"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.
SEE: The Ghost Writer Ewan McGregor diffidently plays a writer working on the memoirs of an exiled politician (Pierce Brosnan), a former British prime minister trying to dodge extradition for war-on-terrorism overreaching. (Uptown Theatre) City Pages: "Saved by often delightfully bitchy British dialogue. ... What actually happens is less important than the glimmers of that old Roman Polanski magic: ambient paranoia and uneven power struggles." Star Tribune: 4 stars Pioneer Press: 1.5 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 81% positive
MAYBE: Alice in Wonderland Tim Burton rethinks the Disney classic in a visually stunning but otherwise uninspiring story about an older Alice (Mia Wasikowska) who returns to Wonderland to escape her engagement to an aristocratic twit. Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anne Hathaway are wonderful, even if the movie is thin. (area theaters) City Pages: "Alice is off-handed in its violence and doggedly on message--a straightforward allegory of female actualization. ... Alice may be a babe, but Eros is largely sublimated. ... The 3-D is shallow and largely superfluous." Star Tribune: 2 stars Pioneer Press: 2.5 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 53% positive
MAYBE: Brooklyn's Finest Three cop movies in one, all of which you've seen before: the sullen burnout (Richard Gere) a week from retirement who finds accidental redemption; the undercover brother (Don Cheadle) asked to do One Last Big, Bad Thing before he's kicked upstairs; and the good-ish cop gone bad (Ethan Hawke). (area theaters) City Pages: " Disappointing. ... The script sounds like every other movie, which would be forgivable if it at least acknowledged its antecedents or if the director had turned this sleepy sucker up to 11." Star Tribune: 2 stars Pioneer Press: 3 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 33% positive
FLEE: Saint John of Las Vegas A car-insurance employee (Steve Buscemi, his eyes more sunken and cadaverous than usual) goes on his first fraud investigation to Las Vegas, which becomes a long, weird journey to come to terms with his gambling addiction and the unremarkable revelation that, like many men, he's destined for comfortable mediocrity. City Pages: "Saint John traps good comic performers in airless editing and an unproductive, unresolved, sludgy tone." Star Tribune: 1 star Pioneer Press: 2 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 14% positive
Next pages: Special screenings, art houses, and ongoing films
SEE: Babe A runt piglet is adopted by a kindly farmer (James Cromwell) who, with the help of his dogs, teaches the little pig how to herd sheep. Nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1996, including Best Picture, and won for Best Visual Effects. (Theatres at Mall of America, Saturday at 10 a.m.)
SEE: Jason and the Argonauts This stolid 1963 retelling of Greek legend has three things going for it: the episodic plot, in which a ruler-in-exile assembles a crew of adventurers to find a treasure in defiance of one god and for the pleasure of another; an appropriately heroic score; and action sequences graced with the still-cool stop-motion animation effects of producer Ray Harryhausen (the subject of a monthlong tribute at the Trylon). (Trylon Microcinema, Friday and Saturday at 7 and 9 p.m.)
Next page: Ongoing films
SEE: Cop Out Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis play two mismatched cops in a clever riff on and loving homage to every cop movie you've seen before. (area theaters)
SEE: The Crazies A peaceful little American town suddenly becomes a nightmarish killing ground when its law-abiding citizens are struck by a virus that makes people go berserk. Nifty action sequences nearly always feature a moment of surprise, as well as gruesome wit. (area theaters)
SEE: Shutter Island Martin Scorsese's florid art shocker, about a U.S. marshal (Leo DiCaprio) and sidekick (Mark Ruffalo), who investigate a disappearance on an island prison for the criminally insane. (area theaters)
MAYBE: District 13: Ultimatum Less a sequel than a remake of the exhilarating 2006 action flick that introduced parkour, the French run-and-jump urban obstacle sport, to American audiences. David Belle returns as the endlessly inventive ghetto acrobat who teams with an equally idealistic policeman to save the local ghetto from destruction by an evil corporation. (area theaters)
MAYBE: The Wolfman It's got Benicio Del Toro, lush atmospherics, and chilling special effects, so it's probably on your list. But despite all the sound, fury, and unintentional camp, it's still bafflingly inert. (area theaters)
For more film ideas, capsule reviews, and showtimes, click here.