Now Showing 11/22 |

Now Showing 11/22

Daily Staff Report

BABEL Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal.”Babel” – If a butterfly flaps its wings in the rain forest, it will, if nothing else, set off an infinite chain reaction in the minds of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and his creative collaborator, Guillermo Arriaga. The director and screenwriter have a thing for causal connections, which in this film they literally track to the ends of the Earth. “Babel,” which won the best director award at Cannes, ties together four seemingly unconnected stories that are eventually revealed to be inextricably linked to one another. As its title implies, the movie is about the difficulty of human communication. The stories unfold in four countries and in five languages – English, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese and sign – but language is far from the principal barrier. Instead, the film explores the ways in which cultural assumptions and biases tend to obscure reality even when reality is plain, and the way our perceived differences keep us from finding a human connection to one another. (Rated R for violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use)- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceA GOOD YEAR Cast: Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Abbie Cornish.Review: “A Good Year” – You have to at least give Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott credit for trying something different: A film that could not possibly be more the opposite of their epic, Oscar-winning “Gladiator.” They’ve drained out all the carnage, fury and blood and replaced them with sunshine, laughter and bottles upon bottles of red wine. It’s an ambitious experiment, and not a completely successful one. “A Good Year” often feels desperately strained in its whimsy, and as it morphs from travelogue to slapsticky French farce to shameless chick flick, it grows nauseating in its sickly sweet romantic dialogue. For a while, though, it is sort of a curiosity and a refreshing change to see the typically meaty, serious Crowe try on light, physical comedy. He plays a soulless London banker who travels to Provence following the death of his beloved uncle (a rascally Albert Finney), who raised him there on his sprawling vineyard. Initially, he plans to sell the place as quickly as possible, but in time finds he likes it. Cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd’s camerawork makes the French countryside look naturally irresistible, all awash in rich color and warm, golden light. Marion Cotillard and Abbie Cornish co-star. PG-13 for language and some sexual content. 118 min. Two stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie CriticFLUSHED AWAY Voices: Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen.Review: “Flushed Away” – The claymation masterminds behind “Wallace & Gromit” got together with the computer gurus at DreamWorks Animation, which brought us “Shrek.” But this is one of those times in which the whole isn’t greater than the sum of its parts. This comic tale about Roddy (voiced by Hugh Jackman), a pampered pet rat who gets flushed down the toilet of his posh London penthouse and into the sewer, has plenty of thrilling moments. A wild boat chase through an elaborate underground canal system is especially breathtaking. Despite being deeply steeped in Brit culture, though, “Flushed Away” simply lacks the simple, delicate charm that has marked everything Aardman Features has ever produced on its own. It’s too frantic, too loud – which makes it too much like every other all-star, animated, talking-animal movie that’s come out this year. And there have been many. Kate Winslet voices the sassy boat captain who reluctantly comes to Roddy’s rescue, and Ian McKellen and Jean Reno have great chemistry as a power-hungry toad and his French cousin, a worldly, snobbish frog. PG for crude humor and some language. 84 min. Two and a half stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

DEJA VU Cast: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer “Deja Vu” – Whether or not you get that nagging sensation that you’ve seen this movie before, your brain will seriously hurt trying to figure out whether its central gimmick works. (It doesn’t.) There are the obligatory explosions and car chases, even a little tease of nudity, everything you’d expect in a big, mindless action movie. Only “Deja Vu” has its mind on far more ambitious, complicated subjects: the possibility of going back in time to keep hundreds of people from dying in a New Orleans ferry explosion. Denzel Washington endures all the physical demands of Tony Scott’s film with his typical aplomb, even gets a few laughs as a no-nonsense ATF agent investigating the attack. But then the movie completely jumps into the abyss and Washington is forced to go with it – literally. (Adam Goldberg’s long-winded explanation about time folding back on itself is unintentionally hilarious.) Val Kilmer co-stars in a thankless role as the FBI agent on the case, with pretty Paula Patton playing a young woman who unknowingly holds clues in the past. PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, disturbing images and some sensuality. 125 min. One and a half stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie CriticSTRANGER THAN FICTION Cast: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson. Review: An IRS agent (Will Ferrell) wakes up one morning and realizes that his monotonous, meticulous life is being narrated. The voice in his head is articulate, descriptive, British (Emma Thompson as a morose novelist struggling to finish her latest book). At first he thinks he’s going crazy because no one else can hear it – but then when the woman alludes to his imminent death, he understandably grows a tad more concerned. In toying with the ideas of fiction vs. reality and the struggle to create in such topsy-turvy, self-aware fashion, “Stranger Than Fiction” probably sounds like something you’ve seen before: “The Truman Show” or “Adaptation,” perhaps. What sets this film apart, though, is the sweet, subtle way in which director Marc Forster and writer Zach Helm present a potentially preachy message (live each day to its fullest) and the universally outstanding performances from an eclectic cast. Ferrell is a marvel in a completely unexpected, understated role. Thompson is lovely as always, even when she’s a wreck. And Dustin Hoffman is at his richly voiced, deadpan best as the literature professor who tries to help Ferrell determine whether he’s the protagonist in a comedy or a tragedy. And yes, the structure is clever. Very, very clever. PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity. 110 min. Three stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

CASINO ROYALE Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench.”Casino Royale” – Daniel Craig is the sixth actor to play James Bond in the 21st film of the franchise, which is the second adaptation of Ian Fleming’s original novel (though the first official one). On his first mission, Bond takes on the banker for a terrorist network in a high-stakes game of poker. With Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright and Judi Dench. Screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis. Directed by Martin Campbell. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity).- L.A. TImes-Washington Post News ServiceHAPPY FEET Voices: Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, Hugo Weaving, Robin Williams, Leslie Nielsen.”Happy Feet” – A children’s film about an emperor penguin (voiced by Elijah Wood) who attempts to set himself apart from the rest of his species by becoming a master tap dancer. Also shown in Imax 3-D. With the voices of Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman; tap dancing by Savion Glover. Written by George Miller, John Collee, Judy Morris and Warren Coleman. Directed by Miller. (PG for some mild peril and rude humor.)- L.A. TImes-Washington Post News ServiceBORAT Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen.”Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” – You will laugh at this film, you really will, but the laughter will sometimes stick in your throat. With his corrosive brand of take-no-prisoners humor that scalds on contact, star Sacha Baron Cohen is the most intentionally provocative comedian since Lenny Bruce and the early days of Richard Pryor. But unlike those predecessors, there is a mean-spiritedness, a lurking every-man-for-himself coldness about his humor. What results is that pitiless staple of reality TV, watching others humiliating themselves for our entertainment. – L.A. TImes-Washington Post News ServiceDECK THE HALLS Cast: Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Davis “Deck the Halls” – While this comes decked out in bright lights, no amount of trimming can hide its lack of originality. Matthew Broderick, a straight man for the ages, plays optometrist and Steve Finch, a sweater-wearing suburban family man who’s nuts about Christmas and married to Kelly (Kristin Davis). He’s thrown off his wave of yuletide adulation when car salesman Buddy Hall (Danny DeVito) moves in next door and quickly becomes obsessed with making his house visible from space, covering it with Christmas lights. The two quickly become rivals as their facing houses devolve into a battleground for a war not on, but about, Christmas. The sin of “Deck the Halls” is its regifting. The humor inherent in a man focused on covering his house with Christmas lights has already been memorably put to film in 1989’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Eventually, “Deck the Halls” pushes a message that Christmas could use some updating, but this holiday season, it might be best to stick with the old Christmas movie canon – like “Christmas Vacation.” PG for some crude and suggestive humor, and for language. 95 min. One and a half stars out of four.- Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer


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