Friday, January 7, 2011

Film Clips: This weekend's movie openings

Posted By on Fri, Jan 7, 2011 at 11:12 AM

SEASONAL WITCH DISORDER: Sir Nicolas of Cage in Season of the Witch
  • SEASONAL WITCH DISORDER: Sir Nicolas of Cage in 'Season of the Witch'
ALL GOOD THINGS (R ) Capturing the Friedmans director Andrew Jarecki helms this drama inspired by a real-life missing persons case, starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella.
BLUE VALENTINE 3 stars (R ) Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play a young couple in this downbeat drama that chronologically criss-crosses between their budding romance and the dissolution of their marriage. The MPAA initially and inexplicably gave the film an NC-17 rating for its non-explicit but uncomfortably realistic scenes of missed sexual connections. The two leads give raw, sympathetic performances throughout, but the film ends more on a note of emotional release than character insight. — Holman
COUNTRY STRONG (PG-13) Tron Legacy’s Garrett Hedlund plays a rising country star who goes on tour with an emotionally unstable singer (Gwyneth Paltrow) and her manager/husband (Tim McGraw). Expect musical numbers and backstage histrionics.
SEASON OF THE WITCH (PG-13) Nicolas Cage plays a medieval knight who returns from the Crusades to escort an accused witch across a plague-ravaged kingdom. Reportedly, Dominic Sena’s action flick is replete with references to Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. No, really.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) 4 stars (R ) In Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel, Malcolm McDowell plays Alex, a charismatic young psychopath who commits horrible crimes in a lousy future when bowler hats are all the rage and pubcrawlers drink drug-laced milk. An experimental treatment “cures” Alex of his violent ways, and he gets a taste of his own medicine. You’ll never hear “Singing in the Rain” the same way again. Fri., Jan. 7, 9:30 p.m. and midnight. $8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939.
HIERAN (2009) (NR) A lovelorn high school girl falls for a handsome bicyclist who happens to be an illegal Afghan immigrant. Iranian Film Today. Free-$7. Sat., Jan. 8, 8 p.m. Rich Theatre, High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000.
PAYBACK (2010) (NR) In this combination of gender politics and caper film, a paroled female ex-con teams with other women to pose as prostitutes and rob their wealthy clients. Iranian Film Today. Free-$7. Fri. Jan. 7, 8 p.m. Rich Theatre, High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000.
RABID (1977) (R ) Porn star Marilyn Chambers plays the leads in this early David Cronenberg film about a woman who becomes infected with a disease that turns other people in to rabid zombies. Splatter Cinema. Tue., Jan 14, 9:30 p.m. $8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939.

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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
LITTLE FOCKERS HHH (PG-13) In the second sequel to Meet the Parents, Ben Stiller’s Gaylord Focker again clashes with his bullying father-in-law (Robert De Niro). Director Paul Weitz adds his own indie spin to the story. Weitz cleverly tempers the time between the series' signature gags with intimate close-ups. The result is a perfect marriage of warmth and humor that sends a clear message about the complexities of family. — Edward Adams
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
MADE IN DAGENHAM 2 stars (PG-13) Happy-Go-Lucky’s Sally Hawkins plays Rita O’Grady, who pick ups the nickname “the Revlon Revolutionary” when she becomes the public face of a highly publicized 1968 strike of female workers at the Ford Motor Company’s factory in Dagenham, England. Director Nigel Cole never strays far from the template for uplifting underdog films and portrays Rita as a martyr to social progress. Despite credible work from Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Geraldine James and “The West Wing’s” Richard Schiff as a soft-spoken union buster, Dagenham’s script relies on speeches and plot twists that feel unnecessarily manipulative, as if real life didn’t jerk enough tears. — Curt Holman
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
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 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
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
TRUE GRIT HHH (PG-13) In this remake of John Wayne’s Oscar-winning Western, Haillee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, a 14 year-old girl out for revenge when a ranch hand (James Brolin) guns down her father. Ross enlists a boozy, one-eyed U.S. marshall (Jeff Bridges) to track the no-good varmint, and tolerates a preening Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) on the trail, leading to snappy repartee and suspenseful shoot-outs. The Coen Brothers’ remake improves on the original, particularly in its portrait of the harshness and cruelty of the frontier, but “new Grit” doesn’t achieve the greatness of the Coen’s modern classics. — Curt 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.
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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