New movies this week
The gist: A yarn about a 1930s Tennessee hermit who hires an undertaker to arrange his funeral for him while he's still alive so he can see what people would say about him after he dies. What it really is, is an excuse for a collection of good actors to chew the scenery for a couple hours. PG-13
Starring: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray and Lucas Black.
The buzz: "All of this is just plain enjoyable," the Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert says. "I liked it, but please don't make me say it's deeply moving or redemptive and uplifting. It's a genre piece for character actors is what it is, and that's an honorable thing for it to be." What? Every movie has to be a morality play or a scalp-peeling spectacle?
The Last Exorcism
The gist: A con-man preacher who fakes exorcisms decides to film a confessional during his last show, but the joke's on him when the girl in question really is possessed (judging by all that creepy footage in the trailers). PG-13
Starring: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr and Louis Herthum.
The buzz: For the most part, the shaky, handheld cam exploits work again. "For a while, The Last Exorcism shrewdly exploits our voyeurism, as it sustains the teasing question of whether there's actually anything supernatural going on. The payoff, however, isn't scary enough," Entertainment Weekly says.
The gist: A disillusioned KGB colonel works with a French engineer to undermine his government and aid the U.S. in this account of true events. That's much more interesting than Russian spies hiding out in suburban New Jersey. No MPAA rating
Starring: Emir Kusturica, Guillaume Canet, Alexandra Maria Lara and Ingeborga Dapkunaite.
The buzz: Some think the slow and deliberate pace of the movie hurts the narrative, but what are spies if not slow and deliberate? "An ideal corrective to the usual overblown espionage fantasies, and one that works very well on its own stealthy terms," the Chicago Tribune says.
The gist: St. Pete High grad William Packer presents a crime caper getting the most buzz for having Chris Brown as a member of a crew of bank robbers. Of course they try to pull off one … last … job. How that's going to go? PG-13
Starring: Brown, Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba, Matt Dillon and Paul Walker.
The buzz: "A respectable but watered-down heist movie that, given the Los Angeles setting, either owes a debt to director Michael Mann or suggests an unusually violent and action-packed episode of Entourage," Variety laments. Packer will be at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 912 Third Ave. N, at 9 a.m. Saturday for a youth workshop and 6 p.m. for a Torch Awards banquet. Call (727) 866-2177 for details and tickets.
Also in theaters
Avatar is back, with nine extra minutes of footage, in case you felt like blowing $12 on blue Native Americans fighting white people again. — Joshua Gillin firstname.lastname@example.org