At the movies: Nov. 23, 2012

Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2012, 4:30 pm
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New in theaters

Great Escape 14 Stadium Cinemas, Moline:

"Life of Pi" (PG)
"Red Dawn" (PG-13)
"Rise of the Guardians" (PG)

Rave Motion Pictures 53, Davenport:
"Life of Pi" (PG)
"Red Dawn" (PG-13)
"Rise of the Guardians" (PG)
Nova 6 Cinemas, Moline:
"Cloud Atlas" (R)
"Taken 2" (PG-13)
Central Theater, Geneseo:
Closed for remodeling Nov. 19-29

Putnam Museum's National Geographic Giant Screen Theater, Davenport:
"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (live action) (PG)
"Polar Express" (PG)

These are Roger Ebert's mini-reviews (unless otherwise noted) of some of the movies currently playing in the Quad-Cities area. "Life of Pi" ( PG, 125 minutes). A miraculous achievement of storytelling and a landmark of visual mastery. Inspired by a worldwide best-seller that seemed unfilmable, it is a triumph over its difficulties. It is also a moving spiritual achievement, a movie whose title could have been shortened to "Life." The story involves the 227 days that its teenage hero (Suraj Sharma) spends drifting across the Pacific in the same lifeboat as a Bengal tiger. The movie quietly combines various religious traditions to enfold its story in the wonder of life. How remarkable that these two mammals, and the fish beneath them and birds above them, are all here. One of the year's best. Rating: 4 stars

"Red Dawn" ( PG-13, 93 minutes). Opens with a hard-fought high school football game before the next day in Spokane, Wash., is interrupted by the thud of bombs. The young gridiron stars of the Wolverines race outside to see enemy aircraft flying overhead in formation, dropping paratroopers from the skies. An alarming sight, but the movie reassures us that an invasion by communist North Korea can be vanquished by the members of the team and their girlfriends, using mostly automatic weapons stolen from the North Koreans themselves. They're all instinctive combat fighters, even a cheerleader. Light on dialogue, heavy on mindless action. Rating: 1 1/2 stars

"Rise of the Guardians" (PG, 97 minutes). Hyperactive 3-D animated fantasy regarding the plight of Jack Frost, who nobody seems able to see. Called upon in a crisis to help the Guardians (Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc.), he saves the day. Younger children like the breakneck action, magical ability to fly, and the young hero who has tired of being overlooked. Their parents and older siblings may find the 97-minute running time quite long enough. Rating: 3 stars

Last week: "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" (PG-13, 115 minutes). Fifth and final installment of the "Twilight" series, beginning where the previous one ended, as Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) gives birth to little Renesmee, and is introduced by her husband, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), to her new life with vampire powers. In the process, Bella has also been miraculously transformed into a much more interesting character, physically superb and emotionally uninhibited. The birth of the infant leads to a sensational climax involving the Washington state vampires and the Volturi of Italy, self-appointed rulers of vampiredom. I suspect "Twilight's" audience, which takes these films very seriously indeed, will drink deeply of its blood. Rating: 2 1/2 stars

"Lincoln" (PG-13, 149 minutes). Steven Spielberg's new film focuses on only a few months of Lincoln's life, including the passage of the 13th Amendment ending slavery, the surrender of the Confederacy and his assassination. Rarely has a film attended more carefully to the details of politics. Daniel Day-Lewis creates a Lincoln who is calmly self-confident, patient and willing to play politics in a realistic way. Not about an icon of history, but about a president who was scorned by some of his opponents as a hayseed from the backwoods. He understood them better than they did him. Sure to win many Academy Award nominations. Rating: 4 stars

"The Sessions" (R, 95 minutes). Mark (John Hawkes) is 38 years old and after contracting polio, he has spent most of those years in an iron lung. He believes his time is running out. He would like to experience sexual intercourse with a woman at least once before he dies. He contacts Cheryl (Helen Hunt), a sex surrogate who explains the ground rules to Mark: They will have six meetings, no more. They are not working together in order to fall in love, but to achieve a specific physical purpose. She is kind and tactful, and so is Mark's parish priest (William H. Macy), who guides him with compassion through this process. Astonishing performances, and not without humor. Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Coming to video Tuesday, Nov. 27 "Sparkle" (PG-13, 116 minutes). A full-bodied musical melodrama that acquires a melancholy undertone because it features the last performance by Whitney Houston. She stars as the strict, churchgoing mom of three girls who are gifted singers: sexy Carmen Ejogo, studious Tika Sumpter and lovable Jordin Sparks (from "American Idol"), who has the title role and writes songs she's at first too shy to perform. With scene-stealing work by Mike Epps as a snaky comedian and Derek Luke as Sparkle's big-hearted boyfriend. Rating: 3 stars

"Men in Black 3" (PG-13, 103 minutes). Fifteen years after the original and a decade after the blah sequel, this third installment is the best in the series. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are back as anti-alien Agents K and J, and Josh Brolin has a movie-stealing role as the young Agent K, looking and sounding uncannily like Jones. Rick Baker, Hollywood's top-ranking creature creator, creates a gob-smacking gallery of aliens, and the time travel plot even works in the Apollo 11 moon launch. Rating: 3 stars

"Step Up Revolution" (PG-13, 97 minutes). Kathryn McCormick of "So You Think You Can Dance" and newcomer Ryan Guzman co-star in the story of a new girl in Miami Beach who gets involved in his professional-grade flash mob just when her evil dad (Peter Gallagher) wants to tear down all their beloved hangouts and erect a huge development. Lots of good dancing and choreography. The plot is, well, moronic. Rating: 2 stars

"Lawless" (R, 115 minutes). Based on a real-life, blood-soaked war between moonshiners and the law in Franklin County, Va., in 1931. The three Bondurant brothers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke) fearlessly rule their turf, until a foppish federal agent (Guy Pearce) arrives from Chicago. A well-made film about ignorant and violent people. It's not so much that the movie is too long, as that too many people must be killed before it can end. Rating: 2 1/2 stars New on video this week:
"Expendables 2" (R, 102 minutes). A shoot-em-up for septuagenarians starring Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. A festival of horrendous one-liners, it's jam-packed with explosions and guns and crashes and unnaturally loud punches, with faceless, nameless stuntmen taking all the risks. It barely qualifies as a movie, but it does make for a fascinating study on male vanity. Most of these actors are extremely fit, with the bodies of muscular 30-year-olds, but there's nothing they can do about the lines and creases in their faces. Rating: 1 star -- Rene Rodriguez,The Miami Herald


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Oct. 1, the 274th day of 2014. There are 91 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: It is rumored in the streets that the 13 negroes sent to Quincy on the Moline quota were refused. We think this must be a mistake.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Harvey McKenna, of Detroit, billiard player matched to play Wizard Schafer in New York in January for the world championship, was a professional friend and manager, Billy Catton in Rock Island.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Levi Cralle, former Rock Island county sheriff, had come from his farm near Mitchell, S.D. to visit friends in the city.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Work is being rushed on the new high school building in Orion to replace the one destroyed by fire last winter. Classes are being held in churches.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Rehearsals for the 84th season of the Handel Oratorio Society chorus will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the stage of Centennial Hall, Augustana College.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Rock Island City Council's plan announced this week to have the federal government vacate Valley Homes public housing and move residents to Arsenal Courts to reduce density may not be feasible.

(More History)