* Indicates a Miles Top choice.
Atlas Shrugged Part I (PG-13) The director Paul Johansson has taken one of the most popular and controversial novels of the last century and managed to turn it into one of the worst movies ever made. As many readers know, the novel is the story of an extraordinary woman, Dagney Taggert, who runs a huge railroad company. When she meets one of the few men on earth who share her intelligence and vision, amazing things happen. Somehow, though, the dead-on-arrival script, the wooden actor, and the director's sheer incompetence behind the camera all conspire to make this thing a snorer from hell. Forget Part II, that will never happen.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold * (PG-13) Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) has created a documentary that is one part Putney Swope and one part Michael Moore. His foray into product placement is a laugh out loud, frolicking foray into the world of advertising that is nothing short of brilliant.
New On DVD
Country Strong They pulled out all the stops to make Gwenyth Paltrow a country music star a catchy tune, appearances on all the award shows, face time on morning and late night TV. Being a knockout helps, but she's got a good voice, too, and she sings well. So this flick isn't nearly as bad as it might have been. Give it a try.
Rio (2011) Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan, George Lopez, and Jane Lynch all lend their voices to the season's first big animated feature. It's about a domesticated macaw who can't fly but nevertheless (of course) embarks on a breathtaking journey fraught with peril. It's gorgeously produced the colors are vivid this is your standard family fare, brought to us by the folks who made Ice Age. The kids will like it.
The Conspirator (2010) Robert Redford assembled an outstanding cast in this Histo-Drama about Mary Surratt, (Robin Penn Wright) the only female accused in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy. But even Wright, Tom Wilkinson, Kline, Evan Rachel Wood et all can't save this plodding film from its leaden screenplay.
Arthur (PG-13) The problem with remaking this comedic classic is that the original was so damn good. Russell Brand is a funny guy, but Dudley Moore was the most adorable drunk to grace the silver screen since Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou. Helen Mirren is beguiling, but as formidable as she is, she can't compare with John Gielgud, whose one-liners and facial takes were nothing short of hilarious. Greata Gerwig is sweet in the Liza Minnelli role, but she ain't Liza. Still, a new generation will laugh it up and learn a valuable lesson it's not so cool to always be f***ed-up.
Hanna (PG-13) First time director Joe Wright, who wrote Atonement, reunites with the gifted young actress Saoise Ronan in this intriguing tale of a teenaged girl who ventures out into a cruel world after all, she is going to become an assassin. Really. Wright, though, has the smarts to pull it off, and Ronan is a revelation.
Source Code (PG-13) Pay attention. A soldier is given the identity of another man to probe a terrorist group planning to bomb downtown Chicago. The soldier, expertly played by Jake Gyllenhaal, realizes he is in the body of a victim from a previous bombing, reliving the final minutes of his life in an attempt to find clues that might yield the identity of the terrorists. Director Duncan Jones does a wonderful job of focusing on what could have been a muddled plot, and an excellent cast provides clarity to an ambitious script. Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright co-star. Stick with it.
The Music Never Stopped (PG-13) The film is based on the book, The Last Hippie, by Dr. Oliver Sacks (Awakenings). It's the story about a father and son, the generation gap, and a debilitating brain tumor.
The son, Gabriel, played by Lou Taylor Pucci, leaves home after his father Henry (J.K. Simmons) forbids him from seeing a Grateful Dead concert. Twenty years pass, and Gabriel re-enters his parents' life after he learns a brain tumor requires immediate surgery. Afterwards, the family tries to reconnect, though Gabriel -- who sounds suspiciously like Editor Murphy -- is brain-damaged, his mind stuck in the turbulent sixties. A therapist (Julia Ormond) tries to reconnect the threads. The movie may literally be about a brain-damaged son but figuratively it addresses the deep chasm caused by the Vietnam/LSD/Tune in, turn on, drop out era. At times it is a bit overwrought, but often the film delivers remarkable insight into the healing power of music.
Win Win ((R) Paul Giamatti is one of our finest actors, so on occasion (think John Adams) directors and producers have hired him for roles best left for others. He's at his best doing a comedic turn, like this film. He plays an attorney and wrestling coach who takes on an elderly, difficult client, Jeffrey Tambor, whose teenaged grandson shows up to complicate matters all the more. Director Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent, Meet The Parents) has a deft, easy way with a storyline, and the cast, which includes Bobby Cannavale and Amy Ryan (Gone, Baby, Gone) sparkles.
Paul (R) Ok, follow along. Two sci-fi nerds hook up with some guy who works at a military base who is on a road trip. That guy turns out to be an alien, see, so they pick up a female hitchhiker so a pretty girl will be in the movie. Then they head for the alien's mother-ship. And they decide to do a little time traveling and maybe just maybe become intergalactic heroes, which will make the girls like them. There are lots of familiar faces in this, directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad). It's another effort from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who brought us Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. Oh yeah, Seth Rogin is in it to make sure the immature, pimply audience it strives for pays attention.
Rango (PG) Johnny Depp has played every type of deviate and weirdo in his illustrious career, but he strikes gold as the voice of Rango, a swashbuckling chameleon that tries to clean up a Western town filled with hombres. Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest) directs and the likes of Ned Beatty, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton and Abigal Breslin are along for the ride. The animated film is a smash, the first big movie of the year.
Black Death (R) And then there is this monstrosity, where every kind of carnage, torture and death gleefully takes place in a fourteenth century world consumed by the plague. Really, really, bad stuff.
Of Gods And Men (PG-13) Christian monks living in a monastery confront fear after a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group. The film offers a glimpse of monastery life actually more than a glimpse, and drags along at a caterpillar's pace. If you stick around long enough, though, it gets better.
Zero Bridge (NR) * Tariq Tapa, an American filmmaker who spent considerable time in Kashmir growing up, strikes gold with his memorable debut effort. Assuredly not Bollywood, this portrait of a pickpocket is in the vein of Slumdog Millionaire but more real, and that is what makes it so compelling. You may have to travel to Manhattan to see this film, but it is worth the trip.
I Am Number Four (PG-13) D.J. Caruso (Disturbia) directs this thriller about a young man (aptly named John Smith) who turns fugitive to avoid a murderer who has already killed three others (thus the title). As it turns out, Smith has a little secret of his own. Based on the book by "Pittacus Lore," who is really the slug James Frey don't support this lying cad boycott the film.
The Eagle (PG-13) Kevin MacDonald (The Last King Of Scotland, State of Maine) has crafted an ambitious Roman Empire-era film about a slave and his master. It is at its heart a story about honor and redemption, but it doesn't take itself too seriously check out the dialect, for example. Starring Channing Tatum, who at least looks the part. Donald Sutherland is seriously over the top. If you like the genre, though, by all means go and enjoy.
Just Go With It (PG-13) An early favorite for the Worst Movie Razzie. It's about a plastic surgeon seducing a younger woman and his wife and kids get involved and they all go to Hawaii and, and, and by then you'll be over in Cineplex 2 watching coming attractions. Adam Sandler, it seems, gets less and less funny with each movie. Jennifer Aniston must have her pet monkey pick scripts for her. And when will Nicole Kidman realize she can't do comedy? It's a BOMB, folks.
Sanctum (R) Fresh off of Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron lays a major egg. Sanctum, about the world's largest cave, wallows along with a mindless plot and idiotic characters, and the whole spectacle is all the worse because of the 3-D. Richard Roxburg, Rhys Wakefield and Ioan Gruffudd go down (if you'll pardon the pun) with the ship.
Ip Man (NR) Like Kung Fu movies? Donnie Yen reprises his iconic role as Man, a Kung Fu master who must prove himself worthy by kicking the crap out of all the other Kung Fu masters in Hong Kong. Sammo Hung is great as one of the bad guys. If you want action, you'll get it with this flick. Add a star if you really believe men can jump this far.
The Mechanic (R) Ouch. Even in the post-Oscar season abyss most movies that are released are fundamentally flawed but not embarrassingly bad. This Jesse Statham vehicle -- and no, he doesn't fix cars is so stupid that even the urge to see many men die shouldn't be enough to put any fannies in the theaters. Yes, it's that bad.
The Way Back * (PG-13) Director Peter Weir, a six-time Academy Award winner, helmed some of the most memorable films of this era, beginning with his debut Picnic At Hanging Rock in 1975 and including such gems as Witness, The Year Of Living Dangerously and Dead Poets Society. Weir never makes the same film twice. With The Way Back he tries his hand with a star-studded sweeping epic that pays homage to the genre while placing his own stamp on it.
Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, and Colin Farrell star as Gulag prisoners who escape, facing a journey of a thousand miles over treacherous Siberian terrain. It is inspired by "The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom."
Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan co-stars alongside Mark Strong.
The Dilemma (PG-13) The trouble with comedic actors is they keep taking roles written to utilize their comic gifts and eventually run into scripts that aren't funny. Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, say hello to The Dilemma.
Director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer should have known better. On paper it's a good one the cast, for example, is brimming with big names: Jennifer Connelly, Winona Ryder, Channing Tatum and Queen Latifah to name a few. Even the plot sounds enticing: a man discovers his best friend's wife is cheating on him. It's the slapstick execution, and the lack of legitimately funny dialogue, that dooms this turkey. It'll be on DVD in a month.
The Green Hornet (PG-13) Seth Rogen does the Green Hornet with predictable results it's silly but he's likeable. The action adventure moves along replete with the requisite special effects, bad guys (the mob and heroin dealers) and pretty co-star Cameron Diaz.
Barney's Version (R) Paul Giametti stars as a very unlikable, uncouth television producer reflecting on his life as death approaches. It's a bit overdone, but the cast led by Dustin Hoffman and Minnie Driver is solid and the character, though a cad, has his charms.
Season Of The Witch (PG-13) Nicolas Cage (National Treasure, Ghost Rider) romps through this typical supernatural/fantasy action adventure outsmarting the forces of evil and being seduced by an irresistible - though dangerous -- vixen of rare beauty. Ron Perlman (Hellboy) kills his share. It's all in good fun and some of the special affects are surprisingly good, but it's pretty ridiculous stuff when it comes right down to it.
True Grit * (PG_13) John Wayne won an Oscar in 1969 for his portrayal of wizened old alcoholic who shows a soft side to an orphan looking to avenge her dad's death in True Grit. Like everything in Hollywood, it's back - not Wayne, he's still dead -- but the movie, and it has a rich Oscar pedigree. Jeff Bridges, in the Rooster Cogburn role, won the statue last year, and producers Joel and Ethan Coen are Oscar darlings, having taken their most recent Best Picture trophy for No Country For Old Men. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, both former nominees, are on board. Hailee Steinfeld gets the coveted Mattie Ross role. Think Oscar this film will be a major player come February.
And Everything is Going Fine (NR) Steven Soderbergh's documentary about Spalding Gray, the Sag Harbor monologist who eventually drowns himself. Predictably, Gray talks a lot.
Love And Other Drugs (R) Director Edward Zwick, best known for action movies (Glory, Legends Of The Fall), tries his hand at romantic comedy not good. Based on the popular book Hard Sell: The Evolution Of A Viagra Salesman, the script is bland and the pairing of Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway simply doesn't work.
The Kings Speech (R) The darling of the Hamptons Film Festival is set for general release and there is Oscar buzz about it, especially for Colin Firth, who plays newly-crowned King George VI, and Geoffrey Rush, cast as an eccentric speech therapist charged with helping the King master a debilitating speech impediment. Also starring Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, and Michael Gambon. David Seider, the scriptwriter, is a likely nominee.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (PG-13) This is reportedly the seventh and final installment in the series, which leads us to wonder why it says Part I in the title. That said, the kids have kept their youthful sheen, and the bad guys are still deliciously evil. Fans will love it; casual fans will like it.
The Next Three Days (PG-13) Paul Haggis (Casino Royale) enlists Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks for his drama about a wife suddenly accused of murder. Even with an excellent supporting cast that includes Brian Dennehy, Liam Neeson, and Olivia Wilde, something rings hollow.
Unstoppable (PG-13) Denzel Washington and Chris Pine play buddies charged with an impossible task stopping a runaway train filled with toxic chemicals. Rosario Dawson is the eye candy. Critics and advance audiences have been loving it.
Morning Glory (PG-13) This film has the pedigree to be the holiday season's top comedy. After all, director Roger Michell gave us Notting Hill, and writer Aline Brosh McKenna penned The Devil Wears Prada. Rachel Adams gets a star-making role as a producer of a small TV station that has to deal with a grumpy TV anchor played wonderfully by Harrison Ford and an over-the-hill former beauty queen Diane Keaton.
It's a fun flick, and the actors mesh seamlessly like an ensemble that has been doing it for years. Jeff Goldblum co-stars.
127 Hours (R) The buzz on the latest film from Academy Award-winning visionary director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), who also co-wrote the script, is that it is a good one. A mountain climber (James Franco) becomes trapped under a boulder in Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive. Franco is in line for an Oscar nomination, and Boyle is gunning for another one. This film drew raves when screened at the Hamptons International Film Festival.
Client Nine: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer: This documentary chronicles his rise up the ladder to the New York governorship and his rapid fall after it was discovered he frolicked with high-priced hookers. It's fascinating but it's almost two hours long, and after awhile we got sick of looking at the jerk.
Monsters (R) People who have screened this movie loved it. A journalist (Scoot McNairy) is hired to find a woman (Whitney Able) who has disappeared in Mexico (follow along here) in a huge INFECTED zone inhabited by (you guessed it) aliens. Yes, this is set in the future. Yes, he's hot and she's babelicious. Credit Gareth Edwards, who directs his own script, for putting it all together.