New movies this week
The gist: Ben Affleck goes in front of and behind the camera to tell a crime tale about a bank robber who's supposed to kill a witness but falls in love with her instead. R
The cast: Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall and Jeremy Renner
The buzz: Not as good as Affleck's Gone Baby Gone, but still solid. "Here is a well-made crime procedural … but perhaps the mechanics of movie crime got in the way of Affleck's higher ambitions," the Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert says.
The Virginity Hit
The gist: A nerdy twerp's irresponsible girlfriend loses her virginity at a frat party, so he and his friends decide to make a YouTube video of his revenge. Hilarity ensues. R
The cast: Matt Bennett, Nicole Weaver, Justin Kline, Jacob Davich and Zack Pearlman
The buzz: Lots of nudity, drug use and profanity, but it has a little heart in there, too. "A transgressive blend of stoner comedy, horny teenager movie and Blair Witch reality riff, this no-budget romp through teen New Orleans crosses the line and erases that line in a hell-bent pursuit of hell-bound laughs," the Orlando Sentinel says.
The gist: The cute girl from Zombieland decides to let false rumors of her promiscuity fuel her high-school popularity. Dads of teenage girls probably don't want to watch this one. PG-13
The cast: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes and Dan Byrd
The buzz: But wait, there are lessons to be learned, and a breakout performance, too. "This is the kind of movie about teenagers that an adult audience should embrace … and Stone is nothing short of wonderful," the Arizona Republic lauds.
The gist: A group of people is trapped in an elevator with the devil. No, the devil is not producer M. Night Shyamalan. PG-13
The cast: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O'Hara and Bojana Novakovic
The buzz: They didn't screen this one, but M. Night turned the directing reins over to the little-known Dowdle brothers. That's an encouraging sign.
Alpha and Omega
The gist: A cut-rate 3D cartoon about two wolves with celebrity voices who are taken from their territory by park rangers and go on a wacky adventure of self-discovery. How original. PG
The cast: Voices of Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci and Danny Glover
The buzz: "Underwhelming in the style of most off-brand CG, Alpha and Omega is livened by pretty Rocky Mountain backdrops and leadened by stock characters and the wolves' weirdly prissy behavior," Entertainment Weekly says.
I'm Still Here
The gist: Joaquin Phoenix's weird, probably fake documentary shot by his brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, in which JP quits acting and tries to become a rapper. No MPAA rating
The cast: Phoenix and a bunch of folks who are in on the joke.
The buzz: Is the point to make fun of celebrities or celebrate sophomoric idiocy? "I'm Still Here does take on, at times forcefully and effectively, the pathological fallout of the Entertainment Industrial Complex," the New York Times says.
Mao's Last Dancer
The gist: The true story of Li Cunxin and his quest to become a wold-class ballet dancer while being from a country that really did its best to eradicate all artisans at one point. PG
The cast: Bruce Greenwood, Kyle MacLachlan, Amanda Schull and Joan Chen
The buzz: An uneven portrayal of a riveting tale. "The most interesting elements of Li's story — dance, politics, and the politics of dance — have been dulled from their source material, though not beyond recognition," the Boston Globe hedges.
— Joshua Gillin firstname.lastname@example.org