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Friday, April 15, 2011

Film Clips: Dumbstruck over Super Scream 4 Poetry

Blue and Jewel in  Rio

OPENING FRIDAY
THE CONSPIRATOR (PG-13) A Robert Redford flashback to the Lincoln era. In the trial for President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Mary Surrat is charged for being a co-conspirator. She bears the brunt for the nation's hostility—the North hates her and the government wants her hanged. Her attorney is the only one who seems to have her back.

DUMBSTRUCK (NR) Director Mark Goffman, a graduate of Emory University, helms this light-hearted documentary about five ventriloquists and their attachment to their dummies.

POETRY (NR) This soft-spoken, uplifting drama from South Korea depicts a woman in her 60s who finds meaning in a poetry class while she faces the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

POTICHE (R) French cinema icons Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve star in this comedy by François Ozon about a “trophy wife” who discovers feminine liberation when she takes over an umbrella company in the 1970s.

RIO
A love bird and her Minnesota-bred macaw. Jewel and Blu meet in Rio and head out on adventures together.

SCREAM 4 (R) The Ghostface Killer — the slasher, not the rapper — returns to stalk intrepid survivor Sidney Prescott on the 15th anniversary of the original “Scream” murders. Director Wes Craven reunites with writer Kevin Williamson and actors Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox for the fourth installment of the Scream franchise, which supposedly tweaks the Youtube generation and the tropes for 21st century horror films.

SUPER 2 stars (R) When his addict wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a smooth drug dealer (Kevin Bacon), a depressed fry cook (“The Office’s” Rainn Wilson) acts out by becoming a masked vigilante called “The Crimson Bolt.” Slither writer/director James Gunn attempts to puncture the mythos of superheroes, but the drab cinematography and sour, predictable script drain all the fun from the action. Ellen Page nearly saves the day, however, as a comic book fangirl who gets off on becoming the Crimson Bolt’s ultraviolent sidekick. — Holman

DULY NOTED
ATHENS BURNING (NR) This documentary encompasses the history of the Athens, Ga., rock music scene through the historic landmark the Georgia Theater. Thu.-Fri., April 14-15, 7:30 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave., $8-$12. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com

SUZHOU RIVER (NR) Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo inspires this noir-style Chinese film about a videographer’s split obsession between his girlfriend and a nightclub entertainer, both played by the same actress. Independent Chinese Cinema. Free-$7. Sat., April 16, 8 p.m. Rich Theatre, High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000. www.high.org.

CONTINUING
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU 2 stars (PG-13) A bad-boy congressman (Matt Damon) falls in love with a free-spirited dancer, only to discover that the supernatural “adjustment bureau” of sinister guys in fedoras wants to keep them apart. In this adaptation of a short story by Philip K. Dick, debut filmmaker George Nolfi struggles to give the film a steady tone and alternates awkwardly between Murphy’s Law comedy, star-crossed love story and the surreal paranoia of an Inception knock-off. The zany energy of the finale, which features magic hats and teleportation-based race across New York, doesn’t keep the fates from conspiring against the film. — Curt Holman

ARTHUR (PG-13) In a remake of the beloved Dudley Moore/Liza Minelli comedy, British wastrel Russell Brand plays a spoiled, boozing rich boy who faces the loss of his fortune unless he marries a woman he doesn’t love (Jennifer Garner). In an inspired bit of casting, Dame Helen Mirren reprises the butler role played by Sir John Gielgud.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES 3 stars (PG-13) Aaron Eckhart plays a Marine staff sergeant who leads his platoon against space invaders in this gritty sci-fi action film that aims more for Black Hawk Down than Independence Day. With lots of firepower but little character development, Battle: Los Angeles plays like a very expensive, two-hour U.S. Marines recruiting film, but it approach to the tactical perspective of troops on the ground keeps the jingoism in check. — Holman

BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (PG-13) Keeping in line with the title, this father son duo, Malcom Turner and Trent, go undercover at an all-girls performing arts school after son, Trent, witnesses a murder. Posing at Big Momma, they must find the murdered before he finds them in this kill or be killed comedy.

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

CAT RUN (R) This action comedy depicts a pair of bumbling detectives who find themselves drafted to protect a high-priced call girl who can uncover a vast conspiracy.

CEDAR RAPIDS 3 stars (R ) A boyish small-town insurance agent (former Atlantan Ed Helms) comes of age amid the “big city” temptations at a Cedar Rapids convention. Like Up in the Air, reconceived as a fish-out-of-water comedy, Cedar Rapids simultaneously mocks corporate kitsch while celebrating Middle-American idealism. Helms’ starry-eyed fatuousness anchors a strong cast, which includes John C. Reilly, “The Wire’s” Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Anne Heche in a totally charming comeback role. — Holman

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES (PG) In this sequel to last year’s surprise hit, Greg Hefley begins the seventh grade and struggles with the prankish behavior of his bullying older brother, Rodrick

THE 5TH QUARTER (PG-13) Dressed in his deceased brother's #5 jersey, Jon Abbate leads the Wake Forest Demon Deacons through their most successful basketball season yet and earns them a trip to the Orange Bowl. This film is based on a true story.

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.

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.

HALL PASS 2 stars (R) Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis play suburban dads granted a week of no-strings-attached freedom from their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate). Writer/directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly get a few big laughs with gross-out slapstick, but mostly waste an intriguing polyamorous premise, while the lighting and make-up put the cast’s worst faces forward. Filmed in Atlanta, but set in Providence and Cape Cod.

HANNA 3 stars (PG-13) Saorise Ronan plays a teenage girl raised in seclusion by a fugitive intelligence agent (Eric Bana) to be a super-assassin. Atonement director Joe Wright helms this eccentric espionage tale that plays like a Snow White or Sleeping Beauty fairy tale with the trappings of a Bourne Identity thriller. With Cate Blanchett’s conniving spymaster serving as the wicked stepmother, Hanna includes some heavy-handed symbolism and decidedly unmenacing bad buys, but Ronan’s stranger-in-a-strange-land performance keeps the film from spinning out of control. - Holman

HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE (R) One of the buzzworthy films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Josh Radnor’s directorial debut follows a group of young New Yorkers as they wrestle with love, friendship and their impending adulthoods.

HOP (PG) Everyone dreams. In this animated comedy, E.B. (Russell Brand) heads to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a drummer in a big time rock 'n' roll band instead of taking over his father's role as the Easter Bunny.

I AM NUMBER FOUR (PG-13) Teen angst in high gear. John Smith is on the run from enemies sent to destroy him. On the run, with his guardian Henri to help him, he changes his identity several times but can't outrun regularities of the young adult life: his first true love and incredible friendships.

I SAW THE DEVIL (NR) The good guy goes bad. A top secret agent, Soo-Hyun makes vengeance his motive when he sets out to find the serial killer who murdered his pregnant fiance. He will stop at nothing, even if it means playing on the bad side.

INSIDIOUS (PG-13) Some of the creative team behind the Saw and Paranormal Activity movies collaborated for this praised haunted-house drama about a family whose young son slips into a coma shortly after they move into their new home.

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.

KILL THE IRISHMAN (R) This crime drama depicts the career of Danny Greene (“Rome’s” Ray Stevenson), an Irish-American mob boss and FBI informant who tries to take over the Cleveland underworld in the 1970s. The supporting cast includes such tough guys Vincent D'Onofrio, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer.

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

LIMITLESS (PG-13) The Hangover’s Bradley Cooper plays a lazy would-be writer who takes an intellect-enhancing drug that makes him a celebrity financial genius — and a target for bad guys who want the drug for themselves.

THE LINCOLN LAWYER (R) Apparently this Lincoln is a comeback vehicle for Matthew McConaughey, who’s getting his best reviews in years as an ambulance-chasing attorney who works out of his car and must reconsider his values when he defends a sleazy rich kid (Ryan Phillippe). Don’t let the title mislead you into thinking that it’s a period piece about Honest Abe’s law practice.

MARS NEEDS MOMS (PG) A nine-year old boy (Seth Green) learns to appreciate his mom (Joan Cusack) after she’s abducted by aliens and he has to leave the planet to save her. This 3-D, CGI family feature was based on a children’s book by “Bloom County” creator Berke Breathed, and produced by the people who brought you The Polar Express.

THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED (PG) Based on the case-study "The Last Hippie" by real-life Dr. Oliver, this sentimental drama chronicles the relationship between father and son, Henry and Gabriel. Gabriel suffers from cerebral trauma and loses his ability to make new memories which throws him into a time-warp where the past, future, and present all become one. Through trial and error, his father finds that Gabriel is most responsive to 1960s Rock and Roll. Through music, they create a new relationship.

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.)

OF GODS AND MEN 4 stars (NR) Winner of the Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, this French docudrama depicts a group of Trappist monks in Muslim Algeria who become increasingly at risk during an Islamist insurgency. Based on a real incidient from 1996, Of Gods and Men focuses less on the violence and more on the monks’ dilemma over whether they should continue to minister in their adopted home, or flee from the very real threat to their safety. With long scenes free of dialogue and sharp debates over religious duty, Of Gods and Men movingly captures the costs and rewards of devoting one's life to serving God and man. Starring Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale. — Holman

PAUL 2 stars (R) Aspiring sci-fi artists/fanboys Graeme and Clive (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) tour the UFO hotspots of America’s Southwest, only to encounter the uncouth but friendly fugitive alien Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). For Paul, some of our greatest comic actors and Superbad/Adventureland director Greg Mottola team up for what might as well be “Alf” for pot-smoking, Star Wars T-shirt wearing nerds. The film’s affection for Paul and his raffish ways shines through, but the script eventually sounds like a straight-up list of lazy quotes from 1970s and 1980s blockbusters. — Holman

RANGO 4 stars (PG) Through dumb luck and tall tales, a chameleon known as Rango (Johnny Depp) convinces the desperate denizens of Dirt that he’s a hero capable of solving their water shortage, even though he’s just a former house pet with delusions of being an actor. It’s slow to start and kids probably won’t get the jokes about Western clichés, vision quests and pretentious actor behavior. Where Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean films let Johnny Depp improvise on rock stars and pirate lore, Rango riffs on master thespians and spaghetti westerns with brilliant animation and thoroughly entertaining set pieces. — Holman

RED RIDING HOOD (PG-13) Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the first Twilight film, helms this Brothers Grimm-inspired thriller about a snowy village stalked by a werewolf. The cast includes Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Virginia Madsen, Julie Christie and Amanda Seyfried as the girl n da hood.

SOUL SURFER (PG) When sharks attack, teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) loses her left arm. Unwilling to give up her love for the water, she learns to surf with one arm and eventually becomes a pro surfer.

SOURCE CODE 3 stars (PG-13) Helicopter pilot Colter Stephens (Jake Gyllenhaal) experiences multiple cases of déjà vu when mysterious government forces repeatedly send him into the body of a commuter onboard a train due to explode in eight minutes. Moon director Duncan Jones takes a premise worthy of second-hand Philip K. Dick and crafts a surprisingly compelling time-loop thriller, grounded by Gyllenhaal’s terrific performance as an ordinary soldier trying to process his increasingly complicated predicament. With Michele Monaghan as a comely train passenger and Vera Farmiga as Colter’s enigmatic military controller. — Holman

SUCKER PUNCH (PG-13) A group of young hotties in a mental institution find that the key to their escape may lie in a series of fantastical dream worlds. The trailers make this action flick from Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen) are undeniably flashy.

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

UNKNOWN (R) Liam Neeson plays a doctor visiting Berlin who, after a car accident, discovers that he cannot prove who he really is to anyone including his wife (January Jones). It sounds like a spiritual sequel to Neeson’s earlier Euro-thriller, Taken.

WHEN WE LEAVE (NR) The German entry in this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, this drama from director Feo Aladag explores the problem of “honor killings” through the lives of a Turkish family living in Germany.

WIN WIN (R) Mike Flaherty, a New Jersey attorney and wrestling coach, seems to be losing on both sides. He struggles to keep his family, his wife and two daughters, happy. His at home situation is made worse by the fact that his New Providence High School wrestling team is on a losing streak. Just when he thinks he's found the key to success in troubled teenager turned star athlete Kyle, Kyle's mother shows up fresh out of rehab and broke threatening to derail the teams chance at fulfilling their motto, finally, "The Home of Champions.

YOUR HIGHNESS 3 stars (R ) In this raunchy spoof of fantasy epics, Danny McBride plays Thaddeus, the jealous, layabout brother of dashing Prince Fabious (James Franco), who reluctantly goes on a quest to rescue the prince’s fiancé (Zooey Deschanel) from a nasty wizard (Justin Theroux). From the director of the pot comedy Pineapple Express, Your Highness gets a lot of mileage by setting off f-bombs and contemporary drug jokes in a Princess Bride-style setting. Too many scenes and ideas lack comedic payoff, but the cast is game and it’s fun to see Your Highness skewer the kind of hero’s journey tropes that seemingly every Hollywood movie slavishly obeys these days. — Holman

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