Friday, March 4, 2011

'Rango' leads quartet of new releases

By Sarah Sluis

Two weeks ago, the so-so reviewed Gnomeo & Juliet opened high, thanks to a dearth of animated films. Rango chameleon Now Rango (3,917 theatres) enters the mix, hoping to capture an even larger portion of the family audience. Our critic Frank Lovece praised the Western throwback, which centers on a "chameleon hero [who] uses bravado, exaggeration and improv to survive in a miniature desert frontier town populated by horned toads and hornswogglers, rattlesnakes and rustlers, and some figurative skunks and polecats." Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) directs the tale, resplendent with Western movie homages. Last year, How to Train Your Dragon opened in this timeslot at $43 million, and a similar showing is expected this weekend.

The "kinder, gentler Matrix," according to critic Maitland McDonagh, a.k.a. The Adjustment Bureau Adjustment bureau duo (2,840 theatres) should open behind Rango. Matt Damon stars as a politician who meets a woman (Emily Blunt) he wasn't supposed to encounter, throwing mysterious "adjusters" on his tail. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times praised George Nolfi's competent directing, ending with the pronouncement that "romance for grown-ups isn't dead in Hollywood � it's just been on extended leave."

Teens may turn out for an "adequate updating" of Beauty and the Beast, according to critic Doris Toumarkine. Starring Hollywood bad-boy-in-training Alex Pettyfer opposite "High School Musical's" Vanessa Hudgens, Beastly (1,952 theatres) offers a time-honored lesson: beauty is skin-deep. Mary-Kate Olsen also appears as the witch who curses Pettyfer.

'80s throwback comedy Take Me Home Tonight (2,003 theatres) is hit or miss, according to our critic Ethan Alter, who pegged it as a "modest diversion made significantly more appealing by Take me home tonight outfit the presence of skilled comic actors like [Topher] Grace, Anna Faris and Chris Pratt." Common sources of comedy? "The era's questionable fashion and hairstyling choices."

On the specialty release front, the "irritatingly self-satisfied film with lonely romantics," happythankyoumoreplease will bow in 2 theatres. The Palme d'Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (3 theatres) is a "very personal, if quirky, journey" with a Thai man who is approaching the end of his life. Finally, I Saw the Devil, an entry in "torture porn," will "polarize" audiences in 2 theatres.

On Monday, we'll see if the West was won with Rango, and if adult audiences turned out for the mind-bending Adjustment Bureau.

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