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Friday, March 23, 2012

Film Clips: OMG!! 'The Hunger Games!'

OPENING TODAY

Suzanne Collins novel The Hunger Games makes its big-screen debut
  • Lionsgate
  • Suzanne Collins' novel 'The Hunger Games' makes its big-screen debut

BEING FLYNN (R) Based on a true story, Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) is mourning the loss of his mother (Julianne Moore) when his long-absent father (Robert De Niro) reaches out to him. Mixed with the emotions of his mother's death, his estranged father's sudden interest in him, and trying to build a relationship with his girlfriend Denise, Nick is overwhelmed. While dealing with his father, who is a struggling writer and has artistic tantrums when something doesn't go his way, Nick realizes this could be his one chance to have the relationship he missed in his childhood. UA Tara Cinemas 2345 Cheshire Bridge Road NE

THE HUNGER GAMES (PG-13) In a post apocolyptic world, the countries that once made up North America is now called Panem. The Capitol, a technological metropolis that controls everything, is surrounded by 12 districts. Every year, one boy and girl are selected from each of the twelve districts at random to compete in the Hunger Games, basically a Gladiator style fight to the death. When teenager Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her younger sister's place in the games, she is almost certainly sentencing herself to death. Based on the young adult novel by Suzanne Collins, Katniss must fight to the death in order to survive and return home to her sister.

OCTOBER BABY (PG-13) When Hannah suddenly faints during a college play, during medical examination, she discovers that she was actually adopted. Even more shocking, she soon learns she was adopted after a failed abortion attempt by her birth mother. Faced with her own mortality and the fragility of life itself, Hannah sets out on a trip to find her birth mother and herself. In this coming of age story, the idea of family is challenged and redefined through Hannah's journey.

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (PG-13) Ewan McGregor plays Dr Alfred Jones, Britain's leading fisheries expert, who is approached by a consultant with a wild plan. A sheik in Yemen has a dream of bringing one of his favorite hobbies, salmon fishing, to the desert of Yemen. Jones scoffs at such an idea, calling it impossible, but eventually takes on the upstream battle of introducing cold water river fish into a hot desert country in the Middle East. As the project grows, it takes on a greater meaning than just the fish, it soon becomes a metaphor for the building of a relationship between the Western and Eastern world. UA Tara Cinemas 2345 Cheshire Bridge Road NE

DULY NOTED

ATLANTA FILM FESTIVAL (Multiple Locations and Films) The 2012 Atlanta Film Festival begins tonight and continues throughout the end of March and into the first day in April. With screenings at Midtown Art Cinema, The Plaza Theatre, The Goat Farm, The Rialto, The Strand, Woodruff Arts Center, and Paris on Ponce among others locations, this year's festival is a film junkie's can get his or her fix pretty much anywhere in Atlanta. Film shorts, documentaries, films with Atlanta connections will be lighting up screens all over the city, in addition to lectures and film-making competitions. Visit here for more info and here for a complete list of the screenings.

CHICO AND RITA (NR) An animated tale from the Oscar-winning director Fernando Trueba, about Chico, a young piano player from Cuba who meets Rita, a beautiful woman with a voice to match. They fall in love and make beautiful music together, but their success pulls them apart as Rita's career surges into stardom. Just when it seems like the world won't let them be together, somehow love finds a way. A film with smooth matte animation to contrast the robust and lively Latin music, makes for a classic love story. Midtown Art Cinema 931 Monroe Drive Atlanta GA

L!FE HAPPENS (2011) (R) The Atlanta Film Festival's opening night kicks things off with the film L!fe Happens. Starring Krysten Ritter as Kim and Kate Bosworth as Deena, who play two best friends that just want to party and have fun. Everything changes when Kim gets pregnant though, facing the ups and downs of parenthood, Kim is caught between her life as a mother and her attraction to a man who doesn't want to be held back by children. Co-written and directed by Kat Coiro, this comedic drama deals with the challenges of motherhood, Coiro will be in attendance for the screening. Friday, March 23, 7:00 p.m. Midtown Art Cinema 931 Monroe Drive Atlanta GA atlantafilmfestival.com

CONTINUING

ACT OF VALOR ( R) This feature film draws on documentary techniques, casting a group of active duty U.S. Navy SEALs to dramatize a dangerous operation.

ADDICTION INCORPORATED (PG) This documentary reveals how, in 1994, scientist Victor DeNoble became the first whistleblower to reveal the tobacco industry’s efforts to manufacture “a maximally addictive” product. Interviewees include former Philip Morris VP Steven C. Parrish and Jeffrey Wigand, subject of Michael Mann’s film The Insider.

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 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

BIG MIRACLE (PG) When a family of gray whales become trapped under ice shelf in the Arctic Circle, a small town in Alaska rallies behind a young boy's attempts to save them. A feel-good film starring The Office's Josh Krasinski and Drew Barrymore.

CHRONICLE (PG-13) Three high school boys stumble upon a fallen meteor, and in the process gain superhero-like powers. But when one of the teens begins to abuse his new-found powers, his friends must stop him from destroying everything in his way.

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.

CORIOLANUS 5 stars (R) Ralph Fiennes' affinity for playing wrathful, infuriated characters reaches its pinnacle with his contemporary adaptation of a lesser-known Shakespeare play. Fiennes plays a Roman superwarrior whose intensity on the battlefield earns him enemies when he plays politics at home. Fiennes' direction of the script by John Logan (Hugo, Rango) comfortably works Shakespearean exposition into CNN-style interview shows, while standouts in the excellent cast include Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave. — Curt Holman

DECLARATION OF WAR (NR) Director Valérie Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm co-wrote and play versions of themselves in this dramedy about a young couple who discover their newborn child is gravely ill and “declare war” on both the disease and the grim emotions that accompany it. Despite the subject matter, it’s supposed to be unexpectedly humorous.

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

DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX (PG) In this adaptation of Dr. Seuss' beloved picture book, a young boy tries to woo a girl by bringing a tree to their treeless home, leading to a flashback of how the land lost all of its trees. This comedy's nod towards environmental conservation is balanced out by a hilarious performance from Danny DeVito as the Lorax.

FRIENDS WITH KIDS 2 stars (R ) A pair of platonic BFFs (Adam Scott and writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt) look at their friends’ angry marriages and resolve to have a baby together while remaining just friends. Nearly a Bridesmaids cast reunion (the other couples are played by Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm), the film features plenty of humor about baby poop and Kegel exercises, without Bridesmaids’ filthy inventiveness. Despite its low-budget, indie vibe, Friends With Kids subscribes to the stereotypes of Hollywood rom-coms and punts the
complex relationship issues it brings up. — Curt Holman

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (PG-13) Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze, the motorcycle-riding, flaming-skull-headed comic book character, in the second installment in the Ghost Rider series. This time Ghost Rider tries to protect a boy from Satan, with the hopes that his infernal curse will be lifted.

GONE (PG-13) Amanda Seyfried plays Jill, a young woman who suspects that her younger sister taken by the same twisted murderer who kidnapped her two years ago. When the police write Jill off as being crazy and unstable, she takes matters into her own hands to find her sister and stop her former kidnapper before it's too late.

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

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

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

IN DARKNESS (NR) One of this year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar nominees, this Holocaust drama depicts a sewer worker in a Polish city who uses his knowledge of underground tunnels to shelter a group of Jewish fugitives. Director Agnieska Holland helmed another terrific Holocaust-themed movie, Europa Europa, in 1991.

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

JOHN CARTER 2 stars (R ) In this adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic sci-fi adventure, Civil War cavalryman turned Arizona prospector John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) finds himself transported to Mars, where he takes up the cause of Martian Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins, who’s like a classy Megan Fox) against a vicious warlord (Dominic West). “Friday Night Lights’” Taylor Kitsch brings laid-back charisma to a role that the film can’t seem to decide is a tortured hero or a charming rogue. John Carter proves too silly and rushed to work as a respectable fantasy epic, but too heavy and convoluted to achieve pure escapism. Pixar’s Andrew Stanton delivers astounding visual effects, including the hero’s ability to make incredible jumps in the Martian gravity, but John
Carter
has a harder time getting off the ground. — Holman

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND 3 stars (PG) In the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth, Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) and his mom’s new beau (Dwayne Johnson) pick up a cryptic signal originating from the mysterious island from Jules Verne’s books. Taking full advantage of the technologies at his disposal, director Brad Peyton places his cast upon a fantastic tropical paradise full of amazing creatures and fantastic landscapes. Full of baseline humor, teen angst, and family bonding moments there’s an equal amount of intense chases and thrill rides on both ships and beasts to balance it out. Journey 2 is a definite improvement in the franchise and definitely worth seeing. — Edward Adams

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.

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

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

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.

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.

PROJECT X ( R) In this found-footage-style teen comedy, three high schoolers throw an epic birthday party to become the cool kids of their school, only to see the festivities spin out of control. High-jinks and debauchery create comedy, but this begs the question, who cleans up when the party is over.

RAMPART 4 stars ( R) Woody Harrelson gives a career-best performance as seething LAPD cop “Date Rape” Dave Brown in this gritty drama co-written by director Oren Moverman and L.A. Confidential author James Ellroy. Against the backdrop of the Rampart corruption scandal of 1999, Dave’s personality problems — and possibly a conspiracy against him — begin tearing his life apart. While Ellroy’s work can sometimes seem like apologias for sadists willing to break the law to protect the peace, Moverman provides a more humanistic counterweight, with sensitivity that refuses to glorify or demonize the character. Harrelson’s excellent sparring partners include Ice Cube, Ann Heche, Ben Foster and Robin Wright. — Curt Holman

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

SAFE HOUSE ( R) When a rouge ex-CIA agent named Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is brought to Agent Weston's (Ryan Reynolds) CIA safe house in South Africa, a small militia attacks the safe house in an attempt to capture Frost. The inexperienced Weston is then tasked with protecting Frost, one of the most dangerous men alive.

THE SECRET LIFE OF ARRIETTY 4 stars (G) This loose adaptation of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers depicts the wary friendship between a sickly boy convalescing in a country house and the Thumbelina-sized “Borrower” who lives with her mom and dad beneath the floorboards. This contemplative fantasy adventure is never more exciting than when Arrietty goes on an expedition to get a cube of sugar in the colossal kitchen (from her point of view). Like nearly all of the animated films from Japan’s Studio Ghibli, it introduces a sharp, self-reliant young heroine while advancing a message of respect for other people and nature. — Holman

A SEPARATION 4 stars (NR) Filmmaker Asghar Farhadi presents no villains in his powerful, wrenching Iranian drama, except possibly for the legal and political system that puts undue pressure on the lives of ordinary citizens. A woman wants to immigrate from Iran to secure a better life for her teenage daughter, but her husband won’t abandon his Alzheimer’s-ridden father, and their separation sets off a chain reaction of mishaps and confrontations. One of the best films of 2011 and a nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. — 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.

SILENT HOUSE (R) The night Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the Olsen twins), and her father visit the family lake house, they hear sinister noises and suspect that they're not alone. Torture, panic, blood and psychological terror ensue. This horror film is shot as a single 88 minute scene.

STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE 3D (1999) 2 stars (PG) Two Jedi knights (Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor), a bumbling fish-man and a gifted young boy (Jake Lloyd) aid the deposed queen (Natalie Portman) of a besieged alien planet. The first of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels unquestionably suffers from wooden performances, terrible dialogue and a misguided comic relief character, but disappointed Star Wars who call it the worst film ever made should really see more movies. On the plus side it offers some subtly ingenious intergalactic skullduggery, some lavishly designed alien worlds and the best light-saber battle in the six-film franchise. — Holman

A THOUSAND WORDS (PG-13) Jerky literary agent Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy) fouls up a deal for a self-help guru, who plants a tree in Jack's back yard. A leaf falls from the tree every time Jack utters a word, and once they're all gone, Jack believes he will die. Sounds like Liar, Liar with more pantomime and hand gestures.

TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE 2 stars ( R) After blowing a billion dollars on an unreleasable film, Adult Swim’s Tim Heidecker and Eric Warenheim (playing deranged versions of themselves) attempt to revitalize a crappy shopping mall to pay back the nefarious Schlaaang Corporation. The fake commercials, endless company credits and ghastly make-up provide an entertaining first half-hour, but Tim and Eric’s mix of gross-outs and corporate kitsch proves no substitute for a satisfying plot, and the film turns into kind of a slog. Featuring John C. Reilly, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. — Holman

THIS MEANS WAR 2 stars (PG-13) : It’s bromance vs. romance when buddy CIA agents (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) discover they’re both dating the same woman (Reese Witherspoon). : This Means War attempts to combine the light comedy, sexy actors and explosive set pieces of both rom-coms and action movies, but in some kind of mix-up, presents weak jokes, thin clichés and ugly set pieces. Witherspoon and Hardy are better than the material and Pine proves blandly handsome in a Ben Affleck sort of way. Where Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt play battling spy spouses in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, FDR and Tuck’s escalating rivalry could be called Mr. and Mr. Smith. — Holman

TYLER PERRY’S GOOD DEEDS (PG-13) Tyler Perry plays the title role (sort of) as Wesley Deeds, a successful businessman who, despite his good fortune and great life, is unhappy. One night he discovers the janitor Lindsey (Thandie Newton) has been letting her daughter sleep in a supply closet at night while she works. Will Wesley's friendship with Lindsey teach him how to be happy for the first time in his life? Spoilers.

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.

THE VOW (PG-13) Brain damage from a car accident causes Paige (Rachel McAdams) to lose her memory, including all of the memories of her newlywed husband Leo (Channing Tatum). As Leo tries to win over Paige's heart again, the couple encounters many obstacles in finding the meaning of true love.

WANDERLUST ( R) When Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston suddenly find themselves both unemployed in NYC, they realize they must move away to stay financially stable. After driving aimlessly, they arrive at an off-the-map bed and breakfast that turns out to be a hippie-esque commune. The comedy ensues as Rudd and Aniston learn whacky lessons from the eclectic group of people living on the commune.

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

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN ( R) Tilda Swinton gives a powerful performance as the anguished mother of a teen (Ezra Miller) who does something very, very bad in this grim, abrasive portrayal of guilt and parenting. Director Lynne Ramsey intercuts between Swinton’s hellish present and Kevin’s childhood as a budding sociopath. Throughout the film, Kevin comes across as almost cartoonishly evil, like a kid from an Omen movie, badly diminishing the film’s naturalism, although it effectively captures life as a waking nightmare. — Holman

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (PG-13) A young lawyer (Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe) in 19th century London journeys to a remote estate to sort out a will, and encounters all kinds of spooky goings-on. The film is based the same novel by Susan Hill as the popular stage version, which is one of the most spooky plays ever written. Ciarin Hinds and Albert Nobbs Oscar nominee Janet McTeer co-star.

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