Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Oct. 6 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Oct. 6



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GET LOW The great Robert Duvall is usually incapable of delivering a performance that's less than acceptable, but his now rigid devotion to the image of the folksy Southern sage does mean that he's long lost the ability to surprise. Get Low finds him in familiar territory: He plays Felix Bush, a 1930s Tennessee hermit who has lived in self-imposed exile for decades. But Felix needs help to pull off his unique idea — he wants a funeral party thrown for him while he's still living, so he can attend it and finally reveal his deep, dark secret — so he turns to a shady funeral home director, Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) to handle the preparations. Felix's unburdening of his secret to a mob of partygoers feels anticlimactic given the lengthy buildup, and the plot points directly tied to this event — flashbacks, testy relationships with old acquaintances — stir little interest. Where the movie succeeds in its ability to successfully pit Duvall's no-nonsense Felix against Murray's calculating Frank. Rather than appearing out of place in this rustic setting, Murray flourishes, relying on his trademark wit and deadpan delivery to not only bring out the best in Duvall but also to frequently one-up him. An Oscar campaign is guaranteed to be built around Duvall, but it's really Murray who allows Get Low to hit its high notes. **1/2

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE Roughly on par with its predecessor, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the second installment adapted from the late author Stieg Larsson's "Millennium trilogy" finds journalist Mikael Blomkist (Michael Nyqvist) investigating a sex-trafficking operation while punkish hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) continues to try to get her tragic life in order. But after the investigation results in a trio of grisly murders, the police settle on Lisbeth as the killer; Mikael of course realizes this is absurd and sets out to clear her name by nabbing the real culprits. Mikael and especially Lisbeth are such memorable characters that a satisfactory feeling emerges as we watch these two continue to evolve on screen. Rich as a character study and riveting as a thriller, the pleasures of The Girl Who Played With Fire only subside toward the end, as the connections between some of the players seem strained (not quite "Luke and Leia are siblings?" territory, but still ...) and the final standoff feels anticlimactic in comparison to numerous earlier confrontations. But despite these quibbles, the series is 2-for-2 — now let's see if the third and final chapter, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, can bring it home. ***

GROWN UPS Adam Sandler's worst film since the one-two punch of Little Nicky and the inexplicably popular Big Daddy a decade ago, Grown Ups marks the umpteenth collaboration between the comedian and director Dennis Dugan. Dugan is to screen comedy what the atomic bomb was to Nagasaki, and with this film, he and ostensible writers Sandler and Fred Wolf serve up a mirthless affair in which the only people laughing are the ones on screen. In fact, that's basically the plot of the movie: As five school chums reunite 30 years later to honor the passing of their former coach, Lenny (Sandler) makes a bad joke and the others laugh. Then Eric (Kevin James) makes a bad joke and the others laugh. And so on through Kurt (Chris Rock), Marcus (David Spade) and Rob (Rob Schneider). As they're laughing, those of us in the audience are cringing. Salma Hayek, Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph are wasted (in arrested-development movies like these, nerdy schlubs always have hot wives), yet even these actresses don't escape the script's indignities, as evidenced by the scene in which Bello squirts Rudolph in the face with milk from her tit. Countless sequences like this one reverted me back to my own infancy, as I wanted to do nothing more than curl up in a fetal position and block out the screen. *

INCEPTION Christopher Nolan's first film since the eye-popping success of The Dark Knight is a moviegoing marvel with the ability to get cineastes intoxicated on the pure pleasure and the pure possibility of the medium of film. Offering any sort of synopsis is a risky business, since this is one of those pretzel-shaped pictures that rewards the unaware. Suffice it to say that it's set in what appears to be the near future, when it will be possible to enter other people's dreams. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the best in the business of creeping into targets' minds and extracting valuable secrets for which others will pay a hefty price, but his latest assignment doesn't go exactly as planned. Tackling such prominent themes as (to borrow from dream expert Salvador Dali) the persistence of memory, Nolan has created a head-scratching one-of-a-kind that's both knotty enough and ambiguous enough to lead to conflicting opinions down the years. Nolan also slyly borrows from the classics of yesteryear, with particularly obvious nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Citizen Kane and select Hitchcock titles. It all adds up to a superb motion picture, one with the ability to infiltrate both our dream state and our waking life. ****

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