Movie review capsules

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

"Bright Star"

More chaste yet almost as erotically minded as previous films like The Piano, writer-director Jane Campion's gorgeous new work presents the three-year relationship between ill-fated poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) as a love of consuming intensity and mutual concessions.

The common period theme of romance thwarted by finance is handled here with welcome restraint. As the picture of a girl in the throes of first love, Cornish, conversely, provides a necessary source of warmth. Unfortunately, it's not a sensation you'll get from Whishaw's internalized Keats, or from Campion, whose work always feels vaguely clinical. Grade: B

"Capitalism: A Love Story"

The latest from Michael Moore argues that something has gotten seriously skewed with the American way of doing business through a collection of truly infuriating facts relating to wage disparities and corporate amorality, examples of individuals abused by the system as it is, a blow-by-blow history of financial deregulation over the past two decades and a look at the way things used to be through his own family history.

For avid readers of progressive news sites, a lot of this won't be new, and Moore's latest isn't always helped by the kind of grandstanding stunts he's perpetrated for years. But the film's tonal progression strengthens his message, as does the personal information Moore shares. The last part also works as an effective retort to some of the worst attacks of his critics. Grade: B

"Couples Retreat"

Co-stars and co-writers Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau complete their devolution from money hipsters to sitcom-level caricatures with this lazy comedy about four couples who take advantage of a group rate at a tropical island retreat for marrieds on the rocks.

The script keeps all relationships shallow and generic, and in his directorial debut, Peter Billingsley doesn't add anything visual to raise the bar. Only Vaughn actually inspires laughter, but with the same basic character he's been making a nice living from for years. Grade: C-

"The Cove"

It's been a while since moviegoers have seen a new Jason Bourne adventure, but this riveting documentary has a real-life variation in Ric O'Barry, a former dolphin trainer for the Flipper TV series who leads a mission to capture on video the annual herding and slaughter of dolphins by the thousands in a remote cove on the Japanese coast.

The movie makes no bones about its conservationist agenda, but the hard facts uncovered should speak to everyone who eats fish, and director Louie Psihoyos rewards viewers through his admirable savvy with Hollywood-style filmmaking. By the time the hidden cameras come out, you'll be on the edge of your seat. Grade: A-


Kevin Tancharoen's remake of Alan Parker's 1980 musical about a New York performing arts high school keeps the four-year timeline of the original and brings in a similar, strategically updated crop of new students.

For the most part, the musical numbers work as well as before, but the sanitization that was expected to make the dark, raunchy original work for a post-High School Musical world goes too far, knocking some of the soul from the piece. Grade: C

"The Invention of Lying"

With co-writer-director Matthew Robinson, British import Ricky Gervais has created an alternate reality in which only truth exists, until his character Mark Bellison - a short, pudgy, generally unsuccessful screenwriter - discovers how to make things up. They consider some fascinating things within the setup, from the advertising that would result to the effects of a world without flattery, and give Jennifer Garner a delightful showcase as Mark's love interest.

The filmmakers also go deeper and darker with their idea than expected, into the varying nature of lies and liars. But the fascination with the central conceit starts to wane before the story's humor picks back up, and the dead spot that results can be hard to plow through. Grade: B-

"It Might Get Loud"

Setting up a meeting between Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, Davis Guggenheim's documentary is a gift to guitar geeks, but its appeal extends to anyone with enough musical interest to be intrigued. While it hits a few off notes in the stylistic clashes between the U2 guitarist and the others, also in some contrivance in setting and situation, it's a tight, entertaining and sometimes exciting package overall. Grade: B

"More Than a Game"

Through never-before-seen archival footage and present-day interviews, Kris Belman's doc chronicles how LeBron James and a core of teammates were brought together in the fifth grade by a father-figure coach and led through junior high championships and a high school run in the national spotlight.

The beauty of the film is that it really isn't about James. It's about team, and deep friendships that last for years. Though its lack of a singular focus can be frustrating, if you're any kind of sports fan, you shouldn't miss it. Grade: B

"Paranormal Activity"

Riding a smart, Blair Witch-style marketing campaign, this ultra-low budget, handheld camera shocker from newcomer Oren Peli expanded last weekend from sold-out midnight screenings in a few college towns like Columbus to full screens and full houses in cities across the country. Fortunately the film, which recounts three weeks in the life of a young couple troubled by strange occurrences in their apartment, recorded on their home video camera, has enough scares to warrant the attention.

Working against it are some pacing issues, as well as a male protagonist (Micah Sloat) who can be really annoying, but co-star Katie Featherston is totally believable and sympathetic. And the scenes that make up the heart of the movie - long night-vision shots of the couple sleeping while something else is awake in their presence - maximize the punch of some very basic effects. Grade: B-

"The Room" NEW!"

In the realm of bad movies, there occasionally comes a film so unusual and impassioned in its awfulness, giggling surrender is the only appropriate response. Across the country, thousands of moviegoers - including the likes of Paul Rudd, David Cross and Kristen Bell - have found this to be true while watching The Room, the 2003 cult sensation by would-be auteur Tommy Wiseau.

The subject of features in Entertainment Weekly and The AV Club, The Room chronicles a love triangle between Johnny (Wiseau), his scheming live-in love Lisa (Juliette Danielle) and Johnny's best friend Mark (Greg Sestero).

But a simple synopsis can't do justice to the movie's bizarre progression of schizophrenic character developments, dropped-like-a-hot-potato subplots and unrealistic yet remarkably gross sex scenes, all of it attached to a base of misogyny too hilariously childish to be offensive.

This one, you really have to see for yourself. The Drexel hosts the movie's local theatrical premiere this weekend, presenting midnight shows Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16-17, and a 9 p.m. screening Sunday, Oct. 18. Grade: B+ -Melissa Starker

"Whip It"

Drew Barrymore's directorial debut about a shy small-town teen (Ellen Page) who discovers her true calling in women's roller derby is pretty much the movie you'd expect from the Barrymore we've come to know on screen. Like her, it's smart, goofy and likable, chick-centric but friendly to guys as well.

Barrymore's coming-of-age tale/sports movie, adapted by Shauna Cross from her novel, benefits from a cool dynamic among the derby teams generated by a fine ensemble cast (Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis and Zoe Bell, to name a few). And when the action moves to the rink, it's clear the filmmaker has done her homework in the sports genre.

Occasionally things get a little too goofy or manipulative, but nonetheless, this one's big fun. Grade: B+


Zombieland's just too good to resist, a source of new pleasures in a genre so undead that even the parodies were starting to seem stale. After a no-frills setup, the movie introduces characters named for hometowns, including Jesse Eisenberg's narrator Columbus (represent!), Woody Harrelson's zombie slayer Tallahassee and a pair of con artist sisters (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin), and together they road-trip their way through the apocalypse.

From the dry wit of the narration to the video game violence and some awesome surprises, this is most likely the most fun you'll have in a movie theater this year. Grade: A-