Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Sept. 21 | Film Clips | Creative Loafing Charlotte

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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Sept. 21

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GREEN LANTERN Considering all the advance negative buzz that had been building with the steadiness and scariness of a Category 5 hurricane, Green Lantern isn't the catastrophe that had been foretold as far back as the Book of Revelation. To compare this effort to such truly abysmal efforts as Catwoman and Batman & Robin would merely be an exercise in misguided grandstanding; at the same time, the middling results suggest that, the excellence of X-Men: First Class notwithstanding, Hollywood might consider cooling it on the super-sagas for a while (fat chance) and seek inspiration from other types of comic characters. Little Lulu or Andy Capp, anyone? When all is said and done, Green Lantern is really no different than the film which kicked off this summer season: As with Thor, this one also features slick special effects, a likable (if vanilla-flavored) leading man and effective use of 3-D, but it likewise gets bogged down in protracted exposition and has trouble sorting out its cluttered screenplay. Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, a test pilot who becomes the first human to become a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic watchdog group tasked with protecting the universe. The preeminent threat at the moment is a fearsome entity known as Parallax; his agent of evil on earth is Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a nerdy scientist who promptly becomes a telekinetic mutant with a bulbous, oozing head. Hal's battles with Parallax and Hector are ably handled by director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), and they allow the FX crew to show off their hard work. But whenever the movie isn't moving at a fast and furious speed, the banality of the script takes center stage, and we're left with another costume caper that doesn't quite know what to do with itself whenever its characters aren't playing dress-up. **1/2

THE GUARD Nobody can curse like the Irish, and that's proven again in The Guard, in which the various characters turn profanity into an art form. But this delightful endeavor — one of the year's best as we prepare to head into the Oscar-bait seasons — doesn't just provide an amusing workout for the R-rating; instead, it's a savagely clever yarn that manages to tweak genre staples before burying them completely. In Sergeant Gerry Boyle, Brendan Gleeson finds a great character to inhabit, and he's dynamic as the rural cop who doesn't let much ruffle his feathers — not even murder. When FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) appears on the scene to investigate drug smuggling, the two engage in a testy relationship made strenuous by Boyle's mock-racist cracks ("Did you grow up in the projects?") and Everett's big-city-superiority routine. Meanwhile, the villains (Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong and David Wilmot) conduct their business as usual, taking time out to philosophize, criticize, and grow exasperated at the weaker minds surrounding them. Naturally, it all leads to a final showdown, but most viewers won't be prepared for the capper. The Guard is terrific entertainment, and I can't wait to re-watch it on Blu-ray, when I can turn on the subtitles and catch the handful of lines I couldn't locate under those thick brogues. ***1/2

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS — PART 2 A series that has gotten it right since Day One has maintained its integrity and commitment to quality to the very end. Everyone has their favorite Harry Potter film, and for many viewers, this final entry will be that movie. For me, the entire series works so well as a whole, as one continuously flowing entity, that it's difficult to single one out (forced to choose, I guess I'd go with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). To that end, this last chapter is no more and no less exciting than many of the past pictures, even if it does contain the climactic life-or-death match between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). To reach that point, we pick up where Deathly Hallows — Part 1 trailed off and continue with the quest of Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) to find the Horcruxes that will allow them to possibly defeat Voldemort. It's also revealed that Hogwarts is now under the control of Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), with Dementors standing guard outside the castle perimeters. Harry knows that he has to break into the school, a mission that will ultimately provide some surprising answers to the many questions still plaguing him. More than ever, Radcliffe is asked to take control of the screen as his boy wizard faces his own demons before finally facing Voldemort, and the talented thespian is up to the task, holding nothing back in an ofttimes ferocious performance. Fiennes again oozes reptilian menace, while Rickman remains a high point as he deftly handles the saga's most complex role. Beginning as a magical mystery tour for kids and ending as a mature saga about solidarity and sacrifice, the Harry Potter film franchise has spent a decade entertaining global audiences of all ages. Its run may be over, but like family-film classics from the past, this is one series that's almost certain to hold future generations equally spellbound. ***


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