Movie DopeMovies

Movie Dope

21 JUMP STREET (R) Another update of an ’80s TV show, 21 Jump Street stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as two cops assigned to go undercover at a high school to break up a synthetic drug ring. Series star Johnny Depp allegedly drops by for a cameo. Directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord previously wowed audiences with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, but Hill, who cowrote (with Scott Pilgrim’s Michael Bacall) and produced, is the driving creative force. With Ice Cube. ACT OF VALOR (R) At times, Act of Valor betrays its humble origins as a military recruiting tool (think of the National Guard/Three Doors Down video for “Citizen Soldier†expanded to feature length), but at its high-octane best, this action experiment rivals its bigger-budgeted, star-laden competitors. What really sets Act of Valor apart from its action brethren is its non-professional acting troupe, an elite team of active duty Navy SEALs playing an elite team of Navy SEALs. Understanding the soldiers’ dramatic limitations, the movie tends to focus on the military tasks at which they excel, and it is rare for an action movie to feel as real. The plot feels like excised hours from one of Jack Bauer’s day-long terrorist battles on “24,†but separating the truth from the fiction becomes difficult once the fighting starts. What could have just been Call of Duty: Modern Warfare—The Movie exhibits technical prowess and a singular, successful gimmick that elevates the military flick above today’s stock action movie. Act of Valor cannot deliver the emotional payoff of The Hurt Locker, but it does not dishonor our fighting men and women.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED (G) Come on, Fox! If you’re going to keep releasing new Chipmunks entries each holiday season, the least you can do is make a Christmas-themed movie featuring the furry trio’s classic holiday tunes. Instead, Alvin, Simon, Theodore, the Chipettes and Dave (poor, paycheck-cashing Jason Lee) start out on a cruise ship and wind up on a deserted island.

THE ARTIST (PG-13) Films today do not come as precious or charming as Michel Hazanavicius’ Best Picture winner. A silent film that is all about talking, The Artist of title refers to matinee idol George Valentin (Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin, who absolutely must be a silent film star Hazanivicius recently thawed from ice), who finds it difficult to transition from silent films to talkies, unlike rising star Peppy Miller (Academy Award nominee Bérénice Bejo). But Miller has a crush on Valentin that predates her stardom and will do everything she can to help the despondent, one-time star. Like an unearthed gem, a long-lost silent relic, The Artist is at once wholly familiar yet completely foreign. Who knew a trifling eccentricity would wind up 2011’s most daring film?

CASA DE MI PADRE (R) Will Ferrell in a Spanish language comedy? I’m there. Ferrell goofs as Armando Alvarez, who seeks to save his father’s ranch, but trouble arrives in the form of his successful younger brother, Raul (Diego Luna), and his fiancée, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). Armando’s feelings for Sonia complicate matters, but it’s the feud with Mexico’s biggest drug lord (Gael Garcia Bernal) that really sets off fireworks. Director Matt Piedmont is a longtime Ferrell collaborator on “SNL†and “Funny or Die Presents….â€

THE DESCENDANTS (R) Is The Descendants the best film of 2011? If not, the bittersweet dramedy starring Academy Award nominee George Clooney is among the top two or three. Filmmaker Alexander Payne sure took his time following up his 2004 Oscar winning smash, but the delay was worth it. After a tragic accident leaves his wife in a coma, lawyer and owner of the last parcel of virgin land in Hawaii, Matt King (Clooney), struggles to raise his two daughters, come to peace with revelations about his dying wife and decide what to do with his important land. Clooney is this generation’s Paul Newman, a cool cat who can pull off anything he’s asked to do on screen. Here, in his tucked-in Hawaiian shirts, he epitomizes the suburban dad. Still, he drops comic gems and dramatic bombs with ease, often punctuated by his terrific reaction shots, Payne again proves himself a master of tone, perfectly balancing the humor of an incredibly bleak, emotionally complex situation.

DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX (PG) Released on Dr. Seuss’ 108th birthday, this pleasant animated adaptation of the beloved children’s author’s environmental fable fails to utterly charm like the filmmakers’ previous animated smash, Despicable Me. The Lorax may visually stun you, and Danny DeVito’s brief time as voice of the Lorax could stand as his greatest role, one that will go unrecognized by any professional awards outside of the Annies. Unfortunately, the movie spends a lot less time with the fascinating, entertaining forest fighter than it does with Ed Helms’ The Once-ler (I’m usually a big Helms fan but his zany naïf felt incongruously calculated here) and bland Zac Efron’s bland protagonist, Ted. On the bright side, the film excels as a traditional movie musical, where characters naturally transition into songs that deepen their character or advance the plot without some silly justification via subjective dream sequences or glee club memberships. The songs they sing could be more memorable; I cannot recall a single one a day later. The Lorax is not the year’s best animated feature (imagine what Pixar could do with Seuss), but the childishly funny film does not pander to its audience, young and old, even if it does preach a bit.

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (PG-13) This adaptation of the Jonathan Safran Foer novel could have devolved into Stage 4 Pay It Forward-level emotional manipulation. Instead, the 9/11 tearjerker, directed by three-time Academy Award nominee Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours and The Reader), only reaches Stage 2. Young Oskar Schell (“Jeopardyâ€â€™s Kids Week Champion Thomas Horn, making a striking acting debut) tries to make sense of his father’s death on 9/11. His dad, Thomas (Tom Hanks, in quite possibly his most saintly role to date), used to send Oskar on city-wide expeditions to help the boy conquer his social inhibitions. The final quest requires Oskar to traipse around NYC in search of a lock to fit a mysterious key. Of course, the journey to solving this mystery is more important than the solution itself. Impressive performances from the young Horn and the older Max von Sydow keep the film from drowning in its own sorrows. Appearances from Viola Davis, John Goodman and Jeffrey Wright are welcome, but Sandra Bullock merely gets her tears on as Oskar’s grief-ridden mom. Everything should be fine so long as audiences simply expect the good movie Extremely Loud is, as opposed to the awards bait it fails to be.

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (PG-13) Marvel’s Neveldine/Taylor experiment might have gone better had the company had the guts to release another R-rated flick a la their two Punisher flops. The Crank duo brings their frenetic, non-stop visual style, but those wicked paeans to hedonism had a narrative need to never slow down (its lead character would die). Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance must pump the brakes occasionally to let the “story†catch up, and Neveldine/Taylor never seem as comfortable when the movie’s not rocketing along at 100 miles an hour. They also don’t keep a tight enough rein on their star; Nic Cage is allowed to unleash every one of his worst acting instincts as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, tasked with saving a young boy from the Devil (Ciaran Hinds). A handful of my favorite actors (Hinds, Idris Elba, Anthony Head) cannot save this merrily daft movie. Not even the Highlander himself, Christopher Lambert, who makes the most of his pitifully small screen time, is a match for the movie’s voracious, unhinged lead. Nonetheless, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a step up from its tremendously awful predecessor (Neveldine/Taylor > Mark Steven Johnson).

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (R) Stieg Larsson may have created Lisbeth Salander, but David Fincher and the bold Rooney Mara have made her a big-screen icon. (No offense to Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth, but Mara’s movie is loads better.) Fincher dangerously retains Larsson’s wicked, violent, European sexuality for Hollywood’s adaptation of the first book in the Millennium Trilogy. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) enlists the help of the titular tattooed (and multiply pierced) girl, a ward of the state who might be a psychopath but is certainly a genius, to solve a decades old murder. Readers of the novel will marvel at how smartly screenwriter Steven Zaillian jettisons the novel’s clunky points to streamline the central mystery (who killed Harriet Vanger?) and posit a new one (who is Lisbeth Salander?). Top-notch performances, red slashes of humor and Fincher’s masterful control of style (the stunning opening credits imply some twisted mix of Bond and bondage) propel the film with a badass energy, fed by Academy Award winning composers, Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose. Much like The Silence of the Lambs, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo weds the ghettoized thrills of genre with a larger cinematic ambition. Pop literary filmmaking gets no better than this.

GONE (PG-13) Gone, a serial killer thriller starring large-eyed beauty Amanda Seyfried, is not even bad enough to be fun. Seyfried stars as Jill Conway, who was abducted and placed in a hole in the woods surrounding Portland, Oregon. (Note: Portland’s tourism bureau needs to step it up; television, books and movies imply the city is ground zero for serial killing.) Somehow, she escapes, but a year later, her sister, Molly, disappears. Jill suspects her abductor is behind her sister’s disappearance, but the cops (including cold-eyed Wes Bentley, who just screams red herring at this point in his career) don’t believe her, due to her stint in a mental hospital following her alleged abduction. Don’t be fooled by my description; it’s much more entertaining than the actual movie. Seyfried is not strong enough to support a weak movie with nary another star; “Dexterâ€â€™s Jennifer Carpenter doesn’t count (her role serves virtually no narrative point), though it is exciting to see Nick Searcy of “Justified†pop by for a scene. Were only Gone as awfully satisfying as the Al Pacino stinker, 88 Minutes. Now that flick teaches a master’s course in how to make bad serial killer chillers.

GOOD DEEDS (PG-13) Good Deeds is another average melodrama from the entertainment juggernaut that is Atlanta’s Tyler Perry. Perry stars as Wesley Deeds, the uptight CEO of a software company who befriends a struggling widowed mother, Lindsey Wakefield (Thandie Newton), on the virtual eve of his wedding. Naturally, his relationship with Lindsey and her cute daughter, Ariel, awaken the spark of life that’s been lying dormant in Deeds for the bulk of his adult life, a course charted by his domineering mother (Phylicia Rashad). Perry has two tonal modes: the headspinning comic/dramatic combo of his Madea movies and the grindingly humorless melodrama of his non-Madea flicks. (Why Did I Get Married? remains his best movie, as it retained a sense of humor and drama without Perry donning a dress.) Good Deeds is planted squarely in the latter camp. Lighter moments are so hard to come by you will yearn for Madea to drop in to say “hur-lo.†Supporting characters, such as Wesley’s fiancee, Natalie (Gabrielle Union), and his brother, Walter (Brian White), are infuriatingly one-dimensional. Good Deeds is duller than most of the 11 movies directed by Perry since 2006 (!); it’s also superior to the bulk of them.

HAYWIRE (R) A revenge thriller from Steven Soderbergh starring a former “American Gladiator?†I never thought I’d type that description. Gina “Crush†Carano stars as Mallory Kane, a former black ops super soldier, seeking to pay back those who betrayed her on a previous mission. A bevy of beefcake—Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Angarano, Bill Paxton and Mathieu Kassovitz—stands in her way. Writer Lem Dobbs wrote the screenplay for Soderbergh’s excellent The Limey. I love when Soderbergh gets sidetracked by genre.

HUGO (PG) Oh, to be an orphan living in an early-20th-century clock! Despite its near perfection, this 3D family film—Martin Scorsese’s first—may be the loveliest wide release to struggle to find its audience this year. Yet it’s no wonder Scorsese, himself a film historian as well as a film lover, decided to adapt Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, whose central mystery revolves around an early cinematic master. Parisian orphan Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who lives inside the clocktower of the train station, seeks the answer to a mysterious automaton, left unsolved by his late father and clockmaker (Jude Law), with the help of a toymaker named Georges (Ben Kingsley) and his charge, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz). Knowledgeable cinephiles will be enthralled by Selznick’s story, wonderfully adapted by Oscar-nominated scribe John Logan, which I refuse to spoil, and enchanted by the legendary filmmaker’s gorgeous imagery, which conjures memories of Amelie and was awarded with Oscars for cinematography, visual effects and more.

INTO THE ABYSS (PG-13) In the legendary Werner Herzog’s newest film, his 25th documentary, the German filmmaker interviews death row inmate Michael Perry to understand why people and the government chooses to kill. Convicted of triple homicide, Perry was executed eight days after Herzog conducted his interviews; his accomplice, Jason Burkett, who was treated to the lesser sentence of life in prison, is also interviewed. A festival hit, Into the Abyss won awards from the British Film Institute and the National Society of Film Critics. The sneak preview on 3/22 also features Athens native Jeff Reynolds’ short documentary, Jerry, and a teaser trailer for his upcoming feature, Corpus: The Case of Justin Wolfe.

• JOHN CARTER (PG-13) Though the question of which came first, Star Wars or John Carter, is easily answerable (the latter highly influenced the former), Disney’s latest film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1917 novel, A Princess of Mars, bears a striking visual resemblance to George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels. Fortunately, JC succeeds more as a sci-fi adventure serial (it might make a nice doublebill with Flash Gordon) than the recently rereleased Episode I. Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch of “Friday Night Lightsâ€) is a Virginia cavalryman transported to Mars, called Barsoom, where he must assist a beautiful princess (Lynn Collins) in saving her people from a rival city. While JC just does not have that “Wow!†factor, the sci-fi flick accomplishes its major objectives. The effects are unquestionably well-done, if reminiscent of both Avatar and Star Wars, and Kitsch makes a properly striking, reluctant hero. JC boils down its extraterrestrial politics to the essential action (think Dune with more muscles and less brain/Sting) and rarely bores for its two plus hour running time. Disney may not have found the latest cultural zeitgeist, but they did commission the foundations of a potentially sturdy franchise.

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (PG) Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’s biggest problem might be time. Many of the young people who enjoyed its 2008 forebear, Journey to the Center of the Earth, might have outgrown the Brendan Fraser/Dwayne “The Rock†Johnson brand of family adventure movie. Sean (Josh Hutcherson, soon to be Peeta in The Hunger Games) and his future stepdad, Hank (the always appealing Johnson), travel to the mysterious island to find Sean’s granddad (Michael Caine). Along for the ride are a goofy helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman, being as Guzman-y as ever) and his gorgeous daughter (Vanessa Hudgens). The island’s giant, 3D-tastic flora and fauna make for a movie that’s fun to look at for an hour and a half, especially on the big screen, but does not create the sort of lasting impression needed to survive in today’s oversaturated entertainment market.

JOYFUL NOISE (PG-13) You can almost hear the studio executive wheels turning for this godly “Glee†knockoff. A church choir from Small Town, GA heads to a national competition with new director, Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah), squaring off against G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton), the widow of the recently deceased former director (briefly and poorly played by Kris Kristofferson). Plenty of other minor melodramas—Vi’s 16-year-old daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) falls for G.G.’s rebellious grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan); another choir member finds love…twice; while others face financial hardships due to the current economic downturn—engulf the group as they prepare some new numbers in order to win the national crown. The charismatic leads do their best to engage, Latifah with her genteel gruffness and Dolly wholly through nuggets of colloquial country “wisdom.†Her dialogue distinctly differs from everyone else; it’s like a “Hee Haw†version of Shakespearean English (minus the timeless poeticism). Nothing in this movie is as strong as its rousing musical performances; too bad the entire, just shy of two-hour running time isn’t set to music.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE—GHOST PROTOCOL (PG-13) Mission: Impossible is that rare franchise that has actually gotten better with each new installment and in inverse proportion to its megastar’s popularity. Tom Cruise had few peers in 1996 when the weak, original M:I opened; now he’s more often a punchline, albeit a badass punchline who does many of his own death-defying stunts, like climbing the outside of the world’s tallest building. What sets the Mission: Impossible franchise apart from any other existing action series is its star-producer’s knack for finding the best, new behind the camera talent. First-time live-action feature director Brad Bird is known to be an animation auteur (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles), and he apparently doesn’t realize action of the live variety has limitations. Now he’s the guy who can still make a Tom Cruise stunt spectacular stand out like it’s the late ’90s. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his new team (the gorgeous Paula Patton, stalwart Jeremy Renner and A-1 comic relief Simon Pegg) must clear IMF’s name after a bombing decimates the Kremlin. From Moscow to Dubai to Mumbai, the action doesn’t let up from scene one.

PRANZO DI FERRAGOSTA (NR) 2008. Gianni Di Gregorio, one of Gomorrah’s six screenwriters, makes his directorial debut with this award winning dramedy you might know better as Mid-August Lunch. Gianni (Di Gregorio), barely surviving Roman life with his demanding mother, must keep four Italian mamas happy and well-fed during Italy’s biggest summer holiday. Winner of three awards from the Venice Film Festival, a David and the London Film Festival’s Satyajit Ray Award. Part of Cinecitta 4, the Italian film series sponsored by UGA Romance Languages.

PROJECT X (R) This teen “greatest party ever filmed†flick could use a more descriptive title, preferably one that doesn’t get as many children of the ’80s’ hearts racing at the thought of a remake of the Matthew Broderick, Helen Hunt and a monkey movie. As a responsible adult, I lament how this teen comedy, produced by The Hangover’s Todd Phillips, condones the Internet era’s hedonism as teenage rite of passage. Three unpopular high schoolers—Thomas (Thomas Mann), Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown)—throw a party so wild (sex, drugs, alcohol, fire, a midget; it’s like the boys go to Bret Easton Ellis High) that not even the cops can stop it, a conceit that play rights into teenagers’ already overinflated egos. As a former teenager, I wish I’d been invited. The appeal of Project X truly depends on the perspective—adult or teen—from which you view it as the party supplies few surprising acts of debauchery. It does add a novel running gag about two overzealous, overmatched teen security guards. Their misadventures had a sense of freshness from which the rest of this slightly tired party flick could have benefited.

SAFE HOUSE (R) For Safe House’s target fans of Denzel Washington, whizzing bullets and car chases, the action flick is critically bulletproof; for me, it was competently boring. Former CIA operative turned rogue asset, Tobin Frost (Washington), goes on the run with green agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds, in the thankless role anyone could have filled) hot on his heels. Washington remains the laziest talent in Hollywood. What draws him to waste his chops on these action-filled scripts with such obvious plot trajectories? You can tell which CIA bigwig (the suspects being Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson) Weston shouldn’t trust from the trailers, and try as they might to imply otherwise, one can easily presume Washington’s Frost hasn’t gone rogue for sheer psychopathic thrills or mere greed. The predictable action is delivered with the workmanlike craftsmanship (quick edits, handheld camerawork, etc.) one expects from a production that is clearly influenced by Washington’s work with Tony Scott, but lacks his more artful eye. Safe House should make enough money to keep Washington’s rep as a box office draw undiminished, but won’t make much of an impression in his increasingly inconsequential filmography.

A SEPARATION (PG-13) This year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture is also the first Academy Award winner from Iran. A married couple faces one of life’s toughest decisions. Should they leave the country to improve life for their child or should they stay in Iran to care for a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s? Writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s film won the Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear, the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and the Independent Spirit Award for Best International Film.

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (PG-13) Much like its 2009 predecessor, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a perfectly forgettable crowdpleaser. Robert Downey, Jr. revisits his hyper-bordering-on-manic, streetfighting master sleuth, this time tasked with defeating his literary arch-nemesis, Professor James Moriarty (the appropriate Jared Harris of AMC’s “Mad Menâ€). Assisted as always by Dr. John Watson (Jude Law, again a game companion to Downey), Holmes is also joined by his brother, Mycroft (Stephen Fry), Watson’s new wife (Kelly Reilly) and a gypsy fortune teller (Noomi Rapace, best known as the original Lisbeth Salander). Director Guy Ritchie coats everything in his usual super-stylish action sheen, lending the movie a surfeit of style, minus that pesky substance that might give the flick the little literary weight that could make this a classic reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation. No ticket buyers should leave disappointed, unless they expect an entertainment satiation more enduring than the original.

• SILENT HOUSE (R) For a majority of this admittedly slim movie, the technical gambit (it’s shot in one long, supposedly continuous take!) and the minimalist storytelling pay off. The terror is real as Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen, arguably as good as here as she was in Martha Marcy May Marlene, even though the latter required a bit more range) is terrorized over an 88-minute span in her family’s secluded lakehouse. Questions teem despite a dearth of answers. Who is Sarah? Who is after Sarah and her father (it was hard to tell whether his suspicious early behavior was intentional or just a result of actor Adam Trese’s limited skills)? The filmmaking dare of the one long take rejuvenates the wearyingly popular found footage movement; you get the immediacy of found footage without its accompanying logistical headache. Filmmakers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau mostly find success with their follow-up to 2003’s Open Water, a remake of a 2010 Uruguayan film; too bad they stop tightening the screws of relentless tension too much too early. On its way to enshrinement as a cult residence, Silent House makes one ill-advised remodel too many. Still, the overall experience is terrifying enough to warrant a visit.

TAKING ROOT—THE VISION OF WANGARI MAATHAI (NR) 2008. Lisa Merton and Alan Dater’s documentary profiles Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, who passed away in 2011. She founded the Green Belt Movement, which encouraged rural women to plant trees. This humble plan grew into a national movement to protect the environment, human rights and democracy. Winner of the Audience Award at HOTDOCS and the Full Frame Women in Leadership Award. Part of the Women’s History Month film festival sponsored by the Institute for Women’s Studies at UGA.

THIS MEANS WAR (PG-13) They might as well have ponied up for the “Spy vs. Spy†license and made a truly misguided adaptation of the old “Mad†comic strip. Two of the CIA’s top agents/besties, FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy), wind up dating the same girl, Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon). You know the drill. FDR and Tuck’s friendship is tested, as both fall for Lauren, but it’s more important that the player of the duo falls in love than the already sensitive one with a kid. Poorly edited early on—not much makes sense in what should be a pretty straightforward first act—This Means War never really finds a groove. This action romcom hybrid has a few fleeting moments, thanks to the bromantic chemistry between beefcake stars Pine and Hardy. Unfortunately, neither man shares that same spark with third lead, Witherspoon. Director McG, whose career hasn’t really gone anywhere since the first Charlie’s Angels (his entry in the Terminator franchise has blissfully been forgotten), gets the unnecessary action right; the required rom and com could use some work. This Means War would be an early pick for worst of 2012, but no one will remember it come year’s end.

• A THOUSAND WORDS (PG-13) 2008 should consider itself lucky. That year’s worst movie frontrunner might have just become 2012’s nadir. (Never fear, recent eleven Razzie nominee Adam Sandler has still got That’s My Boy to knock Eddie Murphy off his throne of dung. Talk about a game of thrones.) As literary agent Jack McCall, Eddie Murphy is tasked with saying less and mugging more, a frightfully unfunny proposition not at all helped by former “Head of the Class†member Brian Robbins directionless direction and a needlessly adult script when family friendly would have been better by Steve Koren. Not even newly minted Oscar winner Jean Dujardin could have elevated this tripe. Another bomb begs the question, what remains appealing about Eddie Murphy? The raunchy comic’s movie selection displays a disturbing lack of any remaining comedic instinct. Not even the usually reliable Clark Duke (Hot Tub Time Machine) can wring laughs from this stony script. Don’t waste your money seeing this “comedy†in a theater; don’t even waste your time once it’s free on cable.

THE VOW (PG-13) Nicholas Sparks has to be kicking himself for not coming up with this plot first. A young couple, Paige and Leo Collins (Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum), struggle to fall in love again after a car accident erases all of Paige’s memories of Leo and their marriage. As these plots are wont to do, Paige’s rich parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) and her ex-lover (Scott Speedman) use her tabula rasa to rewrite their past wrongs, while Leo must cope with the realization that his wife might never remember him. The Vow climbs out of the romantic drama pits mostly due to its two charming leads, McAdams and Tatum, who must overcome some spotty dialogue, obvious plot developments and weak supporting players (not a lot of recognizable faces outside of those five already mentioned). Director Michael Sucsy, who won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Grey Gardens, transitions to the big screen with surprising success considering the tear-soaked tissue of a true story with which he had to work. The Vow won’t make romance fans forget The Notebook, but it is better than most of the fake (and genuine) Sparks Hollywood’s been peddling.

WANDERLUST (R) Easily 2012’s funniest movie to date, Wanderlust smartly plays to its stars’ comedic strengths. George and Linda (Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston) must trade New York City for Georgia after George loses his job in high finance, but working for his douchebag brother, expertly played by cowriter Ken Marino (if you don’t know him, you should), is not the solution. Having mistakenly wound up on an “intentional community†their first night in the state, George and Linda choose to become permanent residents of Elysium. But Linda takes more to the company, especially that of lead hippie Seth (Justin Theroux), than George does. Wanderlust may not be groundbreaking comedy, but its riff-filled script, written by Marino and director David Wain, two alums of MTV’s much beloved “The State,†perfectly matches its assembled comedic ensemble. Much like Elysium itself, this comedy succeeds based on the very funny actors (Rudd, Aniston and Theroux are assisted by Alan Alda, Malin Ackerman, Kathryn Hahn, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Lauren Ambrose, the Stella trio and more) that populate it. Beware; this R-rated gem from Apatow Productions has a deliciously dirty mouth and a great deal of penises, all in the name of good, not-so-clean fun, of course.

YERT: YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL ROAD TRIP (NR) 2009. Think you could follow three simple rules in a year-long road trip across all fifty states? 1. Create less than one shoebox of garbage each month. That includes recyclables. 2. Never turn on an incandescent light (except car lights). 3. Use approximately 25 gallons of water per person per day. Three friends did it, in this award-winning documentary that kicks off EcoFocus 2012. Bring your appetite; this free screening includes pizza and drinks.