Weekend movie guide: See it or flee it?

Categories: Film

crazy heart.jpg

"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: Crazy Heart
Jeff Bridges has become an Oscar favorite for his performance as Bad Blake, a washed-up honky-tonk hero who travels the country playing low-pay, low-turnout gigs. But Bad's life starts getting better when a small-time journalist and single mom (Maggie Gyllenhaal) meets him for a rare interview. (Uptown Theatre)
City Pages: "No scene feels obligatory, and Crazy Heart shows a pragmatic but tender understanding of the relationship between physical breakdown and the discovery of morality. It's merely a well-done, adult American movie--that is to say, a rarity."
Star Tribune: 3.5 stars Pioneer Press: 3 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 90% positive

MAYBE: The Book of Eli
It's 31 years after the scorched-earth apocalypse. On the road since Year Zero, Denzel Washington's Eli has become an expert at using his wickedly quick machete to ward off roving bands of highwaymen from his precious cargo: the last copy of the Bible. Eli has gotten decidedly mixed reviews, from "awful" to "enthralling," but all agree it's visually stunning. (area theaters)
City Pages: "This plastic parable isn't much more advanced than Insane Clown Posse theology."
Star Tribune: 1.5 stars Pioneer Press: 4 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 48% positive

MAYBE: The Lovely Bones
Cults collide as Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson tackles Alice Sebold's bestselling New Age gothic, the story of a rape-murder-dismemberment and its aftermath, narrated by its 14-year-old victim from heaven. (area theaters)
City Pages: "The movie is horrific yet cloying, sometimes poignant, and often ridiculous."
Star Tribune: 3.5 stars Pioneer Press: 1 star RottenTomatoes.com: 35% positive

FLEE: The Spy Next Door
An undercover CIA agent from China (Jackie Chan), posing as a sweater-vested pen importer, offers to mind the three kids of his Albuquerque next-door-neighbor sweetheart, while fighting off Russian baddies hatching a petroleum plot. (area theaters)
City Pages: "Immediately forgettable family entertainment, suitable for release only in the dung-heap month of January."
Star Tribune: 1 star Pioneer Press: 2 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 5% positive

SCREENING
SEE: Dead Man
North America's own Heart of Darkness, this underappreciated Jim Jarmusch masterwork may be one of the best films of the past decade--provided the viewer can bear to drift through the "wild West" along with Johnny Depp's artless loner and to take direction from the image rather than the story. What there is of the latter is pretty sketchy: A prissy Eastern accountant (Depp) takes the train west to a horrible frontier town, finds the job he was promised already filled, shoots a man who threatens a whore, and flees into the wilderness, where he gets lost and found in all sorts of interesting ways. There's no single "truth" to this bloody and enigmatic film, but Jarmusch does try to see around the myths of the West. (Trylon Microcinema, Friday and Saturday at 7 and 9:05 p.m.)

SEE: The Room
But be forewarned: The only reason to fork out your money is to find out why this 2003 "black comedy" has earned a cult reputation as one of the most hypnotically awful movies ever made. The Room follows the relationships of five people, centered on a successful banker (Tommy Wiseau, who also directed and produced this vanity project) and his conniving fiancée. But audiences and critics agree that the acting is so jaw-droppingly wretched and the writing so laughably inept that the movie may be the apotheosis of "so bad it's good" filmmaking. (Uptown Theatre, Friday and Saturday at midnight)

SEE: The Third Man
In this classic British film noir thriller, an American pulp writer (Joseph Cotten) with a fondness for alcohol wanders bombed-out Vienna in search of what happened to the supposedly deceased Yankee racketeer Harry Lime (Orson Welles). His encounter with Lime is considered one of the most indelible introductions of a villain in all of cinema. (Heights Theatre, Monday at 7:30 p.m.)

ONGOING

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. (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)

MAYBE: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Terry Gilliam creates another postmodern adventure crammed to a fault with big ideas and bigger images. Heath Ledger gives his final performance, and Christopher Plummer plays the title role with livid zest as a misunderstood giant of the theater who trades away his daughter's future to the devil (Tom Waits--really!) in return for immortality. (area theaters)

MAYBE: Invictus
A rosy tale of racial reconciliation neatly wrapped in a triumphalist sports movie, Clint Eastwood's new movie tells the story of how freshly elected South African president Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman), with help from an Afrikaner rugby team captain (Matt Damon) turned a World Cup match into a moment of rainbow solidarity. As a portrait of a hero, the movie brings a lump to the throat; as history, it is borderline daft. (area theaters)

MAYBE: Youth in Revolt
Michael Cera stars as Nick Twisp in a CliffsNotes version of C.D. Payne's popular 1993 novel, but the book's main character has been has been stripped of his eccentricities and smarts. (area theaters)

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


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