MONSTERS 3 stars (R) A photojournalist and a runaway bride (Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able) travel to the United States through the “infected zone” of Northern Mexico, overrun with extraterrestrial beasties. The callow performances of the two leads diminish the effectiveness of this moody, metaphorical sci-fi adventure. Director Gareth Edwards proves that filmmakers can now produce intriguing, Cloverfield-style creature features on a tiny budget. — Holman
TAMARA DREWE 3 stars (R) The tranquility of a writer’s colony in rural England gets shaken up by the return of the eponymous knockout journalist (Gemma Arterton) and various other melodramas. This faithful adaptation of xx’s graphic novel (which was loosely inspired by Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd) does a lovely job of capturing the foibles of the literary life, with touching performances by Bill Camp and Tamsin Greig. The Queen director fares less well with subplots involving a sullen indie drummer and his crazed fans, which strain for laughs. — Holman
UNSTOPPABLE Based on a true story, a freshman conductor, Will Colson (Chris Pine) and a veteran engineer, Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) attempt to stop a runaway train — the 777, carrying flammable, toxic materials from potentially derailing and destroying a Pennsylvania town. Leave it to director Tony Scott to turn something as mundane as a train that went for a two-hour joyride and turn it into a nail-biting, hold-on-to-your-seats thriller. What works is Scott's technique of getting the character development out of the way as quickly as possible, leaving the bulk of the story brimmed with high-speed chases and moments that leave you gasping at every near miss and fingers crossed for the two lone heroes. With a seemingly simple premise and a cast that are totally on board for the ride, Unstoppable goes full steam ahead, delivering high-speed action and thrills along the way. — Edward Adams
BURIED ALIVE FILM FESTIVAL (NR) The fifth annual festival of underground horror flicks includes the documentary Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore and shorts from local filmmakers such as Eddie Ray, Matt Munson and Andrew Shearer, as well as feature-length fright films. Nov. 12-13. $8-$12. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.
REPULSION (1965) (NR) Catherine Denueve plays a shy manicurist who begins to slowly lose her mind over the course of a weekend in one of Roman Polanski’s superb early films. Festival of Fantasy and the Surreal. Sat., Nov. 13. 8 p.m. Free-$7. Rich Theatre, High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000. www.high.org.
THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD (2003) (NR) In Depression-era Winnipeg, Isabella Rossellini hosts a contest for whomever can perform the saddest music. According to ScreenGrab’s Gabe Wardell, Canadian director Guy Maddin’s films, “include all manner of antiquated techniques including iris dissolves, soft focus, inter-titles, and color filters over high contrast (often over exposed and distorted with emulsion scratches) black and white images, the soundtrack riddled with pops and dust and and broadcast through a tinny mono speaker.” Festival of Fantasy and the Surreal. Fri. Nov. 12. 8 p.m. Free-$7. 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
BURIED (R) In this thriller, Ryan Reynolds plays a U.S. contractor in Iraq who gets buried alive with a cell phone and a lighter. You don’t have to be a psychologist to suspect that people with claustrophobia might want to give this one a miss.
CASE 39 (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.
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
CONVICTION 2 stars (R) Two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank puts herself through law school to defend her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) after he’s wrongfully convicted of murder. Directed by Tony Goldwyn, Conviction struggles to visually dramatize its inspirational story, given the repetitive nature of the siblings’ meetings in prison visitation rooms and the drabness of scenes about homework. Nevertheless, Swank excels at playing these kind of suffering women contending with a callous system, and plays well against Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo and Juliette Lewis in colorful supporting roles. — 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.
DUE DATE 3 stars (R) After being put on a No-Fly list, a hot-headed expectant dad (Robert Downey Jr.) reluctantly drives from Atlanta to Los Angeles with a blithering would-be actor (Zach Galifianakis) to get to the birth on time. Galifianakis reunites with his Hangover director Todd Phillips and savors some ingeniously dippy one-liners, although the script’s undercooked themes of parenthood and maturity don’t always live up to the leading twosome’s performances. Plus, Due Date delivers so many marijuana gags, it’s like an unusually well-acted Harold and Kumar comedy. — Curt Holman
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.
FAIR GAME 3 stars (PG-13) CIA operative Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) sees her cover blown after her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, publicly disputes the Bush Administration’s claim that Iraq purchased yellowcake uranium. For the film’s first two-thirds, Bourne Identity director Doug Liman conveys the Catch-22s of gathering reality-based intelligence when the White House demands a war. The post-outing third act diminishes the stakes by focusing on the strains in the Plame-Wilson marriage, however, and Sean Penn makes Wilson almost unbearably self-righteous. — Holman
FOR COLORED GIRLS 2 stars (R) An intersecting group of African-American women, including Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine and Whoopi experiences tragedies and triumphs in New York City. Tyler Perry assembles a wonderful cast (particularly Thandie Newton and Kimberly Elise) and could’ve performed a terrific straight-up adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s theatrical “choreopoem.” As it is, though, the film awkwardly segues between poetic recitations and Perry’s trademark melodrama, the least convincing of which is Jackson’s icy fashion editrix with a secretive husband. — Holman
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 KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST 2 stars (R) Sleuthing hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), hospitalized after nearly dying in the last film, faces criminal charges and a hush-hush government conspiracy from her hospital room and prison cell. The third and most convoluted of Steig Larsson’s bestselling trilogy of thrillers receives a tedious adaptation from Daniel Alfredson. The plot puts sexy Rapace on the sidelines and focuses on uncharismatic heroes and doddering bad guys. You might as well wait for next year’s David Fincher film. — Holman
HEREAFTER 1 star (PG-13) Death touches the lives of three strangers — successful French newswoman Marie LeLay (Cécile de France), poor English schoolboy Marcus (played by twins Frankie and George McLaren), and George (Matt Damon), a factory worker/psychic — prompting them all to wonder, “What really happens when we die?” A feeble, Crash-esque attempt at intertwining the three lives and pondering the great beyond follows. Nobody expects director Clint Eastwood or writer Peter Morgan to actually answer the question, “What happens when we die?” But we’d at least like to feel engaged in an interesting discussion about the subject. — Debbie Michaud
HOWL 3 stars (R) James Franco plays Allen Ginsberg in an unconventional biopic that examines the creation, controversy and content of the Beat poet’s ecstatic masterpiece, “Howl.” Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman cross-cut between Ginsburg’s coffeehouse reading in 1955, his revelatory interview in 1957 and that year’s “Howl” obscenity trial in San Francisco (with Jon Hamm and David Straithairn as opposing lawyers). Surreal animation meant to illustrate the text merely serves as a distraction, but the Howl serves as a surprisingly effective collage of how a writer’s experience and artistry transforms personal experience into literature. — 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
INSIDE JOB 4 stars (PG-13) Documentarian Charles Ferguson applies the same muckraking instincts and policy-work grasp of details from his Iraq war film No End in Sight to the 2008 global economic meltdown, with even more compelling results. Inside Job sums up the dizzying financial chicanery that caused the Wall Street crash, and zeroes in on the greed-crazed corporate culture and even more damning lack of regulatory oversight. Matt Damon narrates an infuriating tale that finds plenty of blame to go around on both sides of the political aisle. — Holman
IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (PG-13) Writer-directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden present this dramedy about a teenage boy (Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself in to a mental hospital, falls in love with another teen (Emma Roberts) and finds an unlikely mentor in a fellow patient (Zach Galifianakis).
JACKASS 3D (R) Johnny Knoxville and his merry band of reckless kamikazes return for another round of pranks, stunts and gross-outs, which this time promise to hurl body parts — and possibly bodily fluids — at the audience.
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).
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. — Adams
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 LAST TRAIN HOME (NR) This documentary explores the cultural tensions revealed by China’s annual tradition of millions of city workers returning to their rural villages for the New Year’s festivities, described as “the world’s largest human migration.”
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
MADEMOISELLE CHAMBON (NR) Director Stephane Brize helms this soft-spoken romance about a married Frenchman (Vincent Lindon) who finds himself falling for his son’s homeroom teacher (Sandrine Kiberlain).
MEGAMIND 3 stars (PG) Once again Dreamworks gives us another creepy and dark underdog to fall for. The beloved guardian of Metro City, Mega Man (Brad Pitt) is fatally thwarted by his longtime nemesis, the blue-domed brainiac Megamind (Will Farrell). Quickly bored from his conquests, Megamind devises a plan to create a new hero, Titan (Jonah Hill) to add the fun back to his villainous ways. With so much to take from a cliché story of aliens sent to Earth to become do-gooders and do-badders (yeah, I made it up), this satirical pop culture slugfest has heart, jokes and some clever 3D action to have you laughing and ultimately cheering in the end. — Edward Adams
MORNING GLORY A newly hired TV producer struggles to revitalize a national morning show due to the constant feuding between the high-profile anchors (Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford), while trying to keep control over her personal and love life as well.
MY SOUL TO TAKE (R) A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Wes Craven directs this horror story about a deceased serial killer who vows to return to murder the seven (grown) children born the night he died. Seems like an arbitrary motivation for resurrection and mass murder, but at least it’s in 3-D in some theaters.
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
NOWHERE BOY 3 stars (R) In the late 1950s, a precocious Liverpudlian teenager named John Lennon (Aaron Johnson) discovers the joys of rock and roll while contending with tensions between his frees-spirited, erratic biological mother (Anne-Marie Duff) and the harsh but stable aunt who raised him (Kristin Scott Thomas). The film doesn’t shy away from rock-biopic clichés and Johnson looks little like Lennon, but it presents an intriguing story and portrait of the times, so we’d enjoy following the story even if we didn’t know anything about The Beatles. — Holman
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (R) Director Oren Peli’s follow-up to his lo-fi sleeper hit Paranormal Activity depicts not a couple but a family bedeviled by poltergeist-style phenomena, so expect to see dogs and kids in peril from unseen forces. Directed by Tod Williams.
RED 2 stars (PG-13) AARP meets 007 when Bruce Willis plays a retired covert operative who teams with other senior citizen spies (played by Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren) to untangle a murderous conspiracy. Mary-Louise Parker turns a nothing role as Willis’ shanghai’d girlfriend into a modest comedic showcase, but the film’s initial energy dissipates after about an hour. The pleasures of seeing Dame Helen Mirren firing massive weapons only takes you so far. — Holman
SAW VII 3D (R) The seventh of the (literally) tortuous horror film series puts more ordinary people in the Rube Goldberg traps of a serial killer. And since it’s in 3-D, expect to see wicked metal instruments flying in your face.
SECRETARIAT 2 stars (PG) In this Seabiscuit wannabe, Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery Tweedy, an impeccable, Better Draper-ish homemaker who literally bets the farm on the prospects of a well-bred, untested race horse, Secretariat. The details of thoroughbred business prove surprisingly interesting, and the big Belmont Stakes competition can set pulses racing, but movie’s treatment of feminism and underdog (underhorse) longshots are numbingly preditable. — Holman
THE SICILIAN GIRL (NR) In 1991, a 17 year-old girl (Veronica D'Agostino) from an Mafia family denounces her criminal relatives to an Italian anti-Mob judge in this downbeat docudrama.
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
STONE (R) To ensure his earliest possible release, a convicted arsonist (Ed Norton) encourages his wife (Milla Jovovich) to seduce his parole officer (Robert De Niro) in this thriller centered around the criminal justice system.
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
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.
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (R) Writer-director Woody Allen downshifts into Serious Drama mode in this London-set film about adultery and desire among several married couples. Anthony Hopkins plays an aging intellectual who dumps his longtime wife for a young floozy, while Josh Brolin and Naomi Watts both contend with flirtatious temptations.
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