On the surface, this Italian dramedy about a troubled cardinal reluctant to accept his election to the papacy is a likable, understated farce. Look closer and you'll see that it has serious issues on its mind. The opening scene has the church leadership literally bumbling around in the dark thanks to a Vatican power outage, while boisterously insisting everything is under control. The venerable French actor Michel Piccoli (who has played more villains than heroes for the likes of Chabrol and Buñuel) is heartbreakingly authentic as the reluctant pontiff. In a walkabout in Rome reminiscent of Jesus' and Moses' desert wandering, he drinks in the chaotic beauty of life beyond the cloisters. Faced with that Babel of competing needs he faces a dilemma. As Pope, he's theologically infallible, but he disagrees with God's decision that he should lead the church. -COLIN COVERT

  • ★★★ 1/2 out of four stars
  • Unrated; mature thematic elements. In subtitled Italian
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This story of polar bears and climate change follows the customary mama and cubs survival drama pattern, amping up the sentimentality with a soundtrack of Paul McCartney love songs. The 3-D IMAX images by cinematographer Florian Schultz are jaw-dropping. Meryl Streep's narration tends to the lecture-y, driving home the message that the Arctic, warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, has become so inhospitable to its inhabitants that male polar bears turn to eating their own young. The mother polar bear, Streep instructs, "will die to save her cubs but is powerless to protect their habitat." Such talking points are useful, surely, as a counterbalance to well-funded lobbyists for the carbon economy, but is there a law that says we can't have some virtuosity with our virtuousness? -COLIN COVERT



"Marley" is a highly effective PBS-style documentary about reggae king Bob Marley. Music lovers know "No Woman No Cry," "Three Little Birds," "One Love" and other Marley songs. But how many know that he was born to a 60-year-old white English military officer/plantation supervisor and an 18-year-old black Jamaican woman? That Marley was ostracized as a youth for being mixed-race? That he started out in a group trying to be like the Temptations? Or that he was a fanatical fitness nut and soccer player? Director Kevin MacDonald ("The Last King of Scotland") tells the story of Robert Nesta Marley from his birth in a hut in Nine Mile in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica, to his death from cancer in Miami in 1981 at age 36. Ziggy Marley, his oldest son, and Chris Blackwell, head of Island Records, are among those interviewed. Others include Marley's mother, wife, girlfriend, oldest daughter (he fathered 11 children with eight different women) and musical associates, including Jimmy Cliff and Bunny Livingston, the colorful and articulate former Marley cohort in the Wailers. Marley's music pulsates throughout the movie, which is nearly 2 1/2 hours, but never feels long. -JON BREAM



"The Lucky One" is the edgiest-ever film adaptation of the writings of Nicholas Sparks. Which isn't saying much. Beth (Taylor Schilling) is a willowy and gorgeous single mom running a kennel with her speak-her-mind/ state-the-obvious grandma (Blythe Danner). Logan (Zac Efron) is a brooding ex-soldier, and chivalrous. "Isn't he chivalrous, dear?" granny says, elbowing Beth. Logan found Beth's photo in the dust after a firefight in Iraq. He lost comrades that day, and one of them had her photo. Logan manages to track Beth down in Louisiana. Director Scott Hicks ("Shine," "Snow Falling on Cedars") lifts this material above the "Dear John"/ "Message in a Bottle"/ "Last Song" source, but just barely. -ROGER MOORE, MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE

  • ★ 1/2 out of four stars
  • Rating: PG-13, for some sexuality and violence
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"Think Like a Man" is better than the last movie of its kind, "He's Just Not That Into You," which also took a book of relationship advice and somehow beat and stretched and stuffed it into an ensemble romantic comedy. "Think Like a Man" uses a similar formula -- a group of men and women engage in various emotional skirmishes -- but it doesn't dabble in too much sincerity, never takes its silly premise too seriously and is genuinely funny. Director Tim Story ("Barbershop") has assembled a good cast. There are the guys (Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrera, Terrence Jenkins, Romany Malco), who play basketball, hang out together and brag and/ or moan about the women in their lives (Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union), whose hopes are quite different. The women are tired of disappointment and have realigned their romantic goals after reading Steve Harvey's "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man." -CONNIE OGLE, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

  • ★★★ out of four stars
  • Rating: PG-13, for sexual humor, some crude language, brief drug use.
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