Disney has played around with fairy tales before, but Tangled is a different kind of mess. Based on the story of longhaired damsel-in-distress Rapunzel (the movie’s original title, by the way), the heroine (voiced by Mandy Moore) is a stronger, more independent girl here – still trapped in that dreadful tower, but more than capable of making it on her own. She’s also pretty good at kicking butt, which she does alongside thief Flynn (Chuck’s Zachary Levi), who reluctantly rescues Rapunzel from her towering prison. Like Shrek, Tangled stirs around fairy-tale conventions. Unlike Shrek, it doesn’t do a very good job of it, but there are some cute moments. In a way, Tangled is an old-fashioned Disney movie, with Broadway-ready songs, an evil witch-like villain obsessing over a pretty young princess, and funny animals (an eye-rolling chameleon steals the show). But the zippy CGI and wisecracking hero -- not to mention the 3-D --are definitely post-Shrek. And that’s the movie’s big problem: it’s stuck between two eras, without a firm grasp on either one. --Michael Gallucci
Love and Other Drugs
Movies rarely pack as much into 113 minutes as Edward Zwick’s romantic comedy-drama Love and Other Drugs. Directors often stumble when balancing this mix, but Zwick makes it all work. The film is partly based on Jamie Reidy’s memoir of his stint as a pharmaceutical salesman in the ’90s (with a new love story added for the screen). Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a glib womanizer who gets by on his seductive charm. The job’s slippery ethics match his personality -- the sleazy tactics he uses to push pills include seducing receptionists and pimping for horny physicians. Jamie pursues Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a clever and beautiful artist with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, and the pair — both averse to commitment — begin an affair, complete with plenty of onscreen nudity. Jamie’s career rockets when Pfizer launches its magical moneymaker, Viagra, but he’s blindsided by his love for Maggie. Love and Other Drugs is so entertaining that when Maggie’s illness really takes hold, it’s like a punch to the gut. Though the movie meanders at times, it brims with sharp words and solid performances. --Pamela Zoslov
A generic, by-the-numbers action flick starring a coasting Dwayne Johnson and a slumming Billy Bob Thornton, this (barely) glorified B-movie should have gone straight to video and saved everyone involved a lot of needless embarrassment. Clumsily helmed by the once-promising George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Men of Honor), the only distinction of this otherwise completely forgettable snoozer is the amount of sadistic violence meted out to the bad (and good) guys. Johnson is a hard-nosed ex-con seeking to avenge his kid brother’s murder; Thornton plays the burned out, itching-to-retire veteran cop hot on his trail. Sound familiar? That’s probably because you’ve already seen this movie a hundred times before -- and most of them were better. Each year there’s a number of disposable films that primarily serve as sacrificial roadkill for the designated holiday blockbusters, and Faster does its part to satisfy that dubious quota. Look for it to hit PPV and DVD PDQ. --Milan Paurich
An early Christmas gift for Proposition 8 opponents, writer-director Steven Antin’s indifferently constructed, lazily written backstage musical is still worth checking out if you’re a guilty-pleasure enthusiast. Christina Aguilera (not terrible) plays a small-town waitress who, after hopping a bus to Los Angeles, gets a job as an all-singing, all-dancing showgirl at an upscale gentlemen’s club. Since the, er, eclectic cast also includes Cher -- although you’ll be forgiven if you mistake her for a West Hollywood Cher impersonator -- as co-owner of the Burlesque Lounge, Alan Cumming (camping it up as the MC), and an indispensable Stanley Tucci (the club’s been-there, seen-it-all stage manager), there’s serious, albeit disreputable fun to be had. The Bob Fosse-Goes-MTV musical numbers are a mixed bag, but Cher’s balls-to-the-wall torch ballad “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” neatly sums up the film’s gay, gaudy spirit. While there may be plenty of better movies released this holiday season, Burlesque is the only one you can take both grandma and your tranny BFF to. --Paurich
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