Adhering closely to the original 1984 'Karate Kid' blueprint that made Ralph
Macchio and Pat Morita household names, this Will Smith-produced remake ups the stakes by moving the action to China. Casting Jackie Chan as Mr. Han, a martial-arts master who teaches his young protégé (Jaden Smith) how to fight, lends an air of authenticity to the otherwise by-the-book narrative. Grade: C-plus.
What starts out as a promising sci-fi thriller about romantically linked biochemists (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) loses steam in an underwhelming third-act climax evidently affected by budgetary limits. There's a dash of 'Rosemary's Baby' in a film that wants to present more of a horrifying scientific moral dilemma than it's able to deliver. Grade: C-plus.
With a guiding title premise that has little to no bearing on the story, 'The Yellow Handkerchief' is basically a glorified student film. Still, William Hurt gives a worthy performance as Brett Hanson, a convicted murderer released into the hot Louisiana sun after serving a six-year prison sentence. Grade: C-.
Overloaded to the point of diminishing returns, Alex Gibney's soup-to-nuts examination of super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff doesn't know when to cut bait. Audiences already numb to the staggering scale of America's ongoing governmental corruption will have a tough time digesting the cynical climate of greed that allows Abramoff's manipulation of congressmen and senators to continue under radical neoconservative rule, now enabled by a black Democratic president. Grade: B.
Deserving winner of the 2009 Best Foreign Film Oscar, 'The Secret in Their Eyes' is a gripping mystery film layered with canny cultural, political, psychological and romantic elements. Argentinean writer/director Juan Jose Campanella methodically lays the narrative groundwork of a murder case in which a 23-year-old bride was brutally raped and murdered, leaving her loyal husband Ricardo devastated and searching for her killer. Grade: A.
For as muddled as its medieval politics are, director Ridley Scott's cloud-covered history of Robin Longstride's path to outlaw legend soars whenever Cate Blanchett takes the screen as Maid Marion. But in an overworked effort at making Robin Hood a somber man with heavy emotional baggage about his father and an idealized sense of justice, Scott has drained all the fun out of a story that should at least have some amount of proletariat joy. Grade: C-plus.
As its generic name of the family that Americans strive to keep up with, 'The Joneses' is an insightful, if not especially scathing, satire from debut director/co-writer Derrick Borte about consumerist manipulation. Grade: B-.
The first film adaptation of the late Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson's posthumously published Millennium Trilogy, 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' is an enigmatic mystery thriller fired by the growling intensity of its goth-girl heroine Lisbeth Salander (ferociously played by Noomi Rapace). Grade: B.
Writer/director Philipp Stolzl precariously filmed on the actual face of the Swiss massif, the Eiger North Face, to create a nail-biting Nazi-era historic drama so convincing that you'll get chilled to the bone like the mountain climbers on screen. Grade: A-.