Stern-enzi writes, “Uxtal’s death march is a long, depressing road, hopeless if truth be told, but audiences will find themselves drawn into companionship with this remarkable figure thanks to an otherworldly performance from Bardem who, along with Daniel Day-Lewis, has become the new standard for judging motion-picture acting.”
Hyperbole? Maybe not: Bardem's presence somehow made the insipid Eat, Prey, Love bearable. And there are very few guys from any era who could have pulled off both the sexual audacity of his Lothario in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the offbeat menace of his Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. Then there's the first time I remember taking note of this unique "skills": His pairing with current-day wife Penelope Cruz in Pedro Almodovar's Live Flesh, an under-seen 1997 gem that remains as visceral and entertaining as the day it appeared.
Elsewhere, it's a pretty safe bet to say that the men — Adam Sandler, Justin Bieber, Channing Tatum — who populate this week's other releases fall short of Bardem's standard.
BIUTIFUL — Working for the first time from his own screenplay, Alejandro González Iñárritu explores yet another Third World ghetto and the lost souls seeking redemption in these hells on Earth. But he’s not making the journey alone. His muse and fellow wanderer, Javier Bardem, brings his beautifully expressive face. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated R.) Grade: A
THE EAGLE — Film journalists might gripe about empty-headed movies, yet there’s something even more aggravating about a movie that tries to say something despite having no idea exactly what that “something” is. The Eagle plays as a simplistic adventure that wants to be taken seriously, but never has the guts to stake out a point of view. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C-
GNOMEO & JULIET — Shakespeare's classic tale of doomed teenage love is told via animated garden gnomes voiced by James McAvoy and Emily Blunt. Kelly Asbury directs a diverse cast of supporting voices that includes Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Michael Caine, Hulk Hogan, Patrick Stewart and Ozzy Osbourne. Elton John also provides a bunch of his old-school hits. (Opens wide Friday.) — Jason Gargano (Rated G.) Review coming soon.
THE ILLUSIONIST — Animating an unproduced script by the late great Jacques Tati proves a problematic challenge for filmmaker Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville): Tati's ingenious style of physical comedy just doesn't translate in to animation. That's not to take anything away from Chomet, who employs light and color in elegant and understated ways. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — CS (Rated PG.) Grade: B-
JUST GO WITH IT — Adam Sandler's latest intellectually challenged fairy tale centers on a plastic surgeon (Sandler) who pretends he's married in order to woo chicks. Swimsuit-model-turned-actress Brooklyn Decker is the object of his affections, and Jennifer Aniston is the co-worker who poses as his wife. So let's get this straight: We're supposed to believe that Sandler has a medical degree and that he can pull an swimsuit model 20 years his junior? Sorry, dude, we just can't go with that. Sandler's longtime go-to guy, Dennis Dugan (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, Grown Ups), “directs.” (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG.) Review coming soon.
JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER — The little boy wonder gets the big-screen treatment in this music doc that's apparently going to urge us to never give up on our dreams. Look for appearances by mentor/label boss Usher and peeps Boyz II Men, Snoop Dogg, Miley Cyrus and Ludacris. Jon Chu, the guy behind Step Up 2 and Step Up 3D, directs. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG.) Review coming soon.