Friday October 5, 2012

ARBITRAGE (R). Richard Gere stars in a Wall Street thriller about a deceitful hedge-fund manager negotiating a merger whose carefully built house of cards begins to collapse when his mistress is killed in an automobile accident which he survives. As unseemly as it may sound, Gere makes us root for the lying, scarmbling but extremely well-coiffed billionaire he plays. Part "Law & Order" morality play, part "Wall Street" with a dash of the more recent and topically pertinent "Margin Call," "Arbitrage" hums along, complicating its narrative without tying itself in knots. With Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Tim Roth. HHH (Phillips, Chicago Tribune -- 9/15). 1:40.

END OF WATCH (R). Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are cops minding the mean streets of Los Angeles. Shot in YouTube style, as if compiled from a mixture of "Cops"-style surveillance footage shot on "dash-cams" inside the patrol car; video shot by Gyllenhaal's character; and surreptitious chest-level video, "End of Watch" is a full load of self-conscious faux realism that focuses on two decent cops crisscrossing paths with an encroaching drug cartel and its street soldiers.HH (Phillips, Chicago Tribune -- 9/21). 1:49.

FINDING NEMO 3D (G). Newly rereleased in 3D, the 9-year-old Pixar Disney marvel about a single-father clown fish searching for his son is a welcome sight on the big screen where you can feel the undiminished immensity of the ocean and the bulk of a whale in a way TV can't touch.


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The story itself and the vocal pierformances make the trip worthwhile even though the 3D isn't up to the film's otherwise sterling level. (Lovece, Newsday -- 9/18). 1:52.

FRANKENWEENIE (PG). Tim Burton updates his early live-action short film with a stop-motion animated feature about a boy resurrecting his dead dog.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (PG). Adam Sandler provides the voice of Dracula in an animated monster mash that finds the venerable count operating a luxurious resort for monsters on vacation. He also is eager to prevent his 118-year-old daughter from hooking up with a backpacking human cutie who accidentally stumbles into Dracula's resort just in time for his daughter's birthday party. Most of the laughs arise from director Genndy Tartakovsky's cheeky take on famous monsters of filmland, funneled through the ordinariness of vacationing. Sandler's voice-only turn outshines many of his front-of-camera appearances. HH (Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 10/1). 1.31.

HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (PG-13). A dream house becomes a place of terror for a mom and her daughter (Elisabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence). Lawrence adds a few new wrinkles to her impressive repertoire in a film that could have been another scare-the-teens genre piece but is, rather, a conventional thriller packed with jaw-dropping surprises. HHH (Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service -- 9/26). 1:40.

LIBERAL ARTS (NR). A 35-year-old university admissions counselor in New York accepts an invitation to a retirement dinner for one of his favorite English professors at his alma mater -- a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, where he meets a fetching 19-year-old student and an undeniable something develops between them. With Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, Elizabeth Reasor.

LOOPER (R). Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a hitman assigned to bump off his future self (Bruce Willis) in a time-travel thriller. The film raises some logical questions but what's smart about it -- and what makes it more compelling than colder sci-fi -- is the way writer-director Rian Johnson establishes the machinery of the time-travel concept, then steadily pushes it into the background in favor of exploring his characters and the difficult questions they face. HHH1/2 (Lemire, Associated Press -- 9/28). 1:59.

PITCH PERFECT (PG-13). Anna Kendrick and her college chums compete in the warbling world of a cappella singing.

TAKEN 2 (PG-13). Liam Neeson reprises his role as retired CIA operative Bryan Mills, in the sequel to "Taken." With Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen. Review, D3

THE MASTER (R). A World War II Navy veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) falls under the spell of a charismatic cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Director Paul Thomas Anderson crafts engrossing character studies ("Boogie Nights," "There Will be Blood," "Magnolia") but "The Master" may go down as one of his most compelling works for two simple reasons -- Phoenix and Hoffman. HHH (Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram -- 9/24). 2:17.

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (PG-13). An aging baseball scout (Clint Eastwood) enlists his daughter (Amy Adams) on his latest talent trip. An amiable, meandering chracter study whose big plot points hang there like the curveballs of its title. We see them coming a long time before they cross the plate. This dramady has the faded twinkle of late- period Eastwood, rasping through another curmudgeon role -- embracing, one more time, his role as America's curmudgeon. The film has its charm, but it's neither as graceful nor as spare as a movie Eastwood himself would have directed. HH1/2 (Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service -- 9/22). 1:51.

WON'T BACK DOWN (PG). Two moms (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis) fight to save their kids' inner-city school.