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|December 25-31, 2008
En route to love, and to save his ranch from the clutches of a rival, a cattleman known as “The Drover” (Hugh Jackman) guides a prim Englishwoman (Nicole Kidman), a crew of mixed-race outcasts and 1,500 head of cattle across thousands of miles of Australia during World War II. The second half of director Baz Luhrmann’s first project since Moulin Rouge! develops some momentum. But you have to pass through the first half to get to the second, by which time you may find yourself drowning in high-fructose Aussie corn syrup. Rated PG-13 (a scene of sensuality, brief strong language and some violence). At Flatiron. — Michael Phillips
Adam Sandler stars in this light-hearted film about a man whose tall tales become a reality. Rated PG. At Flatiron, Colony Square and Twin Peaks.
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. — Michael Phillips
A man dies very unexpectedly and leaves behind two men: Jeff, his best friend, and Andrea, an Italian he’s been corresponding with online. Jeff informs Andrea of Mark’s passing; Andrea writes back to express his shock and sympathies. On a whim, they continue their correspondence and a rapport grows between them. They eventually meet, where they extend their e-mail exchanges into more personal and intimate conversations. They talk about their respective countries, their jobs, their families, their lives. Mostly, they talk about Mark. What began as a tragedy that linked two strangers from different ends of the world becomes a deeply realized friendship that may change their lives forever. Not rated. At Starz. —Denver Film Society
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
A New Orleans man born in 1918 ages backwards into the 21st century. rated PG-13. At Flatiron, Colony Square and Twin Peaks.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The year’s least necessary remake stars Keanu Reeves as interplanetary visitor Klaatu, first introduced in the 1951 original. This time, Earth’s sins are more climate-based than warfare-based. Klaatu has come to issue a warning to Earth’s leaders: Either treat your planet with more care or prepare for mass extinction. Reeves’ portrayal offers little spark or surprise. Klaatu is a blank, and all around him, the flying spheres and Mummy-inspired digital swirls of schmutz are strictly routine. Rated PG-13 (some sci-fi disaster images and violence). At Flatiron and Colony Square. — Michael Phillips
A deft, beautifully built play has made it to the screen with its dramatic juice intact. John Patrick Shanley adapted and directed his stage piece set in a Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964, pitting Meryl Streep’s Sister Aloysius against Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Father Flynn, who’s suspected of an improper student relationship. Rated PG-13 (thematic material). At Flatiron, Colony Square and Mayan.
Christmas itself will survive this acrid, wince-worthy holiday film, but barely. Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn (who both need new agents) play a carefree couple who routinely lie to their respective divorced parents about being unable to visit around the holidays. But bad weather ruins their trip to Fiji and strands them in an airport, they’re interviewed on TV, and their families see it, so to save face they speed-visit all four sets of caricatures. The cast, which also includes Sissy Spacek and Robert Duvall, is far better than its material. Rated PG-13 (some sexual humor and language). At Flatiron and Colony Square. — Michael Phillips
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 Starz. — Michael Phillips
Marley & Me
A couple’s new puppy grows up to be a neurotic handful. Rated PG. At Flatiron, Colony Square and Twin Peaks.
The story of Harvey Milk is a tragedy, but not since Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High has Sean Penn played such a serenely happy individual. Penn is superb as the martyred San Francisco city supervisor, America’s first widely acknowledged openly gay elected official. He was killed by Milk’s former colleague, Dan White (Josh Brolin, also excellent), minutes after White’s fatal shooting of Mayor George Moscone in 1978. Rated R (language, some sexual content and brief violence). At Mayan, Colony Square and Chez Artiste. — 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 and Colony Square. — Michael Phillips
In post-WWII Germany, a teenager becomes ill and is helped by a stranger twice his age. After he recovers, the two are drawn into a passionate and secretive affair. The two become even closer when the teenager discovers that his lover enjoys it when he reads to her from classics such as Huck Finn and The Odyssey. Rated R. At Chez Artiste.
See full screen review on page 31. Rated PG-13. At Flatiron, Colony Square and Twin Peaks.
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, Chez Artiste and Colony Square. — Michael Phillips
A rookie cop, Denny Colt, returns from the other side to fight Central City’s crime force and a handful of femme fatales. Rated PG-13. At Flatiron, Colony Square and Twin Peaks.
The Tale of Despereaux
This earnest, emotional film is a mixed but pretty interesting bag, though its G rating may mislead some parents into taking 4- or 5-year-olds to it, which could lead to some freakouts. Much of the movie, based on a Newbery Medal-winning book, has a grim narrative. But this rodent story featuring the voices of Matthew Broderick, Emma Watson and Kevin Kline, among others, is still better-than-average animation. Rated G. At Flatiron, Colony Square and Twin Peaks. — Michael Phillips
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. — Michael Phillips
This WWII flick follows Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg who plots to control his nation’s government and kill Hitler. Rated PG-13. At Flatiron, Colony Square and Twin Peaks.
Were the World Mine
If you had a love potion, who would you make fall madly in love with you? Timothy, prone to escaping his dismal high school reality through dazzling musical daydreams, gets to answer that question in a very real way. After his eccentric teacher casts him as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, he stumbles upon a recipe hidden within the script to create the play’s magical, purple love-pansy. Armed with the pansy, Timothy’s fading spirit soars as he puckishly imposes a new reality by turning much of his narrow-minded town gay, beginning with the rugby jock of his dreams. Ensnaring family, friends and enemies in this heart wrenching chaos, Timothy forces them to walk a mile in his musical shoes. The course of true love never did run smooth, but by the end of this moving musical comedy of errors based on director Tom Gustafson’s prolific Award-winning short film, Faeries, the bumpy ride comes to a heartfelt conclusion. with vibrant imagery, a first rate ensemble cast and innovative music rivaling the best of pop/rock and contemporary Broadway, Were The World Mine attempts to push modern gay cinema and musical film beyond expectation. Not rated. At Starz. — Denver Film Society
See full screen review on page 31. Rated PG-13. At Flatiron, Twin Peaks and Colony Square.
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