Ernest & celestine
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: PG for some scary moments. Showing in both subtitled French and English dubbed versions.
The unlikely cross-species friendship of Celestine the mouse and Ernest the bear teaches a gentle lesson about irrational intolerance in this French animated charmer. Rendered in a delightfully wobbly, watercolor style, it gives us humanized creatures living in a two-level world. Bears live in provincial towns of cafes and bicyclists, gendarmes and cobbled streets. Mice populate elaborate subterranean cities.
The rodent, a tiny, plucky orphan, has been taught by her caretakers to fear the clawed, furry, hungry beasts above their underground world. She has an artistic, independent personality, however, and can't believe that bears are as boorish as she's been told. A trip to the surface introduces her to Ernest and after an initial period of misunderstanding they form an unconventional bond. The unlikely buddies are put on trial by each other's peers for intermingling, and must ride out some tough challenges on their way to a tender relationship. Forest Whitaker and Mackenzie Foy play the title characters with support from Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman.
in the blood
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for strong violence and language.
Here's a slick, edgy little action movie with a twist. When their Caribbean honeymoon turns into a nightmare, it's the new bride who has to crack heads and save the day.
Mixed martial arts star Gina Carano (the lethal lead of Steven Soderbergh's "Haywire") takes matters into her own fists when her wealthy groom vanishes following a mishap on a remote jungle zip line. Was he kidnapped? Killed? Local police chief Luis Guzman and her father-in-law Treat Williams both see her as the likeliest suspect, given her rough background (the newlyweds met in a drug sobriety program).
The script is smarter than it has to be, weaving a web of island corruption that's consistently surprising and moderately plausible, with rounded, juicy characters.
Carano is persuasive in her abundant fight scenes and acts a lot better than most pro athletes. Danny Trejo and Stephen Lang ("Avatar") spice up the supporting cast. Director John Stockwell ("Turistas," "Blue Crush") knows how to make lush tropical settings emanate menace. While the stunt choreography isn't A-list, it's adequate for a solid B movie.
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: PG-13 for some violent and sexual images and drug references.
Way back in 1973, before "Star Wars" and "Alien" made science fiction into a moneymaking mainstream film genre, Mexican cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky set out to make a psychedelic adaptation of Frank Herbert's "Dune." It's considered by many sci-fi geeks one of the greatest films never made. Now 83 and still energetic as a Roman candle, the filmmaker and raconteur describes the epic project's stratospheric goals. He wanted not just collaborators but "spiritual warriors" ready to give their all for his vision (not Herbert's — the irrepressible Jodorowsky launched his space odyssey without reading the book).
Employing a mix of lively talking-head interviews and trippy animation based on Jodorowsky's sketchbooks and storyboards, Frank Pavich's documentary paints a tantalizing picture of the movie that might have been.
Hot off the successes of his weird-beard midnight movie hits "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain," Jodorowsky assembled a supergroup of true believers. The cast included Mick Jagger, Orson Welles as villainous Baron Harkonnen, and Salvador Dali as the Emperor of the galaxy. The crew boasted Pink Floyd for music, Europe's greatest, strangest sci-fi artists for the visuals. "I was searching for the light of genius in every person," says Jodorowsky.
Ultimately the project failed to launch and David Lynch released his own eerie, flawed version in 1984. Jodorowsky's unrealized "Dune" might have been a smash or a "Flash Gordon"-style misfire, but his war stories are never less than inspirational.
nymphomaniac Vol. II
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated but includes nudity and graphic sexual activity.
With its wry academic humor and focus on safe-ish (albeit emotionally painful) sex, "Nymphomaniac, Vol. I" looks downright sedate compared with its lurid second installment. Pushing the boundaries of discomfort with harrowing depictions of sadomasochism and racist sexual objectification, "Vol. II" generates a disturbing frisson of creepiness. A sexcapade this is not.
Once again the erotically voracious Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) narrates her sexual adventures to mousy, intellectual Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) in his dingy apartment. Her transgressions before were more forgivable acts of omission — looking at sex partners like sandwiches, as composites of desirable parts, rather than seeing them more fully as people. Here her tortured tale literally goes S&M as she uses her sexuality to torment others and cause pain for herself.
Lars von Trier's antiheroine seeks out a cold, ghoulish disciplinarian (Jamie Bell) who nicknames her "Fido" and straps her to a sofa for a lashing. This episode includes so many lavish close-ups of bloody flesh that it seems as if Von Trier is making a "Saw" film. If he were, the sad, sick joke that harshly terminates the movie might be more convincing.
island of lemurs: Madagascar
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Theater: Great Clips Imax at Minnesota Zoo
You are powerless to resist these adorable little furballs! Lemurs, the oddball primates that leap on spring-loaded paws and have the most awww-inducing eyes in the animal kingdom, finally get the Imax 3-D film they deserve, narrated by Morgan Freeman. The film informs us that lemurs have been around since the era of dinosaurs, surviving the meteor impact that wiped out the big lizards. Now their habitat is threatened by slash-and-burn farming techniques. American anthropologist and conservationist Patricia Wright leads efforts to preserve the fragile ecosystem, whose erosion has pushed some lemur families from their forest homes to caves.
Unique to their island home off the southeast coast of Africa, they've evolved in a profusion of ring-tailed and ruffled body types, all of them eminently huggable. The film fulfills its educational mission — did you know that female lemurs play the socially dominant role? — but doesn't grow too serious. With some silly creative editing, it choreographs the lemurs' kangaroo-style locomotion to Cole Porter's "C'est Magnifique."