In this motion-capture version of the classic tale, warrior Beowulf (voice of Ray Winstone, body of an anonymous underwear model) lives in a kingdom terrorized by the hideous giant monster Grendel (Crispin Glover). Battling and killing Grendel early on, Beowulf stumbles and sacrifices his integrity when it comes to Grendel’s seductive mother (Angelina Jolie). This places yet another curse upon the kingdom, one Beowulf must live to fight another day. What this age-old story lacks in sparkling dialogue (think: “Aye, ye are truly the bravest of them all, Beowulf,” and other declarations of that sort), it more than makes up for with sheer visual power. 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.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (There’s a lot of nudity, both male and female, which is somewhat startling for a PG-13 film, but lesbian fans of the bisexual Jolie – who once played a lesbian in “Gia” – won’t mind one bit. Co-star Anthony Hopkins starred in the film adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel “Howard’s End.” Co-star Robin Wright Penn starred in “A Home at the End of the World.”)
Love in the Time of Cholera
It was love at first sight when Florentino (Javier Bardem) saw Fermina (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). Too bad, then, that her father (John Leguizamo, sporting one of the film’s many crazy accents) can’t marry her off to the pompous Juvenal (Benjamin Bratt, with his own wacky accent) quickly enough. What follows is a life of moping, longing, weeping, suffering, and promiscuity for Florentino, as he spends his years trying to drown his sorrows and bide his time until Juvenal dies. Meanwhile, the film seems to go on for years itself, suffocating the audience in breathless, florid dialogue and bizarrely comic sexual antics, hoping to stir up sympathy for a man who comes off as little more than a clinically depressed stalker. It’s a shame that Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel had to be translated to the screen this way. There’s little to love here.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Bardem played a gay man in “Before Night Falls.” Leguizamo played gay in “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.”)
Margot at the Wedding
Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son visit her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) when Pauline announces her impending marriage to Malcolm (Jack Black), a mess of a man who’s not good enough for her. But this isn’t just any family visit – it’s a meeting of two halves of a messy family whole, two sisters consumed with and doomed to unhappiness with each other. Family secrets come forth, and relationships are strained to the breaking point. And yet, in spite of it all, a dark, bitter sense of humor holds the women – and the story – together. There are no warm-hearted understandings or cathartic moments, only bone-dry realizations that sibling-adjacent life is going to continue being a pain. The movie doesn’t flinch from this, and, thankfully, neither do Kidman or Leigh – which makes it all a rewarding experience for those with adventurous moviegoing habits.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Kidman played Virginia Woolf in “The Hours.” Leigh played a lesbian-ish woman obsessed with Bridget Fonda in “Single White Female.”)
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
Mr. Magorium’s (Dustin Hoffman) Wonder Emporium, a magical toyshop, truly lives up to its name until it loses its will to enchant when he dies. His grieving heir Mahoney (Natalie Portman) shutters the place, a development that does not stop 9-year-old misfit customer Eric (Zach Mills) from trying to save it. No simple plot description can do this truly quirky family fable justice. An odd premise makes for an odder movie, but one that is as delightfully bewitching as anything in Magorium’s shop. The colorful toy store setting is a child’s dream, while adults will appreciate the fable’s dry wit and surprising poignancy. A sprite-like Hoffman and Portman are wonderful, but Mills and Jason Bateman, as the emporium’s initially skeptical accountant, are downright entrancing.
Kinsey Scale: 1 (Hoffman starred in the classic homoerotic drama “Midnight Cowboy” and also played the cross-dressing actor in “Tootsie.” Co-star Ted Ludzik had small roles in “Queer as Folk” and “Hairspray.”)
ALSO IN THEATERS:
The pace is slow, and director Ridley Scott wastes too much time exploring Richie Roberts’ failed marriage, but electrifying performances from Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, and a large supporting cast offset those minor sins. A-
Seinfeld gets off a few funny jokes, and Matthew Broderick adds an amiable supporting turn as Barry’s best bee buddy, but this is a mostly a leaden affair, boring for kids and grown-ups alike. C
Dan in Real Life
Juliette Binoche shares so little chemistry with her co-stars that the love triangle never rings true; the three young actresses who play Dan’s daughters are shrill; and a veteran supporting cast is wasted in roles that give them little to do except fill space. Steve Carell generates a few laughs, but those are rarities in this bland and mediocre affair. C-
Despite its flaws, the movie is weirdly entrancing, mostly thanks to the attractive qualities the three leads bring to the party: Vince Vaughn’s rumpled, slacker charm; Paul Giamatti’s warmth; and Kevin Spacey’s acid wit. B-
Lions for Lambs
The heavyweight stars are nothing more than talking heads spouting political rhetoric. A short 88-minute running time feels like five hours. C-