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|November 27-December 3, 2008
A Christmas Tale
See full screen review on page 27. Not rated. At Chez Artiste.
Set in Australia prior to WWII, an English gentleman must drive a large herd of cattle across the land, and encounter the Japanese bombings of Darwin. Rated PG-13. At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square and Twin Peaks.
In the cold winter light of a rural Mississippi Delta township, a man’s suicide radically transforms three characters’ lives and throws off-balance what has long been a static arrangement among them. Marlee is a single mother struggling to scratch a living for herself and James, her 12-year-old son, who has begun to stumble under drug and violence pressures. So when the opportunity to seek safe harbor at a new home arises, she grabs it, though the property is shared by Lawrence, a man with whom Marlee has feuded bitterly since James’ birth. With circumstances thrusting them into proximity, a subtle interdependence and common purpose emerge for Marlee and Lawrence as they navigate grief, test new waters, and tentatively move forward. Not rated. At Starz. — Denver Film Society
Voiced by John Travolta, the chief asset in a bland ensemble struggling with its material, Bolt is a canine who headlines a TV show co-starring his longtime owner, Penny (Miley Cyrus). Bolt has never been told that his life-or-death adventures are fake, so he’s the star of his own depressing version of The Truman Show. Complications separate Bolt from Penny, sending him to New York City, where his superpowers, which he believes to be real, are useless. This animated Disney feature is stingy on wit, charm, jokes and narrative satisfactions. Rated PG (some mild action and peril). At Flatiron, Century, Twin Peaks and Colony Square.
Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Set during the horrors of WWII, Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a film presented through the eyes of an 8-year-old boy whose father is an SS officer at a concentration camp. He maintains a secret relationship with a Jewish boy inside the camp, with unexpected consequences. Rated PG-13. At Colony Square, Century and Chez Artiste.
Based on Southern California’s infamous Wineville chicken coop murders of the 1920s, this film, a combination of serial-killer saga and triumph of the human spirit, is a solid addition to Clint Eastwood’s directorial career. Eastwood tells a painful true story neatly and well, with one foot in rousing Hollywood melodrama and the other in a story that resists tidy resolution. Angelina Jolie shines as the mother of a missing boy, crusading against the law-enforcement officials who shut her away in hopes of shutting her up. Rated R (some violent and disturbing content and language). At Flatiron and Century. — Michael Phillips
A couple struggles to visit all of their divorced parents on Christmas Day. Rated PG-13. At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square and Twin Peaks.
High School Musical 3
The High School Musical series isn’t aimed at high schoolers, who presumably know by now that grades 9-12 aren’t a candy-coated wonderland. It’s aimed at preteens willing to bet high school will be the best thing ever. The first two HSM movies, made for TV’s Disney Channel, broke cable viewership records, and the first film’s soundtrack was 2006’s top-selling record. HSM 3 may be shallow, but what it lacks in narrative ambition, it makes up for in dazzling choreography that’s certain to leave its target audience transfixed. Consider it is harmlessly fluffy fun. Rated G. At Flatiron. — Tasha Robinson
I’ve Loved You So Long
Kristin Scott Thomas may be a more subtle and expressive performer in French than in English, and in this absorbing if schematic French-language drama, she’s superb as a doctor recently released from a 15-year prison sentence. The particulars of her crime, and her uneasy adjustment to a new life, form the basis of writer-director Philippe Claudet’s debut feature. Expect an Oscar nomination for Thomas. Rated PG-13 (thematic material and smoking). At Chez Artiste. — Michael Phillips
Let the Right One In
Fragile and anxious, 12-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is regularly bullied by his stronger classmates. The lonely boy’s wish for a friend seems to come true when he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), also 12, who moves in next door to him. A pale, serious young girl, she only comes out at night and doesn’t seem affected by the freezing temperatures. Coinciding with Eli’s arrival is a series of inexplicable disappearances and murders. One man is found tied to a tree, another frozen in the lake, a woman bitten in the neck. Blood seems to be the common denominator — and for an introverted boy like Oskar, it doesn’t take long before he figures out that Eli is a vampire. But by now a subtle romance has blossomed between them, and she gives him the strength to fight back against his aggressors. Director Tomas Alfredson and screenwriter John Ajvide Lindqvist weave friendship, rejection and loyalty into a disturbing and darkly atmospheric, yet poetic and unexpectedly tender tableau of adolescence. Rated R. At Starz. — Denver Film Society
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
The animated Madagascar (2005) made a mint, but this sequel is a better film — less manic, more easygoing. Marooned on Madagascar, Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer) and hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) yearn for home in the Central Park Zoo. The penguins rig up an old, busted plane and zing the quartet (plus stowaways) not to Manhattan, but to Africa. Rated PG (some mild crude humor). At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square and Twin Peaks. — Michael Phillips
Quantum of Solace
Chilly-eyed Daniel Craig is the right man for the James Bond franchise, and his second outing confirms it. The trouble is, Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball) demonstrates that not every director is well-suited to Bondland. There’s plenty of action, but half the time it’s visually incoherent. The tale picks up minutes after the end of 2006’s Casino Royale. Bond is after the shadowy Quantum organization for killing his lady friend. Rated PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content). At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square and Twin Peaks. — Michael Phillips
Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott mentor a medieval-fantasy-prone teenager (the invaluable Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who played “McLovin” in Superbad) and a trash-talking preteen (Bobb’e J. Thompson) in this sloppy but diverting comedy. The last 20 minutes, climaxing with a Dungeons & Dragons-type battle re-enactment, redeems much of what comes before. Rated R (pervasive language, and sexual content including nudity). At Flatiron and Century. — Michael Phillips
Slumdog Millionaire is a ruthlessly effective paean to destiny, leaving nothing to chance. It also has a good shot at winning this year’s Academy Award for best picture, if the pundits have anything to say about it. Every arrow plucked from director Danny Boyle’s quiver takes aim at the same objective: to leave you exhausted but wowed. An 18-year-old (Dev Patel) in the former Bombay, India, is suspected of cheating his way to national fame on the Hindi version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? Rated R (some violence, disturbing images and some language). At Esquire. — Michael Phillips
Syndedoche, New York
This fascinating brain-bender comes from writer-director Charlie Kaufman, whose earlier scripts (such as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) don’t prepare you for the conundrums here. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a theater director who dedicates his fraught life to an autobiographical performance piece he never seems to finish. Is it a dream? A death wish? It’s a movie worth seeing, even though a solid percentage of any audience will hate it. Rated R (language and some sexual content/nudity). At Century and Mayan. — Michael Phillips
Frank Martin must help the kidnapped daughter of a Ukranian official, and deliver her safely to Odessa. Rated PG-13. At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square and Twin Peaks.
This highly anticipated, surprisingly low-key vampire movie is a film of intelligent strengths and avoidable weaknesses, a modest adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s publishing phenomenon. It’s faithful to its source material, and it’s better written than Meyer’s frothy book. Teen Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) relocates from Arizona to Washington, where she falls for tortured, sensitive vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Director Catherine Hardwicke was right to concentrate on getting the smoldering down between her stars, but her film lacks visual magic. Rated PG-13 (some violence, and a scene of sensuality). At Flatiron, Century, Colony Square and Twin Peaks. — Michael Phillips
Vivre Sa Vie
Faced with a failed relationship, a dead-end job, and potential homelessness, young Parisienne Nana Kleinfrankenheim (Anna Karina) turns to “the life” — that is, prostitution. This simple tale of a whore with a heart of gold is told in twelve Brechtian tableaux and filmed in an austere, documentary-like style. One of writer/director Jean-Luc Godard’s most beautifully designed and deeply felt films, Vivre Sa Vie (My Life to Live) is anchored by Karina’s astonishing lead performance and Nouvelle Vague favorite Raoul Coutard’s breathtaking cinematography of street-level Paris. We’re proud to present this early masterpiece in a new 35mm print. Not rated. At Starz. — Denver Film Society
We Are Wizards
This documentary takes a look at the nation’s burgeoning “Wizard Rock” scene, comprised of Harry Potter followers who jam out to the themed rock of wizard musicians. Not rated. At Starz.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Pittsburgh residents Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) find themselves strapped for cash and decide to make a porno to pay the rent. The verbal raunch is extreme, though this is essentially a sweet-natured “Let’s put on a show!” ensemble comedy. Rogen and Banks are great together in writer-director Kevin Smith’s latest. Rated R (strong crude sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity and pervasive language). At Century. — Michael Phillips
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