Thinking about catching a movie this weekend? Here's what to see...
FANTASTIC MR. FOX: Wes Anderson has added an existential layer to Roald Dahl's 1970 children's novel. Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) is no longer just a devoted husband and father trying to put food on the table, but instead a gentleman bandit who has given up his life of crime at the behest of Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep). What was essentially a survival story has become a fable about that wildness of spirit we are encouraged to tame as we get older. (area theaters) City Pages: "This stop-motion animated film is a marvel to behold, with wonderful shifts in perspective and an intentional herky-jerkiness of motion that only enriches the make-believe atmosphere. Clooney and Streep do some of their best work." Star Tribune: 4 stars Pioneer Press: 3.5 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 92% positive
THE ROAD: A father and his 10-year-old son traverse a despoiled, post-apocalyptic landscape of unspeakable horror. (Based on Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.) (area theaters) City Pages: "The Road is less a disaster flick than a global death trip--intended perhaps as an audience ordeal in the tradition of The Passion of the Christ, complete with redemptive ending and regularly articulated life lessons." Star Tribune: 4 stars Pioneer Press: 3 stars RottenTomatoes.com: 71% positive
THE BIG LEBOWSKI: This sublimely absurd exercise in screwball noir is one of the Coen brothers' funniest and most visionary films--and, not coincidentally, their gentlest. (Parkway Theater, Thursday at 4:30, 6:45, and 9 p.m.)
LOST HORIZON: When a plane crashes in the Tibetan Himalayas, its passengers are rescued by a mysterious tribe of people who take them to a beautiful and seemingly perfect valley without want or strife, in Frank Capra's 1937 classic starring Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt. (Trylon Microcinema, Friday and Saturday at 7 and 9:35 p.m.)
SHALL WE DANCE: This 1937 Rogers and Astaire vehicle isn't as well known or highly acclaimed as, say, Top Hat, but it is stellar entertainment. The plot, about a ballet star (Astaire) who tries to woo a popular dancer (Rogers) by, among other things, sailing across the Atlantic on the same ship she's on, skips along with such brisk comic energy that you don't even mind that its stars don't actually dance together until the halfway point. (Heights Theatre, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.)
WHAT WOULD JESUS BUY?: A slick, well-paced, and tremendously entertaining documentary that follows a group called Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping on a pre-Christmas tour through an endless parade of dreary Midwestern malls. Reverend Billy is a performance artist riffing on the persona of an evangelical minister in order to drive home to Americans just how in thrall we are to the church of consumerism. (Riverview Theater, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m.)
THE MESSENGER: A moving and nuanced drama about a wounded Iraq War hero (Ben Foster) and a struggling Army lifer (Woody Harrelson) who are assigned to deliver the worst news to fallen soldiers' next of kin. It is loaded with authentic compassion and charm, and Harrelson nails a showy role. (area theaters)
PRECIOUS: Based on the 1996 bestseller Push by African-American poet Sapphire, Precious is a powerful drama about the life of an obese, illiterate 16-year-old, who has been physically and psychologically abused by her mother and repeatedly raped by her father. Superb performances from Mo'Nique and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe. (area theaters)
AN EDUCATION: Spirited, 16-year-old overachiever Jenny (Carey Mulligan, in an enchanting, star-making performance) falls under the spell of David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), a thirtysomething Jewish entrepreneur, who begins whisking Jenny off to glamorous concerts and art auctions--and not just for her erudition. (Edina Cinema)
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