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Film Clips

Capsule reviews for recently released movies


Opening Friday

CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR 4 stars (R) See review.

JUNO 4 stars (PG-13) See review.

THE KITE RUNNER 3 stars (PG-13) See review.

NATIONAL TREASURE 2: BOOK OF SECRETS (PG) In the sequel to National Treasure, treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) follows clues in a mystery involving John Wilkes Booth and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Jon Turteltaub directs.

P.S. I LOVE YOU (PG-13) When Holly Kennedy's (Hilary Swank) husband dies from an illness, she is left grief-stricken. She discovers her late husband has planned out 10 monthly messages to guide her through recovery, which help her slowly transition to a new life. Directed by Richard LaGravenese.

THE RED BALLOON/WHITE MANE (NR) The classic French short film The Red Balloon is the charming story of a boy befriended by an expressive red balloon, which proceeds to follow him around throughout his day. The film is co-featured with White Mane, the story of a boy's love for a wild horse that only he can tame.

STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING (NR) Frank Langella stars as Leonard Schiller, a once-famous New York writer who is both shaken and emboldened when a beautiful grad student invades his isolation for her thesis about his novels. Andrew Wagner directs.

SWEENEY TODD 5 stars (R) See review.

WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (R) John C. Reilly stars in Jake Kasdan's film about the tumultuous life of fictional singer Dewey Cox.

Opening Tuesday

THE DIVING BELL & THE BUTTERFLY (PG-13) Julien Schnabel directs in the remarkable true story of French Elle editor-in-chief Jean-Dominique Bauby whose sudden stroke at age 43 leaves his entire body paralyzed except for his left eye.

THE GREAT DEBATERS (PG-13) Denzel Washington stars and directs in the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College in Texas. In 1935 Tolson created the school's first debate team, leading them to challenge Harvard in the national championship.

THE SAVAGES (R) Two siblings (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) grown apart emotionally and geographically must come together to care for an elderly parent. Tamara Jenkins directs.

ALIEN VS. PREDATOR 2: REQUIEM (R) The follow-up to Alien vs. Predator features the iconic monsters waging yet another brutal battle in a Colorado town.

Duly Noted

MEDIUM COOL (1969) (R) Set in Chicago during the tumultuous week of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Haskell Wexler's film combines documentary with fiction to examine the role of the media in determining what makes the news. Wed., Dec. 26. 14th St. Playhouse, 173 14th St. 404-733-4738.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) (R) The cult classic of cult classics, the musical horror spoof follows an all-American couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) to the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a drag queen/mad scientist from another galaxy. Midnight, Fri. at Plaza Theatre, and Sat. at Peachtree Cinema & Games, Norcross.


3:10 TO YUMA 4 stars (R) Christian Bale plays a tough but indebted rancher hired out to help escort a ruthless, charismatic outlaw (Russell Crowe) to the prison train that gives the film its title. After such revisionist Westerns as Unforgiven and HBO's "Deadwood," director James Mangold (Walk the Line) offers a pleasingly old-fashioned oater full of horses, six-guns, rugged landscapes and even more rugged actors. Crowe has the plum part, but Bale doesn't let him steal the movie. -- Curt Holman

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE 3 stars (PG-13) A handful of young Americans and one Liverpudlian sing Beatles songs amid the tumult of the 1960s in this trippy musical from director Julie Taymor (Titus, Frida). The trope of naming characters after Beatles songs, such as central lovers Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), can be ridiculously heavy-handed, but the film's gorgeous visuals, appealing musical numbers and unstated Iraq war subtext keep it from being a baby boomer wallow in nostalgia. -- Holman

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS 3 stars (PG) This fluffy film chronicles the Chipmunks' rise to hyperpitched harmonizing fame and their narrow escape from the pitfalls of child stardom. On the human side, Jason Lee as Dave Seville looks uneasy living life in a partially CGI world, whereas David Cross, playing an exploitative record exec, basks in his screen time. Here, modernization and re-imagining turn out to be not such distasteful concepts, and even allow for a dash of satire most appreciated by fans of the earlier TV series. -- Allison C. Keene

AMERICAN GANGSTER 3 stars (R) This sprawling crime drama set in Vietnam War-era Harlem pits Denzel Washington's fastidious rising mob boss against Russell Crowe's doggedly honest narcotics cop. As usual, director Ridley Scott crafts images that mark him as an artist of color and light, but the premise's shades of gray elude him, particularly the implication that the mobster's success represents a triumph of African-American enterprise. The cast ultimately lives up to the film's sweeping social statements that emulate the gritty idealism of Serpico more than the bloody melodrama of Scarface. -- Holman

ATONEMENT 4 stars (R) An intelligent but confused adolescent girl (Saoirse Ronan) tells a lie that separates two young lovers (Keira Knightley and James McAvoy). Joe Wright crafts an insightful adaptation of Ian McEwan's acclaimed novel that begins with an intimate look at the passions and frustrations at an English country estate, and expands to include the destruction of World War II. Playing the same character at different ages, Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave offer a devastating portrayal of guilt and the inability of words to undue their power to harm. -- Holman

AUGUST RUSH (PG) A fairy tale-esque drama about an orphaned musical prodigy who uses his talents to find his absentee parents. Kristen Sheridan (Disco Pigs) directs.

AWAKE (R) Hayden Christensen plays a man who awakens during open-heart surgery to find the anesthesia has left him aware, but paralyzed. Joby Harold directs.

BEE MOVIE 2 stars (PG) After discovering life outside the hive and meeting a human florist (Renee Zellweger), a young bee (Jerry Seinfeld) sues the human race for the honey industry's exploitative practices. The closer Bee Movie hovers to Seinfeld's appealing brand of observational humor, the bigger laughs it finds, but the script flits in so many different directions, we can't help but remember that story wasn't always the strong suit of Seinfeld's eponymous "show about nothing." -- Holman

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD 4 stars (R) Octogenarian director Sidney Lumet takes the hipster genre of choice -- the bloody, chronologically scrambled heist movie -- and turns it into a weighty family tragedy that's still nastily entertaining. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (in one of the year's best performances) and Ethan Hawke play desperate brothers whose ill-fated plan to rob their own parents takes on the dimensions of Cain, Abel and Oedipus. -- Holman

BELLA 2 stars (PG-13) A haunted chef (Eduardo Verástegui) and a pregnant waitress (Tammy Blanchard) leave their jobs at a trendy restaurant to spend a romantic, soul-baring day in Manhattan. This heartfelt but overly sentimental film from Alejandro Gomez Monteverde celebrates food, family and New York, but the leading actors' performances are a little blank and the ending too convenient by half. Manny Perez steals the film as satisfyingly hateful restaurateur and petty tyrant.-- Holman

BEOWULF 4 stars (PG-13) The Anglo-Saxon epic poem of strapping Beowulf (voiced by Ray Winstone) and his monstrous adversaries gets brought into the 21st century with director Robert Zemeckis' "performance-capture" animation techniques (a form that's still a work in progress, but has improved significantly since The Polar Express). For all the CGI monsters, including misshapen ogre Grendel, the real attraction is the revisionist screenplay, which reimagines the heroic tale into a tragedy about the corruption of power. Definitely see it in digital 3-D, which makes up for the rubbery quality of some of the human characters. -- Holman

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM 3 stars (PG-13) In the third Bourne movie, amnesiac superspy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) crosses the globe to reclaim his memory and outwit his former CIA spy masters (including David Strathairn). Paul Greengrass also directed the trilogy's previous entry and again masterfully employs shaky camera work and soundtrack percussion to raise the audience's pulse rate; he could make doing laundry unbearably exciting. Nevertheless, given the identical plots (and impassive acting from Julia Stiles) in all three, it's no wonder Bourne can't remember anything. -- Holman

THE COMEBACKS (PG-13) In Tom Brady's (The Hot Chick) spoof on classic sports films Rocky, Field of Dreams and the like, unlucky coach Champ Fields (David Koechner) is hired to coach a talentless and deranged college football team.

CONTROL 3 stars (R) An absolutely beautiful, stylish black-and-white ode to the lead singer of Joy Division, Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), who killed himself in 1980 at age 23. Riley is superb and absolutely charismatic in his onstage performances and Samantha Morton as his bedraggled, wretchedly love-starved wife does a wonderful job of keeping this from being the one-note story of a suffocated, tortured artist. There were clearly other people hurt by Curtis' demons. But for all its exquisite evocation of the dire mood of '70s Manchester and Joy Division's music, the film lacks an emotional depth to match.-- Feaster

THE DARJEELING LIMITED 3 stars (R) Three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) embark on a so-called "spiritual journey" across India by train, but struggle against their petty habits and sibling rivalry. Rushmore director Wes Anderson expands his artful but precious visual style through the bustling, shifting Indian landscape, but still keeps the audience at a distance from the characters. -- Holman

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE (PG-13) Cate Blanchett reprises her Oscar-nominated role as Queen Elizabeth I in director Shekhar Kapur's sequel, which finds the virgin queen encountering such royal headaches as Mary Stuart and the Spanish Armada.

ENCHANTED (PG) Kevin Lima (Eloise at Christmastime) directs in this Disney fairy tale meets modern-day New York City. A fairy-tale princess from the past (Amy Adams) gets thrown into present day by an evil queen (Susan Sarandon).

FRED CLAUS 2 stars (PG) Santa's bitter older brother Fred (Vince Vaughn) reluctantly moves back to the North Pole after St. Nick (Paul Giamatti) bails him out of jail. Vaughn and Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin try to mix the caustic comedy of Bad Santa with the yuletide whimsy of The Santa Clause and inevitably fall short of either goal. Admittedly the last half hour finds some nice moments, and Giamatti's winning performance takes Santa from patient to anxious to outraged. Overall, though, it's as if Vaughn wanted to do his own version of Bill Murray's Scrooged, forgetting that nobody much liked Scrooged, either. -- Holman

THE GAME PLAN (PG) Andy Fickman (She's the Man) directs this story about superstar quarterback Joe Kingman (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) who must end his bachelor ways following the discovery of a daughter he never knew he had. Kyra Sedgwick stars as Joe's tough-talking agent.

THE GOLDEN COMPASS 2 stars (PG-13) On a parallel Earth where human souls manifest as animal companions, plucky young Lyra (terrific newcomer Dakota Blue Richards) uses a magic artifact to guide her to the frozen north and thwart conspiratorial child-snatchers, led by Nicole Kidman. About a Boy director Chris Weitz presents a well-cast, well-intentioned botch of the first book of Philip Pullman's superb fantasy series. Crafty, heroic Lyra and her appealing armored bear bodyguard (voiced by Ian McKellan) can't rescue the film from rushed plotting, fakey special effects and a confusing cosmology. -- Holman

GONE BABY GONE 3 stars (R) Movie star Ben Affleck makes a reasonably effective directorial debut, casting his younger brother Casey as a private detective hired to investigate a high-profile kidnapping. The director counterbalances the studied Boston accent and conspicuous Catholic imagery with taut suspense scenes and some strong performances (notably Ed Harris as a driven police officer), and the film's admirable embrace of ethical ambiguities gives audiences something to argue about on the way home. Adapted from a book by Mystic River novelist Dennis Lehane. ­-- Holman

HALLOWEEN (R) Musician and writer/director of the latest Halloween chapter, Rob Zombie promises new thrills as he revisits Michael Myers' horror story that began in 1978.

THE HEARTBREAK KID (R) The Farrelly brothers' latest film finds single and indecisive Eddie (Ben Stiller) pressured into proposing marriage to the sexy Lila after dating for one week. On their honeymoon he meets the true woman of his dreams and strives to win her over while dealing with his increasingly awful new wife.

HITMAN (NR) Gun-for-hire Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is hired by a group to kill targets for cash. Xavier Gens directs.

I AM LEGEND 4 stars (PG-13) Will Smith plays the sole human inhabitant of New York City after a genetically engineered virus wipes out most of mankind and turns the rest into blood-crazed mutants. The film offers nearly unbearable suspense scenes and stunning images of postapocalyptic Manhattan, overrun with wild animals with grass growing up through the streets. Despite some heavy-handed, ineffectual philosophizing in the last act, Smith delivers one of his best performances and I Am Legend turns out to be the best "summer movie" of 2007. ­-- Holman

IMAX THEATER The Alps Follow John Harlin III in MacGillivray Freeman's visually breathtaking documentary as he attempts to climb the same summit that proved fatal to his father 40 years ago.

I'M NOT THERE 3 stars (R) Ambitious, smart but decidedly muddled, cerebral superhipster Todd Haynes' biopicture of enigmatic, chameleonlike singer Bob Dylan features six different actors playing Dylan, including a mind-blowing turn by Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Christian Bale and a young black kid (Marcus Carl Franklin). The film melds an equally diverse array of styles and film allusions from Fellini to D.A. Pennebaker. The film is often gorgeous and clever, though it may be deep Dylan fans who enjoy Haynes' crazy-quilt film the most. -- Feaster

INTO THE WILD 4 stars (R) Emile Hirsch stars as affluent Emory University grad Chris McCandless, who died at age 24 after dropping off the grid to live on his own in the Alaskan wilderness. A surprising amount of transcendence and hopefulness infuses the normally dour Sean Penn's fourth directorial effort about McCandless' physical and interior journey based on Jon Krakauer's nonfiction account. Marked by nods to '60s and '70s cinema, Penn's film also has relevance to our own times as growing eco- and global-awareness have made more and more people take a McCandless look at the bad path "civilization" is on. -- Feaster

I WANT SOMEONE TO EAT CHEESE WITH 3 stars (Not Rated) Still living at home with his mom, struggling actor James (Jeff Garlin) is an overgrown kid who riffs on pop culture and can't get laid. What might be annoying in an 18-year-old is both funny and poignant in a 39-year-old. Garlin, who also directs, very much pulls from the same comedy-of-the-abject highlighted in his day job, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and like that humor model, can be both annoyingly self-indulgent and perceptive, too. Sarah Silverman co-stars as a funny/creepy combination of kid's-book character Junie B. Jones and an oversexed nut job. -- Feaster

THE KINGDOM (R) In this Middle-East-meets-West thriller, FBI Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) leads an elite team (Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman) in a criminal investigation in hostile Saudi Arabia. Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) directs.

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (PG-13) Ryan Gosling stars as Lars, a lonely introvert who falls in love with a life-size doll to the dismay of his brother and sister-in-law. Craig Gillespie (Mr. Woodcock) directs.

LIONS FOR LAMBS 3 stars (R) Robert Redford directs and stars alongside heavyweights Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep in this earnest, talky drama. Redford is a Vietnam vet and university professor trying to convince his brightest, apathetic student to take some political stand against the war in Iraq while Streep and Cruise play a lefty reporter and Republican senator with very different views on American engagement abroad. An odd bird indeed, the film is politically impassioned, mixes up endless philosophical talk and war-film action, all as a kind of plea to Americans to engage. The film is imperfect, even clunky, but its passion and balance mark it as one of the more interesting recent fiction films about our murky political climate and the despair and apathy it inspires. -- Feaster

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA (R) Based on the beautifully lyric novel by Nobel-Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) directs in this story of love over time. After losing his childhood love, Fermina Daza, Florentina Ariza waits through 50 years and 622 lovers to reclaim her.

MAMA'S BOY (PG-13) A 29-year-old slacker who lives with his mom realizes his setup is doomed when his mother meets Mert, a motivational speaker.

MARGOT AT THE WEDDING 4 stars (R) Director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) proves his continued affinity for family dysfunction in this both uproariously funny and bitterly painful tale of two sisters (Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, both in fine form) who try to mend fences but manage to just erect new ones as Pauline (Leigh) prepares to marry a directionless slacker (a divine Jack Black). Like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? for the Prozac set, Baumbach's dark family comedy is distinguished by marvelous performances and cringe-inducing family "togetherness." -- Feaster

MICHAEL CLAYTON 4 stars (R) George Clooney puts a haunted pall over his trademark charisma as the title role of this conspiracy thriller, a big law firm's "fixer" who discovers the conscience he didn't know he had. First-time director Tony Gilroy effectively evokes the paranoid films of the 1970s by creating a plausible sense of big-city dread, embodied in Tilda Swinton's superb portrayal of a female executive wracked with guilt at her monstrous decisions. The instigating plot about an agribusiness cover-up isn't very memorable, but Michael Clayton makes the most of is moral ambiguity without feeling merely vague. ­Holman

THE MIST 3 stars (R) After a massive electrical storm, residents of a small Maine resort town find themselves trapped in a supermarket by an unearthly mist and the unseen threat that dwells within. Frank Darabont (The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption) returns to the work of Stephen King, adapting his 1980 novella and staying faithful to a fault to King's enemy-within warnings of human frailty and religious zealotry (personified by Marcia Gay Harden's evangelical nutjob). The mysterious, monstrous elements of the film become a strange relief to the heavy-handed, condescending politics. Look for local actors Brandon O'Dell and Tiffany Morgan in small roles. ­Holman

MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAY 3 stars (G) A silly throwback to the physical pratfalls of Keaton and Jacques Tati, this fluffy tale of semiretarded Brit Mr. Bean vacationing in the South of France is a nice break from the usual scatological kid movies. A campy cameo by Willem Dafoe as a pretentious American director in Cannes only ups the escapist fun. -- Feaster

MR. MAGORIUM'S WONDER EMPORIUM (G) In this G-rated family film that appears to be angling to be the Willy Wonka for the new generation, Dustin Hoffman plays the owner of a magical toy store who plans to bequeath the shop to his nervous manager (Natalie Portman). Hey, "Magorium" rhymes with "Emporium!" What a coincidence.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS in 3-D 4 stars (1993) (PG) The skeletal lord of Halloween gets a serious case of Christmas spirit and decides to replace Santa Claus, with chaotic results, in this stop-motion animated musical produced by Tim Burton. With more big laughs and fewer downbeat Danny Elfman songs, it could be a genuine classic, but as is, it offers such visual delights that nearly every frame qualifies as a work of art. This "special edition" re-release enhances the animation to play up the new 3-D effects. ­-- Holman

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN 4 stars (R) The Coen brothers make a rousing return to form in this Texas crime drama that strips away their trademark irony for brilliant, suspenseful set pieces. Josh Brolin's Vietnam vet, Tommy Lee Jones' aging sheriff and Javier Bardem's ruthless hitman engage in a three-way chase on either side of the Rio Grande. Don't let the anticlimactic ending sour you on the superb filmmaking. ­-- Holman

O JERUSALEM 4 stars (R) Meandering wildly through the events surrounding Israel's controversial creation, this unfocused and poorly handled portrayal of two improbable friends in the midst of war, the Jewish Bobby (JJ Feild) and Muslim Said (Said Taghmaoui), plays out like a forced series of history lessons. Unfortunately, education on Israel's seemingly endless history of violence comes at the expense of a film experience that itself feels endless.-- Allison C. Keene

THE PERFECT HOLIDAY 1 star (PG) An aspiring songwriter (Morris Chestnut), uses his job as a department store Santa Claus to court a divorcee (Gabrielle Union). Despite the charms of Chestnut and Union, The Perfect Holiday, written and directed by Lance Rivera, bestows the gift of contrived plotting, flavorless jokes and holiday whimsy forced down your throat. To call it a lump of coal in your stocking insults the heat-generating usefulness of real lumps of coal. ­-- Holman

P2 (R) The last one out of the office on Christmas Eve, Angela is waylaid by a seemingly friendly security guard in the parking garage. Things turn ugly and Angela must find a way to escape from level P2 in the garage. Directed by Franck Khalfoun.

ROMANCE & CIGARETTES 1 star (R) As an actor, John Turturro is the stuff (Barton Fink, Jungle Fever). As a director, not so much. This unnecessarily coarse film is Turturro's clunky, regressive effort at a blue-collar opera, and has its actors lip-synching their emotions to pop tunes. Susan Sarandon is a Queens wife who can't forgive her husband's (James Gandolfini) philandering with a redheaded woman (Kate Winslet) in this misguided musical featuring some sadly squandered talent such as Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard and Amy Sedaris. -- Feaster

RUSH HOUR 3 1 star (PG-13) After an attempted assassination of the Chinese ambassador, the LAPD'S Chris Tucker and Chinese cop Jackie Chan bicker all the way to Paris. Fast-talking Tucker and fast-moving Chan make such a natural comic team that it's a shame three-time director Brett Ratner never built them a vehicle with witty jokes or racial insight. All three films are pretty crummy, interrupting the loud comedy and louder action with some still decent stunt work from Chan (now 53 years old), but even the funny outtakes during the closing credits seem calculated. -- Holman

SAW IV (R) In the follow-up to Saw III, Jigsaw and his apprentice Amanda are dead. Detectives must sift through Jigsaw's latest grisly remains to piece together the puzzle. Darren Lynn Bousman directs.

SUPERBAD 4 stars (R) Jonah Hill and Michael Cera make a classic comedy duo as two nebbischy high schoolers trying to buy beer and score with girls before they go off to separate colleges. Although Superbad pays homage to the horny teen comedies of the 1980s, it's far funnier, warmer and better acted than any of them (except possibly Fast Times at Ridgemont High). -- Holman

THIS CHRISTMAS 3 stars (PG-13) Preston A. Whitmore writes and directs this dramedy about the holiday reunion of an extended African-American family, which includes an indebted musician (Idris Elba) and an abused wife (Regina King). The plotting's a bit familiar and the first act relies almost entirely on exposition, but the likable cast -- particularly Elba, King and Delroy Lindo -- help make This Christmas low-key but pleasing holiday fare. -- Holman

TYLER PERRY'S WHY DID I GET MARRIED? (PG-13) Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman) brings his theatrical production to the big screen where he stars alongside Janet Jackson and Jill Scott. The film explores the difficulties of modern relationships through the stories of eight married college friends.


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