New movies this week
The gist: An Americanized version of the Osamu Tezuka keystone manga and anime, replete with heavy-handed allegory and celebrity voices. Didn't they learn anything from Speed Racer? PG
Starring: The voices of Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy, Eugene Levy, Matt Lucus and Donald Sutherland.
The buzz: Something tells us the geeks would rather watch the old '60s version: "Appropriately for a film about robots, efficiency is the primary virtue of Astro Boy, a well-oiled CG-animated superhero pic that makes up in competence and vitality what it lacks in originality," Variety says.
The gist: Hilary Swank goes for that third Oscar by portraying the pint-sized pilot who made a big impression but one day simply disappeared. Does it take off, or will you have to eject? And how many flight puns can we make? PG
Starring: Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston and Mia Wasikowska.
The buzz: At least one more: It flies, but never soars. "A frustratingly old-school, Hollywood-style, inspirational biopic about Amelia Earhart that doesn't trust a viewer's independent assessment of the famous woman pictured on the screen," Entertainment Weekly says.
The gist: A continuation of the arthouse dramas about a terminally ill man who saw fit to help humanity understand the fragility of existence — by forcing them to gouge out eyes, rip out innards and play catch with power tools. R
Starring: Tobin Bell, Betsy Russell, Mark Rolston, Peter Outerbridge, Shawnee Smith, Samantha Lemole, Caroline Cave and Costas Mandylor.
The buzz: It's Halloween; what did you expect?
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
The gist: A teenager gets picked up by a traveling freak show that apparently is really full of freaks. And what's the cash cow right now? Vampires, natch. PG-13
Starring: John C. Reilly, Ken Watanabe, Josh Hutcherson, Chris Massoglia, Ray Stevenson, Patrick Fugit, Orlando Jones, Willem Dafoe and Salma Hayek.
The buzz: Something is amiss here, as the pic leaves its actors and story in the editing room. "The Vampire's Assistant is too busy making impossible claims about just how spectacular its sequels will be to serve up a self-contained story with a satisfying finale," Variety says.
The gist: A man awaiting a heart transplant reunites with his sister and her children, making him appreciate life. As if living in Paris wasn't enough. R
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Albert Dupontel, François Cluzet, Karin Viard, Gilles Lellouche and Mélanie Laurent.
The buzz: The title city is the real protagonist. "It pulls together diverse residents of the city, from produce vendors to academics, and trains a loving eye on their unique environments and the urban landscapes they all share," the Baltimore Sun says.
The gist: Chris Rock travels to cities, salons, labs and temples to understand what hair styles mean to black women. And to make fun of them juuuuust a teensy bit. R
Starring: Rock and women getting washes and cuts.
The buzz: We have to say, it's an approach we don't often see to a subject we don't often hear about. "Rock takes his Good Hair job as a documentarian seriously enough to be interesting, but not so seriously that the film groans with earnestness," the Chicago Tribune says.
— Joshua Gillin firstname.lastname@example.org