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Lame Lions 

Do-goodie political filmmakers are starting to bore

Previews

Opening Friday, Nov. 16, following in the footsteps of last year's 300, Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf brings another digitally enhanced warrior to the screen for your viewing pleasure. The film uses the technology of "performance capture" seen in The Polar Express to tell the story of the misunderstood monster who has been terrorizing us humans since somewhere around the year 700, in and out of classes in Old English literature. Ray Winstone (voice) is the warrior sent to tame Grendel, voiced by Crispin Glover. Also featuring images of Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn and others. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sexual material and nudity. 125 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

Probably more to my taste is Love in a Time of Cholera , based on the well-known 1985 novel by Gabriel Garc??a M?°rquez. Directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), the film tells the story of Florentino (Javier Bardem) who as a teen falls in love with Fermina (Giovanna Mezzoggiorno, Don't Tell) but must wait over a half-century for a consummation. That even puts the penguins to shame. Rated R for sexual content/nudity and brief language. 149 m. At the Broadway.

The family comedy/holiday film Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium features Natalie Portman as a woman who inherits a toy store that was owned by the 243-year-old Mr. Magorium (Dustin Hoffman), causing the toys to get very upset. Only a young boy (Zach Mills, Hollywoodland) can revive the wonder. Rated G. 106 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

Reviews

LIONS FOR LAMBS: I must admit that I'm getting a little tired of being preached to at the movies, even when I'm a member of the choir. Lions for Lambs is a relentlessly liberal story replete with a professor (Robert Redford, who also directed) who is the best of all possible teachers, an ambitious politician who is totally arrogant and corrupt (Tom Cruise in what is hardly a stretch) and a brainy reporter who just wants to report the real news and not be an entertainer or a tool for politicians (Meryl Streep, solid as always).

A possibly unfair summary of the film might go like this: In Lions for Lambs,the viewer learns that there are some really caring teachers who inspire students, that politicians lack ethics and are corrupt (that came as a particular shocker for me) and that there are still some reporters who care about educating the public as to what is going on in the country. Thus we have the best of all possible teachers and journalists and the worst of all possible politicians.

I'm sure the film has the best of intentions as well, but it totally lacks subtlety and complexity. The opening images are effective and nicely set up the film's narrative strategy. The viewer sees a series of close-ups of the three primary characters. The story itself then proceeds by alternating between Janine Roth (Streep) interviewing Republican Senator Jasper Irving (Cruise), history professor Dr. Stephen Malley (Redford) having a conference with bright student Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield), who has become jaded about his education, and shots of a military mission in Afghanistan that involves two former students of Malley's, Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Pe?±a) and Arian Finch (Derek Luke), who joined up when they were inspired by Malley's class to make a difference. I should add that Malley tried to talk them out of enlisting.

Senator Irving is pushing a new military strategy, hinted at in the film's title, which is underway as he talks to Roth, and which he hopes will lead him to the White House. He wants Roth to write a positive piece about it but she sees through his rhetoric only to discover that her editor only cares about getting an exclusive, not the truth.

The mission goes badly awry for Rodriguez and Finch (but not for Irving) and whether Malley affects Hayes at all is left unclear. Life's a bitch and then you die. I suppose the film also wants to make a point by having a Latino and an African-American die for the sake of a white senator's ambitions.

As the film ends, Hayes is back in his room watching TV. The lead story on the screen has to do with the arrest of some entertainer while scrolling across the bottom of the screen is a story about the successful new mission in Afghanistan. Hayes is jaded? I never could have imagined why unless I had seen this sledgehammer of a film. Rated R for some war violence and language. 102 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

P2: As horror films go, 2006's The Hills Have Eyes was decent, so when I saw that the screenplay for P2 was co-written by the writer for Hills,Alexandre Aja, I had some hopes for this film.

The setup is certainly promising. Attorney Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols, Resurrecting the Champ; the final season of Alias) is working late on Christmas Eve, but promises her family that she will show up for the holiday dinner (after all, she's bringing the Santa suit). We see that she is somewhat abused by her boss, and we discover that one of her married male co-workers had made a clumsy pass at her at an office holiday party for which he apologizes as he's leaving from work.

When Angela reaches level P2 of the firm's parking garage, hers is the only car left. And, wouldn't you just know it, the car won't start. Up pops security guard Thomas (Wes Bentley, the creepy voyeur in American Beauty) who offers to help, and hints that he would be pleased if Angela would share his meal. As they've never met, the offer is as creepy as Thomas' demeanor.

The viewer discovers, though, that Thomas has been spying on Angela with his bank of security cameras (always the voyeur, apparently); he even saw the pass her co-worker made on the elevator, and you might be able to guess what that guy's fate might be. To cut to the chase, Angela spends the film trapped on level P2 trying to escape from the sadistic, psychopathic Thomas.

As this is another version of the "final girl" slasher film, the ending is not in doubt, just how long it takes to get there and with how much blood.

The film's biggest challenge is how to get Angela out of her professional outfit and into a cleavage-revealing one, and that happens during a cut after she blacks out when chloroformed by Thomas.

If you're going to make what is basically a two-hander film then both actors had better be good. Nichols is a good actor and here she gamely makes the most out of her stereotyped character, but Bentley is truly awful. He utilizes every psychopath clich?© that you've seen over and over in Hollywood films. Neither actor is helped by the embarrassingly poor script, but at least Nichols speaks her lines with conviction, a feat that seems beyond Bentley.

To add insult to injury, the viewer is also subjected to really bad Christmas music (I always wondered what went on in a psychopath's mind). Oh yeah, I almost forgot the vicious Rottweiler. Hopefully, I will forget the movie itself soon. Rated R for strong violence/gore, terror and language. 108 m. At The Movies and Mill Creek.

Continuing

3:10 TO YUMA: Remake of the 1957 Western that made "yuma" universal Cuban slang for "America." Stars R. Crowe, C. Bale. Rated R. 117 m. At The Movies.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. Love story set in the 1960s amid war protests, mind exploration and rock 'n' roll. Rated PG-13. 134 m. At the Broadway.

AMERICAN GANGSTER. True, juggernaut success story of cult crime hero from the streets of 1970s Harlem. Rated R. 157 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

BEE MOVIE. A bee, disillusioned with the prospect of never-ending honey collection, breaks bee rules and talks to a human. Rated PG. 91 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

DAN IN REAL LIFE. Advice columnist is expert on relationships, but struggles to succeed as brother, son and single parent. Rated PG-13. 98 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

DARJEELING LIMITED. Three brothers, bonding on a train trip across India, become stranded in the middle of the desert. Rated R. 91 m. At the Broadway and the Minor.

FRED CLAUS. Saint Nick's rabble-rousing big brother Fred jeopardizes the jolliest holiday of the year, Christmas. Rated PG. 116 m. At Fortuna, the Broadway and Mill Creek.

GAME PLAN. Superstar quarterback (T. Rock) discovers he has a daughter. Rated PG. 110 m. At The Movies.

INTO THE WILD. College grad abandons his material possessions then hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wild. Rated R. 149 m. At the Minor.

MARTIAN CHILD. Science fiction writer forms unlikely family with close friend and young boy he adopts, who claims to be from Mars. Rated PG. 108 m. At The Movies and Mill Creek.

SAW IV. A SWAT commander has 90 minutes to overcome demented traps and save an old friend or face the deadly consequences. Rated R. 95 m. At The Movies.

WE OWN THE NIGHT. Bobby Green, manager of a legendary Russian-owned nightclub in Brooklyn in 1988, deals with police corruption, Russian gangsters and NY's booming drug trade. Rated R. 118 m. At The Movies.

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