Friday, October 1, 2010

Film Clips: This weekend's movie openings and more

Posted By on Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 12:00 AM

James Franco is  Allen Ginsberg in Howl, premiering locally at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema by Out on Film, Atlanta’s 23rd LGBT film festival.
  • Photo Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratores
  • James Franco is Allen Ginsberg in "Howl," premiering locally at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema by "Out on Film," Atlanta’s 23rd LGBT film festival.
CASE 49 (R) This horror thriller stars Renee Zellweger as a social worker trying to save a 10 year-old girl from abusive parents, only to discover that the situation is more dangerous than she realizes. With Ian McShane and Bradley Cooper. 

FREAKONOMICS (PG-13) In this nonfiction anthology film, six documentary filmmakers (including Alex Gibney and Morgan Spurlock) present different segments based on the bestseller Freakonomics and its fascinating, counterintuitive approach to sociological issues. 

JACK GOES BOATING (R) Oscar-winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman directs and stars in this adaptation of a stage play about a limo driver who reassesses his life and relationships following a blind date (with Amy Ryan of Gone Baby Gone).

LET ME IN 3 stars (R) In wintry, 1983 Los Alamos, a lonely 12 year-old boy (The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriends the new girl next door (Kick-Ass’s Chloë Grace Moretz)), unaware that she lives on human blood and doesn’t get old. Cloverfield director Matt Reeves offers a faithful adaptation of 2008’s excellent Swedish film, although the American version feels marginally more like a straight-up horror film than a blood-soaked character study. Smit-McPhee and Moretz’s performances make Let Me In one of the most unexpectedly affecting love stories of 2010. — Holman

THE SOCIAL NETWORK 4 stars (R) A handful of computer savvy Harvard students (notably Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield) launch a social networking website that annoys the schools privileged snobs — and eventually becomes a global sensation. Fight Club and Zodiac director David Fincher and “The West Wing” scripter/creator Aaron Sorkin combine their flair for conveying dense amounts of information with this highly entertaining study of how Facebook’s founders fell out after the site took off. The ending feels arbitrary and inconclusive, but The Social Network captures the seedy underbelly of past decade’s on-line bubble, while providing an amusing riff on the Revenge of the Nerds genre. — Holman

BEYOND IPANEMA (NR) This documentary celebrates the history of B Brazilian music from the 1940s to its embrace by 1980s American pop stars to the present day. Latin American Film Festival. Free-$7. Fri., Oct. 1, 8 p.m. Rich Theatre, High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000.

GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) This beloved horror spoof stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as parapsychologists who hunt supernatural slimers, spirits and Stay-Puft Marshmallow men. With Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. Oct. 5, 8 and 9, 9:30 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939.

OUT ON FILM (NR) Atlanta’s 23rd festival of LGBT film features more than 50 documentaries, features and short films, including the Atlanta premiere of the Allen Ginsberg film Howl starring James Franco and the romantic comedy Bear City. Oct 1-7, Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and Ansley Park Playhouse.

WILD RIVER (1960) (NR) Montgomery Clift and Jo Ann Fleet star in this Depression-era drama about an idealistic Tennessee Valley Authority administrator who clashes with an elderly woman who refuses to sell her land on a new dam’s floodplain. Part of Emory Film Studies’ “Letters to Elia” film series. Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939.

THE WIND JOURNEYS (NR) A widowed accordion virtuoso and his young apprentice journey across the Columbian mountains on a date to supposedly meet The Devil. Latin American Film Festival. Free-$7. Sat., Oct. 2, 8 p.m. Rich Theatre, High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE (PG) Soren (Jim Sturgess) a young owl enamored by the legend of the mythical group of warrior owls known as the Guardians embarks on an epic adventure after he and his brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) are kidnapped from their tree home. When Soren learns of a fiendish plot to take over the owl kingdoms, he sets out, with a band of newfound friends, into the unknown to find his legendary heroes. The film is based on the Guardians of Ga’Hoole book series written by Kathryn Lasky. While there's hardly a single feather out of place with this visual spectacle - including some well-placed 3D moments, it seems director Zack Snyder has difficulty choosing which parts to prioritize to tell this compelling story. Like his previous film Watchmen, Legend Of The Guardians has multiple arcs that make perfect sense within its print origins but tend to make the story a bit too big to fit within the confines of whats seen on screen. Story compression issues aside, Legend Of The Guardians is a true gem of a film, rich in character and masterful CGI animation. — Edward Adams

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

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

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.

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 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

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.)

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

YOU AGAIN (PG) Unpopular high schooler turned successful PR professional Marni (Kristen Bell) flies home for her older brother's wedding conflict arises when she realizes his fiancée (Odette Yustman) is the popular cheerleader who bullied her in high school. Her mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) advises to take the high road and move on, an approach easier said then done for herself when coincidentally the bride's jet-setting aunt (Sigourney Weaver) happens to be her high school rival. Competition and chaos ensues among the women in this crazy comedy about friendship and growing.

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