Weekend movie guide: See it or flee it?

Categories: Film
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"What do you wanna see?"

"I dunno. What do you wanna see?"

Don't let this happen to you! Here's our guide to the best and worst films playing this weekend.

OPENING

SEE: Avatar
The money is on the screen in James Cameron's mega-3-D, mondo-CGI, more-than-a-quarter-billion-dollar baby, about a group of Sky People (Americans) who launch a military operation to strip-mine a precious element on the planet of Pandora. To infiltrate the natives (blue creatures called Na'vis, the military creates remotely operated avatars. But one avatar operator falls in love with a local Na'vi girl. (area theaters)
City Pages: "Avatar seamlessly synthesizes live action, animation, performance-capture, and CGI to create what is essentially a non-participatory computer game. But the muscular visuals can only trump the movie's camp dialogue and corny conception up to a point."
Star Tribune: 4 stars Pioneer Press: 3 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 82% positive

FLEE: Did You Hear About the Morgans?
When a bickering Manhattan couple (Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker) witness a murder, they are put in a protection program and sent to a small town in Wyoming. (area theaters)
City Pages: "While the story never strays from its formula, it's a thoroughly delightful throwaway--the kind of movie for which cable television was made."
Star Tribune: 1 star Pioneer Press: 1.5 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 9% positive

SEE: The Maid
A Sundance award-winner from Chile takes a comic look at the relationship between a live-in housekeeper (a wonderful performance by Catalina Saavedra) and her employers. (Uptown Theatre)
City Pages: "The Maid is neither a crude lampoon of domestic servitude nor a knee-jerk skewering of the bourgeoisie, deftly shifting its point of view and keeping us off-balance as to where its sympathies lie."
Star Tribune: 3.5 stars Pioneer Press: 3 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 94% positive

MAYBE: William Kunstler: Disturbing The Universe
A documentary on the controversial civil rights attorney who defended the Chicago 8 and, later, a series of unsavory clients from alleged rapists to assassins. (Lagoon Cinema)
City Pages: "The film plods diligently through the irascible lefty lawyer's career, but what makes it fascinating is the anguished dance around hagiography performed by two of his daughters, who wrote, directed, and narrated the movie."
Star Tribune: 3 stars Pioneer Press: 3 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 71% positive

MAYBE: The Young Victoria
Emily Blunt is cute, sassy, and wildly improbable as the titular Majesty-in-waiting, who, in life, was a short, dumpy policy wonk and energetic social reformer. (Edina Cinema)
City Pages: "Sagging beneath reams of expository dialogue, The Young Victoria reproduces the premise of The Queen (she outsmarts her worldlier advisers) with none of that movie's cheek or verve."
Star Tribune: 3 stars Pioneer Press: 3.5 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 68% positive

SCREENING

SEE: A Christmas Story
A sweet, tender, funny story about a 1940s kid (Peter Billingsley) who tries to finesse his way to his own personal grail (a Red Ryder BB gun) while coping with an anorexic kid brother, a strait-laced mom, and a mysterious father. Though it came out in 1983, A Christmas Story doesn't really seem to age, only to stand as a reminder that no one has made a better Christmas movie since. (Riverview Theater, Monday through Wednesday, December 23, at 5 and 7:15 p.m.)

SEE: Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The Riverview presents its fifth annual screening of the complete Rings trilogy, including the extended directors' cuts of the first two films. (Riverview Theater, Sunday from 10:45 a.m. to 7:10 p.m.)

SEE: British Television Advertising Awards
The popular annual showcase highlights the best of British TV commercials. (Walker Art Center, Thursday through Saturday, January 2)

ONGOING

SEE: Fantastic Mr. Fox
This stop-motion animated film has been getting rave reviews as a retelling of a Roald Dahl story. Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) is a gentleman bandit who has given up his life of crime at the behest of Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), but still feels the call of the wild. Clooney and Streep do some of their best work. (area theaters)

SEE: The Messenger
A moving and nuanced drama about a wounded Iraq War hero (Ben Foster) and a struggling Army lifer (Woody Harrelson) who are assigned to deliver the worst news to fallen soldiers' next of kin. It is loaded with authentic compassion and charm, and Harrelson nails a showy role. (area theaters)

SEE: Precious
Based on the 1996 bestseller Push by African-American poet Sapphire, Precious is a powerful drama about the life of an obese, illiterate 16-year-old, who has been physically and psychologically abused by her mother and repeatedly raped by her father. Superb performances from Mo'Nique and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe. (area theaters)

SEE: Up in the Air
Jason Reitman (Juno) directs a snappy but surprisingly substantial story about a corporate downsizer who takes pride in his jet-setting and emotionally unencumbered life--until self-doubt begins to creep in. George Clooney has never been more human. (area theaters)

For more film ideas, capsule reviews, and showtimes, click here.



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