What’s playing?

Babel (R, 142 minutes) Alejandro González Iñárritu (director of 21 Grams and Amores Perros) contributes another weighty ensemble piece. This complex rumination on communication (or the lack thereof) in modern-day society takes place in three places at once. In Morrocco, a couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) gets involved in a shooting crisis. In California, a housekeeper tries to make it to her son’s wedding down Mexico way. In Japan, a deaf-mute girl tries desperately to shed her virginity. The film is relentlessly grim, and the message may be lost on some; but as always, Iñárritu deserves credit for making a film that is actually about something. In English, French, Japanese, Spanish, Berber and Arabic with English subtitles. Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

Bobby (R, 120 minutes) Emilio Estevez (yes, that Emelio Estevez) has written and directed an intimate, thought-provoking look at the day Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. The film takes place at the infamous Ambassador Hotel. By focussing less on the man at the center of it all (who appears only in news footage) and more on the people around him, Estevez has created a Grand Hotel-style snapshot of the late ’60s. Among the hotel staff, guests, political activists and Democratic delegates are William H. Macy, Laurence Fishburne, Sharon Stone, Lindsay Lohan, Shia La Beouf, Anthony Hopkins and Demi Moore. It’s an impressive ensemble that manages to catch at least a sliver of the hope, worry and dashed expectations of that fateful day. Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (R, 82 minutes) Is he funny because he’s an annoying jerk or is he funny because he’s pretending to be an annoying jerk? Either way, the end result is the same. Rabid fans of Brit comedian Sasha Baron Cohen (“Da Ali G Show”) will love this embarrassingly rude faux documentary about a Kazakhstani journalist (Cohen) who comes to America to make a film. Non-fans will simply be aghast at the endless footage of fat, fully nude guys wrestling that comprises this film’s humor. Most of the run time is simply made up of “Jackass”-style pranks in which the racism and xenophobia of Americans is allegedly exposed. (Although it should come as no big surprise to anyone that rednecks at the rodeo get a little mad when you make up words to the National Anthem.) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Casino Royale (PG-13, 144 minutes) Forget the 1967 version of Casino Royale starring Woody Allen. (Never heard of it? Good, that saves us time.) Like GoldenEye a few years back, we’ve got a successful reboot of the James Bond series. Daniel Craig (Munich) takes over as the younger, buffer 007, sent on his first mission to stop a banker from winning a casino tournament and using the prize money to fund terrorists. Eva Green (Kingdom of Heaven) is our Bond girl of the hour, Vesper Lynd. The film is dark, gritty and relentlessly thrilling. It’s just kind of a bummer they replaced Baccarat with Texas Hold ‘Em. Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Deck the Halls (PG, 95 minutes) Remember that 1996 movie Jingle All the Way with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad as two suburban dads who tried to outdo one another over the Christmas holidays? Well, this one stars Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito instead. Not a vast improvement exactly, but at least everyone learns a valuable lesson about the true meaning of Christmas at the end. (Awww.) From the director of See Spot Run, Malibu’s Most Wanted, Big Momma’s House 2 and the upcoming Cats & Dogs 2: Tinkles’ Revenge. Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Déjà Vu (PG-13, 128 minutes) In this far-fetched, but fun action/sci-fi/romance/thriller, Denzel Washington stars as an ATF agent racing against time (literally) to save hundreds of innocent people. While investigating the deadly bombing of a ferry in New Orleans, our hero uncovers a secret government project that allows him to view the past. Utilizing some Groundhog Day-ish time travel, can he alter the past? The time-juggling storyline leaves plenty of plot holes, but the action (courtesy of Top Gun’s Tony Scott) is intense. Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

The Departed (R, 149 minutes) Martin Scorsese seriously reworks the 2002 Hong Kong hit Infernal Affairs, transferring the intense cops-and-robbers action from the Far East to the East Coast. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a fresh recruit from the Boston Police Academy who is put deep undercover in an Irish mob run by flamboyant gangster Jack Nicholson. At the same time, Nicholson has got his own undercover agent (Matt Damon) operating inside the police department. Much bloodshed erupts when our two moles are dispatched to find out each other’s identities. Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

Fast Food Nation (R, 116 minutes) Celebrated indie director Richard Linklater uses an ensemble cast to take on the fast food industry—with mixed results. Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

Flushed Away (PG, 86 minutes) Didn’t get enough CG-animated animals this summer? Here’s some more. This is actually the first computer-animated film from Aardman Studios (makers of the “Wallace & Gromit” films). The story follows the adventures of an uptown rat who gets flushed into the sewers of London. Voicecast includes Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, Andy Serkis and Bill Nighy. It’s cute stuff, but you can expect a poop joke or two this time around. Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

The Fountain (R, 96 minutes) Writer/director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) has spent quite a bit of time working on this long-brewing vanity project. The unusual story spans more than a 1,000 years. In one of the three parallel stories, a Spanish conquistador (Hugh Jackman) searches for the Biblical Tree of Life in South America. Meanwhile, in modern-day America, a scientist (also Jackman) desperately seeks a cure for his wife’s inoperable brain tumor. Finally, in some far-flung future world, a bald guy (Jackman, of course) flies across the galaxy in a giant snow globe to deliver a dying tree to some mysterious star cluster. The whole thing is quite beautiful in that trippy 2001: A Space Odyssey way, but it takes a lot of effort to make heads or tails of it all. Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

A Good Year (PG-13, 118 minutes) Director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe (who last teamed up to spill some blood in Gladiator) have reunited for this gentle comic adaptation of Peter Mayle’s best-selling novel. Crowe playes an overworked English stockbroker who inherits a vineyard in France. No points for guessing that he learns to unwind and even finds time to fall in love with a scrappy local restaurant owner (Marion Cotillard). Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

Happy Feet (G, 87 minutes) Wouldn’t March of the Penguins have been so much more interesting if the birds could sing and tap-dance? Well, that’s the premise of this CGI musical featuring the voices of Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, Hugo Weaving and Robin Williams. (Couldn’t rehab kept Robin out of at least a few movies this year?) Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

Let’s Go to Prison (R, 84 minutes) Dax Shepard (Employee of the Month) stars as a con-man whose plan for revenge against the judge who sent him to jail gets thwarted. Undaunted, he goes with Plan B—getting his victim’s son (Will Arnett from “Arrested Development”)  framed and sent to prison, then joining him in the slammer to watch the overprivileged jerk squirm. A no-holds-barred comedy from director Bob Odenkirk (“Mr. Show”). Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

**NEW**National Lampoon’s Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj (R, 95 minutes) Nobody really liked Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds) so, oddly enough, he’s been fired from his own sequel. This time around, supporting nerd Taj Mahal Badalandabad (Kal Penn) has been promoted to leading man status. Seems he’s been shipped off to a stuffy English university where he must teach the uptight Brits how to party down. …I suggest keeping your expectations very low. Coming Friday; check local listings

**NEW**The Nativity Story (PG, 101 minutes) Director Katherine Hardwicke makes an interesting subjective jump from her previous work (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) with this reverent, fairly realistic take on the Biblical tale of the Immaculate Conception. Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) stars as the timid but resolute Mary, chosen by God to birth the Messiah. Newby Oscar Isaac is the faithful Joseph who takes his mysteriously pregnant wife on the long, dangerous journey to Bethlehem. The film treads a fine line between the secular and the religious, benefitting from some credible actors (Ciarán Hinds, Shoreh Aghdashloo, Alexander Siddig) and some realistic settings. (The film was shot in Italy and Morocco.) Coming Friday; check local listings

The Prestige (PG-13, 128 minutes) Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) rounds up a couple cast members from Batman Begins (Christian Bale, Michael Caine), mixes them in with a few new friends (Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie) and gives them a twist-filled period drama/sci-fi/fantasy to play around in. Jackman and Bale play a couple of turn-of-the-century magicians. When Bale performs the ultimate trick, Jackman tries desperately to uncover the secret, leading to jealousy, murder and worse. Tricky, complex and dark, but quite intriguing. Based on the novel by Christopher Priest. Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

The Queen (PG-13. 97 minutes) U.K. director Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, The Grifters, Dangerous Liaisons) takes the death of Princess Diana and spins it into a pop culture biopic about Queen Elizabeth II. Expect Oscar attention for star Helen Mirren, whose portrait of  QEII is both imperious and impartial. The script speculates on the week after Diana’s death, during which the royal family was conspicuously silent and unseen. Michael Sheen (Underworld) matches Mirren note-for-note as the surprisingly sympathetic Prime Minister Tony Blair, who tries to talk the Queen out of her stiff upper-lip resolve. An absorbing appeal for governmental sympathy in an era when many leaders seem content to simply fiddle while Rome burns. (Hurricane? What hurricane?) Playing at Vinegar Hill Theatre

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (G, 98 minutes) Yes, well, somebody’s got to keep Tim Allen employed. This time around, Martin Short arrives as the scheming Jack Frost who wants to…oh, you know, ruin Christmas or something. Stay home and watch “The Year Without a Santa Claus” instead. Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

Stranger Than Fiction (PG-13, 113 minutes) This brainy, existential comedy (along the lines of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Truman Show) finds a humble IRS auditor (Will Ferrell) going slowly insane because he believes a narrator only he can hear is dictating every event in his life. Turns out, it’s the work of a reclusive novelist (Emma Thompson), who’s planning on killing off her main character. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah join in on the fun. Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (R, 100 minutes) Before the opening credits even start, this feature film version of Jack Black and Kyle Gass’ satanic folk-rock schtick declares itself a silly, slightly rude stoner comedy. In that respect, it delivers exactly what viewers are expecting: dope jokes, loud guitar licks and the most creative use of profanity in many a moon. Ridiculous in the extreme, this cheap-but-charming musical finds wannabe rock stars JB and KG pursuing a demonic guitar pick in hopes of winning a talent show for rent money. Guest appearances by Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller, Ronnie James Dio and Meat Loaf add to the anything-goes nature. If you’ve burned out your DVDs of Super Troopers and Cheech & Chong’s Up In Smoke waiting for the next get-wasted-and-laugh-your-ass-off cult comedy, your prayers have been answered. Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

**NEW**Turistas (R, 89 minutes) Not even the Christmas holiday is safe from teen horror films. In this one, a bunch of young American backpackers (Like Josh Duhamel from “Las Vegas”) have their vacation spoiled when a bus accident leaves them stranded and ripe for some stalk-and-slash action in the remote Brazilian jungle. It’s basically Hostel set in South America. I’m sure the Brazilian tourist board is happy. Coming Friday; check local listings

Posted In:     Arts

Previous Post

December 1: First Fridays

Next Post

Have guitar, will travel



Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to editor@c-ville.com.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of