SOMETHING BORROWED

Is John Krasinski Hollywood's secret weapon? Just as he stole comic
thunder in It's Complicated, so does he take this rom-com by storm —
and with the happy help of the underused-on-the-big-screen Steve Howey
(yes, the guy from “Reba”) who has finally landed a juicy part.
Together, these two secondary characters punch up this predictable
slice of wedding cake — joined by a perfectly cast Kate Hudson, an
actress who can use up all the oxygen in the room, but who puts that
to good use here as the outrageously self-absorbed bride-to-be. The
lovers are pleasant, if unexceptional: Ginnifer Goodwin, wholesome and
adorable in a young Sally Fields way, and TV actor Colin Egglesfield,
who has the plastic handsomeness of a TV Romeo (although in one scene
toward the end he resembles Montgomery Clift). There's a badminton
scene leading up to the climax that crackles with tension and makes
you wish the rest of the movie had that much energy. But it never lags
badly, keeps you unsure of how it will end, and even has a satisfying
touch of ambiguity. With all that in mind, back to Krasinski: so
funny, and so ultimately affecting, it's his performance alone that's
worth your borrowed time. — Jeff Schultz

THOR

There isn't a shot in this movie that is enhanced by 3D, maybe because
the project itself is so flat. It's painless enough, but I did snicker
when they pulled out one of the Top Ten movie cliches: the hero
actually falls to his knees, looks heavenward, and (shot from above)
shouts “WHYYYYYYYYYY??????” Why, indeed. Do we really need to sit
through one more kingdom wrestling with father-son issues? Or
suffering at the hands of a jealous brother? Or getting a boost from a
quartet of brave, wise-cracking sidekicks? Natalie Portman continues
her run as the most inexplicable movie star working today, giving here
an utterly generic, charmless performance with not an atom of
chemistry between her and Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth. Chris gets by
on remarkable good looks, but he comes off like the best actor in high
school, and he affects a voice and accent that sounds like one of
Jemaine Clement's pompous phonies. There's no heart to the picture, so
what's supposed to be a grand, emotional wrap-up (“She's searching for
you…..”) is instead a big shoulder shrug. There is beauty in the set
design, but the visuals seem a bit like children's book illustrations,
somewhat artificial, which is fine when they're not cheesy. Destined
to end up on a double bill in Purgatory with Your Highness. — Jeff
Schultz

HANNA

A slightly bizarre mash-up of genres, ultimately HANNA works because of the acting. The story centers on Saoirse Ronan as the title character. She is brought up in the woods by her father (Eric Bana). She is Jason Bourne in training. She kills without mercy or care. But it is time for her to exact revenge on the CIA operative who killed her mother (Cate Blanchett with a not too believable southern drawl). This is where the “mash-up” comes in. HANNA is both a rogue CIA agent/adventure yarn and a teenage discovering the world drama. It mostly works thanks to the haunted and captivating Ronan, but goes off track during some of the relationship bits. In the end, the movie is satisfying because of Ronan and Bana and because (SPOILER ALERT), justice is served. Special props to The Chemical Brothers for a great score that always hits the right mood. You may not want to spend $10 plus popcorn for it, but HANNA is definitely worth putting in your Netflix cue. — Alan Yudman

GOD OF CARNAGE

To see James Gandolfini, Hope Davis, Jeff Daniel, and Marcia Gay
Harden perform live together is treat enough. But what about the play?
This corrosive comedy seems to do for “the human condition” what Who's
Afraid of Virginia Woolf did for marriage: peel away the veneer of
“civilization” to reveal the cauldron of aggression and nastiness
beneath. Here, the unravelling seems slapdash (and in a few
unfortunate cases, slapSTICK). The play begins right in the thick of
it; there's no set-up. The first cracks in the politesse come very
soon after and seem unearned, and after that the play just rambles.
There are moments when the four cast members strike postures and stare
out at the audience like O'Neill characters, moments that tiptoe up to
Pretentious. Or is the playwright just making fun of his characters'
pretensions. I don't know! The first half is funnier, and throughout
Gandolfini is first among equals,. But there's way too much shouting,
and even though it's only an hour and a half, I was getting squirmy.
— Jeff Schultz

JUSTIFED SEASON 2 FINALE

Rarely does a series actually get better in Season 2, but that’s exactly what’s happened with Justified. Timothy Olyphant wears this part as well as he sports that hat of his, the writing and production value top notch, and every episode hits the bullseye. The season finale is no different. Olyphant, Jeremy Davies, and Margo Martindale all bring such a reality to the screen, you almost forget you’re not watching a documentary about these people from Harlan County. No other show on TV right now has the FLAVOR that this one does, you turn it on and become immersed in the town and the people. There is resolution, revelation, and threads hanging that will be no doubt be picked up in Season 3 next year. It’s going to be a long painful wait. Fans of quality TV are not JUSTIFIED if they still haven’t picked up on this brilliant show.
Stormy Curry

EXPORTING RAYMOND

There aren't many times when you know in advance that a movie is going
to be great, and then when you watch it, it's even more terrific than
you thought. For any fan of “Everybody Loves Raymond” (an apotheosis
of American humor, a work of art — seriously) this documentary about
producer Phil Rosenthal's experience in Moscow overseeing a Russian
version of the sitcom is sheer bliss. Working with storylines from
some of the best-known Raymond episodes (e.g. the suitcase on the
stairs), Rosenthal finds out quickly that comedy doesn't always travel
smoothly or make sense to (or get laughs from) other cultures. What
results is an unendingly funny series of reaction shots from the
baffled but enormously good-natured Rosenthal — as comic point after
comic point in the casting and shooting of the pilot gets lost, not so
much in translation, as in the inability to translate. The portrait of
the Russian people is surprisingly rich for a film that's less than 90
minutes. They're gruff and tough and warm and lovable and brusque and
schmoozy and dense and sensitive. You don't want to part with them at
the (very happy) ending. Plus, we get to meet Phil's dad, Max, as
himself this time, not “Max” from the Lodge. — Jeff Schultz