Unrelentingly intense from start to finish, Jacques Audiard's bold examination of the modern-day French prison system hinges on its central character's transformation from an ignorant submissive criminal into an intelligent, dominant force. 'A Prophet' is worthy of the awards-season praise it has received. Grade: A.
You couldn't hope for a higher caliber sexploitation movie than Chloe, even if the sex thriller falls flatter than a day-old quiche. Atom Egoyan rekindles his lurking soft-core desires with a tawdry script by Eric Cressida Wilson, whose 2002 film 'Secretary' transcended a cultural movement of sexual identity. Audiences will have no such luck with this formulaic suspense picture about sexual deception. Grade: C-plus.
Leonardo DiCaprio effectively narrates this 43-minute IMAX 3-D journey into the farthest reaches of outer space. The film follows the Space Shuttle Atlantis on its 2009 rescue mission, and the eye-popping views of space shift into warp drive when the Hubble telescope substitutes for the IMAX camera lens to provide incredibly clear images of galaxies, stars and nebulae millions of light years away. Grade: B-plus.
Co-written by Roman Polanski with political journalist Robert Harris, upon whose novel the film is based, 'The Ghost Writer' is full of plot holes yet still entices. Ewan McGregor plays an unnamed English writer who takes up a surprisingly dangerous job as a ghostwriter/autobiographer for Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a former British prime minister accused of war crimes. Grade: B-.
Writer/director Michael Hoffman's film adaptation of Jay Parini's novel doesn't effectively rally the strength of its accomplished actors. Whenever the action abandons Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer)and wife Sofya (Helen Mirren), it's as if the film regresses into a teen love story. Grade: C-plus.
Martin Scorsese's latest is a gorgeously stylized psychological thriller full of darkly lush horror that torments its obsessed protagonist. As a former World War II veteran and U.S. Marshal, Leonardo DiCaprio hits every psychological mark that Scorsese dynamically orchestrates against a vast metaphorical natural and unnatural setting. Grade: A-.
Aside from some non-PG-rated emphasis on an abusive home life and a lot of underwhelming CGI, 'Percy Jackson' is a well-paced kids' action picture that flirts with Greek mythology to create its otherworldly spectacle. Unfortunately, director Chris Columbus takes a literal approach to spectacle that denies the magnificent use of weirdness and scale that famed stop-action animator Ray Harryhausen brought to such myth-inspired classics as 'Jason and the Argonauts' (1963). Grade: B-.
Longtime Hollywood director Garry Marshall's latest is yet another date
movie that's less than the sum of its parts. The sheer number of A-list
actors involved spells trouble. With half as many subplots, the filmmakers might have been able to keep the plates of passion spinning atop their spindly knees. Grade: C.
Adam Goldberg embodies Adrian Jacobs, a pretentious avant-garde composer and leader of an experimental musical trio called New Sound Ensemble, in Jonathan Parker's send up of Manhattan's art world. In showing the sincerity beneath the absurdity of the experimental art world, Parker gives a window of empathy for the brittle characters on display. Grade: B.
Acting in his first film since 2003, Mel Gibson is a bit rusty as retiring Boston homicide detective Thomas Craven in a part corporate thriller, part old-school revenge fantasy that feels dated from the start. Despite its formulaic storyline, insincere subplots and a wobbly performance from Gibson, quick pacing works to the film's advantage. Grade: C-.