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Friday, February 11, 2011

Film Clips: Bieber Fever and Animated Garden Gnomes? Just Go With it!

BOY IN BLUE: Justin Bieber never says never, apparently
Hashing it out over drinks, Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler star in Columbia Pictures comedy Just Go With It.
  • Tracy Bennet, Sony Pictures
  • Hashing it out over drinks, Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler star in Columbia Pictures' comedy Just Go With It.

THE EAGLE 2 stars (PG-13) In second century Britain, a Roman centurion (G.I. Joe’s Channing Tatum) enlists a brooding slave (Billy Elliott’s Jamie Bell) to guide him through the untamed highlands to recover the long-lost Ninth Legion’s Eagle standard. Touching the Void director Kevin Macdonald presents a marvelous, moody first act that turns talky and tedious. Neither the thin script nor Tatum’s beefy performance can raise The Eagle as an intriguing character study, but it’s not fun or violent enough to be a kick-ass guilty pleasure. — Curt Holman

GNOMEO & JULIET (G) Star-crossed lovers on the wrong side of the fence, two garden gnomes fall in love. Caught in a feud between their red and blue hatted friends, the couple struggles to find happiness.

JUST GO WITH IT (PG-13) Or don’t go with it. It’s up to you. Adam Sandler plays a plastic surgeon who enlists his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to play his estranged wife in a scheme to romance a young hottie (Brooklyn Decker). Nicole Kidman and Dave Matthews are also in it.

JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER (G) Because some wishes come true. This real life fairytale documentary traces the roots of Bieber Fever to Stratford, Ontario and ends in 3D with a sold out performance at Madison Square Garden. Cue the shameless screams and applause now.

THE OSCAR-NOMINATED SHORT FILMS (NR) Landmark Midtown Art Cinema presents two programs for the live-action and animated short film Academy Award nominees. Don’t miss Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann’s surreal but achingly lovely CGI short The Lost Thing, which suggests Steven Spielberg’s E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial transplanted to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

DULY NOTED

KINGS OF PASTRY (2009) (NR) Fans of “Top Chef,” “Ace of Cakes” and “Iron Chef” should check out this documentary from acclaimed filmmakers D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, who follow three contestants to a prestigious baking competition in Lyon, France. French Film Yesterday and Today. Free-$7. Sat., Feb. 12, 8 p.m. Rich Theatre, High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000. www.high.org.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) (NR) George Romero established a seemingly inexhaustible genre of flesh-eating zombies craving human brains with this black-and-white horror flick, where the low production values somehow make it even more disturbing. On a double bill with Land of the Dead. Feb. 14-20. Showtimes vary. Cinefest Film Theatre, Georgia State University, 66 Courtland St., Suite 240. 404-413-1798. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft.www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft

WONDERROOT LOCAL FILMMAKERS’ NIGHT (NR) The Atlanta arts organization presents an evening of locally-produced short films including animations, narratives, music videos, experimental and avant-garde shorts, documentaries and other video art. Thu., Feb. 17, 9:30 p.m. $6. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.

ANOTHER YEAR 4 stars (PG-13) In Mike Leigh’s latest postcard from bittersweet Britain, Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen play Tom and Gerri (really), a happily married couple who try to pluck up the spirits of their depressed, friends. Leslie Manville has been justifiably acclaimed for her sympathetic, cringe-inducing portrayal of Mary, a hard-drinking, desperately lonely unmarried woman who comes across as a bottomless pit of need. Leigh allows Another Year’s plot to meander more leisurely than his tighter stories like Vera Drake, but in the last act a funeral’s repercussions built to modest but affecting epiphanies. — Curt Holman

BIUTIFUL 3 stars (R ) Newly-minted Best Actor Oscar nominee Javier Bardem commands this gritty, downbeat drama as Uxbal, a single dad and all-around hustler in the mean streets of Barcelona. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu narrows his focus from the globetrotting plotlines of Babel to a few days in Uxbal’s insanely complicated life as he switches between his black market work with illegal immigrants, his bipolar ex-wife (Maricel Álvarez) and a health crisis that forces him to question his children’s future. Even at nearly two and a half hours, Biutiful attempts to follow too many plot-threads, but Bardem gives an astonishingly rich and complex performance as a flawed man trying to transcend his surroundings. — Holman

FROM PRADA TO NADA (PG-13) Angel Gracia directs Camille Belle and Alexa Vega in a contemporary, Latina spin on Sense and Sensibility as two spoiled sisters move in with an aunt in East L.A.

THE ILLUSIONIST 3 stars (PG) In the late 1950s, a French stage magician finds his brand of entertainment pushed aside in favor of rock ’n’ roll, but a young Scottish lass renews his zest for life. The Triplets of Belleville director Sylvain Chomet helms this animated adaptation of an unproduced screenplay from beloved French filmmaker Jacques Tati, and constructs a loving homage to his spiritual mentor’s brand of gentle slapstick. Bittersweet and slow-paced, The Illusionist serves as a loving tribute to any profession or art form being replaced by new trends and technologies. - Holman

THE MECHANIC (R) Having driven fast cars in The Transporter movies, it makes sense that action icon Jason Statham would become a mechanic eventually. He plays an elite assassin who seeks revenge after the murder of his mentor (Donald Sutherland), and takes on a young apprentice (Ben Foster).

THE RITE (PG-13) A seminary student (Colin O’Donoghue) teams up with a Welsh veteran exorcist (Anthony Hopkins) to combat demonic goings-on. Warm up your Linda Blair references now.

THE ROOMMATE In this psychological thriller, the excitement of moving away to college is countered by the common fear of the dreaded roommate. When a college freshman, Sarah (Minka Kelly) is assigned a random roommate Rebecca (Leighton Meester) things get too close for comfort as Rebecca becomes obsessed with Sarah.

SANCTUM (R) James Cameron produces this thriller about a team of explorers who become trapped in a series of underwater caves. One wonders how the 3D effects will look in a film that’s probably dark most of the time.

SUMMER WARS (2009) In this Japanese anime, a teenage math genius fights to prevent a collision between real life and a virtual world of computer simulations.

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.

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. — Curt Holman

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

THE COMPANY MEN 2 stars (R ) Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and a particularly moving Tommy Lee Jones play executives who reassess their materialistic values when their global transportation company institutes round after round of layoffs. To borrow an outplacement center’s cheesy slogan, “I have faith, courage and enthusiasm!” writer/director John Wells shows admirable faith in his A-list and demonstrates courage by producing such a potential bummer about downbeat American trends. The enthusiasm seems to be missing from The Company Men, however, a fuzzily well-intentioned socioeconomic critique that seldom musters much passion for its subject. — 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.

THE DILEMMA (PG-13) A single guy (Vince Vaughn) discovers that his best friend and business partner (Kevin James) has a philandering wife (Winona Ryder), and wonders what he should do with this information. Who would’ve guessed that this film’s director is Ron Howard?

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 than 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

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

THE GREEN HORNET 3 stars (PG-13) Seth Rogen plays the party-boy son of a media magnate who turns into a masked, crime-busting vigilante after his father’s murder. Puckish post-modernist Michel Gondry helms this curious-looking update of the famed pulp hero and 1960s TV star.

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 4 stars (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 3 stars (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

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. — 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. — Adams

MY DOG TULIP (NR) This hand-drawn, 2-D animated film features the voice of Christopher Plummer as an elderly Englishman who becomes unexpectedly attached to a German Shepherd. Other voice talents include the late Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini.

NO STRINGS ATTACHED (R ) Natalie Portman plays a commitment-averse medical resident who strikes up a purely carnal relationship with an old friend (Ashton Kutcher). The flick’s rom-com vibe suggests these crazy kids’ hearts will win out over their libidos. (Not to be confused with July’s rom-com Friends With Benefits.)

RABBIT HOLE 3 stars (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

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.

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

SOMEWHERE 2 stars (R ) Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola checks back into some familiar accommodations with another tale of an unsatisfied, aging movie star (Stephen Dorff) who resides in a luxurious hotel and reassesses his life thanks to a younger blonde. In Somewhere’s case, the female inspiration turns out to be Dorff’s tween-age daughter (Elle Fanning), and while both stars subtly capture the dynamics of celebrity family life, Somewhere doesn’t draw many interesting conclusions. At least it goes nowhere in style. — 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. — 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 3 stars (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. — Holman

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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