GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (PG) Jack Black plays a mail room flunky who wins a travel-writing assignment to the Bermuda Triangle and discovers the tiny kingdom of Lilliput. Don’t expect many similarities to Jonathan Swift’s iconic satirical novel.
THE KING’S SPEECH HHHH (R ) Colin Firth should rehearse his King’s Best Actor Oscar acceptance speech for this light-hearted docudrama about the Duke of York’s struggles with his speech impediment on the eve of World War II. The film doesn’t touch on as many contemporary themes as such other Royal dramedies as The Queen or The Madness of King George, but offers an entertaining account of one man’s self-actualization, with Firth and Geoffrey Rush (as the king-to-be’s unconventional speech therapist) volleying the elegant dialogue back and forth like old pros. — Holman
RABBIT HOLE HHH (PG-13) Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play mourning parents trying to move on with their lives eight months after their young son’s tragic death. Playwright David Lindsey-Abaire effectively opens up his Pulitzer Prize-winning play with awkwardly humorous scenes at a support group, while Miles Teller gives a particularly impressive, unselfconscious performance as a sensitive teenager. It’s not the tearjerker you might expect, but still offers a moving portrait of the grieving process. — Holman
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., Dec. 28, 9:30 p.m. $8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.
BLACK SWAN 2 stars (R) A perfectionist ballerina (Natalie Portman) begins losing her grip on reality after being cast in a high-pressure production of Swan Lake. Like the obsessive character, Portman and director Darren Aronofsky present their focused, technically top-notch artistry, but in the service of an overly simplistic, at times silly thriller about art, sex and madness. Following the naturalism of Aronofsky’s previous film, The Wrestler, Black Swan’s horror-movie hyperbole feels like a step backwards. — Holman
BURLESQUE 3 stars (PG-13) Little orphan Ali (Christina Aguilera), leaves her sleepy hometown in Iowa to pursue her Hollywood dreams. Down on her luck, Ali discovers the seductive art of burlesque at Burl's owner, Tess (Cher) fights with the banks to keep the doors open. The silver lining to Burlesque that is missing from recent musical offerings is that its not just entertaining, but fun. Director Steve Antin's story is as campy and one dimensional as you can get, but his motley cast of veteran performers, including Aguilera (she was a Mouseketeer with Brittney Spears and Justin Timberlake after all) deliver big time, well beyond the confines of their laughable script. — Edward Adams
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
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
ENTER THE VOID (R) Boardwalk Empire’s oft-naked Paz de la Huerta stars in this film as a young woman literally haunted by the ghost of her brother. French provocateur Gaspar Noe returns to the restless camerawork of his earlier film Irreversible, but hopefully will avoid that films relentless brutality and misanthropy.
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
THE FIGHTER 4 stars (R ) Three Kings director David O. Russell K.O.s boxing movie clichés in this docudrama about welterweight contender Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), who discovers that his half-brother/trainer Dickie (Christian Bale) and his mom/manager (Melissa Leo) may be causing him more damage the opponents who punch his lights out. Bale gives a game-changing performance as a fast-talking, eye-popping crack addict clinging to past glories, while Wahlberg proves wonderfully cast as a painfully conflict-adverse puppy dog of a bruiser. The Fighter hits the inspirational buttons, but also delivers some of the most raucously funny scenes of 2010. — 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
FOUR LIONS (R) English satirist and journalist Chris Morris directs his debut comedy about a bumbling group of Islamist terrorists from Sheffield, England. The enthusiastic review in Slate had the headline, “These bombs go up to 11.”
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
HOW DO YOU KNOW (PG-13) In this romantic triangle from As Good As It Gets director James L. Brooks, Reese Witherspoon plays an aging athlete torn between a free-spirited baseball player (Owen Wilson) and a white-collar worker (Paul Rudd) taking the fall for the misdeeds of his father (Jack Nicholson).
I LOVE YOU PHILIP MORRIS 3 stars (R ) Jim Carrey stars in this long-shelved comedy as Steven Jay Russell, a church-going police officer turned gay con man who finds the love of his life (Ewan McGregor) while incarcerated in prison. As an obsessive lover and inveterate imposter, Carrey finds a manic but meaty role suited to his acting talents. Like last year’s The Imposter!, the film’s farcical tone tends to make light of its protagonist’s personal problems, but Carrey and McGregor nevertheless deliver the year’s most weirdly touching love story. — 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
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.
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
LOVE & OTHER DRUGS 2 stars (R) 2 In this insufferable rom-dram that’s as taxing and time-consuming as mono, Jake Gyllenhaal plays smarmy, womanizing Pfizer sales rep Jamie who falls for fuck-buddy/Parkinson’s patient Maggie (Anne Hathaway). It’s the ’90s — the golden era of grunge and Internet startups — and the pharmaceutical giant is embarking on its crusade for world domination thanks to a little thing called Viagra. Director Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond) sets up a nice contrast between the rise of the totalitarian healthcare Industry and the deterioration of Maggie’s condition (she escorts busloads of senior citizens north of the border to score cheap meds). For her part, Hathaway presents a devastating physical and emotional portrait of someone vying with a debilitating chronic condition. Jamie and Maggie’s relationship, however, has all the makings of a sappy John Hughes-style match-up, without any of the charm. At nearly two hours, the film ends up feeling like one of those interminable waits at the doctor’s office. — Debbie Michaud
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.
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
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.
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 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
TANGLED 3 stars (G) A swashbuckling thief (voiced by Zachary Levi) helps magic-haired Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) to discover the world outside the tower that imprisons her. Disney’s latest animated “princess” feature delivers lovely 3-D animation and some great comic relief, particularly from a macho horse called Maximus. Unfortunately the bland songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater only invite unflattering comparisons with classics like Beauty and the Beast. — Curt Holman
TINY FURNITURE 3 stars (R) Debut filmmaker Lena Dunham not only wrote, directed and stars in this semi-autobiographical comedy, she cast her mother, sister and friend in roles comparable to their real selves. As a depressed college graduate named Aura, Dunham offers a sympathetic portrayal of a young woman stuck in a psychological rut. The film’s confrontational scenes feel unintentionally awkward, but Dunham’s script draws inspiration from the post-collegiate anomie of The Graduate with the romantic dilemmas of various Jane Austen stories updated as rom-coms. — 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
TRON LEGACY 2 stars (PG-13) Hacker/corporate heir Sam Flynn (bland hunk Garrett Hedlund) finds himself zapped into cyberspace realm called “The Grid,” populated by sentient programs that look like people. He reunites with his long-lost father Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges, reprising his role from the original) to stop Dad’s on-line doppleganger Clu (also played by Bridges) from extending his tyrannical reign. The sequel to 1982’s Tron presents a visual feast of cutting-edge visual effects, especially in the film’s first half. But director Joseph Kosinski punts his chance to comment on contemporary computer habits and opts for an incomprehensible story about an on-line genocide of angelic programs, until the film feels like the worst aspects of The Matrix sequels. — 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
THE WARRIOR’S WAY (R) A guy named Sngmoo Lee directs this super-stylish, special-effects heavy martial arts film about an Asian warrior (Korea’s Dong-gun Jang) who hides out in an American Western town with the likes of Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth and Danny Huston.
WHITE MATERIAL (NR) Isabelle Huppert stars in this drama that sounds like a harsher version of Out of Africa as the owner of a coffee plantation that faces a revolution in an African nation.
YOGI BEAR (PG) “Good things come in bears” proclaimed the short-live tag-line for this live-action adaptation of the classic cartoon, starring Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake as the voices of picnic addict Yogi and his sidekick Boo-Boo. At least it’s not an Alvin and the Chipmunks movie.
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