Ondi Timoner's feature-length documentary platform for mapping out facts and fallacies about global warming might shed light on additionally pressing issues like global poverty and lack of clean drinking water, but it never brings the audience into the one-sided conversation. The film's lead voice, author Bjorn Lomborg, is shown to be a showman with a big ego that frequently obfuscates his humanitarian message. Grade: C-.
A flawed decision to split the final installment of the Harry Potter books into two films results in a formless narrative that overstays its welcome. For as detailed as director David Yates attempts to be with slick visual effects that periodically invigorate the movie, the overemphasized spectacle merely illustrates the film's lacking storyline. Grade: C.
France jumps into 2010 as the year of the crime drama with a violent splash. Vincent Cassel is credibly persuasive as the notorious French gangster of a thousand faces, Jacques Mesrine, a ruthless criminal with style and attitude to spare. Based on Mesrine's memoir, director Jean-Francois Richet pulls out all the stops to create an action-packed crime drama that tallies its characters brutal acts with breathtaking car chases and prison escape sequences. Grade: B-plus.
If you only see one movie this year, Charles Ferguson's financial meltdown documentary is the one to see. Matt Damon narrates this essential soup-to-nuts explanation of the Wall Street and government players whose illicit methods brought down the global economy. Grade: A.
Here's another pound of cautionary proof supporting the theorem that "story is about thoroughness, not shortcuts." Director Robert Shwentke's adaptation of a DC Comics action/comedy graphic novel is nothing but a series of creaky narrative half-steps. The result leaves no cohesive story in which an audience can invest. Grade: D-plus.
Documentarian Davis Guggenheim delivers the same level of cultural awareness about American education myths as his film An Inconvenient Truth brought forth regarding global warming. The filmmakers methodically introduce America's systemic public education crisis with data and graphs that show how the majority of U.S. high schools have become "Drop-Out Factories." Grade: A-.
Co-directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost make a fascinating-by-design docudrama about a Facebook romance between a Manhattan photographer named Nev and Megan, a 17-year-old girl. 'Catfish' is an original, humorous, dark and profound look at the nature of modern-day communication. Google Maps, Facebook posts and cell phone conversations only tell so much about what or who is real. Grade: B-plus.
Oliver Stone makes a winning attempt at staying true to his original 'Wall Street' storytelling about the warped mentality of the center of the economic universe. In keeping with the energized rhythms of his 1987 film, when greed was "good" (now it's "legal"), Stone masterfully applies stylistic, narrative and character details. Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon impeccably fulfill their dream-team roles. Grade: B.
Based on real-life exploits of the husband-and-wife team that opened and operated Nevada's Mustang Ranch (the first legal brothel in the country), 'Love Ranch' holds the seedy promise of a 1970s period piece bubbling over with all the nudity, camp humor and tantalizing danger of a Russ Meyers' movie.
Instead, the film plays it so safe that the only thing holding it together is Helen Mirren's flawless performance as an elegant brothel madam with a showboating husband (played by a miscast Joe Pesci). Grade: C-.
In spite of its prosaic dramatic trappings, 'Legendary' is brought to fitful life with perceptive performances from its ensemble cast that includes a strong turn from an underrated John Cena and a solid homerun by Patricia Clarkson as the small-town mother of two polar-opposite sons (Cena and Devon Gray). Grade: B-.