Outtakes

Upcoming Releases

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (PG-13) Old action movies don't die, they just fade away, and ditto for their stars. Bruce Willis is back as John McClane, now an agent with Homeland Security, but still a magnet for dastardly bad guys and the photogenic explosions caused by enormous vehicles smashing into even larger vehicles. Yippie-kay-ay. Whatever. Also stars Justin Long, Maggie Q, Timothy Olyphant and Jonathan Sadowski. Opens June 29 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

RATATOUILLE (G) Pixar's latest contribution to the annals of animation history is a sweetly perverse retooling of Disney's Cinderella, as retold for the Age of Conflicted Foodies — with Cindy reborn as a rat who wants to be Rachael Ray. The rat's name is Remy, and he even has his own fairy godmother — a floating Paul Bocuse figure who cheers him on with the shining motto "Anyone can cook!" — and by the end of this Paris-set rags-to-riches fable, glass slippers are found on all the right feet and rodent-inspired haute cuisine is the hit of the land. The latest creation of genius-boy director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles), Ratatouille is as clever as it is entertaining, although this may well be the first Pixar film to actually connect more powerfully with grown-ups than with their kids (not withstanding that rare 8-year-old who yearns to hear talking animals wax poetic on the glories of saffron and wild mushrooms). The movie misses the emotional resonance of Toy Story and some of Pixar's other very best efforts by just a hair, but it more than makes up for it in wit, style and an almost balletic grace to the quite awesome animation. As if that weren't enough, there's also a climatic moped chase along the Seine, and, for a villain, a ghoulish critic (voiced by Peter O'Toole!) who writes in a coffin-shaped room while secretly waiting for some sort of Scrooge-ish redemption. Also features the voices of Patton Oswald, Iam Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy and Janeane Garofalo. Opens June 29 at local theaters. 4 stars

RECENT RELEASES

1408 (PG-13) Paranormal investigator and confirmed skeptic Mike Enslin (John Cusack) meets his match when he checks in the titular room at a Manhattan hotel and finds all hell literally breaking loose. Based on a short story by Stephen King, 1408 is a welcome change from the Saw/Hostel splatterfests currently in vogue, but the film's approach isn't exactly old-school psychological-horror either. Director Mikael Hafstrom throws a steady stream of somewhat incongruous elements at the wall hoping something will stick, and while there's plenty of eerie atmosphere and surreal visions here, there are also lots of cheap tricks, with the equivalent of somebody jumping out of a closet and yelling "Boo!" every few minutes. Cusack is on screen nearly every moment here, and he's quite good, but the film is a mixed bag — for better or worse, a spot-on translation of King's compulsively watchable and eminently disposable style. Also stars Samuel L. Jackson and Mary McCormack. Opens June 22 at local theaters. 3 stars

AFTER THE WEDDING (R) Former Dogme hard-liner Susanne Bier's most melodramatic leanings have surged to the surface, where they're aired out in feverishly opulent style. Mads Mikkelsen (the blood-weeping baddie from Casino Royale) stars as the Danish manager of a Bombay orphanage, whose meeting with a wealthy benefactor (Rolf Lassgard) lifts a veil on the past, uncorking a magnum of tears, traumas, secrets and lies. It's not easy writing about After the Wedding without giving away information the filmmakers would surely rather you discover for yourself — although most of the movie's "revelations" are pretty basic Days of Our Lives stuff and relatively simple to predict — but suffice it to say that credulity-testing coincidences abound, major skeletons emerge from their closets, and almost all of the characters turn out to be connected in ways that produce breast-beating and soul-searching aplenty. The camera still whips around nervously, almost Dogme-like at times, but the shots are just as likely to be smoothly executed and slickly composed, while a seemingly endless succession of iconic close-ups of eyes fill the screen. It's all absurdly over-heated and maybe even a bit silly, but I wouldn't at all call it unpleasant. The performances are uniformly strong, and although the director's style is now every bit as lush as her former approach was spartan, the execution here goes a long ways towards making palatable what is otherwise a pretty conventional storyline. Also stars Sidse Babett Knudsen and Stine Fischer Christensen. Opens June 22 at Tampa Theatre. Call theater to confirm. 3 stars

AWAY FROM HER (PG-13) Julie Christie stars as Fiona Anderson, a woman suffering from Alzheimer's, and as her memory vanishes, Away From Her sets itself the task of examining what remains. As much as the film focuses on Fiona's slow, slipping-away process, Away From Her is on equally intimate terms with her husband/caregiver Grant (Gordon Pinsent), and the bittersweet portrait painted here is ultimately a two-shot, a carefully layered mosaic of the couple's 44-year union. In a larger sense, the movie is a quietly telling examination of the nature of love itself, a reminder of what holds couples together even after the realization that our loved ones are not as we imagined them to be. In lesser hands this could easily have become treacly, even tedious going, but Away From Her turns out to be that rare, small film that packs an uncommonly large punch. Writer-director Sarah Polley (the young Canadian actress from The Sweet Hereafter, here making her behind-the-camera debut), allows the material to flow through conduits that don't always conform to our expectations, eschewing carpet-chewing for understated lyricism, and relying on the emotional truth of her actors' finely nuanced performances to bring it all home. Also stars Olympia Dukakis, Michael Murphy and Kristen Thomson. 3.5 stars

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