The fall movie season gets a much-needed kick in the ass this week, as no fewer than a half-dozen worthwhile (or at least intriguing) films in a variety of genres hit movie houses.
After a six-year hiatus, Jane Campion returns with Bright Star, an affecting yet curiously conventional true-life period piece from a filmmaker who usually employs a more daring approach. Rabble-rousing documentarian du jour Michael Moore is also back, this time tackling the topic of capitalism. (Read tt stern-enzi’s review below; for the record, I found Capitalism: A Love Story slightly less effective than tt due to its scattershot narrative approach.)
Then there are a pair of directorial debuts: Ricky Gervais’ The Invention of Lying and Drew Barrymore’s Whip It look to be amusing efforts from a pair better known for their acting skills.
Cincinnati World Cinema opens its fall film series with In the Loop, a scathingly funny satire about the inanities of modern war negotiations. (Read Steven Rosen full-length review below.)
Hell, even Zombieland looks like a gas — I’ve learned to give lead dude Jesse Eisenberg the benefit of the doubt in the wake of his off-kilter yet awkwardly believable performances in several discerning films: Roger Dodger, The Squid and the Whale, The Education of Charlie Banks and Adventureland, to name a few. Curious Eisenberg side-note: He is to play the lead in David Fincher’s upcoming biopic on the dude who founded Facebook, which is tentatively entitled The Social Network.
BRIGHT STAR — Jane Campion’s love letter to the brief but passionate romance between poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his neighbor Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) does its best to combat the inherent limitations of the biopic genre, breathing life into characters whose unfortunate fates are known from the get-go. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG.) Grade: B
CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY — Filmmaker/rabble-rouser Michael Moore returns with a bookend of sorts to his 1989 debut, Roger & Me. Capitalism: A Love Story documents Moore’s mission to lay the blame for the financial crisis at the feet of American political and business interests. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated R.) Grade: A
IN THE LOOP — Mix The West Wing’s knowingness of policy wonks with The Office’s deadpan, mockumentary-style humor, and then throw in Wag the Dog’s scabrous, pessimistic take on the political motives for going to war, and you have In the Loop. (Read full-length review here.) (Screens 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Carnegie in Covington as part of Cincinnati World Cinema’s fall film series.) — Steven Rosen (Rated R.) Grade: B
THE INVENTION OF LYING — The ever-amusing Ricky Gervais stars, co-writes and co-directs this comedy about a world in which lying has yet to be invented. Yes, everyone tells the truth, no matter the consequences. Expect mondo-hilarity to ensue. Co-writer/director Matthew Robinson helps guide a cast that also includes Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Rob Lowe and Tina Fey. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.
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TOY STORY 1 & 2 — Disney/Pixar dusts off one of its most successful franchises in order to cash in on the current 3-D craze. Is that enough to justify a double-bill re-release. We’ll find out soon enough. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated G.) Is a review really necessary?
WHIP IT — Drew Barrymore takes a turn in the director’s chair with Whip It, the story of a ragtag team of Texas roller derby girls who inspire a lifelong outsider (Ellen Page) to find her own place in the raucous world of wheeled mayhem. It is the kind of story that plays like a random thought drifting through Barrymore’s beautiful mind, and even with the on-the-nose typecasting of Page as the hip, smart upstart, there’s never any doubt that this is Barrymore’s whip to crack. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tts (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-
ZOMBIELAND — Perhaps capitalizing on the success of Twilight, True Blood and other current living dead offerings (not to mention decades of George A. Romero's genre-defining entries), this new thriller features Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson as humans with differing philosophies about how to eradicate zombies from their futuristic world. Ruben Fleischer 's directorial debut is a nice entry into the genre: crafty, well cast, funny and oddly touching. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated R.) Grade: B