now in theaters
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKUEL
Thanks a lot, kids. Apparently enough of you saw the 2007 live-action adaptation of Alvin and the Chipmunks that the studio is bringing Jason Lee and the shrill CGI rodents back for more butchering of
2009’s biggest songs and 1997’s hippest slang. This time, there are female ’munks, too. Let’s hope that the jokes in the movie aren’t as labored as the one in the title. Rated PG. 92 minutes. Regal Stadium 14, Santa Fe; DreamCatcher, Española; Reel Deal, Los Alamos; Storyteller, Taos. (Not reviewed)
ANIMAL TREASURE ISLAND
This 1971 animated adventure from Japan — which boasts the heavy involvement of an early-career Hayao Miyazaki— loosely translates Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale into a Looney Tunes-style adventure starring animals. The movie is the cinematic equivalent to setting sail for the horizon with your best buddies at your side and a spyglass in hand. It sets its sights on the toddler audience and should please them. Not rated. 78 minutes. Dubbed in English. CCA Cinematheque, Santa Fe. (Robert Benziker)
This crowd pleaser recounts the story of Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a homeless Memphis teen who, after being taken in by the wealthy Tuohy family, went on to become a first-round NFL draft pick. It’s a feel-good yarn that would be nauseating if it weren’t true, but it scores the extra point for not going long into melodramatic territory. Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, and Ray McKinnon give solid performances. Rated PG-13. 128 minutes. Regal Stadium 14, Santa Fe; DreamCatcher, Española. (Laurel Gladden)
James Cameron’s adventure — about an ex-soldier (SamWorthington) who uses a synthetic body to infiltrate a race of giant blue aliens and help the military tap into their natural resources— finally hits screens after years of preparation. The script is stale and the picture is an hour too long, but the planet of Pandora is the most fully realized fictional world that’s ever been put up on screen. The attention to detail is extraordinary, and the effects are way ahead of the curve. See it in 3-D if possible. Rated PG-13. 162 minutes. Screens in digital 3-D at Regal Stadium 14, Santa Fe; DreamCatcher, Española; Storyteller, Taos. Also shows in 2-D at DreamCatcher, Española; Reel Deal, Los Alamos. (Robert Benziker) See review, Page 58.
THE BLIND SIDE
Director Jim Sheridan has made a classy but emotionally underdone remake of Susanne Bier’s 2004 Danish drama about two brothers. One is a war hero and family man; the other is an ex-con. Brothers deals with the hidden mortality of war— the deaths that go unrecorded because the deceased are still alive and outwardly functioning. Rated R. 104 minutes.
Regal North, Santa Fe; DreamCatcher, Española. ( Jonathan Richards)
Lynn Barber, a British journalist with a reputation for the jugular, fell in with a shady older man when she was 16, and 40 years later she wrote a memoir. Carey Mulligan plays the teenage Jenny, Barber’s alter ego, and a star is born. Peter Sarsgaard is the charming, predatory David, and the top-notch cast includes Emma Thompson, Alfred Molina, and Dominic Cooper. It’s a coming-of-age movie that examines the relative importance of different approaches to an education. Rated PG-13. 95 minutes. Regal DeVargas, Santa Fe. ( Jonathan Richards)
DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Some people might groan at yet another version of the Dickens tale, but those who still love it will find this one to be a prize goose. Director Robert Zemeckis applies the same approach that he used in The Polar Express to grimy old London and all those ghosts, in a rendition of the story that is genuinely and delightfully scary. Jim Carrey performs Scrooge at various ages as well as the three spirits. Rated PG. 96 minutes. Regal North, Santa Fe. (Robert Benziker)
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?
Mild fish-out-of-water comedy that will make you yearn for more water. Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker play a separated married couple who are thrust into the government’s witness protection program after they witness a murder. They’re sent out west to hide, where they try to mend their relationship and milk cows. Grant and Parker give it their all, as do costars Sam Elliot and Mary Steenburgen (as a husband-and-wife team of marshals), but a poor script and lackluster direction weigh the whole thing down. Rated PG-13. 103 minutes. Regal Stadium 14, Santa Fe; DreamCatcher, Española; Storyteller, Taos. (Robert Nott)
A widower (Robert De Niro) travels to see each of his four children after they all turn down his Christmas invitation. On his travels, he learns about the subtle lies family members tell one another and the difference between being “fine” and happy. This is a skillfully shot feel-good holiday flick that features nice acting by De Niro, Drew Barrymore, and Sam Rockwell. It’s a “fine” movie— but goopy Hallmark touches, a curious lack of tension, and an oatmeal-flavored protagonist highlight the difference between “fine” and good. Rated PG-13. 100 minutes. Regal North, Santa Fe. (Robert Benziker)
Morgan Freeman captures the dignity, compassion, and wisdom of Nelson Mandela in director Clint Eastwood’s beautifully crafted movie. It’s an account of the strategy used by the new South African president (fresh from 30 years in prison) in 1994 to bring together a country riven with post-apartheid resentment and fear by focusing on the national rugby team’s pursuit of theWorld Cup. Predictably feel-good but filled with subtle touches, character observations, and fine performances, particularly by Matt Damon as the team captain. Rated PG-13. 134 minutes. Regal Stadium 14, Santa Fe; DreamCatcher, Española; Reel Deal, Los Alamos. ( Jonathan Richards)
FANTASTIC MR. FOX
Filmmaker Wes Anderson proves to be a perfect match for children’s author Roald Dahl as he and a talented team of voice actors and stop-motion animators bring Dahl’s novella about a crafty fox and three nasty farmers to life. They’ve managed to make a film that is herky-jerky and slightly surreal in the classic stop-motion tradition. It’s funny, contains equal parts whimsy and sophistication, and is perfect for adults and children without pandering to either audience. Rated PG. 87 minutes. Regal North, Santa Fe. (Robert Benziker)
INVICTUS LA DANSE: LE BALLET DE L’OPÉRA DE PARIS
This documentary by FrederickWiseman shows the huge and sometimes dangerously icy bulk that supports the magic of the Paris Opera Ballet: dancers rehearsing with manic intensity, technicians and costumers at work, administrators arguing with union personnel, and the millions of details it takes to make one perfect moment happen onstage. The film never lets us see inside minds and hearts: we are separated from the dancers by Wiseman’s approach and concept. The result feels almost second-hand; the movie is filled with a sort of glorious sadness amid
the triumph. Not rated. 159 minutes. In French and English with subtitles. CCA Cinematheque, Santa Fe. (Craig Smith)
Writer and director Cédric Klapisch’s latest is an ode to Paris that is similar to Paul Thomas Anderson’s ode to L.A., Magnolia, in that it details the multiple narratives of diverse people, including a critically ill man, while also serving as a love letter to the locale in which it is set. Beautifully shot, breezy, and never boring, Paris gives an impression of eavesdropping on conversations at a café. Rated R. 130 minutes. In French with subtitles. CCA Cinematheque, Santa Fe. (Robert Benziker)
The 2007 comedy Wild Hogs enjoyed a very successful run in Santa Fe. Old Dogs doesn’t carry the appeal of having been filmed in Madrid, but it does boast the same director (Walt Becker) and star (John Travolta) as that film. Travolta and Robin Williams play bachelors who must learn new tricks when they’re forced to care for 7-year-old twins. Rated PG. 88 minutes. Regal North, Santa Fe. (Not reviewed)
Richard Curtis, who gave us the sublimely funny Love, Actually, scores again with a nostalgic look at the mid-’60s, when Brits, whose rock revolution had taken the world by storm, had to get their fix of their musical heroes from offshore pirate-radio stations while the BBC kept them off the approved airwaves. Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, and Philip Seymour Hoffman lead a terrific cast. The comedy is hilarious and the music is great. Rated R. 115 minutes. Regal DeVargas, Santa Fe. (Jonathan Richards) Disney returns to hand-drawn animation in this beautifully rendered, musically rich re-imagining of E.D. Baker’s The Frog Princess. When handsome prince Naveen (Bruno Campos) pulls into New Orleans in search of a wealthy bride, his plans are dashed by a voodoo witch doctor (Keith David) who turns him into a frog. A woman named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) wishes upon a star and kisses the frog, hoping that it will help her realize her dream of opening a restaurant, but she gets a lot more than she bargained for. Rated G. 95 minutes. Regal Stadium 14, Santa Fe; DreamCatcher, Española; Reel Deal, Los Alamos; Storyteller, Taos. (Rob DeWalt)
PIRATE RADIO PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL “PUSH” BY SAPPHIRE
Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is a poor, illiterate, obese teen who lives in Harlem with her abusive mother (Mo’Nique). Her drug-addict father repeatedly rapes her, and she is pregnant with their second child. She’s about to be kicked out of school when her principal tells her about an alternative school where she can pursue her GED. With its cornucopia of misery, Precious almost seems like a new type of horror film, but it succeeds thanks to superior performances and by running on realistic hope rather than syrupy optimism. Rated R. 110 minutes. Regal DeVargas, Santa Fe; DreamCatcher, Española. (Laurel Gladden) See review, Page 54.
Director/co-writer John Woo detours from the martial arts/ gangster oeuvre and trains his lens on a battle from Chinese dynastic history in this sweeping, action-filled war epic. When a power-hungry warlord from China’s northern territory plans an attack on two rebel leaders and their outnumbered armies to the south, he grossly underestimates their cunning and resolve. Loosely based on the 14th-century novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Red Cliff is more a meditation on ancient Chinese battle strategy than a
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
thorough character study or history lesson. Rated R. 148 minutes. In Chinese with subtitles. The Screen, Santa Fe (Rob DeWalt).
This manylayered docudrama by filmmaker Peter Greenaway examines in detail the content and context of Rembrandt’s 1642 painting The Night Watch. Part lecturer and part investigative reporter, Greenaway puts himself in the film and sifts through the cast of characters in Rembrandt’s painting— who, according to the director, are all suspects in a murder that the painter alludes to in this seminal work. The film is a fascinating interweaving of art history, biography, 17th-century Dutch politics, and murder mystery. Not rated. 86 minutes. The Screen, Santa Fe. (Douglas Fairfield)
Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel about a father and son in a desperate, post-apocalyptic America is adapted for the screen by writer Joe Penhall ( Enduring Love) and director John Hillcoat ( The Proposition), and they do about as good a job as you could ask. They hit the major themes, the landscapes look stunning, and Viggo Mortensen contributes a moving lead performance. However, you’re never unaware that you’re watching a movie, which weakens the experience. Rated R. 111 minutes. Regal DeVargas, Santa Fe. (Robert Benziker) See review, Page 54.
In his latest disaster picture, Roland Emmerich ( Independence Day) uses half-baked Maya prophecy and extensive CGI technology as excuses to destroy the entire world. One crazy scene, in which the film’s hero (John Cusack) takes a limo and a small plane to narrowly escape L.A. falling into the ocean, is epic in its silliness. Unfortunately, the movie is at least an hour too long, flooded with too many talking heads and too much melodrama. Oh, the humanity! Rated PG-13. 158 minutes. Regal North, Santa Fe. (Robert Benziker)
Writer and director Hirokazu Kore-eda ( Nobody Knows) elevates himself to the level of master with this film. A 40-year-old man (Hiroshi Abe) brings his new family to stay with his elderly parents, and the generational divide becomes apparent in profound ways both subtle and blunt. The acting is sublime, and the film is a lesson in the visual language of cinema. Not rated. 114 minutes. In Japanese with subtitles. The Screen, Santa Fe. (Robert Benziker)