This week at the movies, we’ve got fairy tale creatures (Strange Magic, with voice performances from Alan Cumming and Evan Rachel Wood), an eccentric adventurer (Mortdecai, starring Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow), and a troubled teacher-student relationship (The Boy Next Door, starring Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman). What do the critics have to say?

Strange Magic


On paper, an animated musical inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream sounds reasonably promising. Unfortunately, critics say Strange Magic could use a whole lot more pixie dust — along with visual inspiration and interesting characters. It’s the story of Marianne (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood), a fairy princess who’s been jilted by her Prince Charming. The cad then discovers a love potion, which sets off a series of battles and daring rescues. The pundits say Strange Magic is oddly charmless, and its few clever ideas are smothered by a plot that’s both patchwork and overly busy.



What’s the deal with Johnny Depp? With the exception of the animated Rango, the man who was once the biggest star in Hollywood hasn’t had a critically approved starring vehicle since Public Enemies in 2009. The critics say Mortdecai is a stunning misfire, a tonally-jarring would-be caper comedy that reduces its talented cast to broad, goofy caricatures. Depp is Charlie Mortdecai, a mustachioed, anachronistic rogue who’s tasked with recovering a stolen Goya painting; hilarity, in the form of pratfalls and double-entendres, ensues. The pundits say Mortdecai is visually sharp but comically dull; it’s an attempt at satire that seems unsure of what exactly it’s lampooning. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames for a gallery of Johnny Depp’s wildest looks through the years.)

The Boy Next Door


The divide between trashy fun and plain ol’ trash is often razor thin. Critics say The Boy Next Door falls on the wrong side of the line, promising campy thrills that it can’t ultimately deliver. Jennifer Lopez stars as a high school English teacher who’s taking a break from her husband when she has a tryst with a teenager. Naturally, he becomes obsessed and possessive, threatening our heroine’s security and peace of mind. The pundits say The Boy Next Door simmers but never reaches full boil, so its silly dialogue and ludicrous plotting are never quite as entertaining as they could be. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Lopez’s best-reviewed movies, as well as director Rob Cohen’s Five Favorite Films.)

What’s Hot On TV:

Critics say Justified (100 percent) returns to form for its endgame, rebounding with crisp storytelling and colorful characters who never take themselves too seriously.

The critics say the high quality execution and cool characters are top-notch, but the nonsensical time-travel scenarios make 12 Monkeys (54 percent) less watchable than its original source material.

The pundits say the stale cop humor of Backstrom (33 percent) is a cop-out, availed little by the talented cast’s attempt to make the best of its sloppy schtick.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Red Army, a documentary about the legendary Soviet hockey team, is at 100 percent.
  • The Duke Of Burgundy, a drama about an erotic relationship between two entomologists in a lavish country estate, is at 97 percent.
  • Mommy, a drama about a single mother dealing with her difficult teenage son, is Certified Fresh at 91 percent.
  • Salvation Army, a coming-of-age drama about a gay Moroccan teenager dealing with complex family and societal dynamics, is at 83 percent.
  • Killers, a thriller about a serial killer and a vigilante who each record videos of their bloody deeds, is at 83 percent.
  • Black Sea, starring Jude Law and Scoot McNairy in a thriller about a submarine crew searching the deep for rumored treasure, is Certified Fresh at 78 percent.
  • Son of a Gun, starring Ewan McGregor and Brenton Thwaites in a drama about a small-time crook who falls under the influence of a seasoned criminal, is at 59 percent.
  • The Humbling, starring Al Pacino and Greta Gerwig in a drama about an emotionally fragile actor who is rejuvinated by a much younger woman, is at 56 percent.
  • Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston and Anna Kendrick in a drama about a woman suffering from chronic physical and emotional pain, is at 38 percent.
  • Song One, starring Anne Hathaway and Mary Steenburgen in a drama about aspiring New York City folkies, is at 37 percent.
  • Manny, a documentary about the champion prizefighter and politician Manny Pacquiao, is at 25 percent.
  • We’ll Never Have Paris, starring Melanie Lynskey and Simon Helberg in a romantic comedy about a passive guy who chases the ex he dumped when she relocates to the City of Lights, is at 20 percent.
  • Americons, a drama about the rise and fall of a shady real estate investment firm, is at 17 percent.

A fresh press release from Universal informs us that there will soon be a "Bring It On 3" to enjoy, but also reminds us that, hey yeah, there WAS a direct-to-video "Bring It On" sequel that we never saw.

"Bring It On 3" (working title), the highly anticipated third installment of the wildly successful Universal Pictures film franchise about status and rivalry in the cheerleading world, began principal photography on Monday, October 24th in the Los Angeles area. Universal Studios Home Entertainment Family Productions and Beacon Pictures present "Bring It On 3," a Universal DVD Original slated for release in 2006.

Following the tremendous success of its ever-popular predecessors, "Bring It On 3" marks the latest effort from Universal’s newly established DVD Original strategy to aggressively develop, produce or acquire superior family-branded fare for the explosive made-for-DVD market.

"Bring It On 3" stars talented young performers Hayden Panettiere ("Ice Princess," "Raising Helen," "Racing Stripes") and Solange Knowles Smith ("Johnson Family Vacation," "The Proud Family") and features gifted newcomers Gus Carr, Marcy Rylan, Cindy Chiu, Giovonnie Samuels, Francia Almendarez, Gary Leroi Gray, Danielle Savre and Jessie Fife. Also on board in a special appearance is Def Jam Records music sensation Rihanna, whose smash dance hit "Pon de Replay" from her debut album "Music Of The Sun" dominated the charts this summer.

"Bring It On 3" is directed by Steve Rash ("American Pie Presents Band Camp," "Can’t Buy Me Love") from a screenplay by Alyson Fouse ("Scary Movie 2," UPN’s "Everybody Hates Chris") and produced by David Roessell ("The Lizzie McGuire Movie," "Inspector Gadget 2"). Jon Kuyper ("Tremors 4: The Legend Begins," "Happy Endings") serves as line producer and unit production manager. The film is executive produced by Armyan Bernstein, Charlie Lyons and Zanne Devine.

The filmmakers have assembled a top production team for "Bring It On 3," including veteran director of photography Victor J. Kemper ("Dog Day Afternoon," "The Jerk," "Pee-wee’s Big Adventure"), production designer Simon Dobbin ("Slipstream," "Kingdom Come"), costume designer Shawn Barton ("Soul Plane," "A Man Apart") and editor Danny Saphire ("Good Advice," "American Pie Presents Band Camp").

The team also includes some of the country’s most accomplished choreographers who collaborate with the filmmakers and cast to present state-of-the art cheer/dance segments, including Tony Gonzalez ("Bring It On Again," "The Hot Chick," "Haunted Mansion," numerous music videos) Eric Little (acclaimed cheer choreographer), Tanisha Scott (music videos for Sean Paul, the Pussycat Dolls, NAS) and the Emmy®-nominated team, Richmond Talauega & Tone Talauega (RIZE-Producers/Music Producers; MTV Video Award nominees for Jennifer Lopez’ "Get Right").

Shake your pom poms! "Bring It On 3" is a sassy and spirited production with new moves, new music and eye-popping dance sequences. Britney Allen (Hayden Panettiere) is living the dream — the cheerleader’s dream. At the elite seaside campus of Pacific Vista High School, Britney is captain of the cheerleading squad and the envy of everyone at school-including one overly-ambitious teammate. When Britney hears about a forthcoming audition for a top cheer squad to appear in recording star Rihanna’s upcoming television special, she is determined that her Pirates cheer squad will capture the coveted spot.

But Britney’s life turns from cheer-topia to cheer-tastrophe when her father’s job takes her family to Crenshaw Heights, a multi-ethnic working-class neighborhood east of Los Angeles. At her new school, Britney is viewed with suspicion by most of the students, especially by Camille (Solange Knowles Smith), the overly confident and acerbic leader of the Crenshaw Heights Warriors cheerleading squad. No one is more surprised than Camille, however, when Britney proves herself and secures a spot on the Warriors’ cheer squad. Britney and her new teammates work feverishly to prepare for the audition for Rihanna, incorporating some edgy new moves into their performance. Now the pressure is on, as the Warriors find themselves locked in a high-stakes cheer-off with Pacific Vista, Britney’s old school! During the climactic, no-holds-barred fight to the finish, friendships, loyalties and talents are tested-but only one team can come out on top."

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