CATFISH 4 stars (PG-13) New York photographer Nev Schulman becomes involved in the lives of a family he meets through Facebook, but all is not what it seems in this documentary recorded by Henry Joost and Nev’s brother Ariel Schulman. Avoid spoilers for this engrossing portrayal of relationships and deception during the Internet age, which plays like an ingenious mystery story (if not the Blair Witch-style thriller the trailers misleadingly suggest). High schoolers should be required to watch Catfish as a cautionary tale of the risks of on-line social networking. — Holman
FAREWELL (NR) This French thriller based on real events depicts KGB colonel who feeds intelligence to the French government to undermine the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Fred Ward plays Ronald Reagan.
HEARTBREAKER (NR) Pascal Chaumeil directs this French romantic comedy about professional breaker-upper Alex Lippi (Romain Duris) who hires out to sabotage relationships. But when a disapproving father hires Lippi to scuttle his daughter’s engagement, will Lippi fall in love with his mark?
LEBANON 3 stars (R) Four Israeli soldiers experience the moral fog of the 1982 Lebanon War entirely from their vantage point inside a rumbling tank. Director and veteran tank runner Samuel Moaz restricts the point of view to the soldiers in the shadowy tank and the surreal war-time scenes through the gunsight, but then thin screenplay doesn’t live up to the bold narrative approach. — Holman
LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE
NEVER LET ME GO 3 stars (R) A love triangle between three students at a sinister English boarding school extends to their life as ill-fated adults (Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield). A grim science fiction premise drives this adaptation of a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, which shares themes involving duty and regret with his Remains of the Day. Sharply observed and well-acted, the film leaves the audience in a desolate place while raising more questions than it answers. — Holman
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS 2 stars (PG-13) Director Oliver Stone uses the recent financial meltdown to revisit his popular tale of 1980s greed, but Shia LaBeouf isn’t much of an upgrade from Charlie Sheen as a morally conflicted rising stock trader. Michael Douglas reprises his Oscar-winning role as disgraced financier Gordon Gekko, who serves as untrustworthy advisor to LaBeouf’s role, who’s engaged to his estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan). Josh Brolin makes a strong impression as a Mephistophelean money mogul, but LaBeouf’s callow performance and the convoluted plotting prevent the film from earning much interest. — Holman
A WOMAN, A GUN AND A NOODLE SHOP 2 stars (NR) In feudal China, an adulterous wife (Yan Ni) buys a three-shot pistol to protect herself from her abusive husband (Ni Dahong) and sets off a violent sequence of cause and effect. Celebrated Chinese director Zhang Yimou not only transplants the Coen Brothers’ film noir Blood Simple halfway around the world, he introduces the grim tale as a broad comedy with silly, wildly costumed characters worthy of commedia dell’arte. Having nicely established the roles as clowns, however, Yimou then shifts to deadpan thriller for the film’s second half, and vainly expects us to care about his oblivious fools. — Holman
ALAMAR (NR) Director Pedro González-Rubio dramatizes a lovely, bittersweet story about a boy who spends his final day with his father and grandfather before his divorcing mother brings him to Rome. Latin American Film Festival. Free-$7. Fri., Sep 24, 8 p.m. Rich Theatre, High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000. www.high.org.
FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) A teenager tries to convince his family and friends that a vampire lives next door in this cult horror film, currently being remade with Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette and David Tennant. Splatter Day Night Live. Sat., Sep. 25, 10 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.
GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT (1947) (NR) Gregory Peck plays a reporter who goes undercover as a Jew to report on anti-Semitism in this drama that won the Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards. Part of Emory Film Studies’ “Letters to Elia” film series. Sep. 27, 7:30 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.
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. Not to be missed. Tue., Sep. 28, 9:30 p.m. $8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.
SERENITY 3 stars (PG-13) Joss Whedon’s western-style space opera depicts the fugitives on a ramshackle starship, captained by Nathan Fillion, who investigate an interstellar conspiracy. A four-star experience for fans of the original Fox series "Firefly," the sheer novelty of seeing a space adventure with smart dialogue and credible characters will leave audiences floating on air. A benefit for the Atlanta Food Bank. Sun. Sep. 26, 7 p.m. $8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.
WASTE LAND (NR) This fascinating documentary from Brazil juxtaposes the life and work of off-beat artist Vik Muniz and the individuals who recycle materials at the world’s largest dump. Latin American Film Festival. Free-$7. Sat., Sep. 25, 8 p.m. Rich Theatre, High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000. www.high.org.
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
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
DEVIL (PG-13) Five strangers get trapped together in the same elevator and menaced by a supernatural creature. It’s by Drew and John Erik Dowdle based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan.
EASY A (PG-13) In this comedy, the life of a clean cut, unpopular high school girl (Emma Stone) ironically begins to parallel “The Scarlet Letter,” which she is currently studying in a class, after she becomes the center of her school’s rumor mill after she pretends to lose her virginity and sleep with several classmates, until she decides to use the gossip to advance her social and financial standing.
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.
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
I’M STILL HERE 3 stars (R) Casey Affleck directs this documentary about his brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix’s ill-received decision to quit acting in the name of establishing a hip-hop career. Phoenix’s attempts to meet with prospective producer Sean Combs can give the film the vibe of Christopher Guest’s humiliating showbiz comedies and raise questions about the film’s authenticities. But even if it is a hoax, Phoenix’s ambivalence about celebrity and his willingness to reveal the worst aspects of himself prove compellingly real as he burns the bridge to Hollywood behind him. — Curt 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
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.
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
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
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (R) Mila Jovovich stars in the fourth installment of the film adaptation of the shoot-em-up video game franchise. (The name “The Umbrella Corporation” always makes me smile.) This time, the bullets and zombie parts will fly in 3-D.
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
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
THE TILLMAN STORY 4 stars (R) Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary recounts the tragic story of Army Ranger Pat Tillman, who famously walked away from an NFL contract to enlist in the military following 9/11, only to die in a Afghan friendly fire incident. The title signals that the film is as much about the Tillman family’s attempt to uncover the truth despite the prevarications of political expediency and entrenched military culture. Though arguably guilty of idealizing Tillman as much as the Bush Administration did, the film powerfully personalizes the costs of war. — Holman
THE TOWN 3 stars (R) Tough but noble thief Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) falls in love with a bank manager (Rebecca Hall), who doesn’t know that Doug’s gang recently took her hostage. Other speed bumps on the road to romance include the hair-trigger temper of Doug’s partner Gem (The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner) and the dogged investigation of FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm). Affleck’s sophomore effort as a director proves that his strong debut Gone Baby Gone was no fluke. The movie star gets strong performances from his actors, particularly The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner as Doug’s loose-cannon partner, but for a film called the The Town, the script pays less attention to the texture of the community than the clichés of crime melodrama. — Holman
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
THE VIRGINITY HIT (R) This mockumentary-style comedy, presented as a sequence of Youtube-worthy video clips, follows a group of teenage boys in their attempts to lose their virginity. (Playing at the Mall of Georgia.)
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