This Means War
When Reese Witherspoon's Lauren finds herself dating Chris Pine's smooth-talking CIA agent FDR as well as his partner-in-espionage Tuck (Tom Hardy), she naturally recognizes their respective appeal and elegantly dissects it: FDR has "tiny hands" and Tuck is "British." Yes, This Means War is that dumb. Worse: It thinks you are too. When the two spies get wise to the other's wooing, a "war" breaks out for Lauren's affections. Tuck and FDR bug Lauren's home, install surveillance and heat sensors, and keep a GPS-enabled eye on each other's dates. Director McG shows no interest in establishing supporting characters, and the movie feels like it was constructed by a committee with focus-group worksheets in hand. It's been so thoroughly stripped of anything remotely offensive that one wishes they had simply thrown the story out with the bathwater. (Justin Strout). Rated PG-13. Albert Nobbs (R) — Having posed as a man since his teens, Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close) has gotten good at it. His fellow hotel workers, the toadying proprietress, and the well-heeled guests accept him as a somewhat fey and sexless little old gent. Then Albert meets another woman passing as a man (Janet McTeer), who is not only more confident and outgoing in her butch drag, but has married another woman. Having saved up a nest egg to start his own shop, he adds a wife to his dream future. Albert Nobbs is a bit of a mess, but it's often an appealing one. (Gardner)
The Artist (PG-13) — You won't find a lovelier valentine to the movies than Michel Hazanavicius' black-and-white and near-silent tribute to the silent screen. In 1927 Hollywood, matinee idol George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is on top of the movie world. But then talking pictures begin to revolutionize the industry, and George brushes them off, setting in motion his slow but steady downfall. The story is straight out of A Star Is Born, but the inspiration comes from 100 years of cinema. (Michael Gallucci)
Chronicle (PG-13) — Three archetypal teens stumble upon a big glowing rock in an underground cave. Soon they develop the ability to move objects with their minds. But then trouble brews after one of them cracks under pressure. Chronicle is shot found-footage style, but director Josh Trank drives it to the max. Instead of being glued to a single camera, perspective is passed around constantly. The jarring shifts and switch-ups make for some of the most exciting scenes you'll see this season. (Kyle Swenson)
A Dangerous Method (R) — The relationship between Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) and her doctor Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) will cycle through many stages and, according to David Cronenberg's version of this real-life story, shape both the relationship between Jung and his idol/soon-to-be-mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and the development of psychological theory itself. It's a fascinating account and an enormously rich film. (Lee Gardner)
Haywire (R) — There are plenty of dramatically realistic fight scenes in Steven Soderbergh's star-packed, globe-crossing action flick. MMA-fighter-turned-actress Gina Carano plays a beautiful operative on a mission for revenge after her security firm double-crosses her. But the plot is transparent and predictable. At times, Haywire recalls the slick aesthetics of Soderbergh's Ocean's movies, but with none of the cerebral payoffs. (Vince Grzegorek)
The Iron Lady (PG-13) — Meryl Streep's performance drives this biopic on Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister who's been a conservative pinup queen for 30 years. The movie follows Thatcher as she jumps from one memory to the next. The pace starts slow, but once Streep steps in, the screen starts running with historical mayhem. (Kyle Swenson)
Safe House (R) — Denzel Washington plays Tobin Frost, a former CIA agent accused of trading secrets. Ryan Reynolds is a baby-faced CIA newbie who whiles away the time at a rarely used safe house in South Africa, pining for a tougher assignment. Then Tobin is brought in for questioning, followed by gunshots, fights, and assassins. Are there corrupt bosses back at the agency? What about double agents? You betcha. It's an action-packed ride, but it would be nice if it slowed down for a minute. (Grzegorek)
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