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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WAITING FOR "SUPERMAN" Davis Guggenheim, who won an Academy Award for An Inconvenient Truth, here presents another inconvenient truth: The United States public school system just isn't working. This comes as a shock to absolutely no one, but because it's a universal issue that affects legions of folks across the country — particularly the children — it's the sort of film that begs to be seen. This documentary, heavy on the outrage and frustration and light on the inspiration and hope, often focuses on a hero (education reformer Geoffrey Canada), an anti-hero (controversial former chancellor Michelle Rhee) and a villain (the self-serving American Federation of Teachers), but the heart of the film of course rests with its youngest subjects. Central are five students (in LA, NYC and DC) whose best chance at having a bright future lies in whether they'll be randomly selected in their respective locales' education lotteries to be transferred from their low-performing neighborhood schools to successful charter schools. While this climactic section of the picture proves to be the most schematic (whose name or number will pop up next?), it's impossible not to be left either elated or heartbroken, depending on which way the (lottery) ball bounces. ***

YOU AGAIN There's a lot about You Again that's instantly disposable, from its generic title to its bland leading lady to a storyline that's as weightless as a sponge cake. But leave it to the old pros in the cast to prevent this from completely sinking into the abyss of immediately forgotten comedies. Kristen Bell, only fitfully succeeding in making an impression, plays Marni, who's shocked to learn that her brother (Jimmy Wolk) is marrying Joanna (Odette Yustman), the girl who made her life an endless hell back in high school. Everyone in Marni's family thinks Joanna is the greatest, so Marni makes it her mission to expose her as malicious and deceitful. For her part, Marni's mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) is aghast when she discovers that Joanna's aunt is a former school chum (Sigourney Weaver) with whom she had a falling-out decades ago on prom night. The Marni-Joanna clashes offer little that's new, so the fun is in watching those exquisite older actresses, Curtis and Weaver, square off against each other. Throw in the always-welcome Victor Garber as Curtis' husband, an amusing Kristin Chenoweth as a spirited dance instructor, and a cameo by a former Dallas star that almost made me fall out of my seat, and you may want to give You Again a chance. But only if Mean Girls isn't playing on cable. **1/2

YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER Woody Allen's 1972 gem Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) features such outrageous — and outrageously original — gags as a gigantic, Kafka-by-way-of-Roth breast terrorizing the countryside and a sperm (played by Allen) afraid that his host body's masturbatory ways might result in his ending up on the ceiling. In this new film, what passes for Allen's idea of an innovative sex gag? Anthony Hopkins' doddering character Alfie counting down the minutes until the Viagra tablet takes effect. Alfie isn't the only one who has trouble getting it up: One of Allen's worst films, this is a flaccid piece centering on a group of insufferable people making each other miserable in London. Alfie has left his grating wife (Gemma Jones) to marry a young prostitute (Lucy Punch), while their daughter (Naomi Watts) contemplates an affair with her boss (Antonio Banderas) at the art gallery even as her novelist hubby (Josh Brolin) eyes the neighborhood cutie (Freida Pinto). Allen used to display enormous amounts of warmth toward his characters, but in this dour, ugly movie, he holds them all in contempt. As a result, the humor tastes like curdled milk, while all notions of romance have been replaced with aggravating heartburn. *1/2


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