$ELLEBRITY (NR) Celebrity photographer Kevin Mazur makes his directorial debut with this feature documentary about the rise of the celebrity. Tons of stars, including Jennifer Aniston, Marc Anthony, Rosanna Arquette, Sheryl Crow, Salma Hayek, Elton John, Kid Rock, Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker and many more, appear to discuss society’s insatiable curiosity and fascination with famous people. I don’t know that the healthiest way to address this addiction is by providing more access to celebrities. Also, do you really want to hear the rich and famous complain about being rich and famous?
ALEX CROSS (PG-13) I’ve never read one of James Patterson’s bestsellers featuring police detective/forensic psychologist Alex Cross, but I did see Kiss the Girls, which I recall enjoying. Alex Cross is no Kiss the Girls. In Detective Dr. Cross’ third cinematic case, Tyler Perry takes over for the much more capable Morgan Freeman, who portrayed Cross in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Perry’s Cross must hunt down Picasso (a muscular skeleton that once was Jack from “Lost”), a professional assassin-cum-serial killer whose first murder is a mass one. When Picasso makes his mission personal, Cross goes off the reservation, which, judging by Perry’s emotional acting playbook, is little different from being on the reservation. A strong supporting cast—Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols, John C. McGinley, Jean Reno, Cicely Tyson and Giancarlo Esposito—prove no match for Perry’s lack of screen presence, Rob Cohen’s mindless action direction and the laughable script by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson. This movie would have been more entertaining had Perry also donned his fat suits and pursued Picasso as Cross, Madea and her brother, Joe; Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Alex Cross is a bad movie idea I could get behind.
ANNA KARENINA (R) Joe Wright reunites with his Pride & Prejudice and Atonement star Keira Knightley for what could be another Oscar heavyweight. Acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead) adapted Leo Tolstoy’s acclaimed novel about the titular aristocrat (Knightley) who embarks on an affair with young Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kick-Ass). The strong cast includes Jude Law as Anna’s husband, the excellent Kelly Macdonald (“Boardwalk Empire,” Brave), Matthew Macfadyen (Wright’s Mr. Darcy), Olivia Williams and Emily Watson. (Ciné)
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (NR) 1961. Audrey Hepburn is Holly Golightly in this iconic film about a naive New York socialite. (UGA Tate Theatre)
CLOUD ATLAS (R) For the ambitious Cloud Atlas, the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) have masterfully adapted David Mitchell’s award winning novel, intermingling six disparate stories, spanning from 1849 to 106 Winters After the Fall. Each anecdote stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant and more in varying layers of makeup. While none of the stories warrants their own full-length feature, the six interconnected narratives are interwoven so skillfully and at such a swift pace that no one has enough time to overstay its welcome. The lush, imaginative film’s most serious flaw is its repertory, several of whom seem out-of-place (Oscar winners Hanks and Berry, most notably) in the film’s fantastical future bookend.
A DARK TRUTH (R) A former CIA operative (Andy Garcia), who now host a political talk show, heads to South America after a corporate whistleblower hires him to expose a massacre that her company covered up. Eva Longoria and Forrest Whitaker join Garcia as a pair of political activists. Writer-director Damian Lee has his name on a lot of movies, but none of them are good; based solely on title and cast, my fave might be Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe, starring Jesse Ventura.
• DJANGO UNCHAINED (R) Not many auteurs can take an academic cinematic exercise and turn it into one of the year’s most entertaining spectacles like Quentin Tarantino can. Slave Django (Jamie Foxx) is freed by dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Golden Globe nominee Christoph Waltz, the single greatest gift QT has given American movie audiences). Together the duo hunts bad guys and seeks Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who belongs to plantation owner Calvin Candie (Golden Globe nominee Leonardo DiCaprio). For a critically acclaimed award nominee, Django Unchained is an ultraviolent blast. Every bullet creates an unbelievable explosion of blood, and every actor gives a gleefully energetic performance. DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson have a particularly grand chemistry. Modern cinema’s biggest cinephile-cum-director again proves how great a genre film can be. QT continues to bring exploitation flicks from the grindhouse to the multiplex and the award shows. Few modern movies convey their creator’s delight as a QT film does; one knows he is making movies he wants to see, not movies to which he thinks audiences will flock. Sure, detractors will slam Django Unchained for its bloody violence and offensive language, but it’s most notable for a perfectly rare combination of art and entertainment.
GANGSTER SQUAD (R) In the 1940s and 50s, the LAPD attempted to keep the East Coast mafia from moving into their jurisdiction. This period action drama is a departure from director Ruben Fleischer’s first two movies, the action comedies Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less. The large cast includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Giovanni Ribisi, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick and Michael Pena. Gangster Squad looks like a really violent Dick Tracy; I’m excited.
THE GUILT TRIP (PG-13) Certainly not as laughless as its trailers suggest, The Guilt Trip mines some genuine comic chemistry between its leads, Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand, as Andy Brewster, a son traveling across the country with his mother, Joyce. The many car-bound scenes featuring just the two stars generate the movie’s biggest laughs. Unfortunately, Andy and Joyce make some excruciating pit stops that fall back on the sitcomishly simple gags like a Texan eating contest (which, for what little it’s worth, does involve Barbra as opposed to Rogen). Speaking of Ms. Streisand, she looks terrific for a septuagenarian. That the producers cast Adam Scott and Ari Graynor in such tiny roles is unforgivable. Though not nearly as bad as it could be, sons and daughters would be better off steering their mothers toward one of the several better cinematic products out this holiday season.
A HAUNTED HOUSE (R) In this found footage horror spoof, a young couple, Malcolm and Keisha (Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins), move into their dream home, only to learn a demon is already in residence. Soon, Keisha is possessed, and Malcolm hires a priest, psychic, ghostbusters, whomever he can find that could help save his sex life. The trailers look as miserably unfunny as one would expect from this creative team. With Alanna Ubach, Nick Swardson, David Koechner and Cedric the Entertainer as Father Doug.
HERE COMES THE BOOM (PG-13) Adam Sandler’s made plenty of pictures worse than this Kevin James vehicle about outlandish ways to save education. James’ Scott Voss is a high school biology teacher who turns to MMA to fund the extracurriculars at his struggling school. An appealing supporting cast includes Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, Greg Germann and real life MMA fighter Bas Rutten (after an appearance in Paul Blart: Mall Cop and voice work in Zookeeper, he’s becoming a James regular) to assist the extremely likable James in an odd, family-friendly mash-up of educational messages and inspirational sports, where the sports are extremely vicious. It doesn’t NOT work, but more refined audiences will cringe at the movie’s genial attitude toward violence.
HITCHCOCK (PG-13) Hitchcock is one of those biopics that has a leading performance (in this case, two leading performances) that are much bigger and better than the whole. Though Anthony Hopkins’ Hitch can sound a bit Lecter-ish at times, Sir Tony mostly makes you forget you’re not watching the real, corpulent auteur in action. One wishes the film would simply recount the tumultuous making of Psycho, a film that has become one of the cinematic master’s most significant works, rather than subjectively poke around so much in Hitch’s decidedly unique psyche. Dreams of real-life monster Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) dance in the director’s head as he and his devoted wife, Alma Reveille (Golden Globe nominee Helen Mirren), deal with their singular marital issues. Old movie lovers and Hitchcock fans will enjoy watching Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel as Janet Leigh and Vera Miles, though James D’Arcy’s Anthony Perkins can be a bit too fussily impressional. I’m unsure this picture holds much entertainment value for the large chunk of today’s moviegoers who hear Hitch and think Will Smith. (Ciné)
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (PG-13) How comforting it is to return to Middle-earth, especially with Peter Jackson (he replaced original director Guillermo del Toro, who retained a co-writing credit with Lord of the Rings Oscar winners Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens). Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, the BBC “Office” star, a master of reactionary mugging) is asked by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) to join a company of Dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Jackson and his writing cohort have expanded Tolkien’s single novel into three films by adding sequences from the series’ appendices, a decision that allows this first film to be paced a bit logily in getting the company on the road. Thanks to multiple childhood viewings of Rankin-Bass’ Hobbit cartoon, I’ve always preferred the prequel to the trilogy proper. While this first film lacks the epicness of Jackson’s previous series entries, it makes up for it with its comically entertaining dwarves and rousing action sequences. Bilbo’s first meeting with Gollum is so well-crafted and performed by WETA’s effects wizards and motion-capture genius Andy Serkis, who is still being shunned by awards groups lacking vision. This return journey to Middle-earth is an adventure worth taking over the holiday season.
HOLY MOTORS (NR) Leos Carax directs this intriguing French Surrealist film about a night with Monsieur Oscar, a man who drives throughout Paris, stopping to fulfill appointments where he is expected to be – and becomes – someone different each time. With Denis Lavant, Eva Mendes and Edith Scob. (Ciné)
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (PG) Unlike the superior ParaNorman, which was a genuinely, safely frightening family horror flick, Hotel Transylvania is an amusing, run-of-the-mill animated family movie where the main characters are harmless monsters. (The lesson that monsters aren’t dangerous is a terrible, hazardous message to teach children.) To protect monsters and his daughter, Mavis, from their dreaded enemies, humans, Dracula (genially voiced by Adam Sandler) sets up a hotel in the safe confines of Transylvania. On the eve of Mavis’ 118th birthday, a human named Jonathan (v. Andy Samberg) discovers Drac’s hideaway. Thank goodness director Genndy Tartakovsky (“Dexter’s Laboratory,” “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Samurai Jack”) brings his visual creativity to this rather rote tale of prejudice and cross-cultural romance. The sequences that work best are the ones that have fun with the conventions of Universal’s classic movie monsters. Samberg’s saddled with a rather boring character, but Selena Gomez’s Mavis has spunk. The adults—Kevin James as Frankenstein, Steve Buscemi as the Wolfman, David Spade as the Invisible Man and CeeLo Green as the Mummy—are even better as cartoon monsters than their usual human cartoons.
• JACK REACHER (PG-13) The episodic exploits of Lee Child’s popular literary character, a former Military Policeman turned drifter, would make a better television series than movie franchise, but star Tom Cruise and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (an Academy Award winner for his Usual Suspects script) pull off the big screen feat as entertainingly as possible. In this adaptation of Child’s One Shot, Cruise’s Reacher investigates the murder of five random people, allegedly committed by a sniper he knew in Iraq. Naturally, the plot gets thicker as Reacher stirs it. Jack Reacher might have been better with a little more Dirty Harry/Don Siegel/70s vigilante edge, but it will make audiences forget they don’t care for star-reliant, big budget action movies like they used to. As written by McQuarrie, Reacher is as well-equipped to verbally decimate an enemy as he is to physically dominate him, a trait which helps viewers forget the albeit exquisitely molded Cruise (remember, he’s 50) does not quite match Reacher’s burly 6-foot 5-inch, 210 to 250 pound physique. Jack Reacher accomplishes its mission—divert an audience’s attention for an enjoyably solid two-plus hours—as efficiently and capably as its title character.
• LES MISERABLES (PG-13) Les Miserables harks back to the 1960s, when colossal musical adaptations were the rule, not the exception. (Four of the decade’s 10 Best Picture winners were musical adaptations.) Parolee Jean Valjean (Golden Globe nominee Hugh Jackman) attempts to make up for his past crimes by raising Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of a fallen young woman named Fantine (Golden Globe nominee Anne Hathaway). Constantly on Valjean’s heels is Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), who will not give up the chase for this parole violator. Gigantically staged and competently sung, Les Mis will please the massive post-Christmas crowds and sway many an awards panel. Its Oscar nomination is nearly a lock, though whether or not it wins depends on how old school the Academy is feeling. They could do worse; finding 10 films more captivating for its entire near three hour runtime is difficult at best. Small criticisms abound for such a massive undertaking. Outside of Hathaway, the star-studded cast has vocal talents that rank somewhere below a regional touring company. Seyfried is especially reedy. A few words of advice: don’t take your bathroom breaks when Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are onscreen. Enjoy the show!
LIFE OF PI (PG) Having last thought of Yann Martel’s novel when I read it nearly 10 years ago, the ineffective trailers for Ang Lee’s adaptation failed to remind me of how wonderful and energetic Pi Patel’s life had been. I recalled a shipwreck, a lifeboat and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The imaginatively conceived and beautifully told work of art created by Brokeback Mountain Oscar winner Lee, who certainly deserves his third nomination, reminded me of the many, small joys that add up to make the life of Pi. Do not let the underwhelming previews deprive you of one of the year’s most moving, most artistic films of the year. The opening anecdote relating the origin of Pi’s name conjures up the modern fairy tale magic of past crowd-pleasers Amelie and Hugo. Newcomer Suraj Sharma, stranded for lengthy sequences with nothing but a tiger for a costar, and the ever-excellent Irrfan Khan (most recently seen in The Amazing Spider-Man) deliver delicate performances. (Ciné)
LINCOLN (PG-13) Historical biopics do not come much more perfect than Steven Spielberg’s take on our 16th president’s struggle to end slavery by way of the 13th Amendment. Rather than tell Abraham Lincoln’s life story, screenwriter Tony Kushner (the Oscar nominee for Munich also wrote the excellent “Angels in America”) chose the ideal, earth-shattering month upon which to focus. He populates Spielberg’s 19th-century hallways with living, breathing figures of American history like William Seward (David Strathairn), Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), Alexander Stephens (Jackie Earle Haley), Edwin Stanton (Bruce McGill) and Ulysses S. Grant (Jared Harris), but the film will be remembered and lauded as another platform from which Daniel Day-Lewis can solidify his claim to the title of greatest living actor. He uncannily becomes Lincoln with such ease; he also humanizes a larger-than-life figure we tend to treat far too reverently. Awards are sure to come. His authentic performance helps keep Spielberg’s best film since 1998’s Saving Private Ryan from falling into the hagiographical trap. Lincoln is also the bipartisan film our post-election America needs to remind us what to expect from great leaders. If these elected representatives could compromise to make history, certainly ours can to salvage the present.
LOOPER (R) Whoa! Ever since Brick, I have waited for Rian Johnson to make good on that coolly stylish teen-noir’s immense promise. Johnson might still have better films to come, but this tricksy, time travel, sci-fi noir ensures Brick’s promise has been fulfilled. In a future where time travel is an illegal reality, hitmen called loopers wait in the past for gangsters to send them their targets. Armed with a blunderbuss, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) awaits his marks, knowing one day he will have to “close the loop,” meaning kill his older self. When Old Joe (Bruce Willis) finally shows, the showdown doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. Had The Terminator mated with a film noir, Looper would be the exciting result. Don’t expect any lengthy scientific discussions of time travel (that doesn't mean the film doesn’t have a lot to say; one flaw is a too-wordy middle act). Do expect lots of violence, a bit of a mind trip and the best Bruce Willis movie in years. Willis might still be the top draw, but the talented Gordon-Levitt as a young Bruno keeps the movie moving. Looper is certainly 2012’s best science fiction and is shortlisted for the year’s best. (UGA Tate Theatre)
MONSTERS, INC. (G) Disney is re-releasing Monsters, Inc. in 3D to remind audiences of Sulley and Mike before June's prequel, Monsters University. The cute story involves top scarer Sulley (v. John Goodman) and his pal, Mike (v. Billy Crystal), whose lives are turned upside down when a child ventures into Monstropolis. The film lost the Best Animated Feature Oscar to Shrek, while Randy Newman went home with an Academy Award for his song, "If I Didn't Have You."
PARENTAL GUIDANCE (PG) Billy Crystal and Bette Midler star as old-school grandparents forced to care for their decidedly 21st-century grandchildren. Director Andy Fickman’s filmography is more weak (The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain) than bad (You Again); I did enjoy his Amanda Bynes cross-dressing comedy, She’s the Man. Splash Academy Award nominees Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel are credited with the rewrite. With Marisa Tomei, Bailee Madison (the young Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark star is a boon) and Tom Everett Scott.
• PROMISED LAND (R) Gus Van Sant travels between the worlds of independent, experimental filmmaking and popular movies better than any director but Steven Soderbergh. His newest film is impeccably appointed as always, sporting a nifty new script from Academy Award winner Matt Damon (co-written with costar John Krasinski from a story by Dave Eggers). Working for a billion-dollar natural gas company, Steve Butler (Damon) and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) travel to small rural communities, selling poor people big dreams for little effort. In the small town of McKinley, Steve and Sue run into more resistance than usual courtesy of a high school science teacher (Hal Holbrook) and a small-time environmentalist (Krasinski). Viewers who have seen the documentary Gasland will be informationally advantaged, but the engaging Promised Land needs no prerequisite viewing to be enjoyed. The filmmakers shockingly generate so much sympathy for Steve, as he struggles to compete with Krasinski’s little environmentalist that could. Damon and McDormand have a great deal to do with that, as they have more chemistry than many a higher profile buddy pairing. Promised Land may not carry the award worthy heft of other recent releases, but it’s as maturely entertaining a film as I’ve seen in months.
QUARTET (PG-13) Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut (at the ripe old age of 75) with this musical dramedy set at a retirement home for old opera singers. Disruptions abound at the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday with the arrival of a new diva. The aged cast—Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon—is still remarkably spry. The Pianist Oscar winner Ronald Harwood adapted his own play for the big screen.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (PG) Author William Joyce’s very cool idea is brought to the big screen by first-time animated feature director Peter Ramsey and fantastical executive producer Guillermo del Toro. Holiday legends North (aka Santa, who is voiced very Russianly by Alec Baldwin), Bunny (v. Hugh Jackman) and Tooth (v. Isla Fisher) are joined by Jack Frost (v. Chris Pine) as they do battle with the evil Pitch (v. Jude Law). Imagining massive audiences of children falling hard for this potential animated franchise is not hard. The computer-generated animation is engaging (though one must wonder what thought process led to such an unappealingly birdlike appearance for the Tooth Fairy), and the narrative is action-packed. Adults will be intermittently bored by the pedestrian plotting and obvious obstacles placed in front of the legendary heroes. Hopefully, a sequel will take increased advantage of the extraordinary concept rather than relying so much upon tired cartoon storytelling.
SKYFALL (PG-13) The middle third of Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond is the best 007 adventure in 20, maybe even 30, years. Too bad director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and his team of scripters won’t just let Bond be Bond for the entirety of the film. Skyfall almost completely unravels before the opening credits. The pre-credits chase—involving Bond, a female agent, a train and a baddie—concludes with M (Judi Dench) showing no faith in her best agent, a decision that makes little sense in this, or any, Bond-verse. In three films, Bond has gone from a newly licensed Double 0 to a dinosaur; when can Bond just be Bond again? (At least Quantum of Solace got that very right.) For an hour and in its tantalizing conclusion, Skyfall dresses in the formalwear of traditional Bond. Q, an all-time great villain, Silva (a blonde, 100% pure crazy Javier Bardem) and more help balance cool deadliness with world-saving silliness. Through Moore and Brosnan’s tenures, the balance favored silly; Craig’s scale might be tipped too far in the opposite direction. If the right mixture can be found, we could again see a candidate for Best Bond Ever.
STORAGE 24 (R) A crashed military plane drops its classified cargo across London. An unfortunate group of people, become trapped in a storage facility while a mysterious predator hunts them down. Director Johannes Roberts’ previous features all appear to be low-rent horror quickies. Many of you might recognize star Clarke from his stint as Rose Tyler’s boyfriend, Mickey Smith, on “Doctor Who.” Joining Clarke are Colin O’Donoghue (The Rite), Antonia Campbell-Hughes (Albert Nobbs) and Laura Haddock (the new “Upstairs Downstairs”).
STRUCK BY LIGHTNING (NR) “Glee”’s Chris Colfer hits the big screen and provided the script to boot. Colfer’s Carson Phillips narrates from the grave as a teenager, struck and killed by lightning, explaining how he blackmailed his peers into providing material for his literary magazine. The cast (Rebel Wilson, Christina Hendricks, Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Hyland, Allison Janney, Ashley Rickards and Angela Kinsey) supporting Colfer provides hope. Could this be 2013’s Pitch Perfect? It’s doubtful, but you never know. Director Brian Dannelly’s last feature was the above average Saved!
TAKEN 2 (PG-13) Most movies fail to encapsulate the description “unnecessary sequel” as perfectly as Taken 2. (I wish it had had some silly subtitle like Taken 2: Takenier, but alas.) As a consequence of the violent methods he employed to retrieve his kidnapped daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), in the first movie, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), must face off against the Albanian dad (played by go-to Eastern European baddie Rade Serbedzija) of one of the sex traffickers he killed during his rescue mission. Once Bryan get himself and Kim to safety, he must go after some more Albanians and save his estranged wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen). The scenery—Bryan must clean the Eurotrash from the bazaars of Istanbul as opposed to the streets of Paris—isn’t the only thing that’s changed. While writer-producer Luc Besson returns, he replaces Taken director Pierre Morel with Transporter 3’s Olivier Megaton. Unfortunately, that substitution brings with it action choreography/cinematography that is far less comprehensible. Add a far too slow opening act to the jumbled action and Taken 2 falls far below the bar set by its surprise success of a predecessor.
• TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (R) Even franchise diehards will have a hard time coming up with reasons to watch Leatherface’s latest massacre. Heather Miller (the always welcome Alexandra Daddario) discovers she is adopted and that her recently deceased grandmother left her property. When Heather and some friends visit the old family homestead, her cousin, Leatherface (Dan Yeager), goes on another rampage. On paper, TXC3D shows more respect to the series’ roots than previous sequels. Beginning where the original horror classic ends, the new movie briefly employs The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’s Chop Top, Bill Moseley, original Leatherface, Gunnar Hansen, and original Grandpa, John Dugan, in its opening sequence. Even Marilyn Burns has a brief, unrecognizable cameo. Sadly, the first two acts, save for an appearance from Richard Riehle and Daddario’s appearance, rely on sub-par modern slasher tropes—some decent gore FX, no scares, poor characterizations and nowhere subplots. Then, out of the blue, the third act goes TXCM2 trippy with a foreseeable plot twist that, though it can’t redeem the previous 70–80 minutes, does end the movie on a brighter note. Still, no reason, not even the prospect of Alexandra Daddario in 3D, exists to see Texas Chainsaw in theaters.
• THIS IS 40 (R) Sure, This Is 40 will provide viewers with more laughs than any of its contemporary comedic peers, but it should; it’s at least one sitcom episode longer than a typical comedy. Writer-director Judd Apatow, of whom I am a big fan, could definitely benefit from some stronger criticisms of overstuffed, raunch-filled dramedies. This semi-sequel to Knocked Up follows Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) as they turn 40. Life isn’t quite what they expected. They struggle to raise their two daughters (Apatow and Mann’s real life kids, Iris and Maude), support Pete’s dad (the always welcome Albert Brooks) and succeed in their professional lives. Apatow packs way too much into a comedy that amounts to six episodes of a situation comedy. By Pete’s climactic party, the movie ratchets up, focusing as much on comic C-plots with ancillary characters played by Jason Segel, Chris O’Dowd and Megan Fox as on the A-plot. Fortunately, the cast of funny people, led by the uber-likable Rudd, can make anything funny, even the struggles of potty-mouthed, unaware adults seeking to blame their messed up lives on anyone (but especially their parents) but themselves. Somehow, Rudd, God bless him, makes that funny.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN—PART 2 (PG-13) The Twilight Saga has consistently improved as filmmakers have changed and the series has… um… matured? Bella (Kristen Stewart) is now a vampire; she and her husband, Edward (Robert Pattinson), have a new baby, Renesmee, whose existence threatens the vampire world’s ruling family, the Volturi (led by Michael Sheen). Now the Cullens, the Quileute wolves (including Taylor Lautner’s Jacob) and several blood-sucking pals must make a stand against the invading Italian vamps. Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenon concludes as satisfactorily as one would expect, though Breaking Dawn—Part 1 exceeds its follow-up, mostly thanks to the former’s more horrific plot. Part 2’s concluding battle merely proves Meyer’s non-monsters aren’t really vampires; they are romantic superheroes. The terrible CGI work—the needlessly computer-generated baby Renesmee vies for the worst special effect of 1992—shows the lack of serious craftsmanship with which this material has been handled.
ZERO DARK THIRTY (R) Kathryn Bigelow and scripter Mark Boal follow up their Oscar winning success, The Hurt Locker, with another smart military flick with an international flair. A recount of the attack on the compound of Osama bin Laden and the events leading up to it has already generated some controversy, but it’s also one of the 2012’s best reviewed films. Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong and Chris Pratt appear as the members of SEAL Team 6 and the other government employees privy to classified information about this high profile mission.