Herewith, a brief round-up of this weekend's opening flicks, and the conventional wisdom surrounding them. In descending order of rottentomatoes.com awesomeness.
The Story: A graceful older woman who has a boring day-to-day kind of life is slowly transformed by the transfixing power of language after she starts to take a poetry class, but in the process discovers a heinous crime that shatters her previous life.
The Skinny: This South Korean film has been raved about across the country since it started making the arthouse rounds a few weeks ago. Director Chang-dong Lee has made a film that seems to have thoroughly transfixed critics across the board, including the Inky's Stephen Rea, who gives it a perfect four stars, and calls it an "achingly exquisite portrait."
Full Review: Poetry
Now Playing: Ritz at the Bourse
Complete the Experience: If you take to heart that 'we shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree', you could do much worse to feed your inner soul and inspire poetic thoughts than signing up for a Pre-Spring Nature Class.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
The Last Lions
The Story: A lioness and her young cubs have to flee their usual territory because of a raging fire in the brush and the assault of a rival pride.
The Skinny: This narrative documentary from National Geographic follows the plight of the mother and her young cubs as they travel over the ever-dangerous terrain of Botswana's Okavango Delta. Facing crocodiles, buffalos and other lions, she has to take refuge on a remote island in order to survive. Dereck and Beverly Joubert's film dramatizes the plight of the world's rapidly dwindling lion population, drawing attention to the problem much as The Cove exposed a Japanese fishing village's cruel dolphin slaughter a couple of years ago. Is it effective? Citypaper's Cindy Fuchs says it offers a powerful message despite "the slow-motion footage, the flashbacks, the orchestral score and, above all, the human presumptions," which "are too often overbearing."
Full Review: The Last Lions
Now Playing: Ritz Five
Complete the Experience: We already sent you to the Zoo once today, so perhaps you can enjoy a decidedly more uplifting taste of African culture in West Philly's Dahlak, instead.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
The Story: An otherwise ordinary chameleon happens upon the lawless dust bowl of Dirt that happens to be desperately in need of a new sheriff.
The Skinny: So we have Johnny Depp lending his intriguing line readings to this animated tale from DW. So far the reviews have been sparkling, with no less than the notoriously tough Cindy Fuchs at the City Paper giving it an 'A+' rating and a glowing review that says the film "absorbs, embraces and pays heartfelt homage to some exceedingly classic sources, from Depp’s own Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Chinatown." Is it us, or does Johnny Depp have an unusually good eye for winners? (Um, notwithstanding last year's DOA "thriller," The Tourist).
Full Review: Rango
Now Playing: The Pearl
Complete the Experience: Assuming you have kids along your side (though this sounds like the kind of kids movie you don't really need the little urchins to enjoy), why not keep the lizardy theme and hit up the Reptile and Amphibian House at the Philly Zoo?
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
The Adjustment Bureau
The Story: A would-be senator meets a beautiful woman on the night he loses an election, but in trying to find her again, discovers a group of men and women whose job it is to make sure everyone's destiny runs exactly according to plan. For reasons they won't explain, he and the woman are not meant to be together.
The Skinny: Matt Damon stars as the young politico and gives a solid, charming performance, along with Emily Blunt, playing the object of his undying affection. Caught between a full-blown romance and an action thriller, however, director George Nolfi and his production team end up with a strangely inert film that never feels as if it has terribly much at stake. Equating angels as soul-suffocated corporate drones and God as the "Chairman" doesn't do much to enliven the spirit, either. At least that's one opinion, Scott Ross over at NBC's Popcorn Biz respectfully disagrees, and says the film is "actually a great date movie."
Full Review: The Adjustment Bureau
Now Playing: The Rave
Complete the Experience: You want to experience dizzying bureaucracy at its most vexing? Try renewing a business license up or settling up your taxes at the Municipal Services Building. Bring a picnic and make a day of it!
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%
Take Me Home Tonight
The Story: Over the course of a single evening, a directionless college grad pursues his dream girl at a massive Labor Day party, while his twin sister and best friend each face huge, life-changing challenges of their own.
The Skinny: The latest in the retro '80s line of films that probably should have about run their course, the film stars Topher Grace (who should have no problem with the nostalgia thing after his long run on "That '70s Show"), Dan Fogler (of Fanboys "fame") and the ever-amusing Anna Faris, who has so far made a young career out of rescuing less-than-funny films. Notably, the film was actually made several years ago and never released (NOTE: not a good sign, generally), so it's no surprise the reaction has been mixed at best, with Sasha Perl-Raver at Popcorn Biz calling it "Predictable, unnecessarily raunchy and uncomfortably unfunny." Hard to come back from that one.
Full Review: Take Me Home Tonight
Now Playing: UA Riverview
Complete the Experience: Hey, you don't have to convince us the Smiths were the greatest band ever. Revel in your time at the weekly '80s shindig known as Nocturne Wednesdays at Shampoo
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 36%
The Story: An arrogant jerk of a young man is cursed by a female classmate to become a monster and scare everyone he meets, until such time as he can find someone to love him beyond his fearsome appearance.
The Skinny: It's been a year or two, definitely time for another remake of "Beauty & the Beast," with the upteempth revamping of the classic story. The producers have tried to leave nothing to chance, with a cast of young and well-established beauties such as Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer and Mary-Kate Olsen, but so far, the reviews have been pretty scornful. Stephen Rea, at the Inky, has it that while the film's "underlying message is a worthy one … by the time the film gets there the audience's ability to empathize will be sorely tested."
Full Review: Beastly
Now Playing: UA Riverview
Complete the Experience: Part of what makes the beast so, er, beastly is a series of tattoos and markings on his face. While we would never endorse giving yourself a full-on Mike Tyson, you might consider a tasteful tatt from a well-respected joint such as NoKaOi.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 17%
Screen Grabs: The films you should drop everything to see, and the ones you should avoid like the plague.
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