Elf. Jon Favreau. Will Ferrell, recently seen streaking down Main Street on an Old School bender, spends the entirety of Elf in green tights and a pointy hat; it's his commitment to the costume this time that's truly amazing, transforming what could have been a sketch into something a wee bit more substantial. Ferrell plays Buddy, a human amongst elves, as oblivious as he is useless. It comes as a shock when he discovers he's not an elf at all but a human whose daddy (James Caan) lives in New York City. You can, of course, see the ending climbing down the chimney well before Christmas Eve: Santa's sleigh can't fly without a full supply of Christmas cheer, and Caan, as a cynical publisher of books for the very children he can't seem to stomach, is the consummate Grinch. Will Buddy thaw his little black heart in time to propel Santa round the world? And will his daddy find a hit book in all this holiday fa-la-la? Do reindeers crap in the woods? Opens Friday, November 7, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)
Love Actually. Richard Curtis. With its soundtrack stockpiled with songs of romance and Christmas and a screenplay by the man who wrote Bridget Jones's Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, this feels less like a brand-new movie than a greatest-hits compendium. It delivers precisely what you'd expect from hopeful romantic Richard Curtis and does so in spades: He serves this time as not only writer but also director, which means we're presented with the unadulterated, undiluted, unabashed Curtis -- nearly a dozen couples instead of one, upping the love quotient to guarantee a holiday movie that plays in the multiplex till Valentine's Day. It's a series of vignettes featuring dozens of players guaranteed to send my mother directly to the cineplex on opening day: Hugh Grant as the British prime minister, Liam Neeson as a widower, Colin Firth as a cuckold, Alan Rickman as a would-be adulterer, Emma Thompson as a put-upon mom, Laura Linney as a put-upon sister and other young comers. Did I mention this will make a bloody fortune? Opens Friday, November 7, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)
The Matrix Revolutions. Andy and Larry Wachowski. Opens today at multiple locations.Reviewed this issue.
My Life Without Me. Isabel Coixet. Opens Friday, November 7, at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed this issue.
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. Shane Meadows. Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle from the second Harry Potter movie) is forced to choose between dependable doofus Rhys Ifans (Spike from Notting Hill) and dastardly ex-lover Robert Carlyle (Gaz from The Full Monty). This may sound like standard-issue romantic comedy, but director Shane Meadows and fellow screenwriter Paul Fraser (TwentyFourSeven) have infused their project with the extremely unlikely tone of a suburban British Western. If only that feel were more consistent or engrossing. While the movie makes the most of its simple settings, there's a distinct lack of tension, especially compared to Meadows' previous feature, A Room for Romeo Brass. But then there's Henderson -- no matter how weirdly Meadows tarts up his beloved Midlands, she's got the place wrapped around her finger. Her sparkling humanity plays splendidly off newcomer Finn Atkins as her confused daughter, and her romantic indecision sparks magic even with her cartoony, broadly drawn beaux. This movie's just so-so, but at its heart lies a true leading lady. Opens Friday, November 7, at the Tivoli. (Gregory Weinkauf)
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