Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a proudly analog animated entertainment, making its handmade way into a marketplace glutted with digital goodies. Next to the three-dimensional, computer-generated creatures that swoop and soar off the screen these days, the furry talking animals on display here, with their matted pelts, jerky movements and porcelain eyes, might look a little quaint, like old-fashioned wind-up toys uneasily sharing the shelf with the latest video game platforms.

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OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d'espions

OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d'espions
This light-hearted pastiche is a recommended antidote to ‘Quantum of Solace’. It’s a French spin on their own secret agent franchise, based on the numerous OSS 117 novels of Jean Bruce, which pre-dated Fleming’s novels and spawned a series of uneven movie adaptations. Thankfully, director and co-writer Michel Hazanavicius’s delightful ’Scope parody is a treat in its own right, carried sturdily along by the performance of talented comedian Jean Dujardin as the preening, smug and un-reconstructed agent who’s sent out to revolutionary Egypt in 1955 on a simple mission to ‘calm down the Americans, Russians and English; buttress French policy; establish peace; and make the Middle East safe.’

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Take the Lead

Take the Lead
I miss the decades when dancing and singing were an integral part of Hollywood’s style. Those classy, elegant days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers produced some wonderfully stylish and energetic films. The best we can hope for in the present age of cinema is the occasional adapted Broadway musical but even those films somehow fail to capture the magic of the music. Take the Lead is by no means a revival of that bygone era of the song and dance film but it has the same sort of sparkle and captures some of that long lost energy.

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Blair Witch Project 2, The: Book of Shadows

Blair Witch Project 2, The: Book of Shadows
It was as ill-advised as it was inevitable: a sequel to 1999's most unexpected hit, The Blair Witch Project. These days, however, creativity rarely enters the question when huge amounts of money are involved, and The Blair Witch Project brought Artisan Entertainment such a landslide return on their investment that both a sequel and a prequel were announced before the dust had settled. Never mind that The Blair Witch Project was obviously designed as a one-off project and that subsequent installments would not only suffer in comparison with the first, but would come across as awkward, ungainly grafts onto a story that could only be hurt by a single additional frame.

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Enough

Enough
Michael Apted is one of those rare, versatile filmmakers who can make mindless Hollywood blockbusters and thoughtful independent productions with equal aplomb. Apted's resume is as impressive as it is diverse, and has included a handful of critically praised documentaries, a James Bond movie (The World Is Not Enough), and an Oscar-nominated drama (Coal Miner's Daughter). Enough is Apted at his most commercial, and, unfortunately, his least compelling. This is a by-the-numbers thriller that doesn't even succeed on the most basic, visceral level. One can only hope that Apted is taking his salary for this effort and putting it into the next movie in the 7 Up series.

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Other Woman

Other Woman
We have reached the Season of Natalie Portman. With no fewer than six movies due to be released within a six-month period (Black Swan, The Other Woman, No Strings Attached, Hersher, Your Highness, Thor), a confirmed Golden Globe nomination (and probable win), a likely Oscar nomination (and possible win), a pregnancy, and an engagement, Portman has suddenly become ubiquitous. IFC has elected to distribute and market The Other Woman in anticipation of Portman receiving a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for Black Swan. (It will run on Video on Demand beginning January 1, 2011 and will open in limited theatrical distribution on February 4, 2011.) Otherwise, this film likely would have been headed for obscurity. It's not good enough to warrant a theatrical showing but not bad enough to deserve universal derision. Riding Portman's Oscar coattails will increase its profile, and Portman is neither good enough nor bad enough in The Other Woman for her performance to impact her chances for Black Swan. This won't be another Norbit. (That movie, released during the Oscar voting period when Eddie Murphy was nominated for Dreamgirls, is widely credited for killing the actor's chances of taking home a gold statuette.)

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Hulk
Hulk represents the most involving superhero motion picture since >Superman soared skywards in 1978. By taking its time to develop characters and situations, Hulk does what so many action/adventure movies fail to do - allow us to really feel for the protagonists. Director Ang Lee, fresh off his success from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has re-imagined The Hulk as a tragic figure trapped by fate and the hubris of others into showing the inner beast whenever rage overwhelms him. In truth, the film has a greater synergy with classic monster movies like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, and (especially) King Kong than it does with the current crop of superhero motion pictures. Spider-Man or X-Men, this isn't.

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Bad Lieutenant

Bad Lieutenant
Harvey Keitel plays an unnamed New York City lieutenant who's a lot worse than the criminals who infest his streets. A womanizer, drug abuser, alcoholic, and gambler, the bad (and unnamed) lieutenant epitomizes corruption and decadence. When his chance at redemption comes as the result of the brutal rape of a nun, is there anything left within him to redeem?

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Bound
Bound appears to be ripe with all the elements necessary for a top-notch exploitation flick: leather, guns, gangsters, blood, and a couple of hot-to-trot lesbians. From the first scene, however, it's obvious that the writing/directing team of Andy and Larry Wachowski are aiming for something considerably higher than rudimentary titillation. And, by taking chances and twisting conventions, they have hit paydirt. Bound is among the best film noir entries of the decade; from beginning to end, it's solidly entertaining.

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Great White Hype

Great White Hype
Not since Robert Altman's The Player has a film been this relentless in its satirical attack. The Great White Hype takes the boxing industry and rips it open, displaying the rotting, putrid innards for all to see. There are times when this movie is so vicious that it ceases to be funny. While The Great White Hype has its share of comical, occasionally-hilarious moments, don't expect a non-stop laughfest on par with This Is Spinal Tap.

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Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
The Angels, Dylan, Natalie, and Alex, are hired to locate a set of titanium rings stolen from the Department of Justice that, when put together in a special machine, will display a list of all individuals in the witness protection program. Having discovered that one person on the list has been killed, the Angels investigate the scene and discover evidence suggesting that the killer is a surfer with a scar on one leg.

Having tracked the killer to his next victim - who is subsequently sent to Bosley's house for protection - it is revealed that angel Dylan was once named Helen Zaas and is in the program herself for sending her former boyfriend Seamus - a member of the O'Grady mafia family - to jail.

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The Haunting of Molly Hartley

The Haunting of Molly Hartley
The film begins with a teenage girl (Jessica Lowndes) going into the woods to meet her boyfriend. He gives her an early birthday present, but her father shows up and demands that she leave with him. As they drive home she tells him that she will be marrying her boyfriend as soon as she turns eighteen. He breaks down and apologizes to her before crashing their car. Seeing that she is not dead, he kills her with a broken piece of mirror, saying he couldn't let the darkness take her. The film then switches to present day, and Molly's story.

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Zebrahead

Zebrahead
This is a Romeo and Juliet type tale based in Detroit, Michigan. Two young men, Zack, a white teen accused of acting black and Dee, an African American teen, defy racial lines and form a strong friendship. When Zack begins dating Dees cousin Nikki, his white friends presume hes seeing her because of sexual stereotypes about black women, while her black friends cant believe her interest in him. Additional conflict is added when Nut, a local black gang-banger pursues Nikki for himself and undisguised but contained racial tensions in their respective neighborhoods and the high school they all attend erupt in violence.

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Half Broken Things

Half Broken Things
A middle aged house-sitter meets two tearaways, and together they form a surrogate family

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Lure: Teen Fight Club

Lure: Teen Fight Club
An undercover female cop enters Belmont High as a transfer student, after several girls in the area go missing. While trying to assimilate in the school, she and her new friends are lured into a place where they must fight for their lives.

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Liberty Stands Still

Liberty Stands Still
A gunman ties up an actor and locks him in his dressing room just before a performance. He also puts a bomb with a 90-minute timer next to the actor. Then, he goes to a room above an LA plaza and draws a bead on the actors lover, international arms dealer, Liberty Wallace. Calling himself Joe, he calls her cell phone, demonstrates that a rifle is pointed at her, and tells her to cuff herself to a hot-dog cart nearby (the cuffs are there). Over the next 90 minutes, the story unfolds as a result of his daughters death, he wants a public debate on the Second Amendment. As Liberty begins to bond with Joe on the phone, he gets some truths from her - and his revenge.

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