Admit it: you've already searched showtimes for Piranha 3DD (I totally did). It wasn't screened for critics (duh). There's plenty more to report on in the world o'cinema, however, including buzzed-about indie The Color Wheel at the Roxie and Smith Rafael (check out Ryan Lattanzio's review/interview here) and the latest from Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom (Michelle Devereaux has mixed feelings here).
By dint of its cast (which includes an Oscar winner, a vampire baby mama, a superhero, and a cocksucker), Snow White and the Huntsman will probably rake in the most of any new movie. But is it worth seeing?
Snow White and the Huntsman It’s unclear why the zeitgeist has blessed us this year with two warring iterations of the Snow White fairy tale, one broadly comedic (April’s Mirror Mirror), one starkly emo. But it was only natural that Kristen Stewart would land in the latter rendering, breaking open the hearts of swamp beasts and swordsmen alike with the chaste glory of her mien. As Snow White flees the henchmen and hired killers dispatched by her seriously evil stepmother, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), and traverses a blasted, virulent forest populated with hallucinogenic vapors and other life-threatening obstacles, Stewart need not act so much as radiate a dazzling benignity, weeping the tears of a martyr rather than a frightened young girl. (Unfortunately, when required to deliver a rallying declaration of war, she sounds as if she’s speaking in tongues after a heavy hit on the crack pipe.) It’s slightly uncomfortable to be asked, alongside a grieving, drunken huntsman (The Avengers' Chris Hemsworth), a handful of dwarfs (including Ian McShane and Toby Jones), and the kingdom’s other suffering citizenry, to fall worshipfully in line behind such a creature. But first-time director Rupert Sanders’s film keeps pace with its lovely heroine visually, constructing a gorgeous world in which armies of black glass shatter on battlefields, white stags dissolve into hosts of butterflies, and a fairy sanctuary within the blighted kingdom is an eye-popping fantasia verging on the hysterical. Theron’s Ravenna, equipped in modernist fashion with a backstory for her sociopathic tendencies, is credible and captivating as an unhinged slayer of men, thief of youth, destroyer of kingdoms, and consumer of the hearts of tiny birds. (2:07) (Lynn Rapoport)
Also among this week's top offerings: an Oscar-nominated animated film, a touching coming-out story, and the latest fractured-childhood tale from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda.
A Cat in Paris This year's Best Animated Film nominees: big-budget entries Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, and eventual winner Rango, plus Chico and Rita, which opened just before Oscar night, and French mega-dark-horse A Cat in Paris. Sure, Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol's film failed to cash in on 2011's Paris craze, but it's still a charming if featherweight noir caper, being released stateside in an English version that features the voices of Marcia Gay Harden and Anjelica Huston. A streetwise kitty named Dino spends his days hanging with Zoey, a little girl who's gone mute since the death of her father — a cop killed in the line of duty. Zoey's mother (Harden), also a cop, is hellbent on catching the murderer, a notorious crook named Costa who runs his criminal empire with Reservoir Dogs-style imprecision. At night, Dino sneaks out and accompanies an affable burglar on his prowlings. When Zoey falls into Costa's clutches, her mom, the thief, and (natch) the feisty feline join forces to rescue her, in a series of rooftop chase scenes that climax atop Notre Dame. At just over an hour, A Cat in Paris is sweetly old-fashioned and suitable for audiences of all ages, though staunch dog lovers may raise an objection or two. (1:07) (Cheryl Eddy)
Chely Wright: Wish Me Away Grab a jumbo-sized box of tissues for this doc, which follows country singer Chely Wright as she counts down the days until her very public coming-out — via full-court-press media blitz. In candid interviews (which feel more like therapy sessions) and some extremely emotional, self-shot home video footage, a fragile Wright recounts the reasons why she stayed closeted for so long: her troubled upbringing in small-town Kansas, a steely determination to make it in a biz not known for open-mindedness, and her own deeply-held religious beliefs. Hiding who she was led to years of personal agony, even as her career took off (her biggest hit: 1999 number-one "Single White Female"). With this level of honest, raw build-up, Wright's decision to come out feels like a full-scale personal revolution. It's an inspiring tale. (1:36) Elmwood. (Eddy)
I Wish It’s tempting to hold Hirokazu Kore-eda’s I Wish up to that other kids adventure story in the theaters, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, but that’s a disservice to Anderson: his arch look back at an age of innocence comes off as loftily contrived in contrast to this gently empathetic, ground-level view of children’s dreams and desires, one that falls well short of preciousness, thanks to Kore-eda’s acute eye for a changing Japan. Brothers Koichi and Ryunosuke (real-life sibs Koki and Ohshiro Maeda) are living apart like their two parents: the former bunks with his mother (Nene Otsuka) and grandparents in Kagoshima, where he plots to get his parents together again and frets over the ash-spewing still-active volcano; the latter is busy enabling his laid-back guitar-playing father (Jo Odagiri of 2003's Bright Future) on the other side of the island, where he grows fava beans, eats takeout, and hangs out with pals like budding actress Megumi (Kara Uchida). These offspring of Peter Pan-like parents, who have had a tough time growing up and fulfilling their own dreams, have been forced to grow up fast — but Koichi is pinning his hopes on something faster: the new bullet train line that will link his town with his brother’s. He gets it in his mind that if a wish is made when the first trains pass each other, a miracle, like his bickering parents’ reunion, will occur. The kids conspire to grab to that magical moment, by hook or crook, and a little help from an elderly couple that might have stepped out of an older, more gracious Japan, as rhapsodized by Yasujiro Ozu. And as with his devastating portrait of abandoned kids eking out a living on their own, Nobody Knows (2004), Kore-eda effortlessly coaxes great performances out of his child actors. Like Nobody Knows’s Akira, Koichi and Ryunosuke are determined to persevere, post-familial meltdown, through all personal Armageddons, be they triggered by volcano, tsunami, or heartbreak. (2:08)(Kimberly Chun)