In Theaters:
It’s Complicated

It would be great to like this film more than it’s really possible to do. There are pleasing settings, pleasant actors, “problems” that don’t really amount to much of anything, and lashings of delicious food and architecture. There are three A-list actors participating in something almost more revolutionary in Hollywood than putting money into a project that didn’t originate with a decades-old comic book — an age-appropriate love triangle. There are even moments of bordering-on-touching romantic repartee. Sadly, none of these things add up to anything more than a generic, easygoing romantic comedy that has about as much lasting power as a thin snowfall on a sunny day…

It’s Complicated opens everywhere Christmas Day. Read the full review at … unless you have something better to do.

In Theaters:

The best thing about Rob Marshall’s wandering, sporadically entertaining adaptation of the Broadway musical Nine is that for once he’s put an actor instead of a performer front and center. The murderous flappers of Chicago were almost uniformly excellent at taking a big number and blowing it right through the back of the movie theater. The slinking minxes of Nine pout, roar, and coil across the screen with aplomb, but there’s a dissonance in the film that they’re all dancing around, and his name is Daniel Day-Lewis – an actor surrounded by performers whom he upstages with a weary hunch of his shoulders…

Nine is in limited release right about now. Read the full review at

In Theaters:

Avatar is the prototypical Cameron event-film. It’s a story of cataclysmic battles and personal revelations, punched through with exclamation marks and related via ground-breaking special effects that work overtime to heighten the emotional impact of the primal drama on display. It’s also—more uniquely to this entry in Cameron’s oeuvre—a metaphor for our society’s benighted state, where uploading one’s consciousness into a grander, more worldly and aware creature, serves as the ultimate escape from a venal and polluted (in every sense of the word) present reality…

Avatar is playing, in 3-D and regular old 2-D all around eveywhere now. Read the full review at the Short Ends & Leader blog.

In Theaters:
The Lovely Bones

In The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson may have left Middle-Earth behind for the potentially less magical realm of 1970s small-town Pennsylvania, but the characters inhabiting this land of modest, shag-carpeted split-levels and bustling shopping malls are hardly less mythical. There’s a sprightly girl of elvish features, a good-natured father who can be pushed into acts of righteous bravery, a slithery villain hiding in plain sight, and a magical landscape just beyond our own where wonders abound. It’s all much more corduroy and sideburns than glinting chain mail and delicate silver tiaras, but the landscape of this film’s conflict is so riven with mythic echoes that one wouldn’t be surprised to see somebody bury a broadsword in an orc’s head…

The Lovely Bones is playing most everywhere now. Read the full review at

In Theaters:
A Serious Man

You could say that A Serious Man, with its blankly boxed-up suburban streets, is the film that Joel and Ethan Coen always meant to make. Raised in the Minneapolis suburbs during the ‘60s, they went on build up and tear down one film genre after another, from westerns to screwball comedies to noir. Their first return to the land of their youth, Fargo, was a chilly comedy, peeling back the stolid veneer of Minnesota nice to find both heartfelt decency and baleful madness beneath. It had its moments, but there was something of the vengeful adolescent in its humor…

A Serious Man is still playing in theaters here and there. Read the full review at PopMatters.

In Theaters:
The Last Station

In an earlier epoch, The Last Station is the kind of movie that some striving studio mogul would snap up, stock with the best performers on his payroll, and assign to an A-list director, in order to play in packed theaters of adoring fans, and finally to triumph in the hallowed hall of the Academy Awards. Today, however, Jay Parini’s novel about the final days of Leo Tolstoy’s life has come to movie screens with less fanfare. These are different times, for better and—when it comes to films about dead artistes acted by quality thespians—for worse…

The Last Station is playing now at finer theaters near you. You can read the full review at PopMatters.

In Theaters:
Me and Orson Welles

You never really know why high school senior Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) wants so badly to be in the theater. Me and Orson Welles offers no scenes of him struggling mightily to get there, or being harassed by his parents to take something, anything, seriously so that he might be able to have a career some day. He just knows that his unnamed and mostly unseen hometown, just a quick train ride from the beaming spotlight of Manhattan, has nothing for him. But once we see Richard enmeshed in an all-consuming and all-too-brief adventure, there’s also no reason to ask why he desires it so powerfully. Anybody who would need such a question answered in detail, likely wouldn’t understand the answer anyway…

Me and Orson Welles is in theaters now. You can read the full review at PopMatters.

In Books:
How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

It’s always good to have at least one skunk at the garden party, particularly when its Barbara Ehrenreich. The author of Nickel and Dimed and numerous other exposes on the many deficiencies inherent in the modern American workplace has gone a little farther in her newest bit of reality-checking—and occasionally too far, in the wrong direction…

Bright-Sided is available in fine bookstores now. Read the full review at PopMatters.

In Theaters:
Up in the Air

A dramatic comedy of dislocation that, fittingly enough, never finds its moorings, Up in the Air sends George Clooney jetting about between the great aerial transport hubs of American flyover country, young ward in tow, as he tries to teach her the ropes of his grim business: firing employees whose bosses don’t have the guts to do it themselves…

Up in the Air opens limited on Friday and expands nationwide later in the month. Read the full review at