by Wendy Schadewald
Special to Sun Thisweek-Dakota County Tribune
Rating system: (4=Don’t miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)
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“Alvin and the Chipmunks” (PG) (3) [Some mild rude humor.] [DVD only] — After a struggling songwriter (Jason Lee) gets fired from his advertising executive job and a snobbish, money-grubbing music producer (David Cross) hates his latest song in this fast-paced, chuckle-inducing, family-oriented comedy, three waffle-loving and rambunctious chipmunks (voiceovers by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Jesse McCartney) charm their way into his cupboard and his life and influence his career and his love life with a beautiful neighbor (Cameron Richardson).
“Beauty and the Beast” (PG) (3.5) [Some action violence, peril and frightening images.] — Memorable, classic songs highlight this entertaining, charming, delightful, colorful, romantic, 129-minute Disney musical remake of the 1991 animated film in which a gorgeous French bibliophile (Emma Watson), who lives with her tinkering widowed father (Kevin Kline) in a small idyllic village and is tenaciously pursued by a smitten narcissist (Luke Evans) who hangs around with his best friend (Josh Gad), is initially kept prisoner in a foreboding, dark castle by a once-arrogant prince (Dan Stevens) who was turned into a beast by a seemingly haggard enchantress (Hattie Morahan) after he rejected her red rose and finds herself falling for the heart of the beast with the help of a fiery candelabra (voiceover by Ewan McGregor), an ornate mantle clock (voiceover by Ian McKellen), a motherly teapot (voiceover by Emma Thompson) and her chipped teacup son (voiceover by Nathan Mack), a singing wardrobe (voiceover by Audra McDonald), a harpsichord (voiceover by Stanley Tucci), and a peacock feather duster (voiceover by Gugu Mbatha-Raw).
“Blind Dating” (PG-13) (2) [Sexual content and language.] [DVD only] — An uneven and unfocused story about a virginal, fiercely independent, blind pre-law student (Chris Pine) who goes on a series of horrendous blind dates arranged by his well-meaning brother (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who takes a chance on an experimental eye operation with the encouragement of his therapist (Jane Seymour) and his ophthalmologist (Stephen Tobolowsky), and falls in love with a beautiful Indian receptionist (Anjali Jay) who is already engaged to another man (Sendhil Ramamurthy).
“The Last Word” (R) (3) [Language.] — After a lonely, cantankerous, no-nonsense, controlling, divorced, retired, 81-year-old advertising executive (Shirley MacLaine) botches a suicide attempt, reads overblown obituaries, and then requests that a stuck-in-a-rut newspaper journalist (Amanda Seyfried) write her obituary so that she can oversee the composition in this touching, bittersweet, thought-provoking, well-acted, star-studded (Philip Baker Hall, Tom Everett Scott, Anne Heche, Steven Culp, John Billingsley, and Joel Murray), 108-minute film based on Stuart Ross Fink’s novel, she suddenly tries to make a difference at the end of her life by challenging and bonding with the writer as she delves into her colorful past, by befriending a precocious 9-year-old girl (Ann Jewel Lee Dixon) from the projects, and by convincing a producer (Thomas Sadoski) to give her a gig as a DJ at the local radio station.
“Lust, Caution” (NC-17) (3.5) [Some explicit sexuality.] [Subtitled] [DVD only] — When an innocent, idealistic, and patriotic Chinese student (Tang Wei) is initially drawn into an underground movement in 1938 Hong Kong with other greenhorn resistance fighters (Lee-Hom Wang, Chu Tsz-ying, et al.) who plan to assassinate a powerful Japanese collaborator (Tony Leung) in Ang Lee’s engrossing, intriguing, and erotic thriller, she continues her all-out, artful seduction of the heavily guarded, traitorous political leader and gets close to him 4 years later in Japanese-occupied Shanghai by playing mahjong with his beautiful wife (Joan Chen) with ultimately startling consequences.
“The Perfect Holiday” (PG) (2) [Brief language and some suggestive humor.] [DVD only] — Queen Latifah narrates this cutesy, contrived, and predictable Christmas film about a wannabe songwriter (Morris Chestnut) and part-time Santa with his best friend (Faizon Love) who get into a jam after he poses as a office supply salesman when he meets the gorgeous ex-wife (Gabrielle Union) of a shallow music producer (Charles W. Murphy) with three kids (Malik Hammond, Khail Bryant, and Jeremy Gumbs).
“The Rocket” (PG) (3) [Rough sports action, including fighting, some bloody images, some language, and historical smoking throughout.] [DVD only] — A captivating biographical film about hotheaded French-Canadian machinist Maurice Richard (Roy Dupuis) who began his rollercoaster and legendary career as an NHL hockey player for the Montreal Canadiens in 1937 with the support of his devoted wife (Julie LeBreton) and fans who nicknamed him “The Rocket.”
“Romance & Cigarettes” (R) (3) [Sexual content, including some strong dialogue, and language.] [DVD only] — A downbeat ending detracts from John Turturro’s funny, offbeat, entertaining, cameo-filled (Christopher Walken, Elaine Stritch, Steve Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, Eddie Izzard, et al.) musical about a nicotine-addicted Queens ironworker (James Gandolfini) who ends up in the doghouse with his spouse (Susan Sarandon) and three daughters (Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, and Aida Turturro) after his wife finds out about his affair with a redheaded lingerie shop owner (Kate Winslet).
“War Dance” (NR) (2.5) [Subtitled] [DVD only] — Traditional African music and dance highlights this informative, eye-opening documentary that focuses on three Acholi children, including a 14-year-old orphaned singer, a talented xylophone-playing former child soldier, and a teenage dancer caring for her siblings, who live with 60,000 other refugees in the Patongo refugee camp in war-ravage Uganda and are rehearsing to compete in various categories at the 2005 National Music Competition in Kampala.
Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident.