Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Dec. 15 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Dec. 15

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LOVE & OTHER DRUGS For all the pleasure it reportedly provides, Viagra does flirt with potential side effects, including headache, upset stomach and blurred vision. Similarly, while Love & Other Drugs offers its own pleasures, this adaptation of Jamie Reidy's Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman results in such possible side effects as irritation, frustration and disgust. For the most part, this is an intelligent piece in which cocky pharmaceutical salesman Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to make his mark in business while also engaging in a no-strings-attached relationship with the no-nonsense Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway). The picture is initially as light and carefree as their romance, but as their mutual commitment deepens, so does the film, with Maggie's medical misfortune — and Jake's reaction to it — resulting in some standout sequences and coaxing a knockout performance from Hathaway. Alas, the idiotic character of Jamie's odious brother (Josh Gad) cheapens an otherwise mature seriocomedy, and some formulaic romcom trappings feel equally out of place. The mental and emotional stimulation caused by the film is strong enough to recommend it, but had some flaccid passages been trimmed, its studio could have had an awards contender on his hands. ***

MEGAMIND 2010 has brought us two animated features about a supervillain who eventually discovers his long-buried humanity, yet viewers who check out Megamind needn't have seen Despicable Me to feel slightly let down by this similar outing. Will Ferrell handles vocal duties as the title villain, whose joy at finally destroying his arch-nemesis, the preening Metro Man (Brad Pitt), soon turns to depression once he realizes there's no one around to challenge him. He ends up creating his own superhero (Jonah Hill), but it isn't long before the supposed do-gooder realizes it's more fun to be bad and sets about destroying the city and kidnapping TV reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey). Megamind now finds himself in the unlikely position of having to save rather than terrorize the civilians who have long feared and despised him. Megamind is perfectly fine for the kids, but adults might find their own megaminds wandering at various points throughout a film that doesn't compare to The Incredibles when it comes to affectionately tweaking the superhero genre. Certainly, there are some moments of delightful inventiveness — I love how Megamind occasionally disguises himself as Marlon-Brando-as-Jor-El-in-Superman — but all too often, safe and sentimental scriptwriting proves to be this film's fatal Kryptonite. **1/2

MORNING GLORY Morning Glory is basically Working Girl for dummies. (Or Broadcast News for dummies; take your pick.) But even dummies need movies — and better ones than genuine rotgut like Due Date or The Bounty Hunter — and this comedy has enough charm, poise and class to satisfy viewers of all IQ levels in the mood for something lighthearted. Rachel McAdams stars as Becky, a TV news producer who's just been tasked with saving a cellar-dweller morning show called Daybreak. Her idea is to pair Daybreak anchor Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) with former news giant (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), but he finds it beneath him to appear on a show revolving around mind-numbing nuggets of infotainment. Ford's been mostly squandering his talents in dismal efforts for well over a decade now, so it's a treat to watch him deliver an amusing and robust performance as an insufferable curmudgeon in a film that's actually entertaining. He's well-matched by Keaton, even if the movie fails to fully capitalize on the antagonism between their characters. The second half's increasingly busy plot mechanics drain away some of the fun, but McAdams remains engaging throughout, a young actress showcased in all her comedic glory. ***

127 HOURS Let's be honest with one another. I'd be dead. You'd be dead. Almost everyone we've ever known would be dead. But not Aron Ralston. After five days of slowly withering away while his right arm remained lodged between a boulder and a rocky wall in a Utah canyon, Ralston did the unthinkable and used a small, dull knife to cut off the arm so that he might continue to live. 127 Hours, based on Ralston's memoir, is writer-director Danny Boyle's mesmerizing account of those fateful days in the outdoor enthusiast's life. But while a stirring parable about the indomitability of the human spirit, this story doesn't quite lend itself to a cinematic rendition — it just sounds too simple, too constricted. But Boyle and co-scripter Simon Beaufoy expand the picture in all sorts of marvelous ways. Visually, the film is always hopping with the same energy as its protagonist (played in a career-best performance by James Franco), relying on split-screen techniques and other lively tricks of the trade. And thematically, the picture doesn't settle for the expected "man vs. nature" route, instead realizing that it isn't nature that's at fault but one man's own near-fatal folly. By turns funny, frightening, inspiring and, yes, nauseating, 127 Hours turns cinema into an extreme sport, leaving us satisfactorily spent. ***1/2


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