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Friday, June 3, 2011

Film Clips: X-Men: First Class, Hesher, Tree of Life and more

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Hesher
  • ©2010 Wrekin Hill Entertainment
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Hesher

OPENING FRIDAY
HESHER (R) TJ's life is torn apart when his mother dies in a car accident. Living with his elderly grandmother and a father who solves his problems with pills, TJ's situation could not get more strange. That's when Hesher comes in. This tattooed young man with long greasy hair takes up residence in the family garage uninvited and brings his sense of anarchy along. Natalie Portman plays the opposing role of caring young grocery clerk who steps in to become TJ's protector.

L’AMOUR FOU (NR)
The half-century partnership between two men is revealed in this documentary directed by Pierre Thoretton. Yves Saint-Laurent left behind not only a legacy, an incredible art collection, but also a lover. Through interviews, archival footage and more, Thoretton begins to reveal the bits and pieces of art, fashion and love that make up a life story.

QUEEN TO PLAY (NR) Oscar-winner Kevin Kline stars in this French film about a chambermaid (Sandrine Bonnaire) who unexpectedly discovers a passion for chess and seeks lessons from a reclusive American doctor (Kline). Based on Bertina Henrichs’ acclaimed novel La Joueuse d’echec (The Chess Player).

TREE OF LIFE 3 stars (PG-13) Famously enigmatic director Terrence Malick meditates on childhood and God’s relationship to humanity in his alternately breathtaking and stultifying coming-of-age film. Loosely autobiographical, Tree of Life primarily follows young Jack (Hunter McCracken) growing up in 1950s Waco, Texas, to a stern Dad and nurturing mom (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain, both excellent), with interludes of Jack as an angsty adult (Sean Penn) as well as scenes of the evolution of life on Earth, complete with dinosaurs. At well over two hours Tree of Life’s whispery voice-overs and lack of conventional narrative puts your patience to the test, but as a beautifully-photographed tone poem, it’s undeniably impressive. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. — Holman

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS 4 stars (PG-13) Mutation researcher Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and vengeful Holocaust survivor Eric Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) unite to find other super-powered individuals and thwart the scheming Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) from provoking the Cuban Missile Crisis. McAvoy, Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence (as shape-shifting Mystique) ground the angst and racism metaphors in credible, affecting relationships. Director Matthew Vaughn revitalizes the X-Men franchise by flashing back to the “Mad Men”-era 1960s, so for much of its running time, it feels more like a fast-paced, retro spy flick than yet another superhero movie. — Holman

DULY NOTED
CANDY DARLING (NR) This documentary profiles Candy Darling, a male-to-female transsexual who starred in several of Andy Warhol’s films and inspired the Velvet Underground’s song “Candy Says.” May 31-June 5, 7 p.m. Cinefest Film Theatre, Georgia State University, 66 Courtland St., Suite 240. 404-413-1798. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft.

THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982) (G) “The Muppet Show” creators Jim Henson and Frank Oz directed this superbly-designed, occasionally down beat fantasy story in which the evil, vulture-like Skeksis try capture the last of the elfin Gelflings as part of their world-conquering scheme. Tuesday’s performance features an art opening with the work of Brian Colin. Art Opening and a Movie. Tue., June 7, 9:30 p.m.; Fri., June 10, Midnight; Sun., June 12, 3 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.

IMITATION OF LIFE(1959) Douglas Sirk directs this classic melodrama about two mothers — one white, one black — who each struggle with rebellious daughters. Screen on the Green. Thu., June 9. Free. Piedmont Park.

ROCK AND ROLL MONSTER BASH(NR) The annual event rocks out by day to such bands as Brimstones and Spooky Partridge, then screens a triple-feature of Japanese fight films: Godzilla 2000 starring the famed irradiated reptile; Ringu, the original tape of the haunted videotape; and Hausu, a famously nutty haunted house epic purportedly worth the price of admission alone. Sun., June 5. Movies begin at dusk. Starlight Six Drive-In, 2000 Moreland Ave.
starlightdrivein.com/

ROLLING THUNDER (1977) (R ) William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones star in this highly-regarded revenge thriller about Vietnam war veterans who return to clean-up stateside corruption. Shown on a double bill with American Grindhouse, a retrospective of the gloriously sleazy era of U.S. exploitation films. June 6-19. Cinefest Film Theatre, Georgia State University, 66 Courtland St., Suite 240. 404-413-1798. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft.

CONTINUING
13 ASSASSINS 4 stars (R ) A retired samurai (commanding Koji Yakusho) enlists other warriors to help him assassinate the Shogun’s depraved half-brother (Gorô Inagaki) lest he tear feudal Japan apart. Prolific, hyper-violent Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike brings 21st century stunts and gore effects to his remake of a 1963 samurai film and delivers one of the most accomplished and breathtaking action films since John Woo’s heyday in Hong Kong. The movie’s front end slowly builds to a stunning, 40-minute sequence in which the title characters ambush 200 bad guys in a booby-trapped “town of death.” Don’t miss it. — Holman

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.

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. — Holman

AFRICAN CATS (G) The makers of the Earth documentary narrow their focus on young lions and cheetahs. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, who probably never says “I’m sick of these m.f. cats on this m.f. continent!”

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

THE BEAVER 2 stars (PG-13) Troubled movie star Mel Gibson delivers a fascinating performance as a suburban family man who finds relief from his depression through a grubby beaver puppet with a cockney accent. The Beaver starts with a premise ideal for satirizing suburban malaise and corporate conformity, but director Jodie Foster (who also plays Gibson’s wife) treats it as a near-humorless teachable moment about mental illness. Despite Gibson’s hard work, The Beaver dams up too many potential jokes and deep emotions. — Curt Holman

BRIDESMAIDS 3 Stars (R) BFFs Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) lifelong sisterly bond is put to the test when Lillian gets engaged and asks Annie to be her maid of honor. The down-and-out thirtysomething Annie’s patience is put to the test when she tries to wrangle Lillian’s hare-brained band of bridesmaids. Wiig can do no wrong, except in her overly earnest, “you don’t know me” scenes with her Irish cop love interest (Chris O'Dowd). Bridesmaids is as funny as you’d hope a film co-written by Wiig and executive produced by Judd Apatow would be, and even more honest. — Debbie Michaud

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.

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.

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 DOUBLE HOUR (NR) This blend of melancholy romance and psychological thriller follows a penniless maid and an ex-cop in Turin, Italy, who meet at a speed-dating event but find their blossoming attraction sidelined by a shocking incident.

EVERYTHING MUST GO 4 stars (R) An alcoholic sales executive (Will Ferrell) lives on his front lawn after his never-seen wife kicks out him and their stuff and changes the locks. Ferrell mutes his flailing comedic style with remarkable effectiveness in this fine adaptation of a quiet Raymond Carver short story. Despite the outlandish premise and slapstick moments, Everything Must Go uses alcoholism to represent a more pervasive sorrow in contemporary America. — Holman

FAST FIVE (PG-13) Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson reunite for this fifth entry in the Fast & the Furious franchise, with Atlanta and Puerto Rico substituting for Rio de Janeiro. Will the next one be called Speedy Six?

FORKS OVER KNIVES (PG) This documentary examines how to change American eating habits to enjoy the health benefits plant-based diets as opposed to meat lovers’ meals.

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 HANGOVER 2 2 stars (R ) Just before his Thailand wedding, dentist Stu Price (Ed Helms) awakens in a squalid Bangkok hotel room with his pals (Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis) but no memory of the previous night’s debauchery. Director Todd Phillips’ follow-up to the hit comedy plays less like a remake than a sequel, given how closely it follows the first script’s template. Helms and Galifianakis remain hilarious in their respective roles, so you may have a good time, but you’ll hate yourself in the morning. — Holman

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

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.

INCENDIES (NR) Two siblings attempt to unravel the mystery of their mother’s life in this Canadian nominee for Best Foreign Language Film set against the backdrop of the conflict in the Middle East.

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.

JUMPING THE BROOM (PG-13) Angela Bassett stars in this light-hearted-looking wedding film about a groom (Laz Alonso) from downtown, a bride (Paula Patton) from uptown, and how their families collide over a long weekend on Martha’s Vineyard.

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.

KUNG FU PANDA 2 3 stars (PG) Jack Black reprises his vocal role as Po, the unlikely “Dragon Warrior,” who discovers a link between his fuzzy childhood memories and a vengeful peacock (voiced by Gary Oldman) bent on conquering Ancient China. The screenplay doesn’t live up to its entertaining predecessor and relies on repetitive jokes and a perfunctory theme about seeking “inner peace.” It builds to some unquestionably cool CGI action set pieces, though, and is the rare film that’s enhanced by 3-D presentation, not diminished. — 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.

Tyler Perry's MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY (PG-13) Based on the musical play of the same name, Madea’s Big Happy Family depicts a dysfunctional family brought together by their mother’s illness, who needs the tough love of Madea (Tyler Perry) to knock some sense into them. Bow Wow (formerly “Lil Bow Bow”) stars with Perry, David Mann, Loretta Devine and “Old Spice Guy” Isaiah Mustafa.

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.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES 2 stars (PG-13) Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) leads a race to the Fountain of Youth between his old nemesis Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), swashbuckling hottie Angelica (Penelope Cruz), fearsome, magical Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and some random Spanish guys. Chicago director Rob Marshall takes the helm for another loud, wearying romp on the high seas. McShane makes a reliably entertaining bad guy, but On Stranger Tides struggles to establish Penelope Cruz as Jack’s abiding love interest, but they don’t seem to particularly like or trust each other. The franchise should drop anchor now before the Tides get any lower.

PRIEST (PG-13) Paul Bettany stars in this apocalyptic thriller about a Warrior Priest who defends the last remnants of humanity against encroaching vampires. It’s based on a Korean comic book reportedly inspired by a video game, and is in 3-D. It clearly represents all of the best trends in today’s Hollywood, if this were Opposite Day.

PROM (PG) This Disney high school movie depicts all the troubles of teenage love and life. As prom approaches the good girl and the bad boy solve their differences.

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

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.

SOMETHING BORROWED 2 stars (PG-13) More like Something blew. Insecure, dowdy Rachel (“Big Love’s” Ginnifer Goodwin) wrestles with guilt when she has an affair with Dex (Colin Egglesfield), the fiancée of her overbearingly free-spirited best friend, Darcy (Kate Hudson). As a wisecracking pal, “The Office’s” Jon Krasinski is the only cast member allowed to be funny, so this laugh-deficient comedy mostly consists of Hudson behaving like a jerky narcissist and Goodwin and Egglesfield blandly mooning over each other. — Holman

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

THOR 3 stars (PG-13) Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Norse god of thunder, faces exile on Earth as a powerless (but still cut) human as part of the evil scheme of his resentful brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Superfluous 3-D effects and too many characters clutter the latest film in the Marvel Comics “Universe,” but Shakespearean director Kenneth Branagh still gives the film the derring-do of an Old Hollywood swashbuckler, with help from Hemsworth’s performance as a god who grows up. Other scene-stealers include Natalie Portman’s astrophysicist, Idris Elba’s celestial sentry and a marauding suit of armor called The Destroyer. — Holman

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (PG-13) Not the sequel to Like Water for Chocolate, this adaptation of the popular novel stars Twilight’s Robert Pattinson as a Depression-era veterinary student who takes a job with a traveling circus and falls for one of the performers (Reese Witherspoon). Filmed in Georgia.

WINTER IN WARTIME
In Nazi-occupied Holland 14-year-old Michiel comes face to face with the harsh reality of war. Michiel's involvement with the Resistance thrusts him into adulthood without warning as he struggles to distinguish between good and evil.

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