APOCALYPTONumerous good things can be said about Mel Gibson’s foray into the decaying Maya civilization of the early 1500s, but every last one of them is overshadowed by the director’s well-established penchant for putting stupendous amounts of violence on screen. Gibson has made a movie that can be confidently recommended only to viewers who have a concentration camp commandant’s tolerance for repugnant savagery. With Rudy Youngblood, Raoul Trujillo, Gerardo Taracena and Dalia Hernandez. Written by Gibson and Farhad Safinia. (2:05) R for sequences of graphic violence and disturbing images.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceHAPPY FEET Voices: Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, Hugo Weaving, Robin Williams, Leslie Nielsen.A marvelous example of state-of-the-art computer animation, this is part family film, part Antarctic travelogue, part inspired musical ( “March of the Penguins” meets “Riverdance,” to quote voice talent Robin Williams) and, most surprising of all, part ecological fable. The parts don’t always fit together snugly, but most of them are absolutely dazzling. Rated PG (for mild peril and rude humor.)- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceBORAT Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen.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. Rated R (for crude and sexual content, graphic nudity and language).- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceNow showing at Cascade Theatre
THE GOOD SHEPHERD Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench.It’s the story of the season: Trim about a half hour and you could turn a good movie into a great one. This latest overlong would-be masterpiece, which traces the origins of the CIA through the eyes of one of its earliest agents (played with powerful stoicism by Matt Damon), runs a butt-numbing two hours and 40 minutes. While it can be suspenseful in its Cold War cat-and-mouse intrigue, and features some great performances, director Robert De Niro’s film simply doesn’t maintain the sort of tension it needs for the duration. And it completely wastes Angelina Jolie, who’s woefully miscast as Damon’s wife. She is simply too va-va-voomy to play a patrician, East Coast senator’s daughter. Damon’s relationship is much more believable with his Soviet counterpart, played by Oleg Stefan. There’s a great spy-vs.-spy banter in their exchanges, a natural interest that goes beyond national security. But in the end you have to believe that Damon’s Edward Wilson would be willing to sacrifice his family for his country. And we just don’t know enough about what drives him to make that possible. Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Michael Gambon and De Niro himself are among the excellent supporting cast. R for some violence, sexuality and language. 160 min. Two and a half stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie CriticTHE QUEEN Cast: Helen Mirren, James Cromwell “The Queen” is an intimate behind the scenes glimpse at the interaction between HM Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair during their struggle, following the death of Princess Diana, to reach a compromise bwtwenn what was a private tragedy for the Royal family and the public’s demand for an overt display of mourning. Rated PG-13 (for brief strong language)
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM Cast: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams.Young kids will find some laughs in this loud, dopey tale of Ben Stiller as a museum night watchman dealing with exhibits that come alive at night. Stretched to greater length than its thin idea merits, the movie mainly is a collection of slapstick vignettes as Stiller battles Attila the Hun, a mischievous monkey, tiny cowboys and Roman soldiers and other figures from museum exhibits. The comedy from director Shawn Levy is unimaginative and often annoying, wasting the comic talents of co-stars Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney. Robin Williams provides a few chuckles as a wax figure of Teddy Roosevelt that’s among the exhibits that come alive. The special effects are the stars of the film, though even they aren’t that special. PG for mild action, language and brief rude humor. 108 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.- David Germain, AP Movie WriterCHARLOTTE’S WEB Cast: Dakota Fanning and voices of Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford.Gary Winick would seem an unlikely choice to direct this live-action, computer-animated adaptation, with an A-list cast providing the voices of the classic children’s book’s talking animals. (Julia Roberts as Charlotte! With Oprah Winfrey as Gussy the goose! And Robert Redford as Ike the horse!) Winick co-founded the production company Indigent, known for stripped-down movies shot on digital video like “Chelsea Walls,” “Pieces of April” and Winick’s own “Tadpole,” in which a 15-year-old boy falls in love with his stepmom. But he also directed “13 Going on 30,” the charming Jennifer Garner comedy that struck just the right balance of childlike enthusiasm and grown-up insight. And he’s done the same here. Winick stays mostly faithful to E.B. White’s beloved book about a runty, idealistic pig (voiced movingly by 10-year-old Dominic Scott Kay) whose life is saved first by a little girl (the perfectly cast Dakota Fanning), then by a resourceful (and literate) spider. Corny? Overly simplistic? Perhaps. But those were grown-ups snuffling and wiping away tears at a recent screening – not kids – as the story reaches its heart-tugging conclusion. And there’s no shame in that. G. 90 min. Three stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie CriticTHE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS Cast: Will Smith, Thandie Newton.There is never any doubt that Will Smith’s Chris Gardner will muddle though, that he’ll find a job, make some money, secure a home and achieve the elusive, intentionally misspelled state of the film’s title. After all, this is “inspired by a true story,” and after all, this is Will Smith. They don’t make movies about homeless guys who remain homeless by the time the closing credits roll – and if they do, they certainly don’t release them at Christmas. It’s all predictable stuff. Yet Smith does make you root for him, because beneath that bad mustache and cheap suit he’s actually acting and not just playing the clown, something he hasn’t done in truly convincing fashion since 1993’s “Six Degrees of Separation.” The scenes in which he runs around San Francisco, seeking comfort and shelter for himself and his young son, have a convincing familiarity – probably because that really is Smith’s son, 7-year-old Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, playing the part. And at its core “The Pursuit of Happyness” is a good story – one that’s literally rags to riches and didn’t need the many tweaks and embellishments that have been added. PG-13 for some language. 116 min. Two stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic THE HOLIDAY Cast: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black.Like the gooiest, sweetest cup of eggnog, this romantic comedy doesn’t have a whole lot of nutritional value, and you’ll probably hate yourself afterward for giving into it, but it is rich and yummy and irresistible. Writer-director Nancy Meyers, who established herself as the queen of the glossy chick flick with 2003’s “Something’s Gotta Give,” offers another beautifully shot, flawlessly crafted film that’s both an homage to and an update of the classy, classic romantic comedies of the 1940s. (And like “Something’s Gotta Give,” it’s a little too long and it has its fair share of hokey moments.) Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet star as bright, talented women simultaneously suffering from man troubles who swap homes for the holidays to get away from it all. Diaz ends up in a cottage outside London; Winslet, a modern L.A. mansion. Each finds an unexpected new love interest in Jude Law and Jack Black, respectively. Everyone’s witty and great-looking, with great clothes, fantastic cars and to-die-for architecture. It’s total female wish fulfillment – as if InStyle magazine had been brought to the screen. PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language. 131 min. Three stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic CASINO ROYALE Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench.A film star for 46 years, James Bond, the hero with a thousand smirks, has been given a shrewd and largely successful attitude adjustment that ups the series’ reality quotient and provides an opportunity for star Daniel Craig to show a wide audience just how good an actor he is. Despite the burden of a nearly 212-hour running time, director Martin Campbell still delivers some of the best stunts in the business. (2:24) PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service
THE HOLIDAY Rated PG-13 CHARLOTTE’S WEBBRated G.NIGHT AT THE MUSEUMRated PG.ERAGONIn a fantasy world of kingdoms and dragons, a young boy named Eragon (Edward Speleers) finds a dragon’s egg that leads him to realize his destiny as the only savior of his world from the advances of an evil king. With Jeremy Irons, Sienna Guillory, Robert Carlyle, Djimon Hounsou, Garrett Hedlund and John Malkovich. Screenplay by Peter Buchman, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal and Jesse Wigutow, based on the novel by Christopher Paolini. Directed by Stefan Fangmeier. PG for fantasy violence, intense battle sequences and some frightening images.ROCKY BALBOA Cast: Sylvester Stallone.This sixth (and hopefully last) installment in the underdog saga of the Italian Stallion straddles the line between nostalgia and self-parody, and frequently teeters toward the latter. Returning to his roots, Sylvester Stallone writes, directs and stars once again as the iconic title character, who long ago retired from boxing and has carved out a quiet life as a South Philly celebrity and restaurant owner. He mourns the loss of his beloved Adrian, who died of cancer, and still hangs out with her loudmouth brother, Paulie (Burt Young). But when an ESPN computer simulator pits him against the current heavyweight champion, Mason “The Line” Dixon (retired light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver), Rocky gets the bug for that tried-and-true one last fight. There’s a certain allure to the ritual of watching a “Rocky” movie, a comfort in the familiarity. But then when the inevitable training montage begins, to the swelling strains of “Gonna Fly Now,” it’s all so hard to take seriously. And let’s be honest: Was anyone (besides Stallone) really curious to see how Rocky might turn out at age 60? PG for boxing violence and some language. 98 min. Two stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
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