ALBERT NOBBS 2 stars (R ) Glenn Close has earned an Academy Award Best Actress nomination for playing the title character, a woman passing as male hotel waiter in 19th century Ireland. Close’s 30-year dedication to bring the character to the big screen doesn’t quite transfer to an engrossing story, although Janet McTeer genuinely earns her supporting actress nomination as another cross-dressing woman who brings masculine swagger to her masquerade. — Curt Holman
THE GREY 3 stars (R ) Liam Neeson reaffirms his status as the new Chuck Norris in this icy thriller about oil refinery workers fighting wolves in the Alaskan wilds. Director Joe Carnahan delivers a cracking first hour that features a terrifying plane crash and grisly animal attacks, but the film’s second half slows down considerably to ponder questions of faith and mortality. Neeson’s sorrowful gravity always serves to take the guilt out of his guilty pleasure action films. — Holman
LE HAVRE (NR) Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki (Leningrad Cowboys Go American) brings his deadpan comedic style to this story of a French shoeshiner who tries to help an immigrant child in the titular port city.
MAN ON A LEDGE 2 stars (PG-13) Disgraced cop turned convict Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthingon) threatens to leap from the ledge of a high-rise Manhattan hotel. Is he really suicidal, or is he part of a complicated heist to clear his good name? Like Worthington struggling with his American accent, Man on a Ledge tries to impersonate earlier, better New York caper flicks like Dog Day Afternoon and Inside Man. Danish director Asger Leth builds suspense in the heist scenes, but doesn’t capture the Big Apple’s colorful character, so everything feels overcooked and slightly phony. It ends on a satisfying note, but Man on a Ledge won’t put on the edge of your seat. — Holman
ONE FOR THE MONEY (PG-13) When newly-divorced Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) loses her job at Macy's, she is left with few options for employment. But when Stephanie finds work at her cousin's bail-bond business, her first assignment is to track down an old lover (Jason O'Mara) who has skipped out on paying bail.
A MOMA TREASURY OF SHORT FILMS (NR) This collection of vintage cinematic short subjects spans from 1903’s iconic “The Great Train Robbery” to the pastel-colored animation of 1936’s “Popeye Meets Sindbad the Sailor” to “Orchard Street’s” silent depiction of the New York shopping district in 1955. A MoMA Treasury of Short Films. Sat., Feb. 4. 2 and 8 p.m. High Museum, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St. $5-$7. 404-733-4200. www.high.org
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., Jan. 31, 9:30 p.m. $8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com. — Holman
SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932) Josef von Sternberg directs his sultry muse Marlene Dietrich as a Western prostitute caught up in China’s bloody internal conflicts. Painting With Light. Wed., Feb. 1. 7:30 p.m. Emory Cinematheque. 205 White Hall, 301 Dowman Drive, Emory University. Free. filmstudies.emory.edu/home/events/film-series/emory-cinematheque.html
WONDERROOT’S LOCAL FILMMAKERS NIGHT (1952) This evening of short films from Atlanta artists spans from comedy sketches to abstract animation and features Jeff Shipman’s “Superhero” starring local stage actors Allison Hastings and Stacy Melich. Thu., Feb. 2, 10 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. $6. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN 2 stars (PG) Young ace reporter Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) races bad guys to uncover the secret of lost pirate treasure, with the assistance of his dog Snowy and a boozing sea captain (Andy Serkis). Director Stephen Spielberg clearly enjoys another chance for Indiana Jones-style derring-do, and delights in motion capture animation’s ability to put his virtual camera anywhere. But for all its cliffhangers, Tintin proves surprisingly dull, and the script doesn’t deliver the laughs you’d expect from three of the cleverest Brits in show business (Stephen Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish). — Curt Holman
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED (G) When Dave (will he ever learn?) decides it’s a good idea to take the Chipmunks and their gal pal counterparts, the Chipettes, on a cruise, one-too-many “AAAlvin!”-related disasters leave them “chipwrecked” on an island. Separated from Dave after the accident, with only their wits and pop music to sustain them, the survival skills of the ‘Munks and the ‘Ettes are put to the test.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS 3 stars (PG) When the North Pole’s high-tech Christmas present delivery system overlooks a little English girl, Santa’s bumbling son Arthur (James McAvoy) resolves to delivery the gift. The plot bogs down in some superfluous business in the second half, but the film boasts a Christmas feast of funny gags and a surprisingly complex approach to family dynamics and the tension between cutting edge and old-school holidays. Voice actors include Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie, and Ashley Jensen as a gift-wrap-obsessed elf. — Curt Holman
THE ARTIST 5 stars (PG) In this pitch-perfect recreation of Hollywood’s black-and-white silent films, the effortlessly charming Jean Dujardin plays a swashbuckling matinee idol who stubbornly refuses to change his ways when the film industry switches to sound. Even in the film’s most downbeat moments, director Michel Hazanavicius uses clever visual gags to convey The Artist’s emotional core, while the story’s metaphor for professions transformed by new technology proves enormously relevant in the Internet age. — Holman
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D (1991) 5 stars (G) The tale as old as time jumps on a trend as new as two years ago with this 3D release. It’s still probably the best of the animated films that would fall under the “Disney Princess” umbrella, with great songs from Alan Mencken and the late Howard Ashman. — Holman
CARNAGE 3 stars (R ) Two pairs of upper middle-class parents (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly in one corner, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet in the other) attempt to come to civilized accord after a playground fracas between their kids. Tempers eventually boil over in the style of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Jodie Foster standing out as a mom with an almost masochistic commitment to liberal fairness. Roman Polanski’s adaptation of the stage play God of Carnage doesn’t transcend its source’s theatrical contrivances, but at 79 minutes, doesn’t overstay its welcome. — Curt Holman
CONTRABAND (R ) Mark Wahlberg stars in this action thriller as Chris Farraday, a former smuggler who has retired from the smuggling game and settled down with his wife in New Orleans. But when his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry) screws up a drug deal, Chris must come out of retirement to save him.
THE DESCENDENTS 4 stars (R ) George Clooney positions himself for a Best Actor win as the trustee of a Hawaiian real estate fortune who must step up his parenting skills when a boating accident puts his wife in a coma. Sideways director Alexander Payne would rather jerk tears than draw blood, and the first half relies dismayingly on swearing child and idiot boyfriend jokes. The Descendents hits its stride in its second half, though, when it dispenses with the forced humor and finds the emotional truths in painful situations. — Holman
THE DEVIL INSIDE (R) In this documentary-stylized movie, the main character Isabella travels to Italy when her mother is committed to insane asylum after a botched exorcism in which Isabella's mother murders two priests and a nun. In an attempt to discover if she too will go crazy like her mother, Isabella finds herself in her own exorcism fiasco. -Henry Samuels
DOLPHIN TALE 3D (PG) Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and Harry Connick Jr. star in this heartwarming movie about a dolphin whose tail is destroyed by a crab trap, and the doctors and supporters who join efforts to save her.
DRAGONSLAYER (NR) This documentary profiles Josh “Skreech” Sandoval, a California skate legend who must adjust to the responsibilities of impending parenthood. At the Plaza Theater. -Curt Holman
DRIVE 4 stars (R ) Ryan Gosling delivers a macho star turn as a taciturn Los Angeles mechanic and stunt driver who moonlights as a wheelman for high-risk heists. Quirky Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn won Best Director at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for this terrific, moody film noir update that has all the L.A. alienation of Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere. Gosling, who keeps cool even with patrol cars and police helicopters on his tail, captures the soft-spoken magnetism of Steve McQueen. — Holman
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE 2 stars (PG-13) An obsessive-compulsive boy (Thomas Horn) embarks on a complicated quest across the five boroughs of New York to solve the final game left by his father (Tom Hanks), who died in the fall of the World Trade Center. Max Von Sydow gives a terrific performance as a mute man who becomes the boy’s companion, but overall the film proves too contrived, too sentimental and much too quirky for its own good. — Holman
50/50 3 stars (R ) Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a self-effacing, 27-year-old radio producer struggling with a cancer diagnosis with the dubious support of his freaked-out girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and his horndog pal (Seth Rogen). JGL’s understated performance movingly captures his role’s personal crisis, but as with 500 Days of Summer, his acting doesn’t redeem the tame, familiar film that surrounds him. Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston co-star. — Holman
FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: THE SACRED STAR OF MILOS (NR) The latest film in the anime franchise takes place in a steampunk-type universe in which alchemy is real. The protagonists, the Elric brothers, join a rebellion of oppressed peoples against their corporate overlords.
HAPPY FEET TWO (PG) In this sequel to the first toe-tapping musical adventure, Sofia Vergara, Robin Williams, and Common are part of a large cast of A-listers who lend their voice to a chorus line of rapping, singing penguins whose feet have a penchant for walkin' it out.
HAYWIRE 2 stars (R ) Mixed martial arts star and American Gladiator Gina Carano makes her film acting debut as Mallory Kane, a covert ops contractor marked for death by her own employers. Director Steven Soderbergh clearly enjoys dabbling in Bourne-style chases and action scenes, and Carano makes an impact as a muscular action heroine, particularly in hand-to-hand fight scenes with Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender. But Soderbergh and scripter Lem Dobbs seem utterly indifferent to the film’s plot and motivations and leave Carano emotionally stranded. — Holman
THE HELP 2 stars (PG-13) In Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s, a white would-be journalist (Emma Stone) attempts to enlist African-American housekeepers (Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer) to write about about Southern race relations from their point of view. In adapting the bestselling novel by Atlanta's Kathryn Stockett, writer/director Tate Taylor retains too much of the book's sprawling plot and spends too much time trying to establish The Help as a feel-good Southern comedy-drama like Steel Magnolias. The film conveys the African-American characters' anger and captures plenty of winning details about the South, but uses Bryce Dallas-Howard's manipulative, racist socialite as nearly a scapegoat for Southern racism. — Holman
HUGO 3 stars (PG) An ingenious orphan boy (Asa Butterfield) lives in a 1930s Parisian railway station, where he tries to solves the riddles of a malfunctioning mechanical man and a mysterious toy shop owner (Ben Kingsley). Martin Scorsese experiments with both 3D effects and family-oriented storytelling with mixed results. Hugo succeeds best as a lyrical love letter to the pioneers of cinema, but seems bored by the adventures of the title character and his young friend (Chloe Moretz). — Holman
THE IDES OF MARCH 2 stars (PG-13) Ryan Gosling faces a test of ideals as an ambitious staffer for a presidential candidate (George Clooney) during the Democratic primary. Clooney directed this adaptation of the play Farragut North, which features juicy roles for A-list actors, particularly Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti as rival campaign managers. Unfortunately the plot relies on minor scandals and the temptation of a bland central character, so it feels like an exhibition game between terrific thespians, with nothing at stake. — Curt Holman
THE IRON LADY 2 stars (PG-13) Meryl Streep gives a predictably rich and insightful lead performance in this thin, superficial biopic of Margaret Thatcher, England’s first female prime minister. The Iron Lady seems primarily interested in the doddering, elderly Thatcher who speaks to her deceased husband Denis (an excellent Jim Broadbent), while the wishy-washy script refuses to form an opinion about Thatcher’s controversial politics. — Holman
J. EDGAR 2 stars (R ) Spending half the film under competent but distracting old-age make-up, Leonardo DiCaprio plays an obsessive, petty J. Edgar Hoover over nearly 50 years, most of them as the power-hungry head of the FBI. DiCaprio unquestionably commits to his performance of Hoover as a closeted, power-hungry bureaucrat and blackmailer, but the film, directed by Clint Eastwood, fails to find a compelling story about Hoover’s abuses of power. Armie Hammer steals the picture with scarcely any dialogue as Hoover’s longtime companion Clyde Tolson, who radiates a half-amused ease with himself and his bond to Hoover. — Holman
JACK AND JILL (PG) Adam Sandler stars as identical twins Jack and Jill who are more alike than Jack would like to admit. When the abrasive, single Jill pays a visit to Jack’s happily situated family, it soon becomes clear that she has no plans to leave. Katie Holmes co-stars as Jack’s docile, peacemaking wife, with a cameo by Al Pacino.
JOYFUL NOISE (PG-13) Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton share the spotlight as members of a small-town members with ambitions to take the choir to a national championship. — Samuels
MARGIN CALL4 stars (R ) A young analyst (Zachary Quinto) at a high- powered investment bank goes increasingly high up the corporate chain of command with the news that the company’s toxic assets are about to collapse the economy. Writer-director J.C. Chador delivers the best fiction film to date about the current financial slump by focusing on financiers torn — ever so slightly — between covering their asses and doing the right thing. This mostly quiet and moody film features Kevin Spacey as a conscientious executive and Jeremy Irons as a corporate titan. — Curt Holman
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE 4 stars (R ) A young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) escapes from control of a cult in the Catskills but struggles to adjust to so-called normal life with her estranged yuppie sister (Sarah Paulson). In flashbacks, Oscar nominee John Hawkes gives a performance of understated menace as the group’s subtly manipulative leader, while Olsen affectingly captures the heroine’s struggles to reconstruct her fragile psyche. The film’s most disturbing moments reveal not what the cult did to her, but what she did to others under the cult’s sway. — Curt Holman
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL 4 stars (PG-13) Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team of superspies must go rogue to catch a nuclear terrorist obsessed with launching World War III. Pixar director Brad Bird makes a confident leap to live-action with this outlandishly exciting spy flick, unified by plausible gadgets and jaw-dropping set pieces, which include Cruise dangling from Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower, the world’s tallest building, as a sandstorm approaches. Simon Pegg deserves top billing for his hilarious comic relief. — Curt Holman
MONEYBALL 3 stars (PG-13) Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, manager of the cellar-dwelling Oakland A’s, who gambles on recruiting undervalued, inexpensive players based on the “sabermetrics” championed by a meek analyst (Jonah Hill). Co-written by Aaron Sorkin based on Michael Lewis’ nonfiction book, Moneyball crunches numbers to make an entertaining underdog sports movie, with Pitt and Hill serving as a terrific comedy team. Philip Seymour Hoffman goes underused as the A’s uncooperative coach, and director Bennett Miller’s stabs at moody seriousness weigh down a story that wants to be a feel-good movie. — Holman
THE MUPPETS 4 stars (PG) The heyday of “The Muppet Show” long behind them, Kermit and the gang must reunite to put on a show and save their beloved studio from Chris Cooper’s evil oilman. Co-writer/star Jason Segel and a great team of screen artists (including music supervisor Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords) shower love on the original muppets while craft jokes and situations that are genuinely funny, not just corny. Musical numbers ranging from the faux-melodramatic “Muppet or Man” to some jaw-dropping covers provide the most inspired lunacy of 2011. — Holman
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (R ) Based on two books by British director Colin Clark, My Week With Marilyn recalls the week in 1957 that young Clark spent as set assistant to The Prince and the Showgirl, where he became friends with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). When Monroe’s new husband Arthur Miller leaves London, will Monroe focus more on work or play? Co-starring Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Oliver.
NEW YEAR’S EVE (PG-13) In what might be the year’s most generic holiday film, a huge ensemble cast of characters (Michelle Pfeiffer, Ashton Kutcher, and Ludacris to name a few) put aside various gripes in an attempt to regain the holiday spirit and enjoy New Year’s Eve in New York. Also, Katherine Heigl delivers a pretty good slap to Bon Jovi’s face.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (R ) The multiplex has apparently come down with prequelitis as this latest — or is it technically the first? — chapter in the Paranormal Activity trilogy arrives a week after The Thing. This one takes place 18 years before the events of the previous films. Hey, at least we’re spared another Saw movie this year.
PARIAH (R) stars Gay Brooklyn high schooler Alike, or “Lee” (Adepero Oduye), passes as straight among her parents (including her deeply religious mother, played by Kim Wayans) until tensions at home and her social life come to a breaking point. Writer-director Dee Rees based her script partly on her own life and it’s easy to believe that she either lived through most of the film’s incidents, or knows people who did. Pariah presents more rounded characters than you find in the urban dramas of Tyler Perry or the more manipulative Spike Lee movies, and the excellent cast comes across as completely credible people. — Holman
PUSS IN BOOTS (PG) Before Puss in Boots was pals with Shrek, he led a heroic life of his own, brandishing his sword and being generally suave (his is the voice of Antonio Banderas, after all). His posse includes nursery-time fav Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakas) and the lovely Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), both of whom accompany Boots on his journey to thwart an evil plan by infamous outlaws Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris).
RED TAILS 3 stars (PG-13) Stationed in Italy in 1944, the Tuskegee Airman fight to prove their value to the U.S. Air Force in battling evil German aviators. Self-consciously corny, repetitive and overloaded with subplots, this old-fashioned war movie benefits from spectacular air battles and some interesting details about the strategies of airborne combat. Terence Howard stands out as a tough colonel. — Holman
SHAME 4 stars (NC-17) Steve McQueen directs this austere, compelling drama about a Manhattan sex addict (Michael Fassbender) whose well-maintained life spins out of control when his self-destructive sister (Carey Mulligan) comes for a visit. Fassbender plays a consummate pick-up artist whose life amounts to killing time until the next orgasm, turning a portrait of a glamorous lifestyle into a portrait of addiction. Like Ryan Gosling in Drive, Fassbender gives a magnetic performance with minimal dialogue, although Brandon’s charisma soon grows clouded with self-loathing. — Curt Holman
SHERLOCK HOLMES: GAME OF SHADOWS (PG-13) Director Guy Ritchie directs Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in another fast-paced, bromantic take on Arthur Conan Doyle's supersleuth. Noomi Rapace of Sweden's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo plays a mystery woman, and Jared Harris of "Mad Men" takes on the iconic role of Holmes' archnemesis, Moriarty.
THE SITTER (R ) With even less to do after receiving OSS (out-of-school suspension for you former high school goody-goodies), lovable slacker Noah (Jonah Hill) begrudgingly takes a babysitting gig for the buxom Mrs. Pedulla’s three asshole children. Rather than miss a party scheduled for the night he has to babysit, Noah brings the kids along for what turns out to be an eventful night.
THE SKIN I LIVE IN 3 stars (R ) In a creepy change-of-pace performance, Antonio Banderas plays a driven plastic surgeon who keeps a beautiful young prisoner (Elena Anaya) in his tasteful Toledo home. Beloved Spanish director Pedro Almodovar comfortably shifts from the splashy melodrama of his previous films to elements of psychological horror, although the beautifully photographed revenge tale avoids shocks in favor of twists and themes involving how people shape their identities. If not one of Almodovar’s most emotionally resonant films, The Skin In Live In proves to be fascinatingly skin-crawling. — Holman
TOMBOY (NR) This French film depicts a 10 year-old girl (Zoé Héran) who passes as a boy when she moves to a new neighborhood.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN — PART 1 2 stars (PG-13) The penultimate entry in the Twilight film series, Breaking Dawn achieves glorious levels of B-movie camp. The film opens with Edward and Bella cementing their union with a Midsummer Night's Dream-y wedding, and then spirals into a teen romance grindhouse fantasy. Yes, it's painfully misogynistic. Yes, it's full of mixed messages about sex and abuse and purity. But the triumph of camp over earnestness makes Breaking Dawn the franchise's most watchable entry yet. — Debbie Michaud
UNDERWORLD AWAKENING (R ) Kate Beckinsale returns as Selene, the vampire warrior, in the fourth installment in the 'Underworld' series. After being captured and cryogenically frozen for 12 years, Selene wakes up to a world where the tables have turned on her kind, and humans are hunting the vampires.
A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS (R ) In the third film of the trilogy, if you can call it that, estranged buddies Harold Lee and Kumar Patel (John Cho and Kal Penn) embark on a madcap holiday adventure involving a package of drugs, a destroyed Christmas tree and depraved celebrity Neil Patrick Harris.
WE BOUGHT A ZOO 2 stars (PG-13) In this cutesy-pooh adaptation of Benjamin Mee’s novel, Matt Damon plays a grieving Dad unprepared to face his impulsive purchase of a dilapidated rural zoo. Characters constantly nudge Damon to let the sunshine in and stuff, but director Cameron Crowe drenches the film in warm glows from the outset, along with cute kids, appealing animals, Scarlett Johnansson and baby boomer rock songs. Even Colin Ford’s “troubled” teenager comes across as far more huggable and charismatic than real adolescents wrestling with grief and anger. — Holman
WAR HORSE 3 stars (PG-13) A Devon farmboy (Jeremy Irvine) raises a thoroughbred named Joey, only to see it sold to an English cavalry officer and whisked away to World War I No-Man’s-Land. When director Stephen Spielberg focuses on the military the film proves powerful and harrowing, but its scenes of farm life (including the endless first half hour) are clumsy, mawkish, and practically crushed under the weight of a suffocating John Williams score. At least War Horse doesn’t obnoxiously anthropomorphize the title steed.— Holman
YOUNG ADULT 4 stars (R ) Charlize Theron plays a former high school Heather who, as a miserable author of Young Adult books in her late 30s, resolves to return to her hometown and steal her teen-year boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) from his wife and new baby. Theron gives a splendidly unappealing, vicious performance as the kind of person who peaked in high school and never realized that the real world operates by different rules, with Patton Oswalt giving an amusing supporting role as a grown-up “loser” who becomes her best friend. Juno director and screenwriter Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody craft a splendidly caustic comedy with genuinely witty dialogue. — Holman
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