Arthur and the Invisibles. (PG-13) The wildly uneven French writer-director-producer Luc Besson has a fondness for life outside the margins of conventional society: the neon-lit labyrinths of the Paris Metro (Subway), the pristine depths of the ocean (The Big Blue). His latest finds him subterranean once again, this time in a fantastical universe where elves and fairies so small that they're invisible to human eyes live in harmony with nature. Adapted from his own series of children's books, this live-action/computer-animated hybrid follows 10-year-old Arthur (Freddie Highmore), who, in order to save the home he shares with his somewhat addled grandmother (Mia Farrow), must decipher his grandfather's diary. Following the clues, Arthur, now a 3-D animated figure sporting cool shades and spiked hair, enters the mythical Seven Kingdoms, where he joins forces with a sexy CGI princess (voiced by a delightfully unrecognizable Madonna) and her chubby, rubber troll of a brother (Jimmy Fallon) as they battle the evil Lord Malthazard (David Bowie) for buried treasure. Predictable and overly busy, this sci-fi adventure should nonetheless appeal to computer-game-savvy tots especially those familiar with the source material. (Jean Oppenheimer) CGX, DP, EG, J14, MR, OF, RON, STCH, STCL, TS12
Curse of the Golden Flower. (R) Like his Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou's third global-market gigaproduction makes little sense in narrative terms even after two screenings, but the sets, costumes, and cinematography are so intoxicating that it doesn't much matter. Zhang's interest in the wuxia (martial arts) film may well extend no further than the kick he gets out of constructing ostentatious palaces and then watching from behind the lens as they crumble to the ground he's a movie director, in other words. As much as Marie Antoinette, Curse of the Golden Flower, set in the Later Tang Dynasty, circa A.D. 928, pits its cloistered melodrama against the riffraff that threatens to penetrate the royal chambers. The film's seemingly endless revelations of double- and triple-crosses fail to excite as much as the sight of black-suited, scythe-twirling assassins swinging on ropes toward the palace like Spider-Man on his web. Zhang's impressively acrobatic battle scene culminates in a torrential CGI spear storm that sets out to blockbust and does even by, say, Two Towers standards. (Rob Nelson) CGX, DP, HP, J14, OF, RON, STCH
Primeval. A group of stupid but hard-hitting journalists set out for an exotic and desolate land in hopes of catching the world's worst serial killer. Dominic Purcell and Orlando Jones star. ARN, CGX, DP, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12
Stomp the Yard. (PG-13) From the eardrum-shattering shout of "Attention!" that echoes over the opening logo through to the strobe-lit krump dancing contest that follows, the early scenes of Stomp the Yard are so loud and incoherent that they feel like punishment. After an equally incomprehensible street brawl, director Sylvain White pauses long enough to introduce his protagonist DJ (Columbus Short), a talented young dancer incarcerated for his role in said brawl and, upon his release, shipped by his moms from South Central to Atlanta's ever-so-subtly-named Truth University (a fictional amalgam of prominent black colleges). There, DJ falls for a fine sister (Meagan Good), whose father the dean of Truth doesn't look kindly on his little angel socializing with an ex-felon. What's a brother to do? Why, put his fancy footwork to use in service of step-dancing competitions, a tradition at black fraternities and sororities, which, as filmed by White with an overload of slow-motion effects and high-speed shutters, are about as cinematic as a televised Riverdance concert. Newcomer Short has charisma, charm, and athleticism to burn, but it's mostly for naught in a movie that spends two tedious hours pulling out every stop in the gold-hearted-kid-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks-meets-gold-hearted-girl-who-values-true-love-above-pivilege playbook. (Scott Foundas) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12
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