THE PRESTIGE Cast: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson.From acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan (“Memento,” “Batman Begins”), comes a mysterious story of two magicians whose intense rivalry leads them on a life-long battle for supremacy full of obsession, deceit and jealousy with dangerous and deadly consequences. From the time that they first met as young magicians on the rise, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) were competitors. However, their friendly competition evolves into a bitter rivalry making them fierce enemies for life and consequently jeopardizing the lives of everyone around them. Full of twists and turns, “The Prestige” is set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London. Rated PG-13 (for violence and disturbing images).MARIE ANTOINETTE Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis; written and directed by Sophia Coppola. A vibrant retelling of the classic story of Marie Antoinette, the naïve Austrian princess who is thrown into the scandal-ridden world of French aristocracy when she is betrothed to King Louis XVI. Rated PG-13 (for sexual content, partial nudity and innuendo).
STRANGER 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 and 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. Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity. 110 minutes. Three stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP movie criticA GOOD YEAR Cast: Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Abbie Cornish Review: 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. Rated PG-13 for language and some sexual content. 118 minutes. Two stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP movie critic
BABEL Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal.In “Babel,” a tragic incident involving an American couple in Morocco sparks a chain of events for four families in different countries throughout the world. In the struggle to overcome isolation, fear and displacement, each character discovers that it is family that ultimately provides solace. In the remote sands of the Moroccan desert, a rifle shot rings out – detonating a chain of events that will link an American tourist couple’s frantic struggle to survive, a nanny illegally crossing into Mexico with two American children and a Japanese teen rebel whose father is sought by the police in Tokyo. Separated by clashing cultures and sprawling distances, each of these four disparate groups of people are nevertheless hutling towards a shared destiny of isolation and grief. Rated R (for violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language and drug use).BORATCast: Sacha Baron Cohen.In “Borat,” Sacha Baron Cohen – star of HBO’s comedy “Da Ali G Show,” takes his outrageous Kazakhstani reporter character Borat to the big screen. In this hilariously offensive movie, Borat travels from his primitive home in Kazakhstan to the U.S. to make a documentary. On his cross-country road trip, Borat meets real people in real situations with hysterical consequences. Rated R (for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language).FLUSHED 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 CriticSANTA CLAUSE 3: THE ESCAPE CLAUSE Cast: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Martin Short.Holiday magic mixes with comical chaos at the North Pole in “The Santa Clause 3.” Tim Allen reprises his role of Scott Calvin – Santa – as he juggles a full house of family and the mischievous Jack Frost (Martin Short), who is trying to take over the “big guy’s” holiday. At the risk of giving away the secret location of the North Pole, Scott invites his in-laws (Ann-Margaret and Alan Arkin) to share in the festivities and upcoming birth of baby Claus with expectant wife, Carol, AKA Mrs. Claus (Elizabeth Mitchell). Along for the adventure are Scott’s extended family, son Charlie, ex-wife Laura Miller, her husband Neil Miller (Judge Reinhold), and their daughter, Lucy, who together with head elf Curtis, foil Jack Frost’s crafty scheme to control the North Pole. Rated G (all audiences).RUNNING WITH SCISSORS Cast: Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Evan Rachel Wood, Alec Baldwin.”Running With Scissors” is the feature-film adaptation of Augusten Burrough’s hilarious and poignant childhood memoir. Growing up in the pill-popping 1970s, young Augusten was living a middle-class existence with an alcoholic father (Alec Baldwin) and a bipolar mother (Annette Bening), an unpublished poet with delusions of becoming famous. When his parents divorce, Augusten’s mother sends him to live with her wildly unorthodox psychiatrist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), and his eccentric family. Rated R (for strong language and elements of sexuality, violence and substance abuse).SAW III Jigsaw has disappeared. Along with his new apprentice Amanda, the puppet master behind the cruel, intricate games that have terrified a community and baffled police has once again eluded capture and vanished. While city detectives scramble to locate him, Doctor Lynn Denlon and Jeff are unaware that they are about to become the latest pawns on his vicious chessboard. Rated R (for strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language).
FLUSHED AWAY Rated PG. SANTA CLAUSE 3: THE ESCAPE CLAUSE Rated G. FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford; directed by Clint Eastwood.February 1945. Even as victory in Europe was finally within reach, the war in the Pacific raged on. One of the most crucial and bloodiest battles of the war was the struggle for the island of Iwo Jima, which culminated with what would become one of the most iconic images in history: five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. The inspiring photo capturing that moment became a symbol of victory to a nation that had grown weary of war and made instant heroes of the six American soldiers at the base of the flag, some of whom die soon after, never knowing that they had been immortalized. But the surviving flag raisers had no interest in being held up as symbols and did not consider themselves heroes; they wanted only to stay on the front with their brothers in arms who were fighting and dying without fanfare or glory. Rated R (for sequences of graphic war violence and carnage, and for language).Vail, Colorado