Hot Tub Time Machine, Greenberg: See 'em or flee 'em?
Hot Tub Time Machine
Lots of worthy, if not great, films opening this weekend, from Jonathan Demme's Neil Young concert film to the better-than-you-might-expect Hot Tub Time Machine to a darker-than-usual comedy from Ben Stiller.
SEE: Hot Tub Time Machine Sad-sack friends Lou (Rob Corddry), Nick (a standout Craig Robinson), and Adam (John Cusack) head to the mountains where, 24 years ago, they had an epic weekend. Soon, via the eponymous plot device, they're young again at "Winterfest '86," an absurd wonderland of lime-green ski suits and casual sex. (area theaters) City Pages: "A fundamentally lazy comedy that will probably make you laugh like an idiot. ... Though the sweetness and cheer of its inspirations is supplemented with violence, barfing, and hate-fucking, it's still a funny and worthwhile." Star Tribune: 3 stars Pioneer Press: 2.5 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 66% positive
SEE: Greenberg The personal assistant (Greta Gerwig) to a Hollywood Hills hotshot about to go on vacation is supposed to do whatever she can for her boss's brother Roger (Ben Stiller), who, newly released from a mental hospital back East, will be house-sitting and looking after the family dog. Stiller's failed rock musician turned carpenter is a cranky, opinionated, self-pitying know-it-all. Not much happens--it's a movie of throwaway one-liners and understated drama--but when the time comes it knocks you out with the subtlest of badda-booms. (area theaters) City Pages: "Sad, funny, and acutely self-conscious, it's a mordant character study, unafraid to project a downbeat worldview or feature an impossible protagonist. Stiller is painfully poignant." Star Tribune: 1.5 stars Pioneer Press: 3 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 69% positive SEE: Neil Young Trunk Show The second in Jonathan Demme's planned trilogy of Young-in-concert movies, Trunk Show is a slapdash job--endearingly so, as Young's set juggles between acoustic and electric. (Lagoon Cinema) City Pages: "Removing even stage banter, the focus is entirely on performance, save for a few 'candid backstage' bits." Star Tribune: 2.5 stars Pioneer Press: 2 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 90% positive
SEE: Terribly Happy After waving a gun around at home, young Copenhagen cop Robert Hansen (Jakob Cedergren) is shipped to the boondocks to cool off as marshal of a small town. He finds amused villagers with a highly developed talent for collusion as he investigates dark deeds unfolding on the town's marshy outskirts. (Edina Cinema) City Pages: "A simmering stew about a man who made one violent mistake and gets ruined anew by genially corrupt yokels." Star Tribune: 2.5 stars Pioneer Press: 3.5 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 90% positive
MAYBE: Chloe In Atom Egoyan's work-for-hire film, successful gynecologist Catherine (Julianne Moore) suspects that her husband, the distinguished professor David (Liam Neeson), is having affairs with his students. In lieu of a detective, she hires a fresh-faced young hooker who calls herself Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to entrap him. Before long, the enigmatic child is giving Catherine a detailed account of her relations with David, and the client is turned on. (area theaters) City Pages: "Posh, cool, and never less than obvious. ... It's all too soigne to be truly risible, but thanks to Egoyan's trademark mix of detachment and prurience, the fun is more cheesy than queasy." Star Tribune: 3 stars Pioneer Press: 3 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 49% positive MAYBE: How to Train Your Dragon Other critics were much kinder than City Pages' toward this animated tale of a skinny Viking nerd-boy (voiced by Jay Baruchel) named Hiccup who befriends fire-breathing dragons, hoping to impress his father (Gerard Butler), and falls in love with a feisty young Vikingette (America Ferrera). (area theaters) City Pages: "Adequate but unremarkable. Struggles to rise to the challenge of hitching a red-blooded fantasy action-adventure to a huggy-kissy message that covers all antiwar and eco bases." Star Tribune: 3.5 stars Pioneer Press: 3.5 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 96% positive Next pages: Special screenings, art houses, and ongoing films
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
SEE: Gold Diggers of 1933 In this first chapter of the Depression-era Gold Diggers trilogy, Busby Berkeley's famously trippy and ironic dance sequences seem more visually captivating than anything else that was selling tickets in 1933. Less remembered is the let's-put-on-a-show plot about showgirls and rich guys that was handed off to director Mervyn LeRoy. (Heights Theatre, Saturday at 2 p.m.)
SEE: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad If by chance there's a movie heaven for techno-nerds, then the inhumanly patient stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen has a throne up there. His pre-digital FX are the main reason to sit through this 1958 oldie-but-alrightie, which finds Sinbad (Kerwin Matthews) trying to quell a brewing war and seducing a princess (Kathryn Grant). The animated highlights include pissed-off skeletons swinging scimitars and a cyclops-vs.-dragon climax that feels like a steel-cage death match (that's a compliment). (Trylon Microcinema, Friday and Saturday at 7 and 8:45 p.m.; Sunday at 5:20 and 7 p.m.)
SEE: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo A disgraced investigative journalist (Michael Nyqvist) is asked by an industrialist (Sven-Bertil Taube) to investigate the disappearance of his niece from a family reunion 40 years ago. Together they disinter the family's grotesque secrets, while somebody--a still-active serial sex-murderer, perhaps?--uses increasingly violent methods to try to stop them. An elegant contraction of Stieg Larsson's novel, it has a headlong velocity all its own. Catch it before the inevitable U.S. remake. (Uptown Theatre)
SEE: Green Zone A bang-bang pulse-pounder predicated on the Bush administration's deliberate fabrication of WMDs in Iraq. Matt Damon is a two-fisted, patriotic mega-rogue Boy Scout cum investigative soldier looking for the weapons, but he gradually senses the fix is on at the highest levels. (area theaters)
SEE: A Prophet A French gangster movie that has become a darling of film fests and critics' polls. A newly jailed Arab prisoner is forced to come to terms with the prison pecking order as he comes under the dominance of a ruthless Corsican mob boss. (Edina Cinema)
SEE: The Runaways A punked-up Kristen Stewart and a barely dressed Dakota Fanning beg for street cred by playing dress-up as, respectively, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, front girls of the '70s-era teen proto-punk sensation the Runaways. But under the stylish direction of Floria Sigismondi, it's a movie worth taking seriously, about the commercial exploitation of the teenage bandmates' sexuality and their eventual realization of the consequences. (area theaters)
FLEE: Repo Men In a futuristic society where artificial organs can be bought on credit--and ruthlessly repossessed if patients don't pay their bills--a repo man (Jude Law) suddenly finds himself on the receiving end of a new mechanical heart. When he himself falls behind on his payments, the organ company sends his former partner (Forest Whitaker) to kill him and take back the heart. (area theaters)
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