Capsule Reviews of Current Movies 

Opening This Week

Leatherheads (PG-13) George Clooney directs and stars in a romantic comedy made in South Carolina about professional football players in the 1920s.

Shine a Light (PG-13) Martin Scorsese's documentary about the Rolling Stones' 2006 Bigger Bang Tour.

Nim's Island (PG) Jodie Foster is a phobic adventure novelist who strikes out to save a young fan from being stranded on a tropical island.

The Ruins (R) Filthy American tourists get what's coming to them in the dark forests of the Yucatan.

Capsule Reviews

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (PG) This Romanian import is getting my admiration partly for taking a cinematic aesthetic that's not exactly my cup of tea and making it work. It's not a film to be approached for its entertainment value, because this just isn't the type of movie you're apt to walk out of saying, "God, I loved that movie." This is a grim, spare, bleak drama about a college girl in 1987 Romania who helps her helpless — but manipulative — roommate procure an illegal abortion. Really, that's all the plot there is, but director Cristian Mungiu is after a larger target — the condemnation of the brutally repressive rule of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, whose policies spawned this kind of desperation. It's bare, unadorned filmmaking — largely using a one-shot-per-scene-approach — but it's undeniably powerful stuff. —Ken Hanke

21 (PG-13) Alternately rather dull and very silly, Robert Luketic's 21 is the latest in the seemingly endless procession of fact-based movies where facts aren't allowed to get in the way of the Hollywoodization of the story. This one's about some M.I.T. students who took Vegas for a ride by counting cards to win at blackjack. The fact that the source book changed the main character from the Asian Jeffrey Ma into the Anglicized Kevin Lewis perhaps excuses his further transformation from Kevin Lewis into Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess). Whether that also excuses the film's efforts to increase sympathy by turning him into a poor boy trying to get money to go to Harvard Medical School is another matter. Regardless, the story is barely serviceable and the direction merely adequate. —Ken Hanke

The Bank Job (R) Roger Donaldson's The Bank Job is two-thirds (the first and the last) of a great movie marred by a middling middle third. The big problem is that the film's mid-section is the heist itself, which is never more than adequate. Even with Jason Statham as a perfect working-class hero, Donaldson can't keep the requisite atmosphere going. —Ken Hanke

Doomsday (R) Neil Marshall's (The Descent) latest film, Doomsday, has been getting pretty rough treatment from most critics, but it's being misread as an attempt at a serious movie. The truth is it's a cheerfully nihilistic exercise in campy, cheesy violence and gore. —Ken Hanke

Drillbit Taylor (PG-13) Seeing Drillbit Taylor won't harm you. You will not need medical attention, but you may find yourself wondering why you bothered. It's not unpleasant. It's even moderately amusing at times, but it's also the last word in negligible. This latest offering from the Judd Apatow factory is nothing but a PG-13 knock-off of Superbad with three high school freshmen desperate for a bodyguard to protect them from a psychotic bully instead of three high school seniors desperate to get laid before school's over. The other major difference is that a star — Owen Wilson — has been added to the mix. If the gears are showing in the overrated Apatow approach, so is the auto-pilot coming through loud and clear in Wilson's performance. —Ken Hanke

Flawless (PG-13) See full-length review at www.charlestoncitypaper.com. | Demi Moore is Laura Quinn, the only female executive at a London diamond exchange in the pre-Betty Friedan era in which women are not really appreciated as anything more than happy housewives. She keeps getting passed over for promotions that she clearly deserves — she's smarter than half the guys she works with — because, you know, she has a vagina. So she's prime pickin's for janitor Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine), who thinks he's come up with a foolproof way to walk a hundred million dollars' worth of pretty rocks out of the exchange. He just needs the help of an executive who's unhappy enough to want to rip off the company. Alas for poor Moore, though. She tries her best to be serious and actorly and professional and all, and so ends up with a Miss Quinn who is all stiff and actorly, and not a particularly significant or even mildly interesting depiction of a woman in her unusual position for the time. —MaryAnn Johanson

Horton Hears a Who (G) This latest outburst of Seussian cinema is a reasonably faithful version of the book about an elephant, Horton (Jim Carrey), finding himself the saviour of a speck of dust that just happens to contain the miscroscopic world of Whoville. The problem is that it's too slight for a feature and the padding required to flesh it out is rarely inspired and all too often leans on snarky post-modern pop culture references. —Ken Hanke

In Bruges (R) Imagine if Laurel and Hardy were Irish hitmen caught in a web of existential angst. That's what In Bruges is: intellectual slapstick, a ticklish combination of comic torment, a brutal grasping of life's fickleness, and sheer bloody violence that's like a shout in the dark. It makes you laugh, however shallowly, because what else can you do? It makes no goddamn sense at all. This is not an uplifting movie. Just so's you know. Don't expect kittens and balloons. —MaryAnn Johanson

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (PG-13) Miss Pettigrew is played by the goddess-like Frances McDormand, who refuses to make the at-first frumpy, seemingly stodgy Pettigrew into a caricature, as tempting as that may have been, and even as funny as that may have been. The same goes for Amy Adams, who plays a performer on the London stage in 1939: Certain things are expected of her, certainly if she wishes to get ahead in her career. Certain things about her are not as they seem. And certain things she's contemplating doing would not be true to her heart. She's supremely confident in a way that's not overburdened with the weight of other people's expectations. It's a breezy kind of poise the likes of which is far more reminiscent of the screwball comedies of the 1930s and '40s than it is of any depiction of women in popular films now. Modern movies seem to feel that women should pay for their independence by suffering and fretting over it, but there's not a whiff of that depressing and unfair attitude here, which is part of why Miss Pettigrew is so delightfully refreshing. For all the roller coaster emotions — I was in tears by the end, and they were tears of both happiness and sadness — Miss Pettigrew does not hit a single wrong note. This could not be a more perfect movie. —MaryAnn Johanson

Never Back Down (PG-13) The story of the new kid at school (Sean Faris) who finds himself in the world of underground martial arts and must learn to fight for what he believes in. Aimed squarely at the most undemanding of teen audiences, this film is a cheesy, melodramatic look at rich kids and martial arts. It's that perfect mix of accidental ineptitude and all-around stupidity that makes it somewhat engaging on a "What were they thinking?" level. —Justin Souther

The Other Boleyn Girl (PG-13) The story opens in 1520s England, with King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) still lacking a male heir from Queen Catherine (Ana Torrent). The king's close advisor, the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), sees this development as an opportunity, and looks to place one of his nieces into Henry's court as a possible mistress to advance the family's position. With Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson) newly married, her younger, more ambitious sister Anne (Natalie Portman) is given the task — but Henry takes a liking to Mary instead. Like a high-school history textbook, it becomes all about who's doing what to whom, and too rarely about why. —Scott Renshaw

Penelope (PG) Two stories. One, a reworking of Beauty and the Beast. Two, a story about not equating what you look like with how you feel, about not waiting for life to happen to you, about the fraught relationship between mothers and daughters, about the magic and possibility we all hold inside ourselves. This story is worth telling, and one my daughter and I very much enjoyed. —Conseula Francis

Run, Fatboy, Run (PG-13) Simon Pegg is a softie. And with his contribution to Run, Fatboy, Run, it becomes even more evident. This guy is less John Cleese than he is James L. Brooks. Unfortunately, Run, Fatboy, Run marks the first time that Pegg's sentimentality has gotten in the way of his sense of humor. —Scott Renshaw

Shutter (PG-13) It's the standard Hollywood bout of turning an Asian horror picture into a PG-13 spook-fest for teenagers — and, as usual, filling it with blandly uninteresting refugees from teen-centric TV shows in search of a movie career. In this round, we have yet another vengeance-driven ghost making herself a pain in the neck (literally, in fact) to those concerned. The spirit in question announces her presence via her penchant for ruining photographic emulsion (think of it as ghost grafitti), which is more annoying than scary. The same is true of the film — even if it is the only movie I can think of with a ghost that goes around on piggy-back. —Ken Hanke

Starting Out in the Evening (PG-13) Andrew Wagner's Starting Out in the Evening just may be the best film of 2007 that you've probably never heard of. It's the fairly small, quietly intense story of a 70-year-old writer, Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella), a man whose works were once taken rather seriously. Time has passed, and Schiller finds his books out of print and his name largely unknown. His life changes, however, when an enthusiastic graduate student, Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose), decides to do her thesis on him. Reluctant at first to have anything to do with her, Schiller is worn down by her persistence and enthusiasm — and, it must be added, the hero-worshipping attention of a pretty young woman. The film then charts their relationship, which is not quite the May-December romance you might be expecting. There are many reasons to see this film, but Langella's performance is at the head of them. —Ken Hanke

Superhero Movie (PG-13) Another in the long line of Movie movies, this one is slightly better — and a lot shorter — than its pedigree suggests, but this still doesn't mean it even resembles something funny. The plot is inconsequential, taking the storyline of the now six-year-old Spider-Man and substituting a teen who's bitten by a mutant spider for one bitten by mutant dragonfly. If you've seen one of these movies then you already know what you're getting into, which is a parade of people getting hit in the head with random objects, fart jokes, and cleavage. If you haven't seen one of these movies, please, gouge your eyes out if you ever come close to one. You'll thank me later. —Justin Souther

Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns (PG-13) Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns purports to feature Mr. Perry in his famous drag incarnation, the outspoken Madea. However, if the prospect of spending 100 minutes with Perry's signature character is what is enticing you to go see this movie, be warned: 96 of those minutes are Madea-free. Otherwise, it's the same mix of broad comedy, cheesy melodrama, screeching dysfunctional family humor and preachiness that's made Perry rich. As usual, it will delight the faithful and puzzle everybody else. —Ken Hanke


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