me — what do you think of me?” Roberts gives an appealing performance and “Glee” co-creator Ryan Murphy helms a beautifully-photographed, at times sensuous film that nevertheless holds almost no dramatic interest. Maybe Blink Yawn Doze would be a better title. — Holman
THE EXPENDABLES (R) A throwback action flick on roids, The Expendables showcases an All-Star cast led by Sylvestor Stallone who might be weathered and old but still sports a young heart. The bad boys work with the Feds to try to usurp an evil dictator. In the process, they get fucked over at least twice, battle- and kill- an entire army, and save the girls (without so much as a kiss). Though this might not be the best date movie, the Rambo and friends feature is straight jacked.
FAREWELL (NR) The director of the Oscar-nominated Joyeux Noël helms this tale of Cold War-era espionage when a KGB operative begins leaking intelligence to French authorities.
GET LOW 3 stars (PG-13) In the Depression-era mountains of Tennessee, hostile hermit Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) hires a small-town funeral parlor (run by Bill Murray and Lucas Black) to throw him a “funeral party” so everyone in the region can pay their respects while Felix is still alive. Apart from the build-up to Felix’s big revelation, there’s not a lot of dramatic interest, but Duvall, Murray and Sissy Spacek give moving, soft-spoken performances. Director Aaron Schneider conveys the tall-tale qualities of the Southern story without succumbing to regional stereotypes. — Holman
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE 2 stars (R) Antisocial hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) turns fugitive when circumstantial evidence links her to the murder of two muckraking journalists. This follow-up to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo retains the outlandish action scenes of Steig Larsson’s original novel, but edits out the narrative connective tissue that makes sense of its convoluted plot. Rapace remains a memorably unusual thriller heroine, but Played With Fire seldom strikes sparks. — Holman
INCEPTION 4 stars (PG-13) The brooding Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) leads a team of thieves (including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page) capable of removing ideas from people’s dreams on a kind of subconscious caper to implant an idea in the mind of rising industrialist (Cillian Murphy). The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan disguises his dizzying head-trip as a slick action film without making these easy for his audience: information comes nearly beyond the speed of comprehension. Inception builds to a redemption plot that’s simplistic where the rest of the film is sophisticated, but Nolan’s excitement over his imaginary dream-heists prove undeniably infectious. — Holman
JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD (NR) The latest film about Basquiat is a documentary of an unusually intimate sort. The Radiant Child is largely based around video that Basquiat's friend Tamra Davis shot of him, just a couple of years before he died. — Wyatt Williams
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT 4 stars (R) The college-age daughter (Mia Wasikowska) of a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) resolves to meet the anonymous sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) who fathered her, and his casual values destabilize the unconventional family structure. Writer/director Lisa Cholodenko crafts characters and situations that are exaggerated enough to be laugh-out-loud funny, but realistic enough to feel as fully-formed and surprising as real life. But which will end up being the Oscar-nominated role, Bening’s besieged perfectionist or Moore’s frustrated free spirit? — Holman
THE LAST EXORCISM (R) In this faux-documentary horror film a la The Blair Witch Project, a film crew follows a troubled evangelical minister as he prepares to drive evil spirits from a young woman’s body.
LOTTERY TICKET (PG-13)When Kevin Carson (Bow Wow) wins $370 million in the lottery, he tries to keep a lid on it until he can collect three days later. But as he becomes the talk of the town, the boy from the projects discovers another side to the life and people he's known. The comedy has an all-star cast including Ice Cube, Loretta Devine, Charlie Murphy, Mike Epps, Bill Belamy, T-Pain, etc.
MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT 3 stars (R) The first half of Jean-François Richet’s two-part action biopic traces the rise of Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassell) as France’s most notorious bankrobber and kidnapper of the 1960s and 1970s. At first, Killer Instinct feels as bracingly stylish as Martin Scorsese in his prime, with Cassell conveying the dangerous charisma of young, thin Robert DeNiro and Gerard Depardieu zestfully playing Mesrine’s mob mentor like late-period Marlon Brando. Mesrine’s first half doesn’t bring many new ideas to the gangster genre, but does present memorable scenes in a brutal Canadian prison. — Holman
NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS 2 stars (PG) Emma Thompson disappears once more behind the moles, putty nose and producing teeth as Nanny McPhee, the tough-love Mary Poppins who helps some squabbling young cousins learn to cooperate and save the family farm from a conniving brother-in-law (Rafe Spall). Apart from a surprisingly dark vignette about the English military bureaucracy (featuring a meaty Ralph Fiennes cameo), Nanny McPhee returns adds few ideas to previous film, but ramps up the outhouse humor enormously, terrible looking effects. Keep an eye on young actor xx, hilarious as scene-stealing young snob. — Holman
THE OTHER GUYS 3 stars (PG-13) With New York’s super-detectives Danson and Highsmith (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) out of commission, disgraced hot-head Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) and meek forensic accountant Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) seize a chance to escape desk duty and break a huge case involving a sleazy financier (Steve Coogan). For about an hour, The Other Guys comes on like comedic gangbusters, with Wahlberg’s misplaced machismo providing a good foil for Ferrell’s increasingly unhinged antics. The cop clichés give Ferrell and director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) plenty to riff on for a while, but once the good gags peter out, the lumbering action scenes prove less than arresting. — Holman
PIRANHA 3D (R) Director Alexandre Aja joins the impressive list of filmmakers who’ve dabbled in the Piranha franchise, including James Cameron, Joe Dante and John Sayles. In this version of the story, rapacious prehistoric fish feast on the unsuspecting bathers at a lakeside spring break destination.
RESTREPO (R) This acclaimed documentary follows writer Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Weatherington followed the 2nd platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne, during their yearlong deployment in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley in 2008.
SALT 3 stars (PG-13) Nothing warms you up like a good Cold War-inspired movie. CIA officer, Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) led a modest yet content life until a mysterious man, Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) informs the agency of a plot to assassinate the Russian President and accuses Salt of being a Russian sleeper agent who will execute the mission. Not sure where to turn, Salt goes on the lam in a frantic effort to save her husband and punish the group responsible for unraveling her picturesque life. Director Phillip Noyce’s return to the spy thriller genre is chock full of bold action but often predictable twists that envelope the cast of characters in this exciting chess game between superpowers. Jolie’s femme fatale's persona perfectly masks her intentions behind those infamous eyes and makes it difficult to gauge at times if she’s an agent, a double-agent or something else altogether. Ripe with gritty fights and chases, Salt is the perfect complement for movie night. — Adams
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD 4 stars (PG-13) In Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels, slacker bassist Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must battle and defeat “seven evil exes” to win the girl of his dreams (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Satirizing the indie-rock scene and showcasing comic book and video game effects, Scott Pilgrim’s stylish hyperactivity can make the film feel cluttered, overpopulated and exhausting. Between the delightfully crazy fight scenes, Scott Pilgrim takes a surprisingly close and complex look at dating, relationships and personal integrity, sort of like Woody Allen’s Manhattan meets Mortal Kombat. — Holman
THE SWITCH (PG-13) Some of the filmmakers behind this Blades of Glory present this 21st century parenting rom-com in which a single mom (Jennifer Aniston) discovers that the turkey baster-sample doesn’t come from the source she’d been led to believe. Jason Bateman plays her neurotic best friend.
TAKERS (PG-13) A production from Atlanta’s Rainforest Films, this crime drama depicts a detective bent on busting a notorious band of bank robbers, including Idris Elba, Paul Walker, T.I., Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen and Michael Ealy, who attempt to pull off an “Italian Job” styled gig worth millions proposed by Ghost (T.I.) a former member of the crew recently released from jail. While the group plans to pull off the caper, they are not aware that hard luck detective Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) is right on their heels. Aside from a couple of missteps in the story, Luessenhop weaves a fast-paced, glossy turned gritty tale of greed with Takers that as far as heist movies go, offers a reasonably satisfying payoff. — Adams
TOY STORY 3 4 stars (G) With their owner Andy departing for college, Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and the other playthings consider a less lonely future at a bumptious day care center, only to discover that a bitter teddy bear (Ned Beatty) rules it like a prison warden. While the script’s a little looser than its predecessor, Toy Story 3 completes the most internally consistent and satisfying film trilogy since The Lord of the Rings, offering Pixar’s trademark snappy patter and emotional complexity (which may be occasionally upsetting for pre-schoolers). Big Baby may be the breakout character of the summer. — Holman
VAMPIRES SUCK (PG-13) Had enough of vampires? Didn't think so. From "the guys that couldn't sit through another vampire movie" comes this comedy about teen angst- and necrophilia- to the max. Becca is torn between two guys who have deadly secrets that are easily overshadowed by their sex appeal. And their battle for Becca's love leads to a final showdown prom night where the claws (and fangs) are coming out.
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