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By |2008-01-17T09:00:00-05:00January 17th, 2008|Entertainment|
NEW THIS WEEK:

The Bucket List
When health-care profiteer Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) finds himself diagnosed with terminal cancer and sharing a hospital room with a fellow cancer patient, mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman), the men devise a plan to check items off a “bucket list” – adventures they never took but want to experience before they die. They skydive, see the pyramids, and gamble in Hong Kong. But it’s the personal list items – accepting the past, reconciling with family members – that give the men their greatest challenges. Director Rob Reiner continues to retreat from the wit of movies like “When Harry Met Sally” and set up shop in a world where cheap sentimentality and cliches take the place of real comedic human interaction. Freeman and Nicholson seem to be having a good time, but it’s unlikely that you will. C-

Kinsey Scale: 1 (Nicholson played a homophobe in “As Good As It Gets.” “Will & Grace”‘s Sean Hayes co-stars as Nicholson’s personal assistant.)

Juno
Brainy 16-year-old Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) gets pregnant from her first sexual encounter with pal Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Deciding to carry the child but not keep it, she finds an ad placed by affluent suburbanites Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) in the “Pennysaver,” and chooses them as the baby’s adoptive parents. But when they’re not the perfect couple she imagined, Juno is forced to revise her thinking and her plans. A smart script and standout performances, especially from the immensely talented Page, lift “Juno” out of the teen romantic comedy heap and make it an engaging, female-centered alternative to “Knocked Up.” A

Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s a passing reference to lesbian mothers as possible adoptive parents, and a few other throwaway gay quips. Despite the fact that she has sex with Paulie, Juno has an almost-dykey manner that will endear her to queer viewers. Bateman and Cera played father and son on gay-friendly “Arrested Development.” Among the co-stars with queer credits, Alison Janney appeared in “The Hours” and “American Beauty,” while Rainn Wilson had a recurring role on “Six Feet Under.”)

There Will Be Blood
At the dawn of the 20th century, rapacious oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) makes moves on a petroleum-rich rural California community, intending to construct a pipeline to the sea. Remorseless in his ambition, he will let no one stand in his way – not his competitors, and certainly not preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), who is out to enrich his church at Plainview’s expense. Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel “Oil” is a flawed, but visually and aurally stunning near-masterpiece, beginning with a breathtaking 20-minute wordless scene that limns Plainview’s evolution from prospector to businessman. Though Day-Lewis’ performance is overly mannered, the drama provides a searing, unforgettable portrait of avarice – at least until it goes off the rails in its ridiculous final scenes. B+

Kinsey Scale: 1 (Anderson made “Boogie Nights.” Day-Lewis’ breakthrough role was as queer tough boy Johnny in “My Beautiful Laundrette.” Dano was in “L.I.E.” and “Little Miss Sunshine.” Co-star Kevin J. O’Connor appeared in “Gods and Monsters.”)

ALSO IN THEATERS:

Alvin and the Chipmunks
Adults will most likely be split into different camps: those who grew up on the Chipmunks themselves, disappointed that the beloved cartoon characters have been tampered with at all, and those who clearly remember that the little guys were pretty obnoxious the first time around, so any modern take isn’t going to be that off the mark. In any case, this is squarely a children’s film, neither great nor awful. Adult enjoyment is an afterthought. C+

Atonement
Christopher Hampton has written a literate, haunting script, the handsome period drama getting an extra lift from Keira Knightley and James McAvoy’s wrenching performances as the heartbroken couple. A

Beowulf
It’s an animated, 3D spectacle, an explosion of techie tricks that defies you to be bored for even one moment. So, if the book put you to sleep in high school English class, nothing will prepare you for the jolt you’ll receive once the 3D glasses go on. A-

Charlie Wilson’s War
Only the hilariously caustic presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman as a disgruntled CIA man keeps this “War” from turning into a total misfire. C+

Enchanted
Amy Adams is adorable, James Marsden is hilarious as the dimwitted royal, and Patrick Dempsey is his usual dreamy self. B+

The Golden Compass
The computer-generated images, from imagined cities to floating airships to the animal “daemons” that represent each person’s soul as an entity that lives outside the body are gorgeously rendered and completely bewitching. A

The Great Debaters
Directed by Denzel Washington, this inspirational story is based on real events and packs an emotional punch, so long as it concentrates on the team and the debates. But when the focus widens to include Tolson’s labor organizing activities and a lynching, the tonal shift is jarring, as the drama deflates into a dry, if worthy, history lesson. B-

I Am Legend
Once it becomes a monster movie, the drama loses steam, the suspense and horror inherent in the premise dissipating under an onslaught of creatures that are obviously nothing more than ridiculous computer-generated inventions. B-

No Country for Old Men
It’s not a fun movie, but it’s masterfully epic in its approach to good, evil, greed, justice, human nature, and the cold emptiness to which the characters find themselves inextricably bound. But its darkness is necessary and keeps the film from descending into irony and detachment, something its creators, the Coen Brothers, have been accused of in the past. Not this time. They created possibly the best film of their already-acclaimed career. A

P.S. I Love You
It is an odd love story in which flashbacks to the marriage reveal a less-than-happy union. No surprise there: she’s a shrew, and her grating Irish mate comes across as a strapping, handsome version of the Lucky Charms leprechaun. A talented cast and some beautiful locations are wasted on this dreck. D

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
It’s extremely gory but fiendish fun, a meditation on evil, revenge, irony, and futility that could only be made by a director as willfully weird as Tim Burton. Consider it a twisted holiday gift from both a director and star who were seemingly destined to bring out each others’ strengths. A

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
This family film’s quality lies in its solid production values and its ability to straddle the expectations of audiences on either side of the generation line – both a sweet fantasy for children and a parable about growing up that adults will find unexpectedly moving. A-

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.