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Capsule reviews of films playing in Charlotte 

Current Releases

88 MINUTES 88 Minutes actually runs 108 minutes, a cruel trick to play on moviegoers who check their watches at the 80-minute mark and erroneously believe they're on the verge of being set free. A film so moldy that it was released on DVD in some countries as far back as February 2007, this risible thriller stars Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Gramm, a college professor and forensic psychiatrist whose expertise has helped the FBI in nailing down serial killers. One such murderer is Jon Forster (Neal McDonough), whose claim of innocence – even on the day of his execution – is taken seriously once a new rash of similarly styled killings begins. But are these murders the work of a copycat? Is Forster innocent, and the real killer has never been caught? Is he masterminding the proceedings from his front-row seat on Death Row, with an accomplice on the outside doing his dirty deeds? Or is it possible that the killer is Gramm himself? Director Jon Avnet tries to ratchet up the suspense by presenting every character, right down to bit players, as the possible assassin, but it's an approach that only garners laughs. It's usually fun when a murder-mystery offers several suspects, but this goes beyond serving up some red herrings; here, we get trout, tilapia and mahi mahi as well. Scripter Gary Scott Thompson wrote The Fast and the Furious, so that probably explains why Gramm spends a good amount of time driving a taxi (don't ask) across the city looking for clues. But Thompson also wrote the straight-to-DVD sequels to K-9K-911 and K-9: P.I. – so he's also quite familiar with dogs. Rest assured, 88 Minutes joins the pack of movie mongrels. *1/2

FLAWLESS At a time when banks are being bailed out by Bush's "for rich people only" government while ordinary citizens are left to flounder, perhaps it's possible to employ the current string of heist flicks as a mildly cathartic tonic. On the heels of Mad Money, The Bank Job and 21 comes Flawless, in which a pair of hard workers team up to rip off the evil diamond company that takes their services for granted. Set in 1960 London, this stars Demi Moore as Laura Quinn, an executive who's repeatedly overlooked when it comes time to promote from within. Despite years of dedicated service (and more than her share of innovative ideas), Laura learns from Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine), the company janitor whose lowly status allows him access to valuable info, that she's about to be fired. Appealing to her anger, Hobbs asks Laura to assist him in what he deems a foolproof robbery; she accepts, only to discover the scheme is more elaborate than she imagined. For the first hour, the film plays as we'd expect – the planning of the heist, the handling of unexpected complications and the job itself. This part is entertaining enough, further fueled by the subtext of watching this ambitious woman try to compete in an all-male world determined to shut her out. But the movie really takes off during its second half, and even some lapses in logic can't overtake the satisfying twists. The modern-day framing device is worthless – it opens with Moore in terrible old-age makeup and ends with a heavy-handed "Carpe Diem" cheer – but the period pic between these bookends is, if not worth its weight in gold (or diamonds), at least worth the price of a movie ticket. ***

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL Those afraid that the dismal Drillbit Taylor marked the beginning of the end for Hollywood wunderkind Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) can relax: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (on which he serves as producer) finds him again on the rise. Jason Segel (who also scripted) plays Peter Bretter, a nondescript guy who writes the filler music for the TV crime series starring his celebrity girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). After five years together, Sarah dumps Peter for self-centered and none-too-bright musician Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), a rejection that sends Peter spiraling into self-pity. He flees to Hawaii to escape from it all, only to end up at the same hotel as Sarah and Aldous; it's only through the efforts of Rachel (Mila Kunis), the resort's desk clerk, that Peter's able to occasionally follow through on the title action. Apatow's films are hailed for successfully mixing raunchy moments with heartfelt ones, but their greatest strength might actually be the depth of their benches. Even the most minor characters are a joy to be around, and that's the case here as well, whether it's the brain-fried surf instructor (a very funny Paul Rudd) or the fawning waiter (Jonah Hill) or the newlywed (Jack McBrayer) who's freaked out by his wife's bedroom prowess. As for the leads, Segel is an affable underdog, Bell displays some choice reaction shots, Kunis is talented enough to turn her role into more than just a Male Fantasy, and Brand – the MVP among strong competition – is spot-on as the British rocker who manages to turn vanity into an endearing character trait. ***

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